3D Scanning or 3D Photography?

3D scanner

When we talk about what we do at Beheld we often say to people: we are a 3D scanning company. We have a device called a 3D scanner, which is capable of 3D scanning you within a second or so. The question I have is, is this the right word? When you look up the word “to scan” it means either “to look at all parts carefully to detect a feature” or “cause an object to be traversed by a detector or electromagnetic beam”. We don’t do that.

 What do we do? We take 2 sets of 85 simultaneous pictures within 1 second, which together have enough information to create a digital three dimensional model of a person (or a group of people). Using this information, our software creates a 3D model, which looks exactly like the person (you!) in both shape and color!
Digital 3D model of me spinning dangerously close to a black hole


The concept is a bit the same like how we can see depth using our two eyes. Since what we see with each eye is slightly different our brain translates that into depth. By taking lots of photos at exactly the same time, our software can use these photos to create a digital 3D model for you.


In my opinion, this has not much to do with scanning and much more with photography.

The technology we use is called Photogrammetry and I am looking forward to explaining more details how that works in a future blog post. (Let me know if you want to learn more, by leaving a comment).

The good news is that this technique works really well and enables us to create lifelike full color digital 3D models of whoever is in our scanner. We have scanned people by themselves, we have scanned groups of people. We have scanned kids and we have scanned dogs.

We can use these 3D models to have some fun in the digital domain and create animations like the one on the photo here or we could also 3D print those models in the small figurines of ourselves.

To answer the question: should we be calling this process 3D scanning? Isn’t 3D Digital Photography a much better name? I think so. And if that is the case, our product should be called a 3D Photo Booth.

The Photo Booth of the Future.