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Recently my associate Joe Chielli requested I cover an assignment for him for Forman Mills store location using mannequins instead of live models. I arranged to have a stylist Janelle Munro and assistant Jeff Anderson with me the day of the shoot. Forman Mills has been a client of Church Street Studios LLC for several years.

Here’s an article written by Joe Chielli, 

Mannequins for Fashion Catalog

.  I really enjoy his mix of humor and knowledge. Enjoy!

“Use me!” insisted the mannequins emphatically to the fashion marketing executive, “it will cost a fraction of what you will be paying with models. You won’t need makeup artists. It will be easier to control photography costs, and I can focus all the buyer’s attention on the clothes without the distraction of pretty faces and sexy bodies.”

“Don’t listen to that plastic dummy!”, countered the model. “Buyers want to see the clothes on real people. They are interested in what kind of person would wear the outfits. They enjoy looking at beautiful faces and sexy bodies. That’s part of the appeal. Everybody knows that sex sells, and there sure isn’t anything sexy about an empty, headless mold”.

The question is a fundamental one that should be considered carefully when marketing clothing. Should we shoot on models, mannequins, or simply lay out the clothing items and shoot things flat. As photographers we have shot fashion many different ways, sometimes even in combinations of models with layouts, or mannequins with layouts.

I think most photographers would agree that shooting fashion on models is by far the most exciting way to image clothing designs. The option of movement, the interaction with a real person, the appreciation of a model’s physical beauty and  charisma, all adding to the appeal of the clothing, are things that we photographers love about fashion photography.

The right model has a way of enhancing the effect of a design that a mannequin or a flat layout cannot possibly compete with. Shoppers do enjoy the story lines implicit in fashion editorials on location. Even with catalog shots in studio, the expressions of the models can be intriguing, and powerfully promote the sale of an outfit.

But, is it true that working with models is more expensive and time consuming than using mannequin? Remember that manikins are not free. One needs to rent or purchase the Mannequins, and depending on the size and quality of the Mannequin, renting or purchasing them can add up.

Models do require makeup artists and stylists. Mannequins, however, only require stylists. But remember that models can dress themselves quickly. Mannequins are labor intensive in the sense that someone has to dress and undress them. It generally takes longer to dress and undress a Mannequin than it would take a model to put on and take off the same outfit.

It is true that the time and number of images needed to photograph an outfit on a model is typically much greater than what would be needed photographing the same outfit on a manikin. Clearly with a manikin, variations of pose and expression are non-existent, so capturing an outfit to best advantage can usually be accomplished in a few shots. With models there is an infinite range of pose and expression to work with. There is a process of exploration whereby the photographer must have the skill to know when the photos needed to best feature the outfit have been taken.

The undeniable advantage of working with manikins is that all the attention of the buyer is focused on the clothing. There are no
distractions from the color, style, texture, and impact of the clothes themselves. There are no subliminal negativity factors based on the buyers’ distaste for the model because it reminds them of someone they dislike. With mannequins the seller can also side-step the ethnicity factor. Because age and ethnicity are much less apparent with manikins, the clothing is free to appeal to a much broader buyer demographic.

Consequently you can see that when one considers all the variables, the question of model or mannequin is complex. At Church Street Studios, we think the choice is best made by focusing on the kind of statement you want to make about your fashions. It is the fashion marketing person’s decision. If you are selling clothes with an attitude, you may prefer models. If you are selling clothes with amazing color and texture you may want to use manikins. The choice is yours. We are there to make it happen as you wish, with models, mannequins or both.