I'm looking into taking some product photography and I would like to get the ghost mannequin effect, but I can't find any proper documentation.

Something a bit like this:

enter image description here

Can you please give a stepped process (ie 1,2,3) (don't need too many details) .

Thanks for any advice.

  • I have a weird feeling that a strong blower was involved.
    – SF.
    Sep 9 '11 at 13:06
  • 5
    Occam's razor ... are you sure it wasn't just an invisible model? ;)
    – rfusca
    Sep 9 '11 at 14:09
  • 5
    Side note: leaving some parts "unghosted" might make the photos more interesting! Sep 9 '11 at 16:34

Thanks for all the feedback. Mixing and matching what other answers that were given, I got this.

Mixing it all together a bit, here is a very very quick snapshop of what I'm going to do. Please note that I did this in 5 min, didn't take out all the gear...and only did the neck part for demonstration.

STEP 1: Take a simple picture picture of your item on a mannequin:

enter image description here

STEP 2: Take a picture of your t-shirt inside out on the same mannequin

enter image description here

STEP 3: Mask out the neck part of the picture you took in step 1: enter image description here

STEP 4: Mask out the picture you took in step 2 and add some shadow: enter image description here

STEP 5: Put your step 4 underneath your step 3, then simply stamp or heal tool where you need to get the result:

enter image description here

This is pretty time intensive editing. But it can give awesome results.

  • 4
    Very impressive results! Sep 12 '11 at 14:44
  • Great solution! I was googling exactly that. Thank you very much
    – user17992
    Mar 27 '13 at 14:48
  • Could you use a human, if you don't have a mannequin at your disposal?
    – Sponge Bob
    Apr 19 '13 at 5:14
  • @SpongeBob The work needs the two photographs be taken in the same position. With a human it becomes more difficult.
    – Pere
    Oct 21 '16 at 11:06

I would start with this question "How to properly do shadowless product photos". Once you have that down, the only real differences for this type of photography is the mannequin that you are going to add in. You have two options, you can add in a mannequin, and shoot multiple shots with pieces of the mannequin missing and not missing(ie neck). Then you would have to combine the shots later in post production. Or you can create a wire frame that supports the clothing and allows any pieces showing to be easily photoshopped out.

Basically, you have to be creative, there is no golden rule on how to do this easily or quickly. You will have to do things before shooting as well as in post to get this effect, and it will take a bit of effort to do especially if you are trying to shoot an entire catalog.

  • 1
    +1 for the wireframe. The other idea does not seem practical to me.
    – ysap
    Sep 9 '11 at 13:47
  • @ysap - I'm not crafty, so the wire frame doesn't seem practical to me! I'd rather shoot angles and composite later in photoshop. I would probably choose option 3 - just put a model or mannequin in the final shot!
    – dpollitt
    Sep 9 '11 at 20:42
  • Wow, reading @Marks Whitaker's answer (photo.stackexchange.com/questions/15528/…) it seems like I underestimated the effort art directors will put into this. Anyway, my +1 still holds.
    – ysap
    Sep 9 '11 at 20:57
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    My wife does this using the multiple shots and composes them in PS. That is apparently the easiest way to get the end-result. The wireframe mannequin would simply not be able to hold everything, particularly the straps of a tank-top.
    – Itai
    Sep 10 '11 at 16:51

The short answer is: it's pretty difficult. You can't just shoot it on a mannekin then clone out the mannekin because that won't reveal the interior surfaces (e.g. the bit where it says FOX in your left image). It looks like the only way to do it (short of using a very cleverly lit, non-reflective, transparent mannekin) is to get down and dirty in Photoshop.

There's an interesting answer over on this forum:

We had a meeting last August concerning the product photography for Vision's clothing ranges for their 2010 catalogue, I asked them how the waders and jackets were shot and the art director told me that it's fairly intensive layer composites, some items and garments had a series of layers containing various angles/views of the clothing on a mannequin and then blended seamlessly during post production giving them the appearance as if the invisible man/woman was fashioning the garment.

The waders were the most complex (http://www.visionflyfishing.com/page.php?page_id=30&c=34) as they all have braces. :eek: Some eight or more layers but total time spent piecing them together was in the 30-40 minute regions.


There are clear plexi clothing dummies. Your mileage may vary, but it's possible this will solve your problem.

  • 1
    It may work, but probably extremely hard to eliminate reflections and specular highlights.
    – ysap
    Sep 9 '11 at 23:24
  • 1
    Light the backdrop 1 - 1.5 stops higher than the subject. Then specular highlights and reflections are exactly the same as the background.
    – Steve Ross
    Sep 9 '11 at 23:33

Whilst this method works it is vastly time consuming and as this example shows isn't the best (material behind the mannequin is rising, and this example isn't complimentary to this, it just cuts it off straight. By far the best way and most cost effective is shooting many items of clothing would be to buy a ghosted mannequin - see here or here for example.


Ok, I'm going to take a guess at a way to do this based on how we made "ghosts" wear clothing in a theatre production I did many years ago. You'll need three main things, plus some tape:

  1. Balloons. Both round (party style) and long (balloon animal style)
  2. clear monofilament (we used fishing line)
  3. clear rigid plastic strips (we used a variety of things here, but cut up clear 2L soda bottles were a favorite.)

The steps then are basically...

  1. fill the hidden part if the body with balloons. (You might want a small amount of Helium in some of them to keep it light weight, but not full on Helium, just a bit.) The important part here is to not put the balloons in and then fill them, fill them outside to be roughly the size you want and then put them in.
  2. attach the balloons together with the tape, and possibly some string or monofilament so they stay together in roughly the right places.
  3. use thin strips (Like 1/8" wide) of the rigid plastic to support things that are visible. We used this to keep the arm and neck holes open by making a "Christmas pageant halo shape" (hope that description makes sense) that would hold the opening round and then slip up into the body to connect to the balloons out of site.
  4. use the monofilament to support the resulting construction. We ran a line out the neck hole and another out each arm and I think one out the back of the waist where the shirt tucked in.

Now for us we used black balloons anywhere they were even close to the openings because we needed the ghosts to blend into a dark stage. You might want clear balloons, or even color matched to the clothing in case they show through. (technically we spray painted them black even ;)

Now that will leave you with a bit of photoshopping to take out the support lines, but I would think it would be less than some of the other suggestions.


Well, for that one you could probably lay it down flat and then pad the necessary areas, but it definitely depends on what you're shooting.

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