There are many ways how to dress a mannequin. A lot of photographers and assistants do not realize that the backside should fit the front side properly. Sometimes they hurry too much to shoot more items and earn more money, and they don’t pay enough attention to how they shoot backsides.
On this image, you can see the same garment’s backside shot twice. One, on the left, is a hasty attempt, and in the image on the right, it was carefully pulled down to make the collar straight. If we try to insert the left image in the front of the garment, you will get this:
Look how small the backside collar is when compared with the front side. This kind of shooting is absolutely not acceptable. You can fix it with a lot of transformation and stamping, but why do it, if you can shoot it nicely in the first place? If you do it properly, as it was shown in the right image, it will fit.
Well, not exactly perfect, but it will do. What I want to say is that it’s important how photographers shoot backside images. Hasty and sloppy job on this stage will make your life miserable. Watch this tutorial and you'll see for yourself, that making a crooked backside straight is not an easy task even with all the power that Photoshop gives us.
So let's see how you can handle a crooked backside if you can't reject the image and have photographers reshoot it (which is the proper solution of this problem). This is a mannequin front, and you can see that the neck opening is pretty big.
This is how wide the backside should be to be inserted properly in the front image.
And this is what you get when photographers don't do their job well. Let's see how we can fit this crooked backside into the front image. First of all, Liquify it so that it's not curved, but straight. Now let's insert it. When you do that, don't try to stretch it so that it fills the gap. The label will stretch, and the rim of the garment will stretch as well, and the whole thing will look horrible. I know it's faster that way, but don't do it, this is the wrong way of slackery and irresponsibility. Instead of that make the shoulders on the backside fit the shoulders on the front side. This is to ensure that the backside is not stretched. Now it's time for some careful stamping on both sides of the backside. Take your time, don't hurry. It cannot be done in a few seconds, not when the backside is three times smaller than it should be. When you're almost done, fit it in the neckline, stamp some more if necessary and erase any residue or fuzziness around. Make sure that the label stays in the middle.
Just imagine how faster I could do it with a normal backside image. If photographers and assistants took care and pulled the garment down. Then I would just select it, insert it in the front image, make it fit and erase the rest. This is actually the reason why I always try and reject badly shot backside images, why I don't let my team work with crooked clothes. It takes a couple of seconds to make a nice shot in real life, while I have to waste minutes stamping and liquifying and fitting. Why should the retouchers team be responsible for the poor photography and preparation stages? There's no reason why it should be done like that. So make sure that photographers you work with know how to shoot mannequins, otherwise, you'll have to waste a lot of time on things like that.
There’s another problem with backsides. Some of the garments cannot be easily combined
There are special mannequins with no necks that can be used to shoot garments like hoodies. You won’t even need a backside, as the whole item will be shot in one image. Hoodies tend to fall in the neck opening though, but in this case, an assistant can hide behind the mannequin and hold the hood. Even if it will get in the way of isolation, it's still much easier than dealing with crooked backsides.
The same is true about high collars. The backsides of such items are really not easy to fit if they were not properly shot.
The same kind of mannequin can be used for high collars as well as for hoods.
If there’s no such thing available, it’s possible to use a thin hanger to get better images. A hood like this one can be fit into a front side, not easily, but it’s still possible. Personally, I believe that a neckless mannequin is a great investment for any studio. Just don't expect any magic from it. In the ads, they tell you this kind of mannequin will make retouching fast and easy. In reality, it doesn't, it just lets you shoot hoods and high collared garments properly. The rest of the garments can be shot on a regular mannequin with little difference in speed and quality, as neckless mannequins have their disadvantages as well. Clothes tend to fall in the neck opening and seams will be seeing through all the thin garments. That's life.
Now, let's talk a bit about fur and how to insert a backside in a furry neck opening, and we're done.
Items made of fur will give you a hard time if they are shot on mannequins. Isolating fur from a mannequin is hard enough. In a situation like this, I would use a quick and dirty method: erase the mannequin and then use the Dodge tool set to Highlights, Exposure 20% to remove the rest of it on the edge. But don’t expect the neckline of the front image to be so easy. The problem is that if you cut it in a straight line, like this, you can insert the backside easily and it will fit. But the fur along the neckline will be lost in the process. And if you don’t cut it in a straight line and try to preserve the fur texture instead, the backside won’t fit.
I’ll skip the isolation and the backside insertion, as we did this kind of thing already. This is what happens when you try to insert a backside and put it under a furry surface. What can you do? There is one method that will probably work if the mannequin is white enough. Here it is: remove all the layer effects like the Drop Shadow, it does more bad than good at the moment. Grab the Polygonal Lasso and select the area around the neckline. It has to include all the mannequin parts that are seeing through. Make sure you’re on the front side layer and press Shift-Ctrl-J. It the shortcut for the Layer via Cut command. It will move the furry neckline to a separate layer right above the front side layer. Now it’s time for a “blend if” trick. Click twice on the new layer in the Layer tab to access the Blending options. You know about the Blend if feature already, and in this case, this is the magic slider that will erase the mannequin leftovers. We don’t want this layer, the layer with the neckline, to blend, that is, to be seen, if it’s white. So grab the rightmost slider in the upper row and pull it to the left until you’re satisfied with the result. It’s also a good idea to pull the white set of sliders apart by holding Alt and pulling one from another. It will make the cut-off smoother. That’s it. After pressing OK, you can merge the two layers into one again, which will be your front side.
This method might look cool, but it’s far from perfect. It won’t really work all the time, as it requires the mannequin to be lighter than the fur, and it is time consuming. There's also another way how you can isolate the same mannequin and insert the backside without having to deal with any additional layers or blending properties. Use the Lasso to select the mannequin, the lower part and the neck as well. The selection doesn't have to be perfect, but it should include all the plastic. Now access the Select & Mask and use the Edge Detection with the Smart Radius about 60. It will alter the selection, but don't fill it yet, add the rest of the background by clicking with the Magic Wand a couple of times. Now you can fill the whole background with white and run the action that inserts the backside. As you can see, it blends in pretty well, there's no white fringe. If you think that the neckline looks a bit moth-eaten, you can use the history brush to restore the edge, just be careful and don't restore any plastic.
This is how you can deal with fur without having to resort to crazy tricks like using brushes that imitate fur. If the methods I've shown do not work, it's better to reshoot the garment and use a hanger instead of a mannequin, than waste time trying to retouch it. With images like this one, you'll have no trouble at all.
But! There's always a "but", you know. But in this case, the garment will lose volume and it will look flat. I know a lot of stores that use both flat lays and mannequins and they shoot garments on hangers, too. But some stores have an unhealthy fixation on mannequins and you'll have to struggle with isolation and backside insertion because there will be no other options.
I think we've strayed from retouching, as all this is mostly about photography, so let's get back to our job and learn how to retouch mannequins properly.