I have taken some photos of public spaces and I want to add items to these spaces such as people and market stalls in right scale. Is this possible with Sketchup if I somehow define the 3D space and items in the photo?

(as long as the finished picture is from the same angle).

  • Welcome to GDSE! Could you edit your question with some example photos of the image you are trying to modify, and things you have tried?
    – Alith7
    Sep 11, 2020 at 20:01
  • Yes its called image matching or matchmove for moving images. Its a typical special effects work. Sketchup does not have the best of tools for this but it is possible
    – joojaa
    Sep 12, 2020 at 9:17
  • Free Blender and fspy could do that in several clicks. I'm away from computer but I can answer later if that's something you'd like to consider Sep 12, 2020 at 10:50
  • help.sketchup.com/en/sketchup/…
    – Rafael
    Sep 12, 2020 at 16:30

2 Answers 2


The basic idea is that you take advantage of the information provided by the perspective itself.

On SketchUp, you will assume a 2 point perspective, define the horizon, and choose some lines that should be parallel, windows, or the walls. You can do this using only one photo taken in angle.

I have not used the web-based SketchUp, but here is the link to the SketchUp help center.


Here is the image of the example on that page:

  • You need to have a photograph thats been taken with a tilt shift lens to match it with sketchup since it doe not have a real perspective camera. Like say this image
    – joojaa
    Sep 12, 2020 at 17:45
  • Yes, it does. It has a real perspective camera, just take a look at a simple google search about changing the parameters of the camera: google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=sketchup+camera+lens. or help.sketchup.com/en/sketchup/viewing-model And No, you do not need a photo with a tilt-shift lens. But in the remote case, you need to eliminate the upper vanishing point you could use any photo retouching sofware... but you do not need to do it.
    – Rafael
    Sep 12, 2020 at 19:38
  • And the answer to the question: Is this possible with Sketchup if I somehow define the 3D space and items in the photo? is Yes, and it has the tools to do it.
    – Rafael
    Sep 12, 2020 at 19:42
  • Ah yes i dont have sketchup pro good to know. As you can see the default camera is heavily tiltshifted. Anyway your answer is not really bringing a true answer to the table. But then i didnt downvote
    – joojaa
    Sep 12, 2020 at 20:18
  • :o) I am not really worried about the vote. I respect a ton your opinions because you (guys) know a lot. I'm just saying that yes, Sketchup has the tools, and there is a good tutorial on the SketchUp help center. I do not think is a good idea to reinvent the wheel with a more comprehensive answer on this case.
    – Rafael
    Sep 12, 2020 at 20:30

Let's assume your public space has only floor and back wall and let's try to think how the photo was shot and how the photographing could be modelled. Here's my sketch for the scene:

enter image description here

The red spot C is my camera. It constructs a perspective image. To get an equivalent, but bigger size image than the sensor of my camera I put my imaging plane P on the front border of the visible part of the floor. It's big. It is exactly 100% image of those things which are in it's imagined place.

A and B are those parts of the floor and back wall which are cropped out of the photo. X is one possible item on the floor.

You should have some measurements of the public space. With them you can construct a full size coarse 3D model of it like my L. You can also scale and place the flat photo P in front of it. If you remember from where you took the photo and how the camera was set up and directed you are really lucky. By making the camera in the 3D program to have the right direction, placement and focal length the photo and the coarse public place model should fit perfectly. Searching camera details by trial and error is possible, too.

You can place full size 3D items in the scene like my green X. Two things will be missing:

  1. Everything will be fully visible, the objects which are only in the photo cannot hide anything. Your photo must be equally partially transparent to make possible to check the placements.

  2. There's no light interactions. A shadow in the photo for example doesn't affect placed objects. But adjusting light in the 3D program you can get the general light direction right for plausible shading if the light condition in the public place was simple enough.

You can render the scene without the photo. You add it back in Photoshop as a background layer. You must erase or mask off those parts of the inserted items which are behind objects in the photo. With hard work you can also adjust compatible colors and insert some plausible shadows.

Do not expect photorealistic results. SketchUP renders objects so that the result resembles a drawing. But it can be good enough to visualize a plan.

BTW. If you are going to insert only fully visible items you can place them in reduced size between the photo and the camera. ==> No Photoshop edits are needed. The same sight lines should fit for the right view:

enter image description here

I must admit I do not have a modern version of SketchUP. It doesn't run in my museum grade PC, so I cannot write an exact "how to do" receipe.

ADD: By taking several photos of the public space with different camera placements you can generate a 3D model of the scene. You need a photogrammetry program. In theory the model contains those surfaces which are visible at least in 2 different photos. It can be good enough for placing the models of the non-existing objects. High end photogrammetry can create so accurate models that you do not need a background photo.

  • Thank you so much for this write up. Is it not possible to simply define the 3D space similar to in Photoshop with the Vanishing Point tool? Sep 12, 2020 at 10:06
  • In 3D you must have a 3D model of the space where your new items are. The vanishing point tool knows nothing of the actual 3D space, it utilizes only some known math laws for 2D perspective drawings and operates in 2D. You have no way to extract from an ordinary single photo the 3D information except by guessing based on your experience. If you have many photos you can use Photogrammetry. Get for ex. a trial of Agisoft Metashape or other photogrammetry program. There are many of them, free and commercial.
    – user82991
    Sep 12, 2020 at 10:33
  • @VictorMaylandNielsen But the thing "like with the Vanishing Point tool in Photoshop" is surely so much wanted that high end 3D modelling programs have something which operate in 3D and do the job with reasonable low effort. Unfortunately I don't have such 3D programs.
    – user82991
    Sep 12, 2020 at 11:12
  • Photogrammetry software can also be used to align the camera. Photogrametry donr work well for architectural elements with a lot of glass. For a free photogrammetry tool look at meshroom.
    – joojaa
    Sep 12, 2020 at 13:25

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