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T-shirt Photography

To sell t-shirts on websites is difficult without the right photographs. They just make the sales process so much easier. We’re going to discuss tips and tricks for taking the best photographs of your shirts. 

Mannequin, Model, or Hanger

The first thing to consider when you think about when you are planning to photograph your shirts is what photographers commonly call composition. In short, what is the scene going to be. Every time a picture is taken the photographer is intending to capture some sort of scene and preserve it with a photo. This is true of t shirts as well. The most common ways that these shirts are captured is using a mannequin, a model, or a hanger.  Let’s look at each of these.


A mannequin is a plastic replica of a human. In this case it is probably just the bust of the human, but a photo could be taken with a full body mannequin as well. You can purchase one of these online or at a store supply warehouse. They are not expensive. These are easy to style and can be placed in front of a plain background to easily be shot.


This is an actual human. The photographer will hire somebody to pose in each of the shirts. This may not be as simple as it sounds. There are a lot of considerations when it comes to models. Things like what the model looks like, how they are paid, and where they will change are all issues. Models must be paid. (For that matter professional photographers must be paid so you may want to acquire photography skills and do it yourself.) Not only must models be paid, they must be paid ongoing for the use of the photographs unless a release is signed. A release may need to be created by a lawyer, but there are free photo releases online. Just do a simple search for photo releases online and you should come up with one. 

It may take longer to photograph a model because the model will need to be posed and they will need to change in between each outfit. This could increase the cost of your photography budget.


This one is really simple. You probably have one hanging around somewhere. However, you may want to consider using a hanger that you purchase specifically for your photography. Choose one that shows off the shirt well. Make sure that it fits in with your brand. Do not use a wire hanger. Even though this is the cheapest option. It will just look cheap no matter what you do with it. The shirt can be hung in front of a plain backdrop.

There is one other option as well. It is possible to lay the shirt on a flat surface. With the shirt flat and spread out it is easy to see. The problem with this presentation is that the pictures will need to be taken from overhead which is not as easy as it sounds. Potentially you will need a ladder and even with the ladder you may still struggle with the correct angle. 

Prepare the T-Shirts for Photography

Nothing looks worse than a shirt that is full of wrinkles. It just doesn’t look good. Use an iron to make the shirt look presentable. Get every part of the shirt. Iron the shirt, the sleeves, the neck, and the back. Iron the entire shirt. There is no need to use starch, just a hot iron. 

Lighting Your T-Shirts

This is the key to any great photograph. Make sure that there is enough light to completely illuminate the shirt. It doesn’t matter if you use artificial light or natural sunlight. Both will work. However, you must be prepared if you have a model to alter your plans. If you scheduled a model for a specific day and it was storming your natural light would be missing. 

If you are serious about your business and see that you will be shooting photos of shirts often then you may consider purchasing a three point lighting kit. They can be found for around $100 and give you adequate lighting to fit all of your needs. 

It is important to consider the background as well. A busy background will distract from your photos. If you are working with a model you’ll need to find locations with backgrounds that won’t distract. Consider using solid walls as backgrounds. If you are in a studio you will want a solid background as well. You can purchase a background for your photo shoots. They are inexpensive and keep your photos looking consistent. 

Use the Right Camera to Take T-Shirt Photos

It does not matter whether you use a fancy camera or a cell phone camera. Both options can produce good results. If the lighting is in line then that is half the battle. However, if you are going to use the photos in a printed piece you do need a higher resolution of image. Investing in a camera that can produce RAW camera files may be better. RAW camera files have higher resolutions for images. If the images are for the web then a cell phone camera will work just fine. 

Taking the Photos

Compose the scene first. Make sure everything looks perfect. Then take the photos from multiple angles. People will want to see what the garment looks like from the front, back, and sides. People want to know what they are going to look like from every angle. If you have multiple colors of shirt then you want to take images of each of the different colors. Just describing a color does not accurately capture a color. There are a million different shades of red. 

Editing T-Shirt Photos

Each website or platform has different size requirements for images. In general websites prefer to use images with a small file type. The files will load faster on computers. Unfortunately, this can make the image quality look bad. Choosing whether to use quality images or website speed is always a dilemma. You want to strike a balance between the two. 

You should use an image editing program such as Photoshop. If you don’t have access to Photoshop we’ve written a guide called Free Alternatives to Photoshop that can give you some additional options. Crop the photos to the appropriate size. Enhance the image as you see fit. Do not make the image look unrealistic. You will only be setting yourself up for problems later. 

Store Your T-Shirt Photos Properly

It is preferable to keep your photographs in multiple places such as on your computer as well as an external hard drive. If one set is lost then you can recover the other set. Keep all of the images as well as any of the PSD (Photoshop) files that you use to edit them. Keep them all in one folder and make sure they are  very organized by using subfolders. There may come a day when you need to use each of the images again and you need to find them easily. 

The Final Word on Photography for Shirts

It is important to give the most accurate representation of your shirts when you are creating marketing materials. If you give the buyer an inaccurate representation of the shirt the customer will likely return the garment. You don’t want that to happen. You also don’t want to make your life a living nightmare trying to find the correct picture for the campaign. Make it simple on yourself by organizing your files. 

A shirt will sell if it is just photographed on a hanger as long as it is neat and presentable. However you choose to present your photos, these tips will help you sell more shirts.

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