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.
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.
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:
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- She’s completely symetrical, so I don’t waste time trying to make necklaces hang straight.
- She’s stable, and has some weight. Unlike my previous bust, Maxine does not wobble around, fall over, or sway in the breeze.
- 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.
- She has a longer neck than most other headless mannequins so she models broad ribbon chokers really well.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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