This week I was asked to take some images for a company that manufactures and sells kids shirts - very green shirts. Green in that their product is environmentally smack on and portions of their sales go to a good cause - endangered species protection. But, that is not the point of this blog. Rather, it is about how to create images of shirts with no background and with no one in it.
I am a generalist as a photographer. Living on a small island I end up doing everything from soft news to light commercial shoots like this one. I have never had to make a shirt hang in mid air but I was up to trying. Here is what I did.
First, you need a mannequin - something to put the shirt on (since you aren't using a kid). My contractor was in the clothing business, had connections and came up with one. He painted it white to prevent colour leakage though the material.
With the shirt on, it was a bit loose so I used a clothes pin on the back to smooth it out. If you want the natural look, don't pin it. Alternatively, you could lay it on white foam on the ground and do you best to shoot it at a true 90' to the shirt (you don't want distortion).
Next was the lighting. The trick here is to use a white background and light is separately from the shirt. I used a large white reflector to achieve this (you can see the large white disk behind the mannequin in the first picture). As well, I used two soft boxes to light the set. I put a grid on the one lighting background to prevent it from spraying light on the side of the shirt. A second light box was set back to light the shirt. To reduce shadows, I placed a white reflector on the opposite side to create fill light. You could also use a second soft box on the opposite side to totally balance the light. As well, I over lit the background by 3 stops to make sure any wrinkles on the material were washed out.
So as not to create distortion, I used a 70-200 mm lens and shot from about 10 feet away. It worked great.
Notice the cover on the pool table - a white sheet. You want to make sure you do not add any extraneous colour. Fortunately the room was painted white but the pool table top was green. The sheet did the job.
Use test shots to check for light balance then adjust the strobes output until the lighting on backdrop is washed out (more light shining on it) and the shirt is properly exposed. (I shoot tethered to my computer so I can see the results right a way on a large screen.)You can see a bit of the background texture but that will be easy to photoshop out.
Next you want to remove unwanted bumps and dips. Note the one on the middle right (bump) and the dint on the middle left. Using the "liquify" filter in Photoshop CS6 they are easy to remove. (With this filter you can also erase those fat extrusion on pictures of people you like.)
I could have done a lot more work here but these were just test pictures. But you can see what a difference it makes, especially on the right side.
Finally you need to get rid of the mannequin. Again, CS6 will do it with the selection tool and some fine tuning. Here is the final product. Pretty cool, right?
Here is a final re-shoot without the shirt being clipped and with two soft boxes as the key light. I have also reduced the exposure to bring out the rich colors. Always changes.
Well, I hope you both find this interesting and that it encourages you to push you own photographic expertise. Whether it is a shirt or a product you are trying to sell on Craigslist, presentation means everything. Give it a try.