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Blog / Beginner's handbook / Step-by-Step Guide to Stunning Clothing Photography

Beginner's handbook

Step-by-Step Guide to Stunning Clothing Photography

Step-by-Step Guide to Stunning Clothing Photography
Katrina Resne

By Katrina Resne

11 min read

Photographing clothing to perfection is a valuable skill in today’s world. 

Customers primarily review clothing online based on images. Which makes product photos the ultimate deal-makers or deal-breakers.

Whether you want to take clothing photography for an online store, social media, or your portfolio, this blog is for you. We’ll cover the basics and walk you through 8 key steps for mastering stunning clothing photography.

Let’s begin!

Types of clothing photography

Each type of apparel photography excels at showcasing certain aspects of clothing. For example, studio clothing photography is best for product photos in an online store, while outdoor clothing photography will perform well on social media.

If you know different types of clothing photography, you can plan an effective photoshoot. Remember to communicate your vision in detail, if you’re working with photographers, models, and teammates.

Studio clothing photography

Studios are excellent for clothing photography because they offer a clean and cohesive environment. Images taken in a photography studio are often easier to retouch and edit. Usually, photography studios have backdrops, props, a lighting kit, and some other equipment available.

Every studio has a well-thought-out interior design. When browsing available studios, look for ones that fit the aesthetic you’re going for. Do you need a minimalist, industrial studio, a sunny, rustic-style studio, or a vibrant studio with fun props?

On a model

In clothing photography, models provide a more realistic representation of how garments appear in real life. Not only do they offer a visual fit reference, but they also channel emotions and attitudes, enriching the images with diverse poses and expressions.

By photographing clothing on models, you can properly show the fit and flow of clothing. That makes it easier for customers to envision themselves wearing your designs.

Keep in mind that hiring models requires some investment and can be logistically challenging. If you need model photos, pay attention to sizing and the overall look of the model to align with your vision.

On mannequin

Using mannequins is a practical choice to display clothing without distractions. Mannequin photos are well-suited for ecommerce platforms and product catalogs, where consistency and clarity are essential. Mannequin shoots are faster because there are no wardrobe changes or makeup touch-ups. 

However, mannequins can’t convey emotions or attitudes, which can make the clothing photos appear impersonal. Plus, while mannequins come in standard sizes, humans naturally have a diverse range of body shapes and sizes. So, relying on mannequins might not always give an accurate representation of how the clothing fits on different body types.

Ghost mannequin/technique

In clothing photography, the ghost technique is used to create the illusion of an invisible figure wearing the garment. This method is commonly used for ecommerce websites and product posts on social media.

To achieve the ghost effect, a photographer typically takes multiple photos with the garment on a model or mannequin and with the garment itself, laid flat or suspended.

In post-processing, the images are merged using photo editing software. Any parts of the mannequin or model are removed, creating the appearance of a ghost wearing the garment. This technique gives customers a clear idea of the garment’s cut.

Outdoor clothing photography

Outdoor clothing photography is ideal for connecting your clothing line with a specific lifestyle or activity. For example, show activewear in a park or an outdoor gym. You can create a storyline with your clothing photos or go for a conceptual photoshoot.

Outdoor settings provide a wide range of scenic backgrounds and natural light. You can photograph the colors, textures, and details of clothes more authentically.

Outdoor clothing photography feels more relatable and less staged. It helps customers picture themselves wearing the clothes, understand how to style them, and where to wear them. 

Photographing clothing outside can be more cost-effective than renting a studio. You can shoot multiple outfits in various settings during a single session to create a variety of content.

Keep in mind that outdoor photoshoots can be affected by the weather. Stay flexible and act fast if your photoshoot is interrupted by a rainy day. Pivot to a photography studio or showcase your products in the rain.

Flat-lay photography

Flat-lay clothing photography involves capturing items on a flat surface from a top-down perspective. The idea is to convey a particular aesthetic, showcase a fully-styled outfit, or display a collection of products in a single shot.

Flat-lay clothing photography is quite easy to do. It doesn’t require a lot of space. You need a flat surface and lighting—natural or artificial light. Then you can start putting together the flat-lay arrangement. You can display one garment or mix several products. Experiment and switch the items around to get the perfect layout.

Flat-lay is more popular on social media. But if it makes sense for your product, you can create flat-lays for your website as well.

If you have an idea for a custom clothing business, using print-on-demand services can be a game-changer. You’ll be able to focus on marketing and sales, while a print-on-demand company makes, fulfills, and ships your custom t-shirts and other apparel.

Learn how to start a clothing brand and begin your journey in the fashion world.

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Clothing photography equipment

Camera

Your choice of camera is the foundation of exceptional clothing photography. You can opt for a professional, vintage, or phone camera. All are great for specific uses. So which one should you choose? 

Pick a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) or a mirrorless camera with manual settings:

  • If you want to have full control over your shots

  • If you have to take online store photos often

  • If you have the budget for a great camera

  • If you want to improve as a photographer

If you rarely need a professional camera, borrow it from friends, family, or photographers.

Use a phone camera:

  • If you have a great phone camera

  • If you need to take photos fast and often

  • If you need to photograph clothes for social media

  • If you know or want to learn how to edit photos on your phone in an editing app 

In the past few years, vintage/disposable cameras have made a comeback. They’re used by beginners and professional photographers alike.

Choose a vintage/disposable camera:

  • If you want to take retro, nostalgic, or moody photos

  • If you want to create a specific brand aesthetic

When choosing a camera, consider your budget, skill level, and the camera’s specifications. Read reviews and seek recommendations to ensure your choice aligns with your needs and goals. 

Tripod

Stability is a must for creating steady, blur-free shots. A tripod allows you to refine composition, experiment with settings, and take consistent shots.

When selecting a tripod, keep in mind the camera you’ll be using with it. The tripod has to be compatible with your camera and support its weight. A lightweight, portable tripod with an adjustable height and angles is ideal for clothing product photography. 

Lighting source

For selecting the best lighting source, asses your photoshoot environment first. If you have access to natural light—perfect. Natural light is great for outdoor photoshoots, flat-lays, and social media posts. Sometimes it can work for online store photos as well.

An alternative is to invest in softboxes, umbrellas, light modifiers, reflectors, and other lighting equipment. This will be useful when photographing clothing for an ecommerce store.

There is an easy principle in lighting called three-point lighting. The key light is the primary light source and is the most intense. The fill light cancels the shadow of the key light and is less intense. The backlight separates the object from the background.

 

a diagram of a man standing in a green light

Source: StreamYard

You can research more lighting setups and find one that fits the clothing photography you’re planning.

Backdrop

Your backdrop should complement your clothing. A plain white background and one-color backdrops are versatile and timeless. They’re mostly used in photography studios to keep the focus on the garments.

When shopping for a backdrop, consider the size and material that suits your shooting space and style. Photography studios often provide various backdrops. So only invest in one if it’s truly necessary for your clothing photos. 

Mannequin

Selecting the right mannequin is essential to show clothing in the best possible way. While quality is important, you can find options that meet your requirements without breaking the bank.

Mannequins come in a range of sizes, prices, types, colors, and poses. There are dressmaker and store mannequins.

Even though meant for designers and seamstresses, dressmaker mannequins can be used for clothing product photography. Dressmaker mannequins are ideal for photographing dresses, tops, and outerwear, as they showcase these items at their best. If you photograph clothing in a variety of sizes, consider an adjustable mannequin that can be resized.

Store mannequins are the ones you see in retail stores. These are usually full-body mannequins with adjustable and removable hands and legs. Store mannequins are perfect for photographing lower-body or long garments like pants and maxi dresses. You can also style these mannequins from head to toe.

Before you purchase a mannequin, it’s important to consider the clothing you’ll be photographing. It’s also helpful to seek recommendations from other photographers or professionals in the industry. They can offer insights into which mannequin models have worked best for their projects.

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How to take excellent clothing photos in 8 steps

After diving into clothing photography types, browsing cool examples, and going over the equipment, it’s time to get snapping.

With these 8 steps, you’ll be nailing those high-quality clothing product shots in no time.

1. Plan your photoshoot

“An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.”–Dale Carnegie

It can also save you from forgetting things and getting confused during the shoot. 

So what’s the goal of your photoshoot? Do you need images for an ecommerce store or social media? Or both?

To have an organized and effective photoshoot, it’s useful to make a list. Include all the products you need to photograph, what types of images you need, and how many pictures you’ll take.

2. Decide the creative direction

Creative direction in photography is an integral part of building a brand image.

If you want to do a conceptual photoshoot, you’ll need inspiration for stories or narratives. Create a mood board or plan on how you want your clothing photos to look.

A creative direction can also be clean, simple product images on a white background. In this case, you’ll need to prepare a cohesive setup for all the products.

3. Choose the right location

Depending on your plan and creative direction, you can choose the appropriate location. Set up at a photography studio, pick an outdoor space, or create a DIY home studio.

Location is a major decision for taking clothing photography. It has a powerful visual impact on your clothing photos.

4. Prepare the equipment

Which camera will you use? Do you need any lighting sources? Are you taking photos of clothes on a mannequin?

Gather all the professional equipment you’ll need for your photoshoot.

If you’ve rented out a photography studio, find out what equipment they already have (backdrops, ring lights, etc.). So you don’t bring or buy something unnecessary. 

5. Prep the garments

Before placing your clothing item on the mannequin or model, make sure it’s wrinkle-free and in pristine condition. Iron out any creases. Button up or zip any closures. Inspect for any loose threads or imperfections.

6. Set everything up 

If you have models, make sure they’re getting ready and know their assigned outfits.

Turn on and set up the lights, if you have any additional light sources. Natural light is ideal, but if that’s not available, bring additional lighting equipment to get even illumination. You can avoid harsh shadows by using artificial lighting modifiers like softboxes or umbrellas.

Make sure your camera settings are set to capture the highest-resolution images for maximum clarity. Do some test shots and adjust your settings accordingly to get the best image quality.

Prepare the setup where you’ll photograph the clothes. Place the mannequins in the right spot. Try different backdrops. 

Consistency is key in product photography. Maintain the same lighting conditions, camera settings, and angles throughout the photoshoot to create a cohesive look for the products. It’ll help the online store, social media feed, or your portfolio look polished and professional.

7. Capture multiple angles and details

Show off your clothing from various angles and highlight all the details. Take full-body shots, close-up shots of intricate designs, and shots that emphasize fabric textures. This will help your customers get a comprehensive view of your product.

8. Edit your photos

Editing is the final step in enhancing your apparel photos. With editing software and apps, you can fine-tune the image quality and aesthetic.

Color correction

Color correction is the process of adjusting and balancing colors to achieve the desired tone and vibrancy in your photos. For example, you can intensify the blues in an outdoor shot to make the sky pop.

Exposure

Adjusting exposure can make your images brighter or darker. With exposure settings, you can correct underexposed or overexposed areas.

Contrast

Create sharper and more defined product images by changing the contrast. It enhances the difference between dark and light areas.

Saturation and vibrance

These settings allow you to boost or reduce the intensity of colors in your photos. Saturation affects all colors, while vibrance primarily adjusts the less saturated ones, preserving skin tones.

Clarity and sharpness

Clarity enhances fine details. Sharpening brings out sharper lines and textures.

Noise reduction

This feature is particularly useful when shooting in low-light conditions. It helps to reduce the graininess or noise in your photos.

Cropping

To maintain a neat and organized appearance on your online store, it’s crucial to crop the final photos in the same size.

Filters and presets

Editing software and apps offer a variety of filters and presets. They can instantly give your photos a specific look or style. By using filters and presets, you can also edit multiple photos at once.

Retouching

For product photography, retouching can be cleaning up imperfections like removing wrinkles, dust, or minor blemishes from clothing.

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Snap your shot

From selecting the right type of clothing photography to curating your equipment and nailing those shots, you’re all set.

The only way to improve in product photography is by practice. So start with what you have, slowly gather your clothing photograph equipment, and become a pro apparel photographer. 

Click, click your way to success!

author

By Katrina Resne on Nov 13, 2023

Katrina Resne

Content Writer Intern

Katrīna is a content writer with a background in Material Technology and Design. She loves the digital world and creating content in visual and written form.

Katrīna is a content writer with a background in Material Technology and Design. She loves the digital world and creating content in visual and written form.