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Banish these seven bad habits in your clothing and apparel photography workflow!
Since correcting mistakes teaches us how to do things the right way, in this article you'll learn the answers to questions like:
- How do I photograph apparel?
- What are the best practices in clothing product photography?
- How do I take pictures of clothes without a mannequin?
- How to photograph clothes to sell?
- What are the best practices in shirt product photography?
Don't make these mistakes!
Mistake #1: Not Preparing the Garment
You want your products to look their best so that you can showcase them to customers. However, as you may personally understand, clothing can become wrinkled and creased, and even begin to look worn from storage and transport. Sometimes, clothing samples are even received in old, tattered, or even unfinished conditions! Preparing garments to be photographed is the most crucial starting point for photographing apparel. And yet many apparel photographers skip this step and prefer to rely on Photoshop to fix wrinkles, stains, and other problems accrued while storing or transporting the product. However, Photoshop isn’t magical; it takes time and expertise to master advanced editing techniques, and all edits that you make are “destructive” to the image, compromising some image quality. Because of this, it’s best to rely on Photoshop only to add final touches and color correction to your images and ensure that you capture the garment as perfectly as you can in camera.
Use the resources that are available to you to fix other damages and distractions that you might come across. In particular, lint rollers and tape are great for removing dust and strings from fabrics. In some cases, samples are wrong upon arrival due to last-minute design changes (e.g. fit, colors, patterns, etc.). Make sure that you understand design changes for each garment so that you can edit the sample accordingly in Photoshop or make the decision to wait to photograph the actual sample that will be sold.
Mistake #2: Not Utilizing A Mannequin or Live Model
Many apparel photographers overlook the importance of communicating shape and fit to customers by photographing garments being worn by mannequins or live models. Instead, they simply lay clothing flat or photograph it on hangers. Photographing a garment on a mannequin or a live model is almost always the best way to showcase that garment’s shape and encourage customers to visualize it being worn by themselves.
Models make clothing come to life, but when models can’t be used due to budget or time constraints, a mannequin is the next best thing you can use with a very low budget. Allowing the customer to see the shape and natural draping of each product will give them a realistic idea of how the garment will fit on them—not to mention a higher quality shopping experience. A little styling can go a long away, too. If your garment seems to be too big for your mannequin, try fitting it closer to your mannequin by pinning it and tucking your garment so that it is styled to fit properly. Photographing your products on mannequins also allows you the opportunity to create a post-production technique called the ghost mannequin effect.
Mistake #3: Not Providing Enough Imagery
Contrary to popular belief, one or two images of each product is simply not enough to give customers an accurate feel for the cost-effectiveness and quality of your inventory. Therefore, it’s important to give customers as much information as possible about each product by uploading at least 3 images per product—and preferably 5-10.
Many ecommerce websites will allow you to upload 9-12 images for each product set, but many retailers don’t take advantage of that extra opportunity to promote their products. Whenever possible, photograph as many angles of your products as possible. At the very least, photograph the standard front, side, and back view of each product, and then supplement that with close-ups of important product embellishments, such as buttons, zippers, or embroidery—the details that set your shirt, dress, etc. apart from all the other clothes online. The more images of your product that you upload, the more the customer will come to understand about the product. This will provide them with a better shopping experience according to Internet Retailer and demonstrate the quality of your products, as well as ensure that the customer is satisfied when the product arrives (and thus minimize returns). To get ideas about additional ways to photograph products, read our Ultimate Guides to maximize your Apparel, Footwear and Accessories product listings.
Mistake #4: Not Utilizing Enough Light When Taking Apparel Photos
Don’t be that ecommerce retailer whose product images look dingy and underexposed. Bright lighting should be one of your biggest concerns as an online apparel retailer. Ensuring that you expose images correctly will showcase products’ colors and other details accurately, as well as make your inventory appear clean and professional.
All clothing is different and having the right lighting will allow customers to appreciate the unique facets of your garments. Ample lighting also allows your camera to produce higher quality images with less “noise” or “grain” and more sharpness. The darker the lighting situation, the poorer the image quality—and poor image quality will not flatter your products! The most flexible way to ensure that you have sufficient lighting is to rent artificial lighting equipment, but in the event that renting equipment is not in your budget, try using natural light from a large window and a reflector panel made from foam board (full setup in our DIY product photography studio guide).
Bright lighting should be one of your biggest concerns as an online apparel retailer.
Mistake #5: Not Using the Correct Camera Settings
If your camera settings are wrong, then no amount of Photoshopping expertise will be able to make your images look professional. DSLR cameras can produce photographs of extremely high quality, but incorrect settings can drastically reduce that quality. Make sure that you understand ISO, aperture, and white balance before you photograph your products.
Make sure that your ISO is no greater than 600-640. Higher ISOs produce distracting “noise” or “grain,” which are grayish or colored speckles that make photographs look more filmic. The higher you go, the worse the noise will be. More than that, at higher ISOs, the camera can’t capture as much sharpness, so details begin to look soft. Using a tripod will allow you to keep your ISO at 100 or 200 for optimal clarity and sharpness.
Aperture, which is represented by the f number of your camera settings (e.g. f/16, f/2.8) controls focus. Generally, the larger the aperture number, the more aspects of the image will be in full focus. In our above example, more of the garment is sharper at f/22 than it is at f/3.5. Thus, make sure to set your aperture higher than f/11; this will allow for all aspects of your products to be in complete focus.
3. White Balance
White balance refers to the color cast of the image. Orange and red hues are generally referred to as being “warmer,” with purple and blue hues as “cooler.” The color cast of an image depends on the light source being used and the camera’s white balance setting, which controls how the camera interprets the colors that it records. There are many different types of light sources, but the most common are tungsten, fluorescent, LED, and natural sunlight.
You can set your white balance specifically according to the type of light source that you are using or set your white balance to AUTO and let the camera decide. Whatever you choose, don’t forget about white balance or you may find yourself hard-pressed to try to recreate accurate colors in Photoshop. For more help with setting your camera for accurate color, read our guide to setting white balance and using grey cards in product photography.
The most common light sources types are tungsten, fluorescent, LED, and natural sunlight.
Mistake #6: Not Setting the Correct Color Space Profile
Many apparel photographers forget or don’t know about the very crucial step of converting edited photos into a web-ready color space profile. Color space is a specific range of colors that can be presented in a given image. Some options for color spaces are Adobe RGB, CMYK, and SRGB (here's the answer to the inevitable question, "what is sRGB?"). Without the correct color space, colors of products will look totally different when viewed on different computer screens, web browsers, and even websites. SRGB is the best color space profile to keep your images consistent and vibrant between the various screens, browsers, and sites. You can choose to set your camera to SRGB, thus eliminating the extra step of converting the file to SRGB after you edit it. However, SRGB captures a narrower range of colors than your camera’s RGB default, so many professionals choose to make the conversion only after they have perfected their images to avoid limiting their editing capacity.
Mistake #7: Not Editing Product Images Properly
Many ecommerce retailers edit their product images improperly, especially with regards to cropping, alignment, color, and backgrounds. It’s best to keep all crops, alignments, and backgrounds identical from image to image in your inventory. To keep all images consistent in relation to one another and cut back your post-processing time, make sure to develop a standard set of specifications for both shooting and editing. A photo editing service like Pixelz can help you standardize and automate post-production efficiently.
Make sure that your products are all the same size and are centered within your image so that all of the angles, corners, and edges of your products line up in relation to one another. Having a consistently-aligned inventory will absolutely boost the appeal of your website and products. The easiest way to ensure that your alignment is spot on is to create guidelines in a Photoshop template.
As with alignment, it is imperative that you crop product images identically so as to provide the customer with a seamless online shopping experience. If you use guidelines for alignment, then cropping consistently and sizing images according to your website’s image specifications should be no problem.
Some ecommerce companies choose different backgrounds to display different products. Although this may seem unimportant, keeping all of your product images consistent in relation to one another can drastically improve the professionalism and appeal of your website and inventory selection. Choosing one background style and sticking to it can also shave off post-production time. It is generally agreed upon that white or light grey backgrounds provide the least distraction from your clothes or other product.
Another common mistake in apparel photography is inaccurately representing garments’ colors. Although the camera does a great job creating fairly-accurate coloring if you allow it to decide white balance for itself with AUTO mode, some colors—such as neons, reds, and pinks—are difficult to photograph correctly in camera and often need to be tweaked in Photoshop.
Inaccurate representations of colors can leave customers frustrated and dissatisfied, so taking a few extra minutes to ensure that the colors of your garments are accurate before you upload them to your website is a good idea. The bottom line is that you want the customer to see exactly what they will receive in the mail should they order your product.
There are a number of ways to tweak colors, so get to know Photoshop’s offerings and choose your favorite tool. After you have fixed the colors, make sure to convert your images into SRGB format to make sure that different browsers, computer screens, and websites won’t change the accurate colors that you worked so hard to create for your customers.
Now that you know the 7 most common mistakes in apparel photography, you have the opportunity to correct your workflow and get back on track to creating wonderful product images for your customers.
Banishing these bad habits will help your ecommerce website’s consistently and your customers satisfaction overall.