Invisible mannequin wearing bridal gown

Displaying Clothing Online & in Print

Statistics show that  clothes sell better and have fewer return when the images and descriptions are clear. Using quality invisible mannequin images, also referred to as ‘ghost mannequin’ images, are a great way of displaying apparel online. 

Clothing photography using a ghost mannequin are also known as cut-outs or pack shots and are used most commonly for e-commerce website and well as line sheets and and for styled looks in put together for magazines and websites.


Line Sheets

Benefits of Invisible Mannequin Images

  • Consistent look on website
  • Clear and visually appealing
  • Cheaper than using a model in a studio
  • Fast turnaround
  • Ideal for wholesaler to supply to retailers
  •  Samples remain clean

How it is done

These images are taken on a white mannequin made for this type of work with removable pieces. These ghost mannequins cost over £500 for a full body adult. The garments are photographed with as little of the mannequin showing as possible, and afterward the remaining parts of the mannequin that are showing are ‘clipped’ away digitally using Photoshop to leave the garment looking, as if, it is on a body.

Studio & Lighting Set-Up

The camera and lighting set up in a studio so the alignment and lighting is consistent. The camera is attached to a computer so the images can be seen immediately on a large screen and adjustments made as necessary to get the garment looking good.

To achieve accurate colour reproduction a ‘grey’ card is used to set the colour temperature of the images. Of course viewing on different screen and devices produces different results but starting from an accurate baseline makes sense.


As soon at the clothes arrive for photographing they should be hung up, to help creases drop. If the clothes are steamed or pressed in advance of being photographed, hang them back up on the rail with space between items to prevent unnecessary creasing. 

Preparing the clothing before it goes on the mannequin is crucial for a good finish. Pieces of the mannequin are removed so the inside back can be seen from the front.

Before photographing each garment is pressed or steamed as appropriate for the fabric. Steamers are generally easier to work with than irons, which can flatten pile and give an unwanted sheen to some fabrics. Fabrics, such as thick cottons, that look better smooth will benefit from ironing, and starching if a crisp look is required.

Check for loose threads, have small sharp scissors handy for this. Take time to align the garment and make sure the sleeves aren’t twisted – the seams should run on the inside facing toward the body. A final steaming may be required as creases show up once on the mannequin or to help the garment hang better.

Steaming a jacket

No, Thank You

  • Poor lighting
  • Mannequin not aligned with camera
  • Jacket not hanging smoothly
  • Sagging neckine
  • Creased
Good example of mannequin photography

Yes, Please

  • Good lighting
  • Squarely aligned mannequin
  • Jacket hanging with seams straightened and aligned
  • Steamed

Things to Consider

When choosing clothing for features in ‘get the look’ editorials it’s worth knowing that some garments look better than others. When editors are looking for eye catching images to create collages it can take more imagination to visualise how the garments will look. Strapless clothing looks better on a human body as seeing the shoulders gives the piece needed visual context.

Black Clothing

When clothing starting selling online, retailers found that compared to bricks and mortar sales black garments sold fewer online than in the shops, and colours and prints sold comparatively more online. Probably the reason for this is that black items can look very ‘flat’, and appear as a silhouette unless they are in a satin or glossy finish which reflects light. Think about how a black long-haired fluffy cat look undefined whereas a smooth black coated dog looks glossy and defined. The human eye can see a wider range than the camera or monitor – that is, more detail in the shadows and light. This is referred to a latitude

Challenging Fabrics

With some designs in sheer fabrics it isn’t possible to create a fully ‘invisible’ look as the mannequin is white and the form provides the structure to look like a human. When sheer fabric are gathered, they can hide the mannequin successfully and stretch sheer can look good – although the effect will not be ‘hollow’, also look good.

Fitted single layer, or lightly gathered sheer designs will require additional styling on the mannequin and retouching post production, to make the images look good.

Ultimately the images are for giving visitors to the website an accurate interpretation of what the clothing looks like, and how it hangs.

White on White

White clothing displayed on a pure white background can result in the items not standing out very much, good results are certainly achievable. Keep in mind that what we see in images and photographs is reflected light – how the fabric reflects the light and how garment is lit, makes a difference as to how it looks in the image.

Post production effects such as adding a drop shadow or coloured background can make the items stand out. Just remember these effects need to be used consistently throughout the website or wherever it is the images are shown next to each other.


If you are looking for a cost efficient way of showing clothing online, invisible mannequin images are a great way of displaying clothing consistently. For e-commerce it is best to display these pictures alongside images of the clothing shown on a model as this helps with visually scaling the items. For example the length of sleeves and hem may not be clear on an invisible mannequin picture.

If you are looking to have clothing photographed on an invisible mannequin you can visit my photography website here which includes examples and prices.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please do get in touch.

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