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How to Take Pictures of Clothes without Mannequin

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A mannequin is mandatory for showroom businesses, but what about online businesses? It may not be feasible to use so many kinds of dummies in a home photography studio. Even if you can use them, you don’t need to!

How to Take Pictures of Clothes Without Mannequin?

There is a unique technique that you will discover today; a technique that will help you learn how to take pictures of clothes without a mannequin ideally.

Tabletop or Flat Lay Photography

Flat-lay clothing photography or tabletop photography is one of the most popular ways of clothing photography. Even if a dummy is available, some people prefer flat-lay photography. In many ways, it’s much easier to work with compared to a mannequin.

Another popular e-commerce technique is the ghost mannequin service,  as invisible mannequins are reducing your editing time and help you take pics of clothes faster.

T-shirt front and back

Setting up a flat lay is quick, cost-effective, and straightforward. For someone getting into photography or e-commerce, taking flat-lay photos is a great way to go professionally without considerable investment.

There are over 9 million professional and semi-professional photos tagged #flatlay in instagram. Its popularity is rising and may even surpass traditional photography styles.

Conventional Flat Lay Clothing Photography Process(Step by Step):

The following steps show how to take pictures of clothes without a mannequin. Each step is simple to follow but critical nonetheless, as they are what makes flat lay! Once you follow these processes step by step, you will be surprised at the quality of the photos that you will capture.

Clothing Preparation

Before shooting, your clothing must be in the most pristine condition possible. You could steam or iron to help remove any folds and creases. Do ensure that price tags, labels, and stickers are all removed. A lint roller can take off microscopic dust and loose fabric.

Clothing preparation

Never underestimate the condition of your clothing and the effect it has on a photo. Even the slightest imperfections will show up in the camera, if not in the eyes.

Laying the clothing flat is good, but stuffing them with cardboard or tissue might be even better. It helps to bring realism into the photo. Use tools like pins and clips to hide any excess, unappealing fabric behind the clothing. Stuff certain parts more and parts less, like how a human body looks in it.

Background Setup

For the background, a neutral color is best. White is most often the best choice for eCommerce product photography. You can play around with different colors to see which suits you best. Although, if you do post-processing (which you should do for visual professionalism), you won’t need to experiment with many colors. This point will be further discussed in the post-processing section below.

The background should also be completely flat. Whichever material you use, be it paper or board, ensure that your background is neat and completely flat.

Lighting Preparation

Lighting is incredibly easy for flat-lay clothing photography. It should be bright enough to illuminate the whole cloth but not so much that it blows out minor details. This can be perfectly achieved with two lights and a few reflectors. Using one light as the key light and the other as the fill light, the reflectors can be used to fill in any dark region.

Lighting preparation

White poly boards make for great reflectors. If you have just one light, you can still work with that by strategically placing reflectors to illuminate the cloth as evenly as possible.

Keep an eye out for reflective surfaces, which could beam reflections directly into the camera. You can mitigate this by tilting the camera or the light at a slight angle, depending on whichever gives you the best results.

Natural light is also a feasible option. But since we will be photographing clothing, the lighting needs to be consistent. Not everyone will have windows that will provide even lighting. This wouldn’t be a problem for smaller jewelry photography products, but artificial studio lights would be the best choice for clothing.


That’s it! Now that you have everything prepared, it’s time to start shooting. Adjust your camera settings with the lighting before you do. Keep a low ISO of around 50-200. It’s best to use a tripod to eliminate any motion blur.

Take pictures of clothes without a mannequin

If you plan to shoot handheld, use a high shutter speed of around 1/60.

But if you use a tripod <– Affiliate Link 🙂, a lower shutter of 1/10 will suffice.

Depth of the field won’t be a concern as you will need a clean image of both the cloth and the background. So, you can safely adjust your aperture until you find the entire frame to be in focus. Following all of these steps with excellent care is needed in learning how to take pictures of clothes without a mannequin.

Tips on Taking Pictures without Mannequin:

Now that you know the steps, let us discuss some extra tips that will further enhance your photography skills so that you may even teach how to take pictures of clothes without a mannequin! But with practice and experience, of course.

  • Play with lighting: Don’t limit yourself to one or two positions. Move your light around to find even better results. You can also try using more lights than just a couple. Different kinds of clothing will favor different lighting setups.
  • Use props: You could use other props like pens, spectacles, and flowers to spruce up the aesthetic of your image. However, ensure that the prop appears as a prop but not as a part of the product. This tip also depends on what the requirement is for your client, so do be informed before the photoshoot. And if you’re managing your store, go ahead and be creative!
  • Utilize the floor: Often, people use a table as a flat lay surface. A table certainly has its benefits, but the floor will always give you the best results. A floor is structurally 100% flat and will provide you with a lot of space to work with. You can use tables for smaller products or if floors aren’t convenient. Otherwise, always use floors for flat lay clothing.
  • Use multiple pieces to create a composition: If your clothing consists of a top, a bottom, and more, you can use all of them to create one compositional image instead of shooting separate pictures of each item. Props can be added here as well. Do pay special attention to how you place the clothing, as that influences how the viewer will feel about the cloth.
  • Don’t forget volume: As mentioned above in this article, most clothing will look better when there’s volume added to them. It also helps the viewer imagine how it will appear when worn.
  • Always edit: Edit your images, no matter how perfect they appear. However, professional editing is an entirely separate skill-set, which we will discuss further below.

Which products can you shoot in this Process?

Clothing isn’t the only item you can shoot in a flat-lay setup. Accessories, Jewelry, Watches, Mugs, Crockeries, Food – almost everything favors the flat lay style. However, flat lay has a more “casual” feel, so a dedicated jewelry photography setup would be better if you’re shooting expensive and high-end products like gold jewelry.

Why should you post-process after flat lay photography?

Post-processing is critical for all kinds of product photography. Your photograph must be as perfect as possible to survive in the professional market. This can only be achieved with photo editing. All the images that you see on eCommerce sites, stores, and brand pages are all completely processed professionally.

Without it, many minor issues in the photograph would be pretty visible. Professional flat-lay photography editing is an integral part of taking pictures of clothes without a mannequin.

Background Removing

Why would a background need to be removed if you’re already using one while shooting? Well, for a variety of reasons.

Unbeknownst to you, a differently colored background may suit the image better. But it’s not convenient to experiment with so many backgrounds while shooting. Thus, the background can be easily removed during post-processing, which you can use to test with as many scenes as you want.

Plus, there will be a lot of lighting imperfections in the background to matter how great your lighting setup is. Yes, those imperfections may seem minor, but once you see the difference editing makes, you’ll always opt for an edited picture.

Color Correction

Color accuracy is one of the most significant issues in clothing photography. In 2016, it was reported that approximately 22% of consumers return their product because it looks different in person compared to the picture.

The challenge is to make the picture look vibrant without being inaccurate. For professional photo editors, this is everyday work. They do color corrections in large batches; hence they are incredibly skilled at what they do. Post-processing will make your image look appealing while also being color accurate.

Shadow Making or Drop Shadows

Color isn’t the only aspect of realism in photos. Adding shadows to a product photo helps it appear authentic and lose that “robotic” feel, seen primarily on beginner clothing photos. You won’t risk customer returns without drop shadows, but you will undoubtedly get more product views with it.

Editing to reduce wrinkles

Just like lighting, no matter how perfectly you prepare your clothing, there will be some unavoidable imperfections.

Editing to reduce wrinkles

Post-production will remove all wrinkles, spots, and other minor marks. It’s not just a matter of removal, as some wrinkles need to be kept and edited in such a manner to make the cloth look natural.

Seasoned photo editors can do that quite easily.


Using professional photo editing services will significantly increase your work efficiency. You will have more time to focus on photographing more products, improving photography techniques, expanding your business, and enjoying your life.

You also have the guarantee of having picture-perfect photos every time, no matter how you capture the image. Whereas, if you edit yourself, it will always be a hectic process to achieve perfection unless you are a professional editor.


Great job! You know everything there is to know about how to take pictures of clothes without a mannequin. The best way to photograph clothing is to enjoy it. Go ahead and enjoy your tabletop photography journey!

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