How to photograph a t-shirt on a ghost mannequin

We show you how to use an invisible mannequin to achieve a 3D hollow man effect for your t-shirts

Equipment used: StyleShoots Vertical. Click here to learn more

Timeless, classic, and simple, t-shirts are a staple of any fashion retailer's collection. But when photographed flat lay, they can lose their appeal by looking a little flat and out of proportion. So in this fashion product photography tutorial, we will show you how to photograph one using a special ghost mannequin to get an effect as if an invisible man were wearing it. 

Instead of being a trick done in an imaging editing software, using a ghost mannequin gives the effect of the t-shirt being worn by an invisible person.  This is done by removing arm and chest pieces so the mannequin is not visible in the final shot. 

By using a ghost mannequin and following this tutorial, you can drastically cut the time it takes to achieve this invisible man effect - which is usually done by photographing the clothes inside out and compositing the two images in post production. This has the added benefit of saving you a lot of money in your content production costs.  

First, let's run through what you'll be needing in this tutorial.

  • 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
  • T shirt
  • A ghost mannequin - These modular mannequins have removable chest and arm pieces that become invisible in-shot
  • Styling clips and pins - A combination of clips and pins can be used to give the t shirt a more fitted look

Shooting the t-shirt


1. Remove the arms and chest of the mannequin

When it comes to styling t-shirts, it's all about the shape. An athletic build on your mannequin will help the tee look even more appealing.

That being said, simply pull off the pieces of the mannequin to get it ready for dressing. 


2. Dress the mannequin

Just like you would on your own body, pull the t-shirt over the torso.

Before you start styling, remember to reattach the arm/shoulder pieces.


3. Style the arms and shoulders

It's likely that some of the fabric will be pinched under the shoulder. 

Spend some time pulling the material out so there are no strange looking creases. 

Then, make sure the shoulders are aligned symmetrically.


4. Pull the t-shirt taut and remove creases

Just like you see in the example on the right. 


And shoot...

You can see the arms have been edited out in post production. We've also used directional lighting to create some extra shadowing on the right. 

You can see the arms have been edited out in post production. We've also used directional lighting to create some extra shadowing on the right. 


What we'd really appreciate is...

Thanks for reading our tutorial on styling and photographing a hoodie on a ghost mannequin — 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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Stephen Warr