How to Photograph Clothing for Your eCommerce StoreAugust 17, 2015 - Paula
A few weeks ago, we gave you our top tips on how to photograph jewelry to create retail-ready product images. Clothing isn’t as tricky, as you’re not dealing with small, shiny and detailed pieces. But I still thought I’d put together a quick list of tips and tricks that will help you take the best product images for your online clothing store.
Ways to photograph clothing
1. Use a mannequin
When it comes to product photography, displaying a product on a more realistic form can be of great value to your customers. Online shoppers are more likely to buy an item of clothing if they can visualize how it’ll look when they wear it. A mannequin will give your products a realistic human shape without the hassle of finding a model each photoshoot. You can remove the background from each photo later for a professional touch.
Make sure you use a mannequin that is standing straight-on. Mannequins designed for brick-and-mortar stores are often standing in unique poses so that they don’t all look the same when standing together. However, it’s going to look really weird when you remove the background from a photo and the mannequin has one hand on its waist or its hip sticking out!
You should avoid armless mannequins unless you’re shooting something strapless. It will take lots of time and skill to give a dangling, empty sleeve a realistic form in Photoshop, whether you remove the background or not.
On the downside, mannequins aren’t the easiest to dress, so it might help to have an extra pair of hands to help you.
2. Hire a model
On the upside, models can strike any kind of pose or work with any kind of angle that flatters your piece, which will help you create the perfect in-context shot for your product. They also give your products personality; a lot of online stores, for example, choose models who they think represent their ‘target customer’. If you compare Zara and Arnhem, the models, the clothes and the vibes couldn’t be more different.
On the downside, models will cost you more than a mannequin and you will have to find a mutually convenient time to shoot, which isn’t always easy. It’s entirely up to you whether you hire professionals or ask your friends, but remember that professionals know how to pose and are comfortable in front of a camera, while friends are definitely the more affordable option.
If you’re on a budget, a good idea is to use a mannequin for your standard front, back and side product images, because these should be simple poses that show off the product alone. You can then hire a model for some great in-context shots and social media campaigns.
3. Create a ghost mannequin
The most professional way to photograph clothing is to create a ghost mannequin or ghost image, which will make your product look like it’s floating on an invisible ghost. By showing small sections of the inside of the garment, you can give your product a more three-dimensional form.
The process of taking a ghost mannequin isn’t easy, but trust me when I say it’s definitely worth it. You can use a mannequin or a model, but mannequins tend to work better.
Put simply, you first need to take a photo of the product from the front. Then take a photo from the back, but turn the product inside out. You should use a tripod for this and avoid changing the amount you zoom. A good idea is to also mark a spot on the floor for your mannequin so it’s in the same spot for both photos.
Finally, you need to remove the background from both photos and digitally stitch the front and back together. Check out our blog post on how to create a ghost mannequin effect in Adobe Photoshop for a step-by-step guide with screenshots on how to do this. Creating a ghost mannequin will require a bit of skill, some time and a lot of practice, so if you need help with this bit, Pixc can remove your photo backgrounds and create the final ghost images for you.
4. Arrange a flatlay
To take a great flatlay, you’ll need a large piece of white paper or a white sheet to lay on the ground. Make sure your products are looking their best — iron your clothes and make sure collars are in place and buttons are done up. You can give your products an extremely smooth and flat shape with a piece of cardboard.
Unless you’re photographing business shirts for men, I wouldn’t recommend using a flatlay for your eCommerce store’s product photography. It works for shirtmakers like Herringbone and Brooks Brothers because the shirt pattern is primarily what differentiates each product; fit does matter but the pattern is the first point of competitive advantage.
Source: Brooks Brothers
The reason I want to mention flatlay photography is because ‘knolling’ is all the rage on social media at the moment, and overlooking social media platforms as a source of eCommerce traffic isn’t wise. If you need convincing, check out Shopify’s infographic on social commerce.
If you haven’t heard of knolling before, it’s the process of arranging objects in a grid. Social media users, primarily Instagrammers and Pinterest users with a fashion/lifestyle focus, create these arrangements of products to fit a certain theme and look amazing at the same time. Create your own amazing flatlay compositions and watch as the regrams, repins and likes flood in.
You should use at least one of your products and choose accessories or household items that complement the product. Not all of the products need to be your own; the idea is to drive traffic to your eCommerce store indirectly by first driving traffic to your social media platform.
It is, however, important to consider the ways in which your products are related to one another. Photos should clearly communicate a common theme, occasion or color as to not overwhelm the viewer.
Things to remember when you photograph clothing
Don’t be afraid to use props and tools to help you make the product fit the mannequin or model better. In fact, we recommend making your own photographer’s toolbox to help you through your shoot. Some tips:
- If the clothing available is larger than your model or mannequin, pin the loose portions at the back using a laundry clip/peg/clothespin.
- Use magic tape/transparent tape to fix loose portions at the side. You can also tape any tags if they’re visible.
- If the mannequin has a small bust, use a padded bra inside the clothing.
- If you want a skirt or dress to look ‘flowy’, have the mannequin wear a petticoat inside the dress.
- If you want the garment to have a bit of movement, try using a fan on a low setting from a distance.
- Use an iron to get rid of any wrinkles before you shoot. A steam iron will give you the best results but you can also use a regular flat iron.
Show off the details
Don’t overlook the small details when you photograph clothing. Keep an eye out for any buttons, tags, flaps, etc. that may have fallen out of place. Use items from your photographer’s toolbox to help you.
If there are any special features or textures, you should complement your product images with some close-ups of things that make your garments unique and interesting. You can always enable a zoom function that allows your customer to do the zooming. You should provide a few choice close-ups to show the customer where they should look.
And those are our top tips for photographing clothing!
Remember that clothing photography can be fun — and when done right, can make your store look amazing! If you have any of your own tips, let us know in the comments below.