Photographing jewelry, sculpture, or clothing intended to be worn on the body presents specific challenges. The biggest question is what is the most effective photographic image-- a model or a more "neutral" background without the figure? This is one of the topics to be discussed at the Professional Development Seminar.
Spring Green Necklace
Painted paper mache
© 1993 Marjorie Schick
Photo Credit: Gary Pollmiller
Using a mannequin can be a striking solution, midway between a live model and an isolated object. This photo (left) of work by Marjorie Schick uses a mannequin that is stylistically consistent with the work. It works perfectly!
Don't confuse this dramatic solution with a headless muslin sewing mannequin that was "found" at a flea market. It is NOT the same thing.
On the other hand, a live model is sometimes the only solution to bring out the best for your work, but a model in the photo adds multiple levels of complexity.
If using a live model, begin with the Model Release Contract from the Professional Guidelines. At least this contract lets you be comfortable knowing that your model is allowing you to use their image in your photos.
Scrap Leaves: B Wear Necklace
© 2005 Boris Bally
Constructed from street signs.
Artist: Boris Bally
Photo Credit: Aaron UsherIII
Next decision, use a model consistent with the type of work. The appearance of your model has a HUGE IMPACT on the artwork being photographed. Boris Bally's work on the right made from street signs finds context with a model right out of the urban environment. If a professional model is outside your budget, use a dancer, athlete, or yoga participant. Their body positions are often more graceful.
Lighting is KEY to great photos. Bounce cards with natural lighting are the easiest way for amateur photographers to get better "fill light" with or without a model.
Bounce cards can be plain white foam core, a mirror, or aluminum foil over cardboard. You can also buy professional-level photography umbrellas, etc. but the "homemade suggestions" work just fine.
At the shoot with a live model, be prepared. You need at least one or two extra people to hold bounce cards when you try to capture the right moment of sunshine.
I must confess that I've learned a lot about shooting models from watching America's Top Model. Laugh at me all you want, but if you need to use models to photograph your work, then watch this show for helpful insights. Listen to the experts critique the photos, learn from their voices of experience. While fashion photography is not the same as photographing art and craft, there are many tips you can carry back to your own photography.
When using models, be prepared for a long photoshoot. Working with models always seems to take at least twice as long as you plan. Hair, make-up, clothing, lighting are all significant factors. Adding the problems involved in the way the jewelry, clothing, or art actually fits (or doesn't fit) on the model, is a very complex puzzle.
What do you think? The model or the pedestal?
The next post will be about the problem with hands in a photoshoot. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, or should I say hand. Do you know how to get great hand model photos?
Looking for a beautiful book with amazing images of the mannequin and the model. Marjorie Schick's book about her art to wear offers 100's of images that might inspire your next photoshoot.
This post was updated on January 27, 2022.