I've look around and can't seem to find any specific product photography information on ghost/ghosted/ghosting/invisible garments, so I thought I'd ask! I have some other questions as well so I'll break them down:

A. I have the following equipment a Nikon D800, 50mm f1.8, a tripod max height of 110cm, large roll of white paper for background, mannequin for garments. Work flow will be tethering (cable) the camera to an iMac for constant QC checks.

  1. DESIRED EFFECT - Here is the result of what I would like to achieve. I understand the heavy amount of photoshopping involved, however that will all be an exercise in futility if the image is poorly taken.

  2. SET UP - Here I've found a Youtube tutorial with a basic run through a set up. However I would like to know why he uses continuous vs strobe lights? As the subject is static surely it doesn't matter which you opt for? Can I get away with using less lights and a different set up? If its to do with hard lighting, then can he not use light modifiers?

  3. LIMITATIONS - I'm not a pro photographer so this "studio" shoot also aims to utilise the most flexible equipment for future application. Flexibility here pertains to number of uses/portability. I'd like to do a fashion shoot later on and would rather not rent equipment. Budget of around £400. The room I'll be taking the photos in is only 4 x 5m with an 8ft ceiling.

  4. EQUIPMENT - I'm thinking of getting maybe three Yongnou speed lights (one for background, two for subject), an umbrella (saw that softboxes are ridiculously expensive in comparison) for the background? and 2 reflectors. What other brands should I be looking at? Would you recommend something else?

  5. IT WILL BE DIFFICULT - The best way I learn is through my own mistakes, however planning is also a crucial element in order to progress and this is why I come to you all. You all have one thing I do not which is real world experience (the thing they ask for when you apply for your first job after uni, and need at least 3 years of for an "entry level" position). Knowing which brands are under/over rated for specific items, getting the best bang for your buck, un-anticipated problems and tips.

Thanks for any one who chips in their two pence! p.s I'll appreciate any tips on structuring the question and info better.

  • possible duplicate of How to do the ghost mannequin effect?
    – mattdm
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:35
  • 1
    @mattdm that question pertains to the photoshopping method, mine however clearly asks about lighting equipment/set up for that situation. This precedes that step :)
    – Curious
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:47
  • Bit late, but that Youtube tutorial you found? The same guy followed it up with a lighting set up tutorial.
    – inkista
    Apr 12, 2015 at 18:50
  • @inkista haha just over a year late :p. Great will check it out
    – Curious
    Apr 12, 2015 at 22:55

2 Answers 2


Continuous can be easier to start with as you don't have any issues with triggering and syncing, and you get instant feedback as you can see the effect of the light as you move it. Strobes have the advantage of being able to overpower your ambient light so you don't have to work in the dark. They also don't get as hot as they are only on momentarily.

You only need one light for the subject, you want a soft slightly directional light, so a shoot through umbrella would be best. Two lights for the back ground make it much easier to get an even light as you want it white everywhere, not grey toward the edges. You can get away with one light however, especially if you place it behind your mannequin. Background lights should be hard (no light modifiers).

With only 4x5 meters of space to work with your set up will be very compromised. You wont be able to get your background to go to pure white everywhere without some of that light reflecting back only your subject and giving it glowing edges, so do the best you can but you're probably going to have to do a lot of work refining the edges in Photoshop. It's still work trying to light in layers.

Given that your budget has to include lights and triggers I would start with a 2 light setup (you can always add more). See this question for info on getting a white background with only 2 lights:

How can I inexpensively create the white backdrop look?

  • On the one hand, I agree that the funds would be best to get two slightly better and reusable lights, but I'm not sure how severely that will compromise the pop he can get working in such a confined space. It's going to be really hard to separate the subject from the background in such a confined space without a backlight. It's also going to be hard to go without a fill light given the limited space means not having much room for the key to diffuse and the ceiling isn't high enough to bounce it. I guess he could use reflectors to split off some of the light for a fill, but space is tight.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 27, 2013 at 21:45
  • @Matt Grum thanks for your reply! Ok I see the dis/advantages of continuous vs strobe. It seems that 3 lights is the minimum I can start with, 2 on BG and 1 (umbrella) on subj. Will my on board camera flash not hold any value?
    – Curious
    Dec 27, 2013 at 21:53
  • @AJHenderson if you look at the example linked to, there isn't any fill, just a soft key light. A background light mounted directly behind the mannequin zoomed wide will do an alright job with the background. Three lights is obviously better but three lights, a transmitter and three receivers will be tough to buy for under £400.
    – Matt Grum
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:01
  • @MattGrum - yeah, since he mentioned that he might be able to use a bigger space, I'm leaning towards 2 lights now too. I agree about not being able to get any kind of quality with 3 lights for 400 pounds (except maybe used :( ) but wasn't sure that he had enough space to make it work with just one.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:03
  • @user3115600 The on camera flash is of no use as it's too hard to light the subject and you can't use it to light the background. Two lights are needed for even background illumination when you can't have a light within the camera's field if view. However, given you are going to be photoshopping mannequins out, a single background light behind the subject central and dead parallel to the background is a simple and very easy to set up solution. See the link I posted at the end of the answer.
    – Matt Grum
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:05

Continuous lighting is much easier to get the light and shadow just right because you can clearly see the impact as you are adjusting. Strobes are generally used for the lower power requirement (more portable) and because it is more comfortable for the subject than being constantly drowned in high intensity light. When you need to get light balanced just right though, continuous is far easier to work with. You can use modeling flashes, but it still is less easy.

8ft ceiling is going to be a challenge probably. It doesn't give much room for vertical positioning of lights, particularly if you have an article that is several feet across itself. Keep in mind that light will reflect off the ceiling and floor, so spacing is important. You can probably get ok results for starting out without more space, but be aware that it will be a significant limiting factor for you.

As for brands, you're pretty limited at 400 pounds for the entire setup. I'm not aware of anything better than Yongnou's that will fit in your price range. I'd just want to make sure they have a modeling flash option or you will have a really hard time getting the lighting just right.

It also might be worth it to pick up a light that you can selectively aim to deal with any troublesome spots, though you can probably adjust for that some after the fact in post since you are budget constrained. Lumaquest also makes some pretty cheap softboxes if you wanted something that's a bit better than nothing for any lights you aren't putting an umbrella on.

At the price level you are starting at, expect things to be difficult and expect mixed quality results starting out, but it should still be sufficient to help you learn and probably still get some usable shots out of it. It probably wouldn't be sufficient to be profitable working with that setup since there will probably be a fair bit of difficulty getting really good quality out of it, but it sounds like you are doing this primarily to learn and that you should be able to do. The experience learning to deal with problems in a cramped space with cheap lights will make it all the easier if you have a larger space with good lights.

  • Thanks for your input, our neighbour has some 30ft living room and our other neighhbours are farmer with huge empty warehouses, so I might see if I can rig up a power supply there if space will be a massive issue for the lights. However if you look on the youtube tutorial, his are not very high at all? What is modelling flash? Are there any specific Yongou models you would personally recommend? I'll check out Lumiquest!
    – Curious
    Dec 27, 2013 at 21:48
  • @user3115600 - unfortunately I've never personally used Yongou stuff, I use higher end Canon speedlites for my work because I need the high refresh rates for event work. Modeling flash is the ability to fire a rapid burst of flashes for a couple of seconds time. It lets you get an idea of what the lighting looks like without needing continuous lights. If you have a larger space, I'd also suggest what Matt mentioned to go with two more powerful lights and use reflectors to get your light spread out.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 27, 2013 at 21:55
  • With a higher ceiling you can place reflectors in-front and above the subject so that you can bounce the flash down from two angles to generate your key and fill light with one flash while using the other for backlighting. The other nice part of that is that you don't need any modifiers at all then since the reflectors are your area lights.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 27, 2013 at 21:56
  • as a beginner,your succinct basic descriptive statement is all I look for when looking at other professions terminology, however its hard to find anywhere online! So it looks like I'll need to push my budget up. Will 1 x nikon sb700 + 2 x Yongnou YN560EX (with TTL) + 2 reflectors be "enough"? Does my camera automatically "connect" to these lights? or are triggers still required?
    – Curious
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:01
  • 1
    Using battery powered strobes will solve the problem if there's no power supply in the warehouse. When it comes to lighting space gives you more control and makes everything much much easier.
    – Matt Grum
    Dec 27, 2013 at 22:08

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