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Ghost Mannequin Photography on a Button-Up Shirt

Find out how to photograph a shirt on a ghost mannequin with PhotoRobot’s_Cube and software for control and automation.

How to Photograph a Button-Up Shirt on a Ghost Mannequin

In this fashion product photography tutorial, we demonstrate how to photograph a button-up shirt on a ghost mannequin. Using this special mannequin with removable pieces, we make the shirt appear as if an invisible model is wearing it.

To create the ghost mannequin effect, we use the_Cube, a mannequin, and our software for control and automation. Thanks to the_Cube, we can photograph a long line of mannequins consecutively and with little interruption to workflow.

This is especially valuable when photographing a large number of shirts in various styles. Mannequins for quick-exchange ensure a smooth workflow from one mannequin to the next. Meanwhile, PhotoRobot_Controls drastically reduces post production and time-to-web.

Ready to learn the process for yourself? This tutorial is for you. We’ll share how to photograph a shirt on a ghost mannequin, including what cameras, lighting, and equipment to use.

Photography Equipment and Editing Software

At the heart of any ghost mannequin photography setup, there is the_Cube. This robot quickly transforms into a rotating mannequin for fashion product photography. It has a system for quick mannequin exchange, and supports mannequin torsos and legs of all sizes.

Mannequin installation with shirt and apparel in background.

Then, with PhotoRobot_Controls, there are functions for creating and automating style guides, and a special function we call Chromakey. With these, you can automate mannequin pole removal from final images, and composite photos to create a ghost mannequin effect.

Additional equipment, cameras, and lighting

Beyond the_Cube, you also need the following equipment in your workspace.

  • Camera - Our automated product photography systems support both Canon and Nikon cameras. For the best results, we always recommend high-end models.
  • Studio lighting - This setup combines strobe lighting and LED panel lights to achieve the ideal exposure, shadows, and contrast from all angles.
  • Ghost mannequin - Here, we’re using multiple mannequins, each of which can be quickly exchanged by mounting onto the_Cube. This gives us a way to prepare another torso off to the side while simultaneously photographing the first.
  • Your button-up shirt - Today, we’re photographing a button-up, long-sleeved shirt. With similar types of shirts, the process will be the same however, no matter the length of the sleeves. 
  • Styling accessories and tools - You’ll want tools such as pins and clips on hand for styling the clothing. We also have tissue paper for padding different areas of the shirt, and a reflector to direct light into hard-to-reach places.

How to Style a Button-Up Shirt

1 - Get a mannequin that best suits the shirt

Getting started, the first step is choosing the best ghost mannequin to suit your shirt. Find one that closest fits the style, cut, and size of the shirt you want to photograph.

The mannequin’s removable parts streamline post production, eliminating the need to cut out and composite final images. Simply remove pieces such as the arms, neck, and chest to photograph the shirt without the mannequin visible.

By removing these parts, it’s possible to capture the inner label of the shirt in each photo. This means we can create a ghost mannequin effect without needing to composite photos of an open and closed shirt.

Photographer putting sleeves on mannequin and doing buttons.

2 - Button the shirt onto your mannequin

Now that we have our ghost mannequin, fitting the shirt onto it and styling is easy and straightforward. Simply button the shirt up the front, just as you would dressing yourself.

Obviously, the shirt should be prepped and steamed first. Ensure there are no unsightly wrinkles or creases you wouldn’t want in your product photos. 

Pay careful attention that the buttons are neat, and that the shoulders and arms are perfectly aligned. Here, also space the sleeves out to create distance from the torso, moving the mannequin arms outwards to do this.

Distance view of photographer, studio, mannequin and shirt.

3 - Style the collar, arms, and cuffs

Next, we need to emphasize the design anatomy of the shirt. This includes styling the collar, the sleeves, and the sleeve cuffs.

Use styling pins to fasten the bottom of the shirt, but be sure to hide the pins behind the fabric. The shirt needs to be neat and straight, but you don’t want the pins visible in the photoshoot.

Then, if you choose to flare out the cuffs, simply stuff the insides with tissue paper. If photographing open cuffs, just flip them up and again ensure each is symmetrical.

Close-up buttoning cuffs of sleeves.

4 - Use styling tools to create a more fitted look

In the next step, it’s time to give the shirt a fitted look on the ghost mannequin. To do this, go to the backside of the mannequin and use styling clips to pull the shirt taut. Pull the back of the material until the front of the shirt looks neat, and clip it in place.

Remember, however, to only clip the shirt in a straight vertical line down the middle. This way your shirt will remain symmetrical in photos.

It’s also important the shirt is not too tight, so pay close attention when styling the shoulders and underarms. It’s these areas that need to present the shirt’s fit - if it’s cut is slim, normal, or tailored.

Now, do a final examination of the shirt from the front. It should be styled in a way that gives it a natural fit on the mannequin. There shouldn’t be any areas where the fabric bunches up, just as if an invisible model were wearing it.

Photographer fastening fabric with styling clips.

5 - Styling to photograph the back of the shirt

To style the back of the shirt, simply repeat the previous step but in reverse. Use styling clips on the button-up front, again aligning clips vertically down the center.

Make sure the shirt has a neat, fitted look that emphasizes its cut, and there are no visible creases or bunching. The fabric shouldn’t be pulled down too tightly, and the shirt should have a more natural and “worn” appearance.

Photo of styling the shirt's backside.

6 - Lights, Camera, Action

Finally, we’re ready to photograph our shirt on a ghost mannequin. Moving to the control station, the process from here takes no time and becomes routine on any torso.

  • Capture given angles (set for predefined positions).
  • Separate the background from your imagery.
  • Retouch the pole of the torso with manual or automated Chromakey retouch.
  • Set the lighting to the product for consistent exposure, shadows, and contrast.
  • Control the process to create and deliver ready-made images to the client or to publish directly online.

The Final Results

Final product photos of shirt, front and back.

For more product photography tutorials and resources

If you found this tutorial useful, be sure to sign up for our Product Photography Newsletter below. You can also find PhotoRobot on Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Get the latest news and resources, including blogs, guides, and videos to stay up-to-speed in the industry. From mannequin photography to filming models, or photographing products of any size and on any scale, PhotoRobot covers it all.