Photography

Ghost Mannequin Effect: How to Use and If It's Right for Your Store

 Dean Shapero | 18th May 2022

You’ve probably noticed that some eCommerce websites have apparel images that appear to float in midair as if worn by an unseen mannequin or model.

These photos, called ghost mannequin or invisible mannequin photos, are a terrific way to show your apparel and are easy to achieve if you have a little photo editing experience using programs like Adobe Photoshop.

Today, we’ll talk to you more about what this effect is, when you should use it, and how you can achieve this photography editing effect for your eCommerce store or website.

What is the ghost mannequin effect?

The ghost mannequin effect is when the photographer shoots clothing on a mannequin, then uses photography editing software to erase the mannequin from the photo. This gives the image its floating clothing effect.

Why use the ghost mannequin effect?

eCommerce stores love using this photo technique because it lets retailers demonstrate how apparel might look and fit on the wearer.

It can reveal more shape and fit in a way apparel shot flat on a table cannot. It also makes it easier for viewers to see clothing’s details: stitching, seams, neckline, zippers, buttons, sleeve fit, and other details. They can visualize how something might look on them.

Taking ghost mannequin photos - setup and photography

Setting up lighting

As often is the case with product photography, you’ll want to get the lighting right before taking a shot. You have many lighting options to choose from, but you’ll notice that a lot of eCommerce photography uses flat, bright lighting with apparel and/or products on a white background.

This is the style for much of eCommerce since you want buyers to be confident enough about the product they’re seeing to hit “buy.” Think of eCommerce websites like Shopify. Many sellers on Shopify use brightly lit photos, with no shadows, especially on their product list or product item pages.

Taking the actual ghost mannequin photos

Surprisingly, the easiest part of the process is taking the photos themselves.

Take lots of shots from different angles. If you’re using a digital camera, you can always delete what you don’t want.

FYI: If you want your floating ghost mannequin photo to have that true 3D quality, you’ll need to take some photos of your clothing placed on the mannequin inside/out. This is so when you delete the mannequin, you can add a second layer behind it to give more depth, neckline, etc.

Editing your image to get the ghost mannequin effect

You will need to know a little bit about photo editing, but if you have basic knowledge, this will be easy.

Creating the ghost mannequin effect

This example will use Adobe Photoshop, but you may have another program you plan to use.

If so, just make sure you use one that lets you Select, Isolate, Copy, and Paste images, has Cloning capabilities, Layers, and some basic editing tools like Blur, Dodge, and Sharpen.

  1. Open your program. There will be a background layer already there, Layer #1, when you open the program.

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  1. Now, create a new layer. You can do this in Photoshop by unlocking your background layer, Layer #1. Then you can create a New Layer using the Layer menu or a shortcut. This is Layer #2. (The background layer should always be the bottom layer, so it’s underneath the apparel image cutout.)

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  1. Now, you can use the paint bucket tool to change the background layer color to white, so you’ll have a white background. You can relock it and leave it for now.

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  1. Open, then drop and drag your apparel photo to Layer #2.

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  1. You now have two layers. One for your photo image (Layer #2), and one with a white background for it to” float” in (Layer #1).

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  1. Create one more layer. This is Layer #3. This is where you’ll create the front of your ghost mannequin photo.

  2. Go back to Layer #2, your clothing photo. You’re about to select and isolate the clothing only (don’t copy the mannequin.) There are several tools you can use to do this in most editing programs. Among the more common are magic wand, lasso, and quick select. You can use any of these to select/choose what part of the photo you want. You’ll then use one of these tools to isolate the apparel part of the image only (not the mannequin or background). (You can forget Layer #2 for a while)

  3. Now that you’ve selected and isolated your clothing image without the mannequin, it’s time to copy. Click (CTRL + C) to copy. Then paste (CTRL + V) the apparel image on Layer #3.

  4. Now that you’ve copied the apparel portion of the image, and placed it on Layer #3, you are ready to finish the edit. You now have two choices.

Choice #1 - If you want, you can stop here. You’ll have the front of your clothing image on a white background without the mannequin. All you have to do is use Blur, Sharpen, and other photo editing tools to get the photo looking how you want it. You can delete Layer #2 at this time. Then merge the remaining Layer #3 (ghost mannequin) with Layer #1 (the white background.) Done.

Choice #2 - If you want a more 3D look, you’ll create one more layer. On this layer (Layer #4), place the inside/out photo. If there is text or images on your clothing, you can erase it, and anything else that doesn’t look right, using Photoshop’s Clone tool. (This tool is also found in some other photo editing programs.)

  1. Now repeat Steps 7-11 on the inside/out shirt image to isolate from the mannequin, copy/paste on its own layer. You can put this on Layer #5.

  2. Once Layer #5 is ready (the inside/out), adjust its shape and size so you can position it behind Layer #3 to get that 3D look. You can do this by using the Transform or Free Transform tools (CTRL + T) to adjust the position of the image on Layer #5. Use these tools to nudge, turn the image as needed. Rescale it, move it slightly to the Left or Right, to get the illusion of a neckline, back of shirt, and the areas around the arms or sleeves, etc.

  3. The second image should be underneath the first, almost like a shadow or a double image to get that 3D look.

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  1. Once everything is in place, use the Blur tool, Dodge, Burn, and other tools as needed to edit layers #3 and #5.

  2. You can delete layers #2 and #4 which have your original images (apparel front and back) with mannequin.

  3. Now select the remaining layers, ghost front, ghost back, and Background layer.

  4. Go to the Layer Menu, then Merge the three layers to get a new image, your ghost mannequin.

  5. You don’t want to Merge until the very end, once you’re sure you’ve got everything looking how you want it. Once you’ve merged, the three layers (front, back, and background) become one.

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  1. Now you can Save. Print. Done.

That’s it. You’ve created a ghost mannequin effect.

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