DIY Mockups – Tips and Pointers

I’m really surprised that I’m enjoying making my own mockups for my business. Initially, it felt like something I was forcing myself to do, but after three sessions, I am noticing improvements each time. And surprisingly, I am starting to really enjoy it. Maybe I just had to shake off the nerves and tackle the logistics to push through to the fun part, but now I am starting to find it less daunting and more pleasurable.

How did I decide to try making my own mockups?

When I started my business, I realized I could pay for flatlay mockups. And they were great. But then I noticed that other brands had actual people for their listing pics. I really wasn’t sure where to find these kinds of mockups, but I eventually landed on, of course, Etsy, and found some mockup pics that contained people. And I loved it. I bought a few and used them in my listings. I thought they were great. There are a lot of wonderful choices, but finding a combination of someone wearing the item that I was actually selling, and for that person to be someone that I felt represented my brand…that narrowed the options significantly. I definitely wanted to include people of color, both men and women, and the choices were slim pickins.

For example, some of the ones that would have the item I was selling, it would have a female model that fit my brand, but the picture would be themed, like…football or baseball theme, something that really doesn’t fit my vibe. Or it would fit all of my criteria but the picture would be heavily filtered and faded, or have something about it that just didn’t work for me. And don’t get me started on finding mockups with men of color. There just really are not a lot of pics out there at all.

One day I looked at the pics I was purchasing, and it hit me that this was something I could possibly do. And so I tried. I bought a better tripod/ring light than the one I had, picked a nice sunny day, and headed out. Suffice it to say, I did not love the results from the first shoot. But I’ve now had three sessions, and each photo session has been a lesson. Each time I realize what I want to do better next time. And each session has been better than the one before it.

So that’s a success, right?

I think it is!

If you are the owner of a t-shirt company, and you are struggling with finding the mockups that work best for your business, consider trying it yourself. This in no way is to throw shade to any of the offerings on Etsy or elsewhere, because I’ve found some really great ones which I love and routinely use. They’re affordable and they look great!

But after using the same pics over and over, I got bored. Or the model mockups would have some qualities I didn’t care for, and I feel like why am I paying for this when I can create something that I like that looks just as good?

So as I keep practicing creating my own mockups, I’m getting to the point where I’m really liking the results. And I love even better that I’m not paying for them.

So let me tell about some of my successes and failures, and give a few tips for those that may be considering trying to take their own mockup photos.

Your Look:

  1. Do your research. Find pictures and mockups that are similar to what you’d like to do. Save the pictures and take them with you when you go on your shoot. Having a starting point for your photo sessions will help get the ball rolling.
  2. Style your outfit. Create an overall look that will appeal to your customer. Yes, you are selling a tshirt, but if the customer sees the style potential of your tshirt, that entices them to want it in their closet.
  3. Accessorize but do not go overboard. The focus should remain on the item you’re selling. Your customer should see how it hangs, how it fits, how things line up on an actual human. Compliment the look with bracelets or earrings, but don’t cover or outdo the item being purchased.
  4. Create different looks. Show versatility. Everyone wears tshirts, but not everyone wears them the same way. Expand your customer base by showing the item in a range of scenarios. Dressed up, dressed down, under a blazer, under a jean jacket…with sneakers, with heels. The more options you’re able to provide, the better chance you have of snagging customers.
  5. Be conscious of your hair length. For a tshirt to be used as a mockup, the front of the shirt should have space for your logo/artwork to be placed. If your hair is covering that space, the pic could be hard to work with, or it may look odd if you place the logo over top of your hair.
  6. Wear lipgloss. I swear, even just a nude one makes any pic look better.
  7. Consider wearing heels even if they aren’t visible. I’m short and curvy, and heels naturally elongate my body, and help the shirt fall properly. Most pics that I’ve taken do not even show my feet. But trust me, the heels helped.

Your Poses:

  1. Be aware of weird gestures. Know what your arms, hands, fingers, eyes, and mouth are doing. I had to rule out some really nice pics because I noticed my middle finger was sticking out. LOL…so…that’s not gonna work.
  2. Take multiple pics in the same spot. Sometimes you have to keep working one angle to get the perfect shot. If the sun is in the right place, and your item is draped just right, but your eyes were crossed, don’t move. Open your eyes, stay in the same position, and take more pics!
  3. Try different stances. One leg in front of the other, hips poked out, legs spread apart, leaning forward, leaning backwards. Look to the side, look up, look down (beware of double chin though).
  4. Try shots without your face. You are selling a shirt, so show the shirt. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your face has to be in the picture. Take some shots of just the neck and torso area. Your whole body does not have to be in every pic. It’s ok to only include parts of your body.
  5. Do different things with your hands. Hold something, tuck your thumbs in your front pocket, put your hands in your back pocket, hold them behind your head, put a hand on your hip. You want to look natural, so do the natural things that you’d do if you were someone standing around wearing a tshirt.
  6. Make different expressions. Smile, don’t smile, act like someone told you a hilarious joke, pretend like a long lost friend walked into the room. Consider what you sell and what the vibe is of your items. If the tone of your shirts is serious, then smiling may not be appropriate. But if you sell a mix, make your mockups versatile by changing your facial expressions for your pics. Use your eyes and use your smile.
  7. Take some time to reset. As you maneuver, and go back and forth to your tripod, your clothing may shift. Brush down your hair back down, readjust your clothing, make sure everything is back in place. Reset yourself after every few takes.

Your Scene:

  1. Use props. I’m not talking about fake mustaches on a stick. But take some pics holding a handbag, an ice cream cone, a bouquet of flowers, a glass of wine, a beach hat, or even your cell phone. Set up a scene that’s relatable and attractive to your potential buyer.
  2. Beware of background items. Plugs, cords, and passersby happen. To the extent possible, clean the space so that it’s free of junk, remove any cords, stand in front of any outlets, or let passersby cross before you press click. The extra work will make the pic sooooo much better. But keep in mind, if there are things that just can’t be avoided, and the shot is just too bomb to pass up, use photo editing software to blur the background. If the wall is white and the wall outlet is white, consider brightening the picture to obscure the outlets.
  3. Consider your scenery. Fancy backdrops are great, but they are not necessary. The purpose of these pics is to show off your tshirt. Not to show fancy places that you’ve visited. Scenes on location are nice, but a simple white wall is just as awesome.

Your Photography:

  1. Use different features on your phone. Take pics using both the front and the rear cameras (if you are using your phone). In most cases, the main camera on your phone will have the better resolution. But camera phones are so good these days, that even the inferior cams produce decent pictures using the front or back cameras. Sometimes seeing yourself in selfie mode will yield better pictures than if you are shooting blind. Play around and see what works best.
  2. Get a tripod and bluetooth shutter. Save yourself the headache of setting a timer and running back and forth. Once you get into a groove or find the perfect position, the bluetooth shutter helps you remain in place for more great shots.
  3. Pay attention to shadows. In the grand scheme of things, your shirt is not likely to be purchased or not purchased due to shadows. And in a lot of cases, the shadows can be edited out of your pictures. But there could times when a shadow is difficult to work with, especially if you’re a less than skilled photographer like I am. If the shadow falls on your shirt, and editing isn’t your forte’, it could be difficult to place your logo or artwork without looking strange.

I hope these tips help. Have you thought about doing something similar for your tshirt business? Have you tried doing your own mockup photos? What are your thoughts? Have any tips to add? Lemme know!

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I'm a Maryland girl, cat owner, and music lover. I'm awkward and introverted and totally flawed, and learning to be ok with it all. Share this journey with me as I write about the various things I love about my state, my random ponderings, and this life of mine.