How to fold and photograph a shirt flat lay

Learn how to fold a shirt and tie and shoot it for your web store in 10 easy steps

Folding a shirt into a rectangular shape is a common way of packaging one for sale. It gives shoppers a simple, concise look at its style. The same style of packaging can be done when presenting one on your web store or catalogue. So in this fashion product photography tutorial, we'll show you how to fold, style, and photograph a shirt to achieve a professional look. Watch the video above or read on to learn more.

It's important that your shirts retain a consistent, well styled appearance when sold online. This is because potential customers will usually be comparing between similar styles and visualizing them worn on themselves. Making it easier for them to do so - ensuring things like your choice of packshots and styling is the same - helps them make that buying decision. 

And of course, it goes without saying that if your shirts don't look good, you won't be selling many. So first, let's have a rundown of what you'll be needing for this tutorial:

The equipment you need

  • Camera - Any camera will suffice but a Canon EOS 5D Mk III is recommended as a standard for professional product photography
  • Studio lighting - Continuous cool LED lamps are recommended to ensure exposure, shadows and contrast are kept consistent
  • Your shirts and ties - Put together a collection shirts and ties that complement each other - we've chosen a white formal shirt and red tie
  • Tissue paper - Stuffing shirts with tissue paper gives them extra body and depth when laid flat
  • Cardboard - A piece of cardboard cut out to the size of your shirt gives structure for it to be folded around
  • Pins - Pins are extremely useful in helping keep the shirt fabric in place and maintaining a tighter fold
 

1. Lay the shirt flat on its front

Lay out your shirt straight and flat on its front. Take time to smooth it out and press your hands on the seams, ensuring everything is symmetrical. 

Tip: Steaming and ironing your shirt in advance makes the whole process much easier.

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2. Place a piece of cardboard in the middle

In this example we have saved one from a previous shirt package - but you can simply take any piece of card and cut it to shape of the size of the shirt you will be folding. If you do this, remember to keep the edges straight. Place the card on the back of the shirt, aligning it at the shoulder seams.

Tip: Because this shirt is made from a thin, sheer material, the brown card will show through. To solve it, get some sheets of white printing paper and put them in front, obscuring the darker colour. 

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3. Fold the sides over the cardboard   

Once you have placed the cardboard, fold each side over. Remember to keep them nice and tight against the cardboard as you do so.

Rub and press your hands over the edges to ensure a straight, smooth finish. 

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4. Fold the sleeves over and across the back

After you have folded in the edges, it's time to tackle the sleeves. Fold them over diagonally, remembering to keep the structure firm and tight.

Tip: Use pins to hold the sleeves in place - pinning at the seams - as you fold them over.

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5. Tuck the bottom of the shirt up

Next, fold the bottom half of the shirt back over where you have laid the sleeves - ensuring a nice straight edge. 

Again, use pins to hold things firmly in place. 

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6. Turn over and tie your tie

Once you're happy with your folding, turn the shirt over on its back.

Pre-tie your your tie into a half windsor knot. This knot is recommended as the top line lays straight and looks good when photographed. 

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7. Loosen the collar and dress with the tie

Simply turn up the collar of your shirt and dress it with the tie. Pay attention to keeping the knot neatly in the center of the shirt. 

Tighten the knot around the neck - but not too tightly, this will distort the collar and make it look uneven. 

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8. Style the tie

Create a dimple by pressing the material of the tie down just below the knot. Do this by pinching it between your forefinger and thumb as shown on the right.

This is a small detail that adds a nice touch when photographed. 

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9. Fold the tie under

Once the tie has been neatly styled, fold it underneath the shirt as shown on the right. 

At this stage, you can iron or steam your shirt and tie to make sure there are no unsightly creases. 

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10. Lay tissue paper for depth

Placing some tissue paper underneath the shirt gives some nice, prominent shadowing around the edges.

Simply fold some tissue paper into neat piles around the width of your shirt and place them underneath the shoulder area. 

 

Optional: show cuff

Many customers need to know if the cuff is a button or cufflink. The easiest way to do this is to pull out the cuff from where it is folded. Then, place it neatly over the front side of the shirt.

You can also choose to add some flair by folding it over at an angle. 

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And shoot...

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What we'd really appreciate is...

Thanks for reading our tutorial on folding a shirt and photographing it flat lay — part of our ongoing series of tutorials on product photography, styling and lighting. If you found it useful, why don’t you head on over to our YouTube channel and subscribe?

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flatStephen Warr