Photogrammetry And Laser 3D Scanning

Three-dimensional modeling gives a wonderful opportunity to study a physical object from dozens of unique perspectives. This technology is made possible by advancements in photogrammetry and three-dimensional laser scanning. Both systems come with their own pros and cons.

Photogrammetry uses a series of photographs of a physical object to create a digital model. Three-dimensional laser scanning utilizes a laser to record an object’s dimensions to create a digital model.

Both of these systems are used to create precise, data-rich models. Three-dimensional modeling requires accurate systems to gauge, measure, and replicate data from tangible objects into digital copies that can be used later on. Read on to learn the pros and cons of each.


Photogrammetry creates three-dimensional models by using a series of photographs of a physical object. Every inch of the physical object needs to be photographed in great definition to create a highly accurate digital model. These photographs are compiled together to create a digital model that can be used for an extremely wide range of purposes.

There are three methods used in the practice of photogrammetry:

  • Manual photogrammetry is the slowest and most involved method. Manual photogrammetry is simple but time-consuming. In the application of this method of photogrammetry, the user will manually take photographs of the physical object. The user of this method will identify like-points while taking the photographs to ensure that the entire object has been accurately recorded. This method can often take the longest.
  • Target photogrammetry is much faster and more accurate than the manual method. Target photogrammetry has a more complicated setup but offers the quickest recording time. In the application of this method, the user will rely on an automated system to collect highly detailed photographs of the physical object’s complete surface to create identical digital models. This system is much easier on the user in the long run.
  • Dense matching photogrammetry is the most similar to three-dimensional scanning. Dense matching photogrammetry can be used to create highly detailed digital representations of physical objects by using technology that is very similar to that which is used in three-dimensional scanning. It utilizes the creation of point clouds that are very dense, providing the most data for modeling. More points mean greater accuracy.

The pros and cons of photogrammetry include the following:

  • Photogrammetry is usually a more cost-efficient way to create a three-dimensional model.
  • This method can be done with the camera on many modern smartphones.
  • It could prove to be the riskiest due to human error.
  • It enables capturing and reproducing textures and colours.

Laser 3D Scanning

Laser 3D scanning method utilizes a laser to scan and measure the dimensions of a physical object to create a highly detailed three-dimensional model in a digital format. Laser scanning relies on the accuracy of the report that is documented from the laser striking the surface of the physical object. The sensor uses the report to create the modeling data.

Pros and cons of three-dimensional laser scanning include the following:

  • This method utilizes a highly detailed collection of information in a very high accuracy.
  • It uses very expensive hardware to operate and maintain for consistent use.
  • Laser 3D scanning involves the real-time creation of points allowing for immediate re-scanning and correction.
  • It requires more training and experience to operate than other modeling systems.

This is a wonderful tool to use for physical objects that require more attention to detail. The applications of this system are usually in the creation of parts for intricate machines and systems. Because the laser allows the entire physical object’s surface to be scanned, the resulting digital representation is an identical copy.

Three-dimensional laser scanning is predominantly used for industrial and research practices due to the cost associated with operating and maintaining the hardware and software required for its function.

Which System Is The Best?

Each system offers their own benefits and drawbacks. Both systems function to generate three-dimensional models in different ways.

While no system stands above the other in every regard, there are a few specific applications in which each system shines in practicality and effectiveness. Photogrammetry offers a great deal of aid in creating vast but less intricate models. Three-dimensional laser scanning is usually better suited for highly complex models.

Photogrammetry Applications

Common applications for photogrammetry include, but are not limited to:

  • Generating three-dimensional models for architectural projects
  • Generating a digital model of a person
  • Displaying a digital representation of a physical object for engineering projects
  • Creating a representation of historical structures for the aid of education

Photogrammetry is a terrific technology to use when there is a low budget and replicating textures is important and harder to scan with a three-dimensional laser. This can be the only way to create these highly detailed models in some situations.

Laser 3D Scanning Applications

Common applications for three-dimensional laser scanning include, but are not limited to:

  • Modeling small components of machines that are very complex.
  • Creating digital models of fossils and other delicate archeological findings.
  • Spot-checking manufactured goods for flaws to ensure higher quality production.
  • Aiding in the construction of materials created from three-dimensional printing via reverse engineering.

Three-dimensional laser scanning is a great technology that is used to map out a physical object’s exact dimensions. This process creates an identical representation of objects that might be too irregular or complex to document otherwise.

Both systems offer their own pros and cons, but neither is the best. Although, one might be better suited for certain applications than the other. Photogrammetry tends to be used more often than three-dimensional laser scanning when creating a digital model of larger objects or locations. Scanning tends to be better when modeling smaller things or when high accuracy is needed.


These systems can be used to create incredibly realistic and accurate digital representations of physical objects. Neither is the absolute best, but each has its own strong points and applications.

In order for people to receive the insight that a model offers, they need to utilize excellent methods of documentation. Photogrammetry and laser scanning are the two best ways to document all of the available information of a physical object or area. These systems are highly specialized to provide users with vital information.

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