The "ghost mannequin” effect, also known as the "invisible mannequin,” “3D mannequin,” or “hollow man,” is a simple and powerful post-production technique for apparel product photography that solves the showcase problem. The ghost mannequin effect allows you to take multiple photographs of a product on a model or mannequin, and then combine the photos to remove the model or mannequin in post-production processing. The result is a lifelike image that keeps the focus firmly on your product. The principles are simple, but the execution can be time-consuming and requires practice to perform efficiently. We’ll cover the entire process in this blog post, from studio setup to finished product image, and by the end you will have a complete understanding of the invisible mannequin technique. At its most fundamental level, an invisible mannequin image is a combination of two or more images—also known as a “composite image.” The first photo is on-body. The second and any additional photos are flat views of any part of the interior of the garment that was blocked by your model or mannequin, often shot on a white foam board. Most invisible mannequin images are made from only two other images, but sometimes it’s necessary to use more. It all depends on the shape and cut of your product, and how much detail is covered by the model or mannequin in the on-body shot. For some products, like with bracelets and watches, a mannequin isn’t involved, but you still want to combine images to get rid of props and manage difficult lighting. That type of compositing isn’t really an application of the ghost mannequin technique, but the process is extremely similar. The best way for us to explain how the effect is created is to show you, so take a look at some more invisible mannequin product images and the photos that went into their creation. Pay extra attention to the foam board shots and how the inner areas of the product are opened for the camera. If you want to see even more product examples, download our PDF version of this guide with several pages covering multiple categories.
By now you should have a pretty good grasp of the invisible mannequin concept and its principle photography requirements. Keep reading to learn the ideal way to set up your studio and capture the necessary images.If you decide to use a model, make sure to use a static pose, as shown above. Your model should be styled minimally, and long hair should be tied up so that it does not obstruct viewing of the product. These details will make image editing much easier. White mannequins tend to be non-reflective and can be made to blend into white backgrounds, which will make editing the mannequin out of the image an easier task.The best mannequins are lifelike and static, as shown above. If your mannequin has arms and hands, then make sure that the limbs can be positioned out of the frame. Make sure that your product fits your mannequin or model by using the right size or tailoring the garment to fit correctly. If your product has sleeves, make sure to position the sleeves so that the viewer can’t see down them. In order to execute the invisible mannequin technique, you need to be able to create high quality photographs in a studio setting. The lower the quality of your photographs, the less appeal the invisible mannequin effect will be able to add to those images. Camera and lighting techniques, equipment, and placement all come into play here, depending on each particular product that you’re shooting.
When photographing tops, it’s important to position the camera to be directly level with the chest area, whereas the camera should be positioned across from the hip area to photograph bottoms. Photographing a product from an angle that is either too high or too low may cause the garment to look tapered and inaccurate.