Know your Subject Inside-out; the Art of Invisible Mannequin Photography

We shoot a lot of invisible mannequin work here at Photography Firm and we’ve learned it’s best to cover your butt in the studio to save you and your client time and stress down the line. By “cover your butt” we mean ensure you get all the shots you might later need, although we also subscribe to the literal interpretation, especially with clients visiting regularly.

Whilst photographing clothing on mannequins generally involves level, straight-on shooting, it’s not uncommon to use a slightly raised camera and downward-tilting lens – our clients often like to see their labels displayed at the back of the piece and this helps achieve that. Of course, with this marginally angled perspective, you’ll reveal more depth to the garment and so it’s important to ensure you photograph any detail from the reverse which would be visible were it not for the mannequin, such as the inside of a waistband, or inner edge of shoulder straps. Similarly, some garments are completely open-fronted or shaped so as to reveal reverse details at the angle you’re shooting, whether it’s the inside of a cuff or a low-hanging hem at the back of a skirt. Even the unconscious eye is very astute at detecting when something’s not quite right, so if you’re looking at a cut-out of a bikini and thinking “Shouldn’t I be seeing the back of a strap poking through there” it’s possible the photographer was too busy dreaming about whatever hot date they had that night (we’re all rock stars you know!), rather than covering the necessary angles.

The images below illustrate how we play it safe when shooting:



Once you’ve boxed up and returned the products you’re shooting, you really don’t want to spend hours trying to fake a patch of material in photoshop because you failed to shoot it or reluctantly pleading with a client to re-send you their items. Better to take a few seconds to C.Y.B. (cover your butt) and shoot that reverse shot first time around. You don’t even need to carefully style it or get the perfect angle – warping and liquify tools in photoshop can easily take care of that – what’s important is that you capture the detail, such as inside stitching or the back of a buckle, which you cannot get from your front shot. If you don’t have an assistant to hold it up, stick the camera on timer and jump in yourself.

So there you have it; take an extra moment to ensure your front shot will work once you remove any trace of that mannequin and if necessary, then shoot a reverse shot or inside-out garment for safety’s sake. You’ll thank yourself later.