The Ultimate Guide to Using Apparel Photography to Increase Customer Satisfaction

It’s a practical fact of ecommerce, that when it comes to product photography, the more numerous and varied the photos found on an item’s product detail page are, the better. Not only does following this rule of thumb lead to increased conversion rates, but also a significant decrease in returns, which can lead to an overall higher ROI.
It’s no different when that product is apparel. Marketing research indicates that consumers, especially younger ones, place significantly more importance on the images than the text information when shopping for clothing online. The challenge is to demonstrate, through the limitations of a still website image, the quality and appeal of your apparel. This can prove challenging when you have a high volume of SKUs and need quality images of them produced fast. And even if you’re a startup brand with lower production volume, you still need the same quality as the bigger brands to effectively compete.
The style trinity of fashion photography
Luckily, there are a few time-tested techniques that, when used effectively, can provide different ways to capture the essence of a piece’s inherent style. Each of them has the potential to depict the kind of maximum allure that leads to increased purchases and fewer returns, and your brand may favor one method over another, or a combination of each. Additionally, on the photography side, each method can prove to be challenging in its own right. This may pose an obstacle to creating high-quality visual solutions that address your challenges, especially in a timely manner. Some studios or in-house productions haven’t been able to master this; Space & Light Digital has, with over two decades of experience as a premium studio for branded apparel.

On-model Photography

Depicting your apparel through on-model photography brings your fashion to life for online shoppers. Apparel photographed on-model is the gold-standard when the goal is giving your customers valuable context as to how the fit, function, and style of the actual piece should be expected.
Using models adds complexity to a shoot that requires more time, effort, and cost. First, meticulous model casting has to be performed in order to find the right candidate(s) that can mesh wonderfully with your brand and apparel. And since they get paid by the day you need to have a number of SKUs or planned looks in mind that make sense; around 40 for one model is the right number for a full-day shoot, and about 20 for a half-day of shooting.
One Model, Many Looks
For the shoot itself, having a skilled photographer goes without saying, but achieving the best results using a model necessitates the aid of additional styling experts. Hair and makeup artists, along with other specialized professionals that are tasked with styling the set, prepping the clothing, and curating outfits are the unsung heroes responsible for the creation of the variety of different looks that will best portray your apparel. It’s also highly beneficial to have a Digital Image Technician assisting the photographer to make sure the entire digital photography workflow is as efficient as possible.
Despite the additional resource investment, photographing apparel on-model can be more than worth it since it imbues a still image with so much more potential to clearly represent to your customer how a piece of clothing or accessory looks on an actual person. This is especially true when you consider all the different possibilities for posing a model and the wide variety of looks that can be created for them to showcase.
Space & Light Digital for Nike
In the end, populating your apparel product detail pages with high-quality images of your items photographed on-model can add a sense of luxury and professionalism which may be extremely necessary to stay consistent with your branding. One last bit of information to consider is the tangentially-related university research on social media engagement which indicates that pictures containing people’s faces generate more interest.
The more than two decades of experience photographing apparel that Space & Light Digital has amassed has led to our fully-streamlined proprietary photographic production process. This not only significantly reduces the complexity of a premium on-model photo shoot for you and your team, but also allows us the ability to deliver the highest quality images, with the quickest turnaround, at the most affordable price. Our capabilities include the flexibility to take the complete workflow of an on-model shoot entirely off your hands; from the model casting and hiring stylists, all the way to the shooting and post production; or provide you with anything in-between that you might need to augment your own team and bring your vision to life.
At Space & Light Digital, on-model photography takes place on our largest stage, Stage 1. For our clients, it’s an event; a really unique and fun experience. The client is the art director and we are the eager producers that bring their direction to fruition.
Creating an Experience: premium on-model photography happening on Stage 1 at Space & Light Digital

Ghost Mannequin Photography

In the early 20th century, when live models first started being used to show off fashion designs, they were known as “living mannequins”, as up until that point, using mannequins to display clothing in shop windows was the norm. Of course, actual mannequins never went away. Using live models to showcase even a fraction of the clothing for sale in most stores would be impractical. Thus, the simple “dummy” survives to this day and has evolved into a variety of different styles of mannequin that are still being used in brick-and-mortar retail.
Similarly, there may be factors, such as cost and complexity, that can make it impractical to use models for your ecommerce apparel. Fortunately, the evolution of the mannequin didn’t stop with brick-and-mortar. Ghost mannequin photography is the fresh and innovative ecommerce equivalent to the dependable mannequin in the store window.
The “ghost” part of ghost mannequin refers to the technique of removing the “dummy” completely out of the picture and rendering a floating, 3D representation of your apparel as it might be worn by an invisible mannequin. The technique is quite eye-catching and gives your customer a straightforward sense of the drape and silhouette of a piece of apparel without any distractions.
While ghost mannequin photography can be extremely cost effective, it may be difficult for some studios to get right. This technique involves special preparation and post-production photo editing. The challenge is to be able to offer ghost mannequin photography at an affordable price with a quick turnaround, while most importantly delivering high quality images of your apparel. Space & Light Digital has perfected the ability to do exactly that because we have been doing it successfully since 2001.
We can also take the eye-catching ability of ghost mannequin one step further by combining it with videography to introduce some movement into your product detail pages. Imagine giving your customer a 360 degree view of the apparel they are considering purchasing.
Video production isn’t limited to just ghost mannequins either; Space & Light Digital can produce on-model video clips or GIFs, as well as videography for the following final method of depicting your apparel that we haven’t mentioned yet– Flat Lay.
Around and around the ghost mannequin goes

Flat Lay Photography

The ecommerce equivalent of unfolding a garment in a store to get a better look at its fit, drape, and material quality; flat lay photography is a very popular technique for showcasing apparel, and within this basic framework lies practically limitless options for creatively depicting fashion. Flat lay comes in two varieties, table flat and pinwall, which are separated only by how the apparel is set up in the studio prior to the images being captured. The resulting image produces a slightly different effect depending on which method is used.
Table flat lay is performed by laying out the apparel on a horizontal surface (such as a table) and photographing it from above. This allows for a variety of different compositional options that can enhance details, create a theme, and tell a story with your apparel.
Pinwall on the other hand is carried out by surreptitiously pinning apparel to a vertical surface (such as a wall). This allows gravity to naturally define the drape and flow of your clothing, providing a cleaner and more refined aesthetic, along with a somewhat more accurate representation of how the garment will look when worn.
Table flat on the left versus pinwall flat on the right
Like ghost mannequin, both styles of flat lay are incredibly cost effective, but only a vastly experienced studio such as Space & Light Digital is going to be able to provide high quality flat lay images at the intersection of affordability and fast turnaround.


The challenge of selling apparel online has always revolved around successfully communicating to a possible customer the look, feel, and expected fit of a thing that, up until the last couple decades, was typically tried on inside a store. Overcoming this challenge on your ecommerce site is the key to increasing conversions, while also limiting customer returns.
To successfully pull this off, a brand must do everything in their power to give their customer the online experience that is most equivalent to shopping in-store. Note that a brick-and-mortar store arranges their merchandise with some combination of clothing that is displayed on a mannequin; on a tabletop that allows shoppers the freedom to unfold a garment and hold it up to better inspect the fit, drape and material quality; and rarely, on an actual live model.
While the issue of trying on a garment is not one that can easily be resolved, the magic lies in combining the different photographic styles of on-model, ghost mannequin, and flat lay. Mixing and matching these will give your customer the next best thing to actually being able to try on your apparel in-store. The powerful advantage ecommerce has over brick-and-mortar will always be ease of convenience; maximize this benefit, while also overcoming purchase reluctance and limiting returns by effectively utilizing a mix of the different photography styles within the context of your site’s product detail pages. This will turn browsers into buyers and go far to foster brand loyalty in the long run.
Space & Light Digital understands these challenges all too well, as we have been photographing apparel and providing visual solutions for ecommerce brands almost since the beginning of ecommerce itself. We are experts in the field of maximizing the effectiveness of apparel images for increasing conversions and overall ROI.
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