High-quality product photography is essential for apparel eCommerce. You need more than just a great product description for many customers—your images will determine whether they buy your product.
But basic doesn’t have to mean expensive. The difference between professional and amateur is talent, equipment, and experience.
If you have an eye for photography and a modest budget, follow these steps to benefit from our experience and create beautiful apparel product images.
Decide on How You Want to Display Your Products
Before starting anything, you need to decide how you would like your clothing items displayed on your eCommerce store. There are three common ways how merchants photograph clothing:
Use an Invisible Mannequin
When it comes to product photography, displaying a product in a more natural form, such as a mannequin, 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 dummy will give your products a realistic human shape without the hassle of finding a model for each photoshoot. You can remove the background from each photo later for a professional touch.
- Avoid amputated arms unless you’re shooting something strapless. It will take lots of time and skill to give a dangling, empty sleeve a natural form on photoshop, whether you have the background removed or not.
- Make sure you use a mannequin that is standing straight-on. Forms designed for brick-and-mortar stores often stand in unique poses so that they don’t all look the same when standing together.
It will look bizarre when you remove the background from a photo and the mannequin has one hand on its waist or its hip sticking out!
Hire a Model
If you have the budget, hire a model. Models can strike any kind of pose or work with any sort of angle that flatters your piece of clothing.
This will help you create the perfect in-context shot of your product that you can use on your eCommerce store and social media… think Instagram and Pinterest!
- You should experiment with different poses but make sure you don’t cover up too much of the product you’re selling after all; the buyer wants to see the details.
Models also give the personality of your product and create more of a brand. For example, many online stores 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 different.
Flat Lay Photography
Flat lay photography is the easiest and one of the most cost-effective ways to photograph your clothing items. Flat lay photography works well for shirts, and we have also seen it work for socks and mens’ trousers.
Using a flat lay isn’t generally recommended for your eCommerce store unless you need an excellent visual to share on social media. When it comes to product images, displaying them in a more natural form is of much more value to your customers.
- To take a great flat lay, 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 confident collars are in place and buttons are done up. You can give your products an extraordinarily smooth and flat shape with a piece of cardboard.
Remember that your customers can’t try on your products and are often hesitant to purchase products because they can’t imagine how the products look on themselves.
The reason flat lay photography is that ‘knolling’ is all the rage on social media, and overlooking social media platforms as a source of eCommerce traffic isn’t wise.
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 specific theme and look fabulous at the same time. Create your own excellent flat lay compositions and watch as the programs, 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 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 essential to consider how your products are related to one another. Photos should communicate a common theme, occasion or colour as not to overwhelm the viewer.
Prepare Your Clothing Photography Equipment
The equipment you need doesn’t need to break the bank or be expensive. Digital cameras are coming down in price, and smartphone cameras are getting better and better.
Here’s a list of photography equipment you will need:
Having the correct camera can make the difference between a professional-looking photo or an amateur one.
Mirrorless is by far the best type of camera to photograph clothing due to their newer technology, studio lighting connectivity, and physical lighter weight when compared to traditional DSLR cameras, but don’t be fooled into buying one if you don’t need to.
Your smartphone can work just as well.
For clothing photography, lighting is essential. Potential buyers want to see all the item’s details, so it is critical to obtain lights that will talk with your camera.
To begin with, select a light kit that contains three lights so a three-point lighting setup can be implemented (one key light, one fill light, and a back or hair light).
If you decide to use a smartphone for your photography, then investing in a continuous light kit is the way to go, as there is no need to sync the light to the camera’s shutter.
You can also use this type of lighting kit with a mirrorless camera, but better results are achieved with a traditional studio lighting setup and a wireless trigger.
Studio Backdrop Kit
The backdrop is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment required for clean-looking images along with lighting. Search for a plain white photography backdrop that includes a stand.
The kit should be approximately 10 x 20 feet as this will allow you to photograph a mannequin at full length for any longer dresses or garments you may sell.
Studio (wireless) Lighting Trigger
When discussing mirrorless cameras earlier, you would need a studio lighting trigger.
This third-party accessory will communicate between the camera and studio lighting kit to ensure they ‘go off’ or ‘fire’ at the same time the photo is taken.
When you purchase one of these, just make sure the brand you are buying is compatible with the camera brand you plan on using.
Selecting a sturdy tripod is a must for studio photography as it eliminates any unwanted camera shake caused by hand-holding your camera.
Aim to get a tripod that extends to roughly your eye level in height and seeks one with a spirit level as this will come in handy when setting the legs up.
Mannequin or Model
Mannequins can provide added benefits to the overall style and keep your budget low. As mentioned before, make sure to get a dummy without amputated arms or legs. While using a model can be expensive, the added benefits of a shoot sometimes outweigh the cost.
For instance, a professional model will change their body to compliment the clothing they are modelling, whereas if it were on a mannequin, you would have to pin the garment for the same effect.
A model can also bring natural movement to the clothing, which the buyer can relate to.
Also, having your model pose in an outdoor location might suit your brand better than an indoor studio environment. Lifestyle apparel images are growing in popularity, so it depends on the overall look and feel you are going for.
Having a bag of tricks for your photoshoot is always very handy when preparing your garment for clothing photography. For instance, using pins to pin back specific folds or labels will save you copious amounts of time in photoshop afterwards.
Clothes pegs are also a great way to gather and secure excess material at the back of the model or mannequin to reflect a perfect wrinkle-free, seamless fit.
Other items of value include tape to position fabric just where you need it, spare batteries for your camera, spare bulbs for your studio lights and steam iron to rid any wrinkles.
Prepare Your Clothing Products
Preparation is key to a great photoshoot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done photoshoots only to find a small yet noticeable detail out of place.
The time you put in here will save you much editing time afterwards and even save you time from redoing an entire shoot! We’d advise you to gather all the clothing you wish to photograph and start a production line to get everything ready.
Ironing or steaming all your garments (to your favourite song playlist) is the first thing you should do. Do this before hanging everything to ensure no wrinkles are showing.
Second, have your photography toolbox open, spare batteries charged and pins at the ready. If you’re going for mannequins, dress your dummy with the first item of clothing.
Look out for those tiny details on your garments.
Check if all the buttons are accounted for and buttoned up. If your article has tassels or ties, make sure they’re styled neatly and consistently. Make sure your sleeves are not only folded neatly but folded always. Make sure there are no stains on the clothing.
Set up Your Photography Studio
Your clothing photography studio could be a professional one, or maybe just a spare area in the back of your store. It doesn’t matter as long as you have the right camera and lighting.
Set up your backdrop first. Once that’s done, start setting up your lighting and camera. A three-point lighting setup is best for clothing photography.
To begin with, set up one light next to your camera and direct it toward the mannequin; this will form the critical light.
The second light will act as a fill light and should be positioned at a 45-degree angle from your mannequin and further away from the first key light, finally with the remaining light position between the form and the backdrop.
Check Your Camera Settings
When setting your camera, there are three factors you need to look into – aperture, iso sensitivity, and shutter speed.
For clothing photography, it’s ideal for shooting at a high f/stop, between f/8 and f/11. This will help you get a more focused shot on your apparel products.
Shutter speed refers to how long your shutter will remain open. Ideally, you should set it around 1/125 when photographing clothing.
When taking photos of clothing, the ideal iso setting is between 400 and 800. This will depend on what type of light sources you’re using. If you’re using artificial lighting, set your iso between 600 and 800 instead, allowing you to reduce the noise.
Start Taking Your Product Photos
Now, onto the exciting part – photographing your products! Make sure that your camera is stable. Use a tripod. This will give you crisper and sharper product images.
If you don’t have a tripod, you can place your camera on any stable or hard surface.
Your mannequin or model should be at the centre of your camera frame. Make it a point that it takes up the majority of your canvas. If you need closer shots, either adjust your tripod or adjust the optical zoom of your camera.
- Do not use digital zoom – it lowers the quality of your product photos due to the cropping of the image while shooting.
- Set your camera on a 2-second-timer mode. Doing this allows your camera to re-focus on your subject after pressing the shutter.
- Show off the details.
- Don’t overlook the small details when you photograph clothing.
There is nothing worse for a customer when they receive the product and realize that the fabric is stiff when they thought it was soft. Or that the item had a zip closer when it has buttons.
So take photos of the stitching, fabric, tags, zips, buttons and anything else about your clothing item that you think the customer may want to see before making a purchase.
By including details, you can reduce the number of customer service questions you may receive and increase conversion rates because the customer has all the information about the item.
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. To get the item to sit correctly, use props and tools to help you photograph clothing.
- Iron the clothing item to remove any wrinkles. I find that a steamer is the best option.
- If you need to fill out the bust of a garment, put a padded bra on the mannequin
- Use pins and pegs to clip garments into place if the item is too big for the form or model
- Using a fan can be a great way to give your product movement
- Use transparent tape to keep any tags or labels out of the way
Editing Your Product Photos to Increase Sales
Once you’re done taking photos of your products, it’s time to edit your images to make them all looking consistent for your online store.
Your post-production process should take into consideration how you want your photos to look on your eCommerce store. Ensure that you handle the alignment, white background, cropping, and colour correction to ensure consistency.
If you want to take your clothing photography to the next level, think about creating ghost mannequins — you can’t get any more professional than that.
A ghost mannequin effect makes your product images look like it takes a human form without displaying a model. By showing small sections of the garment inside, you give the product a more three-dimensional structure.
You don’t need to hire a model for ghost images; a mannequin will work better. The process of taking a ghost mannequin isn’t easy, but trust me when I say it’s worth it.
How to Create a Ghost Mannequin Effect
Take a photo of the product from the front. Then take a shot from the back, but turn the product inside out.
You should use a tripod for this and avoid changing the amount you zoom in.
A good idea is to also mark a spot on the floor for your mannequin, so it’s in the same area for both photos. This will make it easier to ‘stitch’ the items together afterwards.
The next step is removing the background, as you need to see the back through the front. Then you just have to place the show on top of the back in photoshop, which shouldn’t be too tricky if both your photos were taken from the same distance and angle.
Upload Your Product Photos to Sell Online
The last thing you need to do is upload your items to your online store and any marketplace you are selling on, ensuring that you match the image requirements.
Remember that clothing photography can be fun — and, when done right, can make your store look amazing! If you have any of your tips, let us know in the comments below.
Common Mistakes Clothing & Apparel Photography
The eCommerce industry changes constantly. However, although trends do come and go with each season, there are a few things that must remain the same—especially in apparel photography.
Not Preparing the Garment
You want your products to look their best so that you can showcase them to customers. However, as you may personally understand, clothing can become wrinkled and creased and even begin to look worn from storage and transport.
Sometimes, clothing samples are even received in old, tattered, or even unfinished conditions! Preparing garments to be photographed is the most crucial starting point for photographing apparel.
Yet, many apparel photographers skip this step and prefer to rely on photoshop to fix wrinkles, stains, and other problems accrued while storing or transporting the product.
However, Photoshop isn’t magical; it takes time and expertise to master advanced editing techniques, and all edits that you make are “destructive” to the image, compromising some image quality.
Because of this, it’s best to rely on photoshop only to add final touches and colour correction to your ideas and ensure that you capture the garment as perfectly as you can in-camera.
It’s essential to thoroughly examine your product from top to bottom, inside and out. Are there any tags, stickers, and other types of identifying materials that need to be removed?
Do so. Have clothes become wrinkled or creased during storage? Iron or steam them. Use the available resources to fix other damages and distractions that you might come across.
In particular, lint rollers and tape are great for removing dust and strings from fabrics. In some cases, samples are wrong upon arrival due to last-minute design changes (e.G. Fit, colours, patterns, etc.).
Make sure that you understand design changes for each garment to edit the sample accordingly in photoshop or decide to wait to photograph the actual piece that will be sold.
Not Utilizing a Mannequin or Live Model
Many apparel photographers overlook the importance of communicating shape and fit customers by photographing garments worn by mannequins or live models.
Instead, they simply lay clothing flat or snap it on hangers. This is a huge mistake! Photographing a garment on a form or a live model is almost always the best way to showcase that garment’s shape and encourage customers to visualize it being worn by themselves.
(Live models don’t have to be expensive: using a friend strategically can be the best answer to taking pictures of clothes without a dummy?)
Models make clothing come to life, but when models can’t be used due to budget or time constraints, a dummy is the next best thing you can use with a meagre budget.
Allowing the customer to see each product’s shape and natural draping will give them a realistic idea of how the garment will fit them—not to mention a higher quality shopping experience.
A little styling can go a long way, too. If your garment seems to be too big for your mannequin, try fitting it closer to your form by pinning it and tucking your garment so that it is styled to work correctly.
Photographing your products on mannequins also allows you the opportunity to create a classy post-production technique called the ghost mannequin effect.
Not Providing Enough Imagery
Contrary to popular belief, one or two images of each product are simply not enough to give customers an accurate feel for the cost-effectiveness and quality of your inventory.
Therefore, it’s essential to provide customers with as much information as possible about each product by uploading at least three images per product—and preferably 5-10.
Many eCommerce websites will allow you to upload 9-12 images for each product set, but many retailers don’t take advantage of that extra opportunity to promote their products. Whenever possible, photograph as many angles of your products as possible.
At the very least, photograph the standard front, side, and back view of each product, and then supplement that with close-ups of essential product embellishments, such as buttons, zippers, or embroidery—the details that set your shirt, dress, etc.
Apart from all the other clothes online. The more images of your product you upload, the more the customer will understand the product.
This will provide them with a better shopping experience according to internet retailers and demonstrate the quality of your products and ensure that the customer is satisfied when the product arrives (and thus minimize returns).
Not Utilizing Enough Light When Taking Apparel Photos
Don’t be that e-commerce retailer whose product images look dingy and underexposed. Bright lighting should be one of your biggest concerns as an online apparel retailer.
Ensuring that you expose ideas correctly will showcase products’ colours and other details accurately and make your inventory appear clean and professional.
All clothing is different, and having the proper lighting will allow customers to appreciate the unique facets of your garments. Ample lighting also allows your camera to produce higher quality images with less “noise” or “grain” and more sharpness.
The darker the lighting situation, the poorer the image quality—and poor image quality will not flatter your products!
The most flexible way to ensure that you have sufficient lighting is to rent artificial lighting equipment.
If renting equipment is not in your budget, try using natural light from a large window and a reflector panel made from foam board. Bright lighting should be one of your biggest concerns as an online apparel retailer.
Not Using the Correct Camera Settings
If your camera settings are wrong, then no amount of photoshopping expertise will be able to make your images look professional.
Dslr cameras can produce photographs of exceptionally high quality, but incorrect settings can drastically reduce that quality. Make sure that you understand iso, aperture, and white balance before you photograph your products.
Not Setting the Correct Color Space Profile
Many apparel photographers forget or don’t know about the crucial step of converting edited photos into a web-ready colour space profile. Colour space is a specific range of colours that can be presented in a given image.
Some options for colour spaces are Adobe RGB, CMYK, and RGB (here’s the answer to the inevitable question, “what is RGB?”). Without the correct colour space, the colours of products will look different when viewed on different computer screens, web browsers, and even websites.
RGB is the best colour space profile to keep your images consistent and vibrant between the various screens, browsers, and sites. You can choose to set your camera to srgb, thus eliminating the extra step of converting the file to srgb after you edit it.
However, srgb captures a narrower range of colours than your camera’s RGB default, so many professionals choose to make the conversion only after they have perfected their images to avoid limiting their editing capacity.
Not Editing Product Images Properly
Many eCommerce retailers edit their product images improperly, especially regarding cropping, alignment, colour, and backgrounds.
It’s best to keep all crops, alignments, and locations identical from image to image in your inventory.
To keep all images consistent about one another and cut back your post-processing time, make sure to develop a standard set of specifications for both shooting and editing. A photo editing service like pixels can help you standardize and automate post-production efficiently.
Ensure that your products are all the same size and are centred within your image so that all of the angles, corners, and edges of your products line up about one another. Having a consistently aligned inventory will boost the appeal of your website and products.
The easiest way to ensure that your alignment is spot on is to create guidelines in a photoshop template.
As with alignment, you must crop product images identically to provide the customer with a seamless online shopping experience. If you use guidelines for alignment, then cropping consistently and sizing images according to your website’s image specifications should be no problem.
Some eCommerce companies choose different backgrounds to display other products.
Although this may seem unimportant, keeping all of your product images consistent about one another can drastically improve the professionalism and appeal of your website and inventory selection.
Choosing one background style and sticking to it can also shave off post-production time. It is generally agreed that white or light grey backgrounds provide the slightest distraction from your clothes or other product.
Another common mistake in apparel photography is inaccurately representing garments’ colours.
Although the camera does a great job creating fairly accurate colouring, if you allow it to decide white balance for itself with auto mode, some colours—such as neons, reds, and pinks—are difficult to photograph correctly in camera and often need to be tweaked in photoshop.
Inaccurate representations of colours can leave customers frustrated and dissatisfied, so taking a few extra minutes to ensure that the colours of your garments are accurate before you upload them to your website is a good idea.
The bottom line is that you want the customer to see precisely what they will receive in the mail should they order your product.
There are several ways to tweak colours, so get to know photoshop’s offerings and choose your favourite tool.
After you have fixed the colours, make sure to convert your images into RGB format to make sure that different browsers, computer screens, and websites won’t change the accurate colours that you worked so hard to create for your customers.
Experience Is the Best Teacher
Doing it yourself is a big challenge. It won’t be perfect the first time, but that’s ok.
Your goal should be to improve with every shoot and to take the best possible product images. Better product images mean more sales and more opportunities for people to enjoy your product.
Remember the steps to taking beautiful apparel product photography, and you’ll be fine.
Prepare your product, build your studio, position your lighting, style your product, set your camera, shoot, and perfect your images in post-production processing. If you follow those steps, you will have high-quality product images you can be proud of.