Back to blog / Mannequins vs. Models: What’s the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry? (Part 1)

Mannequins vs. Models: What’s the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry? (Part 1)

Picup Media
Table of Contents
New call-to-action

What’s the best way to photograph jewelry if you have to choose between a live model or a mannequin? We’ve heard and read a lot of mix views in this department so we thought of breaking it down into TWO PARTS so you can weigh the advantages and disadvantages for yourself. Let’s begin!

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Did you ever wonder what’s in it for the customers that despite a good quality photo of your rings on a mannequin’s hand, other customers would still ask a photo of someone – a live model – wearing it? In this article, we’re going to examine some of the pros and cons of using a mannequin and/or a model when photographing your jewelry pieces. By the end of it, depending on your target result and after considering key business decisions, you should be able to make a clear choice between the two – a choice that will neither blow your budget nor hurt your sales.

Read on!

Jewelry Photography: A Comprehensive Guide for Jewelers

Jewelry photography is a notoriously difficult process. The gems are highly-reflective, the pieces are commonly small, and colored stones don’t appear as vibrant in photos as it is in reality....

Mannequins vs. Live Models: What’s the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Using Live Models

The process of using live models involves a risk vs. reward analysis. The risk-return tradeoff tells that if you invest money in hiring models, it can render higher profits, but you must also be willing to accept and embrace the possibility of losses. How far can you accept this tradeoff? Take a look at the advantages and disadvantages outlined below.


1. Live models bring your jewelry to life

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Jewelry pieces worn by live models appear more relatable to customers. It makes it easier for them to visualize how it would look on them and make them aspire to a particular image. If you want to establish a deeper connection between your item and your target customers, consider hiring a model.

2. It offers flexibility. 

Picup Media

Flexibility is one of the many advantages of photographing jewelry pieces using live models. With a bit of imagination in directing, you can come up with different poses that’ll best showcase your jewelry from different angles. You can also showcase different pieces at once, as shown in the sample image above.

3. Live models look more professional

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

A model can make a lackluster piece look exciting. It not only shows your customers the visual appeal of your piece, but it also helps them understand how the item fits when worn. For instance, a ring is best presented by a live model as it can show how well the ring fits them. This is not always the case with mannequins. Sometimes, the ring doesn’t fit snugly around the base of the finger of the hand mannequin form. Often, it appears loose and very unsightly as it cheapens the look of the jewelry (see left image above). If you’re after a professional, sophisticated, and polished look, live models are the recommended choice for you.

4. It’s useful in demonstrating the scale

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Do you ever get queries from your customers asking you how big the pendant is or how long the chain is? You can quickly eliminate unnecessary questions like this by having a model wear your jewelry item, as shown in the image above. Others get away by just adding the product dimension in the description section, but you’ll realize that there are customers who will still request photos showing your jewelry pieces when worn. Remember, people are visual. Our brains can process images 60,000 times faster than texts, so don’t deprive them of the opportunity to visualize your piece with all its essential details. Consider the fact that they cannot touch your piece, thus exert more effort to minimize the barrier towards a favorable buying decision.

5. Live models can increase your sales

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Live models are the best option for capturing a realistic representation of your brand. Customers appreciate jewelry retailers who pay attention to their items’ overall visual appearance as it translates the way you value your customers. It means you pay for your models to ensure that you meet or exceed your customers’ expectations. When you invest in customer experience, it comes back to you threefold. See the image above.


1. It can drive potential customers away if the model doesn’t fit their lifestyle

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Choosing the wrong model is risky for your jewelry business. If your model doesn’t resemble your target customers, it’s impossible to build the connection you’re aiming for and may lead to mismanaged and unreasonable expectations. To solve this, you have to know and understand who your target customers are, including their lifestyle, tastes, and other preferences. For instance, if you’re targetting millennials, avoid hiring models that are past their age bracket and vice versa. This can lead to brand misrepresentation, product returns, and negative reviews.

2. It can be distracting at times, especially if the photographer and/or jeweler isn’t mindful of the appearance of the model

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Using live models when photographing jewelry can end up distracting the customers if you don’t pay attention to the process. Make sure that your model’s appearance delivers your needs by not overshadowing your jewelry piece. For instance, the necklace above is worn by a live model, but the printed top of the latter makes it difficult for the customers to see the design of the pendant. While it costs more than US$1,000, the model used doesn’t represent the value and quality of the piece.

There are more things to consider in ensuring a polished model look that doesn’t take away your customer’s attention from the piece. If you’re photographing a pair of earrings, ensure that the model’s hair is well-kept and not covering the earrings and if you’re photographing a ring, avoid heavily embellished fingernails as much as possible. Lock in your customer’s attention to what you want him or her to buy from you. Remember, you only have 7 seconds to draw them in, don’t waste it.

3. Some potential customers may find it unhygienic 

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

While it has been mentioned that live models are useful in showing the scale of your jewelry pieces, be careful when it comes to using the same approach when photographing a pair of one-of-a-kind earrings. If you visit different jewelry forums, you’ll see people expressing their feelings about it. The idea that some bacteria might be living in other people’s piercings will not kill customers, but they find it unsanitary knowing that their unique pair of diamonds were once worn by a stranger. Of course, there are still people who won’t mind you using live models. They’ll just sterilize it to make sure it’s clean, so the argument really varies. The decision is still yours to make.

4. It’s costly and time-consuming

Mannequins vs. Models: What's the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry?

Without a doubt, hiring live models can be too costly. Depending on the theme, poses, and jewelry pieces you’re photographing, you may need to get a makeup artist and stylist; otherwise, you’ll end up dealing with some of the cons we’ve mentioned above. You wouldn’t want this to happen as it defeats the purpose of hiring a model. To save on cost, it’s recommended to hire amateur models like your friends or family members.

In addition, using live models may also be time-consuming. You need to have an allotted time to doing makeup, styling and giving instructions to models.

In summary…

There’s no absolute answer when choosing your jewelry photography approach. Live models may be the best way to photograph your jewelry, but it may not work for others and vice versa. It all boils down to knowing your goal.

So, what’s the best way to photograph jewelry?

Begin by knowing and understanding your target customers, your product value, and your brand identity. It should lead you to the right answer.

But what about the mannequins?!

Do you think live models are not for you? Don’t worry; we’ve been jewelry forum-hopping to see how buyers feel about the mannequins wearing your stunning jewelry pieces. Stick with us and watch this space for Part 2 of Mannequins vs. Models: What’s the Best Way to Photograph Jewelry.

Do you know other advantages and disadvantages not found in this list? Feel free to share in the comment section below!

Picup Media Family

SOMELeave a Reply

Download Jewelry photography ebook