how to create the ghost mannequin effect

by | May 12, 2021

have you ever wanted to demonstrate the fit and shape of your product without having a model in the shot? there’s a photography solution for that: the ghost mannequin effect.

not like Casper 👻. the ghost mannequin effect removes any visual traces of a product mannequin or model. all that’s left is a mysteriously (but perfectly) shaped product.

exactly what your customers needed to break through that purchase barrier.

sometimes flatlay shots just don’t cut it. they lack the 3D element that many shoppers need to help break through purchase hesitation. using the post-production ghost mannequin effect might be just what you need.

read on to learn everything you need to know about the ghost mannequin effect and how to work your own Photoshop magic 🧙

what is the ghost mannequin effect?

the ghost mannequin effect is (a.k.a. the invisible mannequin effect) is when photographers use post-processing retouching and Photoshop magic to remove models and mannequins from product images. 

there are a few reasons why you might want to use this effect for your product photos

first – it can be more cost-effective than hiring a model. you don’t need a model to nail your product shots. you can simply use plastic mannequins to give the garment shape and then use Photoshop to remove the mannequin from your images.

second – it can help give your customers a better idea of what your product looks like without the visual distraction of having an actual model in the image. or (if you decide to use a mannequin instead) it can help you make the image look more high-quality.

mannequins have a tendency to be rather unrelatable. no head. no arms. or no legs. is this even a person? 🤔 that’s all it might take to get potential sales to navigate away from your products – and into the arms of your competitor.

your e-commerce success revolves around building intimate connections with your customers. ghost mannequin photography creates a more memorable and more relatable user experience for shoppers.

ghost mannequin effect examples

wondering what that final shot would look like? here are some of our favorite soona examples:

what’s possible with a ghost mannequin

how to create the ghost mannequin effect

ready to learn how to master the ghost mannequin effect on your own? we put together a quick and easy tutorial on how it’s done.

plan your shoot

step one to mastering your ghost mannequin photography is to plan out your shoot

set up your white backdrop and prep your product selection. make sure you’ve got all the mannequins (or models) you need. white mannequins usually work best with white backgrounds and make image editing and retouching infinitely easier.

you’ll also need to make sure you’ve got good lighting. high-quality photos are the key to getting the perfect invisible mannequin shots.

each finalized product image will require at least three to four shots per item. it can sometimes take more – particularly if your product has an abstract shape or an atypical profile. keep in mind that you’ll probably need an extra set of hands to help you get all the shots you need to put your ghost mannequin composition together.

place your products

how you place your products is just as important as good lighting when it comes to getting high-quality product photos. this is especially true for invisible mannequin photography.

your products should hang naturally when they’re placed on your mannequins or models. choose appropriately-sized mannequins and models that fill out your products. pro tip: tailor or clip the item to create a better fit.

also – don’t position your product so that you can see down the sleeves. let them drape naturally to the side.

set your camera height around chest level for tops and at hip height for bottoms. varying from these standards can distort your image. kinda like when that always-unflattering forward-facing camera manages to snap your favorite awkward selfie 📸

capture your images

you’ll need three to four shots for each product at a minimum. one front and back shot on a mannequin/model and one (flat) front/back shot on a white foam board. 

the foam board shots act as a visual filler once you edit your images to remove your mannequin/model. you should also snap a few shots of the product inside out to fill in the void left when you digitally remove the mannequin in Photoshop.

the lighting should be identical for each shot. it helps to mark the location and note the height of your mannequin or model before you swap out props for your foam board shot.

break out that Photoshop magic wand

now comes the fun part: breaking out your trusty magic wand and lasso tools in Photoshop for a little image editing magic.

good news: creating the invisible mannequin effect is fairly simple. especially since you just captured those perfect product photos.

here’s a step-by-step Photoshop tutorial for getting the job done:

1. add layers

open your mannequin image and foam board image(s) for either the front or back view.

create a new background layer in each file and use the paint bucket tool to fill it with white. make sure these white background layers are the very first layers in the layer hierarchy for both files.

2. isolate your product

select your product image layer and choose your favorite isolation tool: quick selection. magic wand. or lasso. isolate your product from the mannequin and white background.

3. refine & mask

now it’s time for refining the details of that mask you just created. the refine edge tool is perfect for this task. you can find it under the select menu. click OK on the refine edge command and voila! your mask is placed.

use the layer via cut command to finish the isolation process. go ahead and delete the rest of your original image layer so that only your product and the white background layer remain.

4. repeat for foam board images

practice makes perfect. repeat the same three steps above for your foam board images.

5. combine your images

use your inside-out foam board images to visually fill the voids left when you deleted the mannequin/model. you may need to tweak the positioning or the scale slightly to make it fit perfectly. remember: the transform tool can be your best friend.

you can pump up the realism by using your brush tool (set @15% opacity) to darken some areas that would naturally have shadows. and just like that – you’re ready to rock those new ghost mannequin ecommerce images!

need ghost mannequin photography?

thinking that ghost mannequin photography will help take your ecommerce business to the next level? the general consensus says yes. invisible mannequin photography is a great way to showcase your products in 3D – without using any distracting models or backgrounds. 

but all of this can take some time and effort. contact us today to see how we can help bring your ghost mannequin product photo visions to life.

if you’re looking to ramp up your content game but still feel unsure where to start – check out these resources:

soona