Photo Friday: Use a Model For Personal or Historical Clothing

In past Photo Friday series, I have shown a lot of small objects. This week I want to go in a little different direction. This time, I wanted to show off some shirts and clothing that I've saved since high school. Believe it or not, I'm going to dispose of these items as they've been stored in a box for 20 years and aren't ever going to be out on display. It's time to part with the items. However, when I do a scrapbook about my life, or my husband's, these objects will certainly need to be included in the story.

IF the items I had were from my grandparents (such as a military uniform, wedding dress, festive attire, etc) I wouldn't be so eager to toss the clothing items. However, these items are 'that special'. They just help tell the story of who I was as a young person by showing off what I wore.

In preparing for these artifacts, I tried to lay them flat or put them on a hangar. They just never looked right. I did a little research about photographing T-Shirts on the internet and I kept coming across articles targeted at people wanting to sell their shirts on eBay or Etsy. Their number one hint for shirts is using a model. So, I decided to give it a try.

I set-up a PVC stand that my husband made and draped a LARGE piece of white muslin across the top and onto the floor. I felt like I had a 'real studio' (except I didn't have expensive lights). I placed my camera on a tripod and did a custom white balance adjustment. The following will show you my collection of items on myself and a surprise model at the end.

Use a model to photograph a T-Shirt for inclusion in a scrapbook
Here's the first shirt.
The lightening isn't professional grade as there are a lot of shadows on the upper right sleeve. However, I really, really like the look.It's perfect for what I'm doing. You can read the words and know that I competed in the Miss San Jacinto USA pageant. However, the photograph is misleading. I actually competed in the teen division and won. Sure the tan and awesome physical shape is gone (hey, I've had 5 kids), but the shirt looks a lot better on me at my age now, than on the ground or other flat surface.

Use a model to photograph heirloom or memorabilia shirts
This shirt brings back memories
In 1994, the Houston Rockets beat the New York Knicks 4 games to 3 to win their first World Championship ever. That year the Hakeem Olajuwon was the MVP. I loved going to basketball games with my family. We would get discount tickets off packages of Rainbow Bread or from people my father worked with. I loved every aspect of the 'event' though I couldn't tell you everything about the actual sport. When the team won that year, it was pretty historic for Houston. We had been to the World Championships a few times before but lost to the Boston Celtics (with that 'awful' Larry Bird... ugh!) But now, we were victorious. After the next season, I stopped following professional basketball as the nature of the sport changed, and my interest changed as well. But having this shirt photographed, reminds me of something I enjoyed with my family and the victory the town had. If I couple this photo with front page newspaper stories, I will have an awesome scrapbook page for my personal history scrapbook.

Photograph the back of your heirloom and memorabilia shirts
Was the back of a shirt/costume interesting?
In another pageant I attended, the top four finishers became a court and did appearances together. I can't remember if every participant received shirts or only the finalists. In any case, I loved this shirt for the Miss Go Texan Pageant sponsored by the local radio station. I loved being a part of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo in that capacity. It was so fun! If I only photographed the front of the shirt, it would have shown the small logo for the radio station. However, the back of the shirt had all the fun information. (And I love shirts with information on the back rather than the front, is it just me?) So, remember to take a photo of the back of your shirts.

Take a close up of your letterman jacket for use in a heritage scrapbook
My jacket had A LOT of patches

Do you want to know what activities I participated in high school? My letter-man jacket tells quite the story. Not to mention the untold story of my mother's sore fingers from putting all those patches on. I had so many letters that some of them were on the back side. My mother put patches for all the band and color guard competitions I attended down the sleeves. I also wore some of my solo & ensemble medals on the front of my jacket. Oh yeah, I was stylin'. Focus, Devon, focus.

You see? A letter-man jacket on a model shows the story of the person in the jacket. It comes to life on a model, while laid on a flat surface wouldn't have had the same effect. Yes I cropped off my head. Why? Because what I look like now doesn't matter. What matters is the jacket. So, I'm a headless wonder!

Use a model to photograph dance costumes for scrapbook
Dance costumes anyone?
Did you participate in dance, gymnastics, soccer, etc? Do you still have your uniforms and costumes? Now, getting into some of these clothing items might be more difficult than a jacket or T-Shirt. Perhaps you participated in these activities when you were 5. Or, it might still be easy (for me, this red dress was a cinch. Boy did that make this mother of 5 feel awesome). If you can't fit into the outfit, borrow someone else 'about your shape' to try on your costume if you need to. The point is, the flow of the skirt and the scatter of the rhinestones are featured better by having this dress on a model rather than a hangar.

Use a model to feature your costumes in a scrapbook
Get close up
With the costumes on a model, you can also zoom in on specific details and still have the essence of the artifact. My mother hand stitched these appliques onto another dance costume to 'jazz' it up. I really liked the added details. So get close to these mementos and show off the details in them.

Are you ready for the surprise model? Here he is!

Use a model to photograph sports memorabilia for scrapbooks and personal history
Karate or sports uniforms?
My husband had a few uniforms in our memory box as well. He still fits into his Tae Kwon Do uniform and gladly donned his attire. I really think having him in the outfit brought the artifact to life.

Use a model to photograph Tae Kwon Do outfits for scrapbooks
Show case your personality
The best tip from my husband was showing off his personality. He's had this personality since he was a young kid. So, for his photo shoot, he had to do an 'action' pose. He made sure to keep the pose within the frame of the photograph, but it really added personality to the artifact. When he puts this photograph on his personal history scrapbook page, he will invite his children and grandchildren to read the story behind the photo because of the 'attack pose'.

So the best tips I have this week are to use a model for your personal and heritage clothing items. Photograph them in front of a white sheet. Set your camera to custom white balance. Put your camera on a tripod and have at it. Play around and enjoy making the stories behind the artifacts comes to life.

IF you are unable to put an item on a live person (for whatever reason), see if you have a seamstress friend who could let your borrow her dress form for a few days. Be sure you ask during their 'off-season' time. You might find other ways on-line to 'make a mannequin' as well. The point is, use some kind of model for your clothing items. It really does make all the difference.


  1. For some t-shirts, I would use a cardboard form inserted inside the shirt. I bought some at Michael's when I led a group in decorating t-shirts. The forms give a flat surface for working and keep the paint/ink/color from bleeding through to the opposite side. A "T" form could just as easily be made from an old box, as long as care as given to keep box text from showing through the t-shirt fabric.

    I agree that some outfits look much better when modeled, but some t-shirts are easier to read when displayed flat.

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips Heidi! I will definitely keep those in mind.


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