Quirky Oak Artisan Jewelry

Hand crafted jewelry: bracelets, necklaces and more.


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Why I bought a life size, body form mannequin for photographing jewelry

After opening my jewelry store on Etsy I faced the dilemma all jewelry sellers face: How do I photograph my jewelry in such a way that it looks good while also demonstrating context, proportion, and fit?

I don’t have easy access to live models and I tend to shoot my photos at short notice, so I started off by photographing necklaces on my jewelry displays, like the one pictured below. But I found the displays very limiting and disproportionate to real life sizes. They were also no good for long necklaces.

Jewlery display
Frustrated with my vinyl ‘necks’, I invested in a bust that I thought would solve all my problems:

Jewelry display
I loved this bust’s funky texture (apparently I was almost the only one who did) and life size proportions. But it turned out to be bouncy, assymetrical, and it leaned backwards at a strange angle causing my necklaces to display very differently to how they look on a real person. And if I tilted it forward it fell on it’s face!

So, after hours of research, forum questions, price comparisons, and torturesome financial justifications—I decided to cough up for my full-size fashion mannequin, Maxine.

It was the best thing I ever did.

Maxine - my full sized, body form, fashion mannequin.

Maxine. How do I love her? Let me count the ways.

Overkill, you might say. Maybe, but if my house was on fire she’d be the first thing I’d grab after my dog.

As I already mentioned, once I’d committed to buying a realistic mannequin for photographing my jewelry, I did a huge amount of research to find the perfect mannequin at the best price. Maxine was $99 plus shipping—an extravagance for me, but worth ever penny.

I bought Maxine from eBiz Displays, but unfortunately the company seems no longer to have a website. Store Fixtures, USA has a great selection at reasonable prices.

So, is a full sized mannequin overkill for jewelry photography?

I say no, and here’s why:

  1. Maxine is a human-sized mannequin (also called a body form) so my customers can see the exact proportion of every necklace.
    This also means I can dress her in my clothes if I want to show a necklace in the context of an outfit, or create a ‘look’.
  2. I can pull the camera back for a long shot and show how a necklace looks from a distance, or show off very long necklaces effectively.
  3. She stands just like a person so necklaces hang realistically. Her only disadvantage is that she’s hard and people are soft, and that can make a little bit of a difference in how a necklace hangs.
  4. She’s completely symetrical, so I don’t waste time trying to make necklaces hang straight.
  5. She’s stable, and has some weight. Unlike my previous bust, Maxine does not wobble around, fall over, or sway in the breeze.
  6. She’s white. So my jewelry shows up well against her smooth, pale finish, no matter what colours the jewelry is. I could have gone for flesh tone, but a lot of my pendants are transparent and having white behind them shows their colour more accurately.
  7. She has a longer neck than most other headless mannequins so she models broad ribbon chokers really well.
  8. Because of her human proportions I can test necklaces on her while I’m making them to see if my idea is going to work, and adjust them in position—just like a wedding dress.
  9. She’s a huge time saver. I cannot overstate how time having a life-size, realistic jewelry mannequin has saved me during my photo sessions. Nor how much frustration I’ve been spared now that I no longer have to mess around trying to get my necklaces to look good.
Symmetrical body form for jewelry photography.

Maxine’s straight, symmetrical stance makes it easy to arrange necklaces perfectly.

A long shot shows proportions and context.

Long necklaces on mannequin

A full-size mannequin gives perspective to long necklaces.

This particular body form is height-adjustable up to 5’10, and comes with a bottle of touch-up paint, so she always looks brand new. When not being used Maxine stands in the corner displaying a new necklace. My friends love her…envy her actually, because of her hot bod, and she’s a constant reminder that I am serious about my jewelry business and my customers, and that I have a mission: to make this my day job.

Cheers, Caro
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