How to Do Great Product Shots on Mannequins

Written by tom becker
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How to Do Great Product Shots on Mannequins
A simple mannequin with only a torso shape. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Photographs use light and shadow to highlight or diminish any aspect of a subject. Digital photography can draw attention to flaws or distract from them. This process of emphasising certain aspects of a subject proves especially important in product photography. When photographing a product, you must show the product clearly but also show it in a manner which makes it attractive to the consumer. Mannequins can help demonstrate products in photographs but require some specific techniques for producing great photos.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Mannequin
  • Backdrop
  • 3 softboxes
  • Digital camera
  • Tripod

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  1. 1

    Select the type of mannequin you wish to use. Use a mannequin with no skin tone and few details like facial features, hair, fingernails and make-up. Partial mannequins like heads or torsos demonstrate smaller items well.

  2. 2

    Set your backdrop up at the rear of your shooting area. Curve the backdrop toward the camera to produce the effect of an infinite background.

  3. 3

    Place your mannequin in front of the backdrop. Allow at least a few feet between the mannequin and the backdrop to create a sense of depth in the image.

  4. 4

    Dress the mannequin with the product you wish to photograph.

  5. 5

    Position your "key" softbox in front of the mannequin at approximately 45 degrees to the right or left of the subject, pointed slightly downward.

  6. 6

    Place the "fill" softbox at the same angle as the key softbox on the opposite side of the camera. Pull the fill softbox slightly farther away from the subject. This will decrease the light and define the contours of the subject more.

  7. 7

    Aim a third "background" softbox directly at the backdrop behind the mannequin. This light will help define the outline of the subject and make it stand out from the background.

  8. 8

    Attach your digital camera to a tripod and place the tripod directly in front of the subject.

  9. 9

    Set the camera to "Aperture" priority or "Av" on most cameras. This will allow you to set the aperture manually and the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed.

  10. 10

    Set the camera's aperture to its highest setting. This will create the largest depth of field and everything in the photo will appear in focus.

  11. 11

    Frame the subject in the camera's viewfinder so that you can clearly see the product. Allow for more space around the subject than needed so that you can crop the image down later.

  12. 12

    Take a few exposures of the subject and review them.

  13. 13

    Lower the aperture setting if the image appears too dark.

  14. 14

    Experiment with different positions of your lights. A greater difference in distance between your fill and key lights will create more dramatic shadows.

  15. 15

    Change the position of your mannequin. A three-quarter view of the mannequin may demonstrate the product better than a straight-on shot.

  16. 16

    Rearrange the product so you have more orientations to choose from in the editing process.

Tips and warnings

  • Take plenty of images and experiment with several different setups. You always want too many choices instead of too few in the editing process.

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