Creating a ghost mannequin effect is relatively simple with the proper image capture workflow. The eCommerce and product photography specialists at the Spanish photo studio Fotoempresas were kind enough to help us demonstrate, using a beautiful tunic dress.
In this demonstration, for intermediate to expert photographers, we will skip over the basics of studio setup, camera settings, and post-production. If you’re a beginner, you may wish to reference some of our introductory how-to guides for product photography, like this DIY guide to creating the ghost mannequin effect.
Now let’s get started!
Divide and Conquer
Fotoempresas uses a two person team: (1) a stylist, who is in charge of organizing the materials for the shoot, arranging the garment attractively, and highlighting details for the photographer; and (2) a photographer who is responsible for the technical side of capturing images and delivering them to the retouching department.
Use a White or Grey Background
Fotoempresas uses a white or grey background, depending on the client. A roll of seamless paper is swept beneath the mannequin, which has removable arms and legs.
Light It Up
Lighting, as always, is key. In this demonstration, we will use four Hensel flashes and white photography umbrellas.
Flashes are prepared with two in front and two in the background. The front left light is powered at nine, the front right light is powered to eight, and both rear flashes are set to ten. At Fotoempresas’s studio, there is ample natural window light streaming in at a 90 degree angle.
Garments are steamed and prepared ahead of time, making them quickly available in the studio on a rolling rack.
The garment is styled on the mannequin just as would be done for a normal (not ghost mannequin) shot. Buttonholes are threaded, collars are turned, and laces fall naturally as if worn.
Capture First Image — Standard Mannequin Shot
The mannequin is positioned directly in line with the camera and fills the frame. In this demonstration, we use a Canon 6D camera, a Canon 24-70 IS USM L f2.8 lens, and will capture the image remotely on a computer using the Canon EOS utility.
Our camera is set to an aperture of f11, shutter speed of 1/125, ISO 100, and WB 5500 K.
The potential image is reviewed in camera, before capturing it using a computer application (in this case, the Canon EOS Utility). Capturing it via the computer minimizes camera shake and allows you to immediately observe the resulting image.
Capture Second Image — Uncovered Garment
This is where we take a slight detour from standard mannequin photography in order to get the necessary shots for a ghost mannequin effect. After capturing the front-on mannequin image, we need to capture the portion of the garment that was obscured by the mannequin.
The idea is that we will combine the two images in post-production in order to remove the mannequin and show more of the garment, while maintaining natural shape.
This can be done multiple ways, with different techniques working better for different types of garments. A simple way to handle a dress is to remove it from the mannequin and hold it up at the same height as the previous image, which is what we do here.
You can see the laces are slightly undone and the collar held open to make sure the neck and other previously blocked portions of the garment are exposed.
Now we move to post-production to combine the two images. Here are our originals: the first image on-mannequin and the second image opening up previously covered areas, especially the neck.
The above two images are passed to post-production, where skilled retouchers work to combine them. The final result is below.
The appeal of ghosting is that you can demonstrate fit and shape without the expense of models or the potentially alienating effect of mannequins. As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of extra effort to add the necessary shots into your workflow — it just takes planning and post-production resources.
To see examples using more products, and to learn how to use Pixelz for post-production and save yourself time and money, check out this complete guide to DIY Ghost Mannequin product photography.