How to photograph a football shirt

Whether you want to catalogue your beloved collection, show off your latest find or maximise your return on a sale you’ll soon regret, a good photo is the key to unlocking the potential of any shirt.

Even the most basic football shirts can be transformed into works of art with a well executed shot, whilst stunning designs are in danger of looking decidedly bland if you hurry a photo without any consideration.

For this edition of Collectors Club, we’re taking a closer look at the art of football shirt photography. As you’ll see though, the goal of getting a quality shot of your kits is achievable no matter your resources.


1. Lighting

Good lighting is, in my opinion, the most important consideration when it comes to shooting a football shirt.

Many of the best photos are simply shot in good natural light, indoors or out. Now, this might be a tall ask some months of the year (especially in the UK!), but if you’re able to photograph a football shirt with the sun lighting up the room you should bring out the best of a kit. Avoid direct sunlight as this can bleach colours and create harsh shadows, but the general rule is the more natural light the better.

Conversely you want to avoid using lightbulbs when shooting indoors. If this is impossible due to low levels of light, LED bulbs are preferable to incandescent/tungsten bulbs as incandescent bulbs introduce unwanted colour to the situation.

2. Background

It’s important to consider the background of your shot. Though it can be tempting to simply position your shirt on a hanger that’s hanging from the door handle of your bedroom, you’re better off shooting your shirt either flat lay (quite literally laid flat on a surface) or on a hangar against a plain background.

A cluttered background can in some circumstances provide some interest, and if you’re theming your photo in any way you may want to use props, but you generally want to keep things as simple and neutral as possible around the shirt to avoid distraction.

3. The shirt itself

Though some shirts may coorporate, the likelihood is your humble of clothing will crease, stretch and behave in all sorts of ways you don’t want it to.

This third point is perhaps the most difficult point in the list to control, but start by removing as many creases as you can. You can do this by either hanging your shirt up on a hanger in your bathroom whilst you take a hot show (the steam should flatten out soft creases), or laying a heavy book on top of the shirt as it lays flat. Stubborn creases may require ironing, but be sure to use the iron on a low setting whilst having a protective surface in between your shirt and the iron. Great care should be taken though and this is a last resort!

Next, for baggier shirts consider tucking in the sleeves under the armpit to help reign in proceedings. This can be done just by hand, so experiment to see what looks best. 

Finally, though a shot which includes the tags is a must if you’re selling a BNWT (brand new with tags) shirt, make sure the tags are not covering any key areas of the shirt. The last thing you want is something like the crest or manufacturers logo (key areas for people to check when identifying if a shirt is fake or not) obscured by a tag.

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4. The camera

I’ll keep things very simple for this point. You can get excellent quality photos of your football shirt with pretty much any smartphone. It can be tempting to look at a DSLR or even to toy with the idea of upgrading your phone in pursuit of a great photo, but the reality is that even older phone models are more than suitable for the job.

I’d argue this is the least important consideration on this list. Of course, something like a DSLR camera opens up more possibilities when it comes to things like extreme close-ups, or a more artistic shot on location outdoors, but for most tasks from a simple eBay listing to a classic social media show-off post, use what’s already in your pocket.

5. Stay still

It might sound obvious, but stay as still as possible when you photograph a football shirt. Even the best cameras and phones will take absolutely terrible photos if your hands are shaky, and unless you’re trying to create an edgy, arty vibe you’ll want to keep still.

Consider supporting your phone up against a surface, or using a tripod (makeshift or otherwise). At the end of the day though you should be able to cover this point with a simple pause and a deep breath before shooting your shot.

6. Vary your shots

Finally, photograph a football shirt in a variety of different angles. The best eBay or Depop listings are the ones which showcase all areas of the shirt including the crest, sponsors, inside neck details and any relevant labels. Internal labels are especially important for modern shirts, as these help verify if a shirt is fake or not. If you don’t include a photo of the labels, don’t be surprised when a potential buyer asks you for a look anyway.

Of course for any close ups of the shirt you can largely disregard many of the points we’ve talked about previously, but things like lighting can be still be very important for any type of shot. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative at this stage too. If you’re going to brag about your latest purchase, try positioning your shirt in an interesting way to showcase areas of the design that might not be obvious at first glance. Get really close to the material of the shirt to highlight a subliminal pattern or jacquard design. At the very least you’ll have a better chance of getting noticed in the crowd.

Phil Delves

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