How can clothing be photographed? The Beginning Manual

  • Oct 27, 2023
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You will come across inquiries concerning product photography as soon as you start your online clothing business. Does the way products are presented online differ from how they are in brick-and-mortar stores? Is originality in clothing photography always advantageous, or are there situations in which it is superfluous? Is there a standard on the market for taking pictures of clothing? You can find readily available cues in our beginner's guide that will assist you in taking commercial clothing photos.
How can clothing be photographed? The Beginning Manual

Prior to photographing every item of clothing in your offer, there are two questions you must first respond to:

  • Whom do I take pictures of?
  • What will be the purpose of the pictures?

Once you have the answers to these, you can concentrate on the studio setup and, eventually, the photographic technique. Post-processing and organizing your content as online resources are usually inevitable.

There are countless helpful tips available online for different approaches to clothing photography. We have arranged our suggestions gradually for each step of the process to help you from start to finish. You can follow the procedure from planning the session to publishing the photos.

Clothes photography: for whom and what purpose?

Clothes fulfill a variety of functions; some are protective at work, some dress up for a friend's party, and some are just there to keep you warm in the winter. Your clients will search for clothes for each of these events, and depending on the circumstance, they will have different expectations from an online store's visual.

Handle the photography of your clothes the same way you would a high-street store counter or window. You showcase exquisite white and pink lacing in warm, soft light for those who are interested in glitz and glamour. You should make an investment in lighting that reveals all of the features and maintain a tangible presentation for customers who come in to purchase clothing for tourism.

We've discussed the distinctions between lookbook and packshot photography in our article on shoe photography, and the same guidelines that apply to shoe photography also apply to clothing photography:

  • Lookbook photos serve to draw in customers, focus their attention toward a purchase, and highlight the aspects of your clothing that are most relevant to your lifestyle. There won't be as many restrictions on photo focus and cropping when showcasing clothing on models in vibrant settings. Consider lookbook photography to be on the verge of art.

  • Packshots: Their goal is to guarantee and enlighten a purchasing decision. The emphasis will continue to be on showcasing every crucial aspect of an item of clothing, much like in a catalog. White backgrounds and a variety of standard angles will be used in an effort to achieve complete shot repeatability.

Deciding which style to stick with will be easier if you know where your final photo will appear on the website. While homepage grids and primary listing photos work best with repeatable packshots, Instagram, social media, and secondary listing photos are the best places for lookbook shots.

Is a photo studio required?

The final product's quality and cost will be greatly influenced by how you set up your photo session. The first thing you'll need to decide is if you want to do the clothing photography internally or hire a third-party studio.

With in-house solutions, you can take pictures on your own, saving on logistics but needing more expertise. You can construct your own traditional photo studio complete with sophisticated studio lighting, tripods and camera mounts, a white shooting table or backdrop row, and all the extra accessories like turntables, moving arms, and various props. Additionally, a number of studio software licenses will be required.

Investing in automation technologies would be another way to do in-house clothing photography. This refers to photo studios with hardware-software integration for a range of product sizes and model photography. These simple tools lower the barrier to entry for operators and, with their background-cutting options, greatly accelerate the photo-taking process.

The quickest approach to guaranteeing the repeatability of your packshots would be through automation, which would also eliminate the risk to human elements (holidays, illnesses) and the strain that outsourcing places on logistics chains. The simplification that automated studios provide will bring clarity to the photo process, which you can easily duplicate as you grow by simply purchasing a new machine to accommodate more clothing!

Flat lay as a solution

Flat-lay photography is a viable option for projects with a smaller budget. It is less expensive, appealing, and straightforward. You don't need to use mannequins or models because you can shoot fast and accurately. Contractors and a studio are not required.
The primary disadvantage of flat-lay photography, however, lies in this final characteristic: when clothes are laid flat, they may take on strange shapes and lose their appearance in three dimensions. Additionally, it will be more challenging to convey scale without the use of props and scales.

Starting tips for clothes photography

Take note of the informativeness.

An accurate product photo of clothing cannot be faked. It will display a piece's overall appearance and all of its details exactly as they are. This refers to the material's texture (consider professional lighting at an angle), the color scheme (avoid over-using it for effect during post-processing), and of course all the small details like the zipper, creases, and lacings.

When making a packshot, educating people is your main goal. It will be imperative to refrain from utilizing post-production techniques that enhance the final product at the expense of authenticity.

How should the background be handled?

For all packshot photographers, the question of whether to use a background in their shot or to try to eliminate it is inevitable. We discussed this theoretical and practical subject in our post on removing a product photo's background.

  • There isn't a single response to the background question in clothing photography. But you must be aware of the dangers the finished image will face if the background is left in place.
  • unable to concentrate on background and product lighting. You must carefully balance the background lighting with the product lighting when setting up the lighting. The decision is straightforward: you light the product first in order to eliminate the background.
  • problems with contrast around the product's edges. White, glossy, and shiny products will soften into the background as their edges become less sharp. The issue goes away if you concentrate on lighting the product and then cut it.
  • Obtaining a clear RGB (255,255,255) background can be challenging. Sellers on websites like Amazon or eBay are frequently required to use a flawless white background. On a non-cut background, this might not be achievable without careful post-processing.
  • less flexibility when it comes to adding a colorful backdrop or cataloging the photo. It is almost always necessary to use an unusual background or set a photo in a specific context when it comes to clothing. There's no getting around the product clip in this instance.

Packshots: categories of clothes photos

If you want to build a flexible clothing online store, you should think about including the following packshot categories in your listings: We briefly enumerate their benefits and drawbacks.

Live model photography

Presenting apparel on live models or even posing models has the constant benefit of showing how the material acts on the human body. Customers will be able to see how it creases and receive answers to questions such as "Is this corduroy flexible enough?" or "Is the skirt light enough for summer?"

Additionally, sizes will be shown in relation to the human body, so it will be clear whether the skirt reaches the knees, the sleeves are long or just elbow-length, etc.

A lot of the time, live model photography will make a difference in your customer's purchase decision.


Mannequin photos

An alternative to showcasing clothes on live models is this style. The questions regarding size and creasing can be answered by a mannequin, but you won't get the extra details about how textiles behave when they move.

Additionally, you miss out on the opportunity to profit from the model's good looks, and your presentation leans more toward the "dry" and "boring" end. However, this could be a less expensive method of achieving the same objectives as with live models.


Ghost mannequin photos

Ghost mannequins are just a portion of an ordinary mannequin's body; otherwise, they are identical props. One could envision a shirt or cap placed atop the mannequin figure's head or chest.

These types of packshots are highly common in online clothing stores because they let the photographer get great angles and close-ups on different parts without being distracted by movement. Once more, you can reap some of the advantages of human body presentation with less expense and effort from human resources.

Flat-lay photography

Presenting products on social media and auction portals in a flat format is a common practice. It just requires minimal product preparation and doesn't require any extra props.

These packshots provide a decent overview of the item of apparel, but they might be devoid of details regarding its dimensions and size. In a dedicated article, we covered the best practices for flat-lay photography, including shot angles, camera settings, and product preparation.

Into rich media—a truly great online store

Users need ever-more-specific information about the product, as seen by recent trends in online marketing and e-commerce user experience. Similar to this, when it comes to clothing, buyers want to experience the item almost in real life. Rich media has been widely welcomed into online stores by this trend, and it appears that it will remain there indefinitely.

The ability to view rich media involves rotating it, viewing it from various angles, and using zoomed-in shots to examine its details. Virtual walks and presentations are becoming more and more common, particularly with well-made and precisely constructed goods like apparel and equipment for tourists. Live model presentations are a valuable resource for apparel as they provide additional details regarding fit, texture, and overall appearance. For helpful advice on how to present clothing, see our guide on lowering the number of returns in online sales.

Being able to elegantly share a lovely dress experience on social media isn't helpful. posts that will hold readers' attention for longer than a few seconds while also enhancing their familiarity with your company and its goods? Rich media is the solution once more.

You must weigh the costs of producing a virtual tour or a 360-degree spin against the benefits (like quicker and more certain purchasing decisions) when creating a full, rich media experience for the customer. Solutions for photography automation can be crucial in this choice because they enable a one-time investment that can significantly lower all current photo expenses.

More tips: Make your apparel photography perfect!

You can use some general advice regarding camera settings, studio lighting, and session organization to make your workshop for clothes photography dependable and fruitful. Many of them are compiled in our comprehensive guide to product photography and in-depth articles about photographing different kinds of products.

Keep the focal length at around 50 mm.

Using a prime lens with a 50-mm fixed focal length is advised when taking pictures. Higher focal lengths will inevitably cause distortion because of the way lenses are constructed, giving the products in the picture a distorted, twisted appearance.


Keep the aperture at f/8–f/16.

The best possible sharpness of the object being photographed is not guaranteed by aperture values below f/8 and above f/18. Check the specifications of your equipment to see the range of aperture values that lenses generally use to render the best possible image.

Keep your ISO as low as possible.

A lower ISO will result in a photograph with less noise. At ISO 100, which is the setting advised for product photography, the grain effect will not appear in your images. If you must increase it because of artificial lighting effects, try not to go above ISO 800.

Use a tripod for lower shutter speeds.

If you use a hand-held camera, you should usually keep the shutter speed low (below 1/60 s) in the camera settings triangle (see our camera settings article for an insightful explanation). If you must use longer shutter speeds due to the lighting, a tripod will be a helpful solution. It will ensure the repeatability of angles and stabilize the image.


Get the texture right with light manipulation.

Orienting your light source at a slightly acute angle will undoubtedly aid in highlighting the product's texture. Front light, or light at a 90-degree angle, minimizes microshadows and gives the article of clothing a smooth, flat appearance, though this may not always be the photographer's intention.

In addition, a lighting kit with white diffusers will soften the light and give your picture a unique touch. We advise you to check that the camera's white balance and light color temperature settings are aligned.

Reduce the shadow to a minimum.

It will be helpful to control the light so that the product doesn't cast shadows when shooting against colorful backdrops. If you plan to remove the product from the background or just make the final image appear more polished, this will be beneficial during the post-processing phase. The close-ups you eventually extract from the main shot will also turn out nicely, thanks to shadowless photography.

The post-processing dilemma: how far shall I take it?

Product photography flaws can be effectively corrected with digital photography. You can take care of the contrast, tend to the color scheme, or clean up any spots on glossy surfaces.

As a retoucher, you may frequently find yourself tempted to show the superior version of the product straight out of the Photoshop studio, pushing the picture beyond reality.

We examined how much photo post-processing is just enough in our jewelry photography article and offered advice on how to recognize your own boundaries. Consider the following basic guidelines when determining whether to employ post-production improvements and, ultimately, how much to do so:

  • Does the item still look natural? Compare the product as it appears in the photo and as it is in real life. If you find that the image appears noticeably better than it actually does, go back and redo the post-production steps, using more natural light.

  • Is the sharpness at the right level? Examine your item's edges closely to determine if you need to use sharpening filters or if the photo is already sharp. Using fine thread and metal components will make this easier.

  • Is the contrast satisfying? You can use filters to increase the contrast level of colorful clothing when it's not quite right. Perhaps, especially when taking photos without using a background cut, your goal will be to lessen the pale mist that envelops shiny objects. Remember never to exaggerate.

  • Is the color saturation at the right level? Attractiveness and informativeness interact when there is saturation. The truthfulness of the photo will generally be the limit, although different shop owners and retouchers may agree on different levels of color correction (a quick visual comparison on a good monitor).

You now understand how important product photography is to an online clothing retailer. Most likely, you've already decided between outsourcing and building an internal studio.

You will decide which approach to perfect more—precision or creativity—after deciding whether to shoot more in the lookbook or packshot style.

Rich media applications must be taken into account in every situation because spinning and up-close images of clothing significantly increase sales.

You ought to have retained some helpful studio setup advice and learned the boundaries for post-production of clothing shots from our guide.

Is this sufficient to get you started in the right direction with clothing photography? You will succeed if you have patience, are up-to-date on technology, and are willing to pick up new skills as you