February 22, 2010

The Case for Adding Human Models to Your Product Photos and Web Design

Filed under: Branding,Ecommerce — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 5:04 am

Image by Art Comments

Here and there you’ll see debate crop up about whether customers want to see human models on websites or in product photos. The naysayers will usually have a germaphobic argument about not wanting to buy something another human touched/wore/looked at/etc. There are definitely those people out there but it’s probably not most people. After all, most of us buy clothing in stores that’s been tried on by other customers, so we’re used to the idea that someone else may have had an item on before we purchase it.

If you sell something like earrings or underwear, it makes sense that customers might be wary of buying that type of item if it’s been worn. In those cases, you can still use a model, just be sure to indicate to customers that the item they’ll receive is not the exact item in the picture. (Chances are you won’t even have to make a note of that unless you sell on a site like Etsy. We all know when we shop on the Victoria’s Secret website that the underwear on the model is not the exact same item that we’ll get in the mail. Otherwise VS might have a very different kind of customer base.)

So why do I advocate for using human models? Two main reasons:

    1. Scale and Fit
    If I see a pair of dangling earrings sitting on a white background it may be hard to imagine how they’ll look on a person. Even if you tell me how many inches long they are, it helps to see the earrings in an ear so I instantly understand if they’ll dangle down to my shoulder or my jawline.

    If I see a tote bag on a chair it might be hard to imagine if they bag is going to just hold a loaf of bread and a bag of oranges or if I can fit my entire haul from the farmer’s market in there. I can get a better sense if I see the bag slung over a human shoulder.

    Clothing should be a no-brainer. Unless a model is wearing it, I can’t tell if the dress comes to just above the knee or all the way down to mid-calf. I can’t tell if the empire waist is fitted or loose. A mannequin might solve some of those problems but a mannequin probably can’t address point number 2, below, speaking of which…

    2. Lifestyle/Relatablity
    Human models help customers identify with your brand. A customer wants to feel like the product they’re buying is made for someone just like them. Stores like Talbots and Forever 21 might both sell plain white tank tops this summer, and if you saw them photographed on a mannequin they might be almost indistinguishable. We know those stores have radically different audiences, and part of the way they signal to consumers who they’re trying to woo is models.

    If your target audience is a preppy looking, all-American, clean cut bunch use models that look like that. Pick models that are your customers’ age and share your customers’ style. If your brand is edgy and punky you might want models with blue hair and nose rings.

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on the importance of using visual cues to help increase your brand’s affinity with your target market. Your choice of models can be extremely helpful in this regard.

    Also make sure that the models you choose have the same body type as your target audience. If you sell plus-sized items use plus-sized models. If you sell fitness items, use athletic models. If you sell maternity, make sure your models look pregnant. Even if you sell something like skin care items, incorporating a happy looking model in a bathtub into your web design can help sell the idea that your product is enjoyable.

So, all this talk of models might seem intimidating. How do you find them and get good shots of them? Here are a few places to look.

    1. Friends and Family
    Use friends and family ONLY IF they’d be an appropriate choice as models for your brand. If they would be, this can be a pretty inexpensive route to go.

    2. Craigs List
    You can find just about anything on Craigs List, including inexpensive models. You might not get professionals but you don’t necessarily need that. An aspiring model might be willing to work for a fairly low rate to help build her portfolio. If you aren’t confident in your photography skills, you might also find photo majors at your nearby university willing to do the work at a lower rate than a professional photographer. Keep in mind that you’ll get what you pay for so if you need things to be perfect, consider working with pros. If you’re willing to take a chance on people that are new to modeling or photography you can probably save some dough this way.

    3. Stock Photography Websites
    Sites like istockphoto.com have a large assortment of photos that you can use for product images or website design. If you need a picture of a baby in a generic looking bodysuit or a girl in a bathtub, this option may be your best bet. You probably will have to sift through a lot of images to find images you want to use, but if your needs are fairly generic this is definitely the cheapest and easiest way to get pictures of models.

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76 Comments »

  1. Fantastic article! I wish I had access to a human model for my items …
    Very good points here – thank you!

    Comment by Teresa — February 22, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  2. Great wrap-up of why humans make the best models!

    This season is the first that I have had a professional photographer shoot my entire collection (one print of each design at least) on a model, and I have to say, the difference has been enormous. *I* feel more confident in my range and buyers feel like they’re shopping with a more established label. I’ve seen sales increases and increases in media coverage.

    The model I chose was the wife of my husband’s work colleague, but a perfect fit for my target market (20-45, affluent-ish, interested in design, very interested in fashion, etc) and is beautiful but not intimidatingly so. My label and shopping experience is all about accessibility and I didn’t want people to feel intimidated by looking at my model images.

    When it comes to the shoot itself, my number one tip is to BE ORGANISED! Have a list of every piece to be shot, how you need it framed (if working with a catalogue or website in mind) and what outfit/hairstyle/makeup will be required for each piece. Made my day much much easier.

    Comment by Brooke — February 22, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  3. Nice product photos, Brooke. Definitely helps customers understand the products’ scale. Good tips on how to prepare for a shoot too. Thanks!

    Comment by Meredith — February 22, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  4. I’ve been wanting to add a model for a while now as I do believe it helps the buyer feel more comfortable with the purchase.

    If they cannot see it for themselves before the purchase at least they can see it on someone else.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Comment by Monica — February 25, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

  5. Good articles. I use my 19 year old daughter as a model, even though my necklaces would look great on just about any age women!

    Comment by Victoria — February 25, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  6. I think another great untapped resource is a near by college. Not only are there girls there aspiring to be models…but there are also photography courses. I’m sure many teachers would be willing to put some students on assignment to photograph your product with or without models! It’s a win win! This might not work so well if you have mostly one of a kinds…but with a large amount of inventory it would be perfect! And if you have the inventory – maybe you can get it for free – in exchange for product.

    Comment by Kerry - Kid Giddy — February 25, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  7. This settles it for me. Now if I can find the right models nearby and at the right price, I’ll go for it! I’m in a small rural community, so I may have to hunt around a bit, but I’m ready to start looking!!!

    Comment by Mollie — February 25, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  8. Oh, thank you for the valuable tips. I believe using human models is the best approach in selling one’s items.

    Comment by DR — February 25, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

  9. I have also found that trades can be an affordable way to exchange with people. I’ve enticed friends to model for me in exchange for free jewelry. I let them pick a favorite piece at the end of the shoot and then everyone is happy.

    Comment by Emily — February 26, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  10. Some very valuable info here.

    Comment by Oh Baby dotcom — February 26, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

  11. Try Model Mayhem. there are lots of models and photographers who would do it for free to update their portfolio.

    Comment by michelle — February 26, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  12. Super information, I’ll be looking into untapped resources as I am surrounded by universities and a prominent art school. This gives me plenty of time to get organized to shoot in spring and summer as my nature and ocean inspired work would best be identified by shooting outdoors.

    Comment by willywaw — March 1, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  13. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, for now I was taking pictures of my jewelry on myself but always and mostly with the same point of view. Using a model will definetely offer more possiblilites and be a better reference for customers.
    Thanks for this useful advice.

    Comment by Lynn — March 1, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

  14. great article, but you forgot one source for models–yourself! i model in all of my product photography, and i love when others do too. no matter what you look like, it’s great to see artists wearing or interacting with their own items.

    Comment by Hallie — March 2, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

  15. @Hallie I am more of the mind that if you have the right look to model for your brand go for it, but it’s important to be objective and use the model that will help sell your products best.

    Comment by Meredith — March 2, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  16. As someone who is very tall and not very skinny, seeing clothing on human models doesn’t tell me much about how it will fit me! I do enjoy seeing well modeled clothing/accessories, and also enjoy seeing the same shot very well on dress forms/etc. Take Anthropologie for example – I love their product photos with their dress form. :)

    Comment by Brenda — March 2, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  17. Most of my jewelry is not modeled, because a lot of people do not like for someone else to have worn the jewelry they are about to buy, even if it is just long enough to model it. I guess I can try some pictures with a model, to see if it makes a difference.

    Comment by kittyd — March 2, 2010 @ 4:05 pm

  18. Excellent article. I use a human model to show my work about half of the time. Sometimes people will ask me to photograph the piece on a human, and I will do that for them and send it to them in a convo, but not publish it on the website. I like to be sure that the model looks right for the piece being shown.

    Comment by mary clary — March 2, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  19. This is so true! It is very difficult for the client to imagine how something will look. I guess I will be modeling my earrings tomorrow!;)

    Comment by Mind Over Metal — March 2, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

  20. I love to see cute babies modeling infant wear and like to see cloting on someone.
    Jewelry, not so much, at least not earrings anyway.

    Comment by Audrey — March 2, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

  21. Nice debate! I have used volunteer models in the past and I do prefer a live person over a mannequin. However… if you are going by the books and reporting taxes and running a legit business, using models can be complicated. I was talking with my tax adviser and when I told him I was using models all hell broke loose. He told me that if the labor board found out about it that I would be in very big trouble and be fined a lot of money. He said even if they are volunteering, family, friends, whatever… they are considered employees if they are performing a type of work for you, ie.. modeling. I was a bit shocked and tried to argue my case, but he said it was the law and that if I wanted to keep selling legally I needed to stop doing it. He said if I wanted to hire them as an employee then I could, but it opened up another huge can of worms and a lot more taxes, fees, regulations. etc, etc. Anyway… a bit of a disappointment. So, I’ve started using a mannequin for the most part. Does anyone know anything different? Are you worried about this?

    :)
    -Blubird

    Comment by blubird boutique — March 2, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  22. Hi! I think this is a great article, and I agree with a lot of your points! I used to model the jewelry I sell in my shop in my photographs, but so many of the items (especially earrings) that I make are one of a kind, so having anyone wear them before they’re sold ups the “ick” factor for me.

    I totally agree with the lifestyle appeal of having a model in your shots. My dream is to have Anthropologie-style shots with models in perfect outfits, perfectly staged settings, and perfect light, but how do you do that on a serious (read: nonexistent) budget?

    Thanks for having such a great site! I check it often for great advice!

    Comment by Jess — March 2, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  23. @blubird I have never actually heard of such a thing and I do use an accountant. Might not hurt to get a second opinion. Also not all people who work for you are considered “employees” in the Department of Labor sense. Lots of small businesses hire freelancers to do anything from modeling to photography to web design to uh.. taxes. I mean your accountant isn’t an employee, right? Pay the “models” minimum wage as freelancers if it makes you/your accountant more comfortable.

    Comment by Meredith — March 2, 2010 @ 4:59 pm

  24. @Jess OOAK items do present a problem for photographing with models. About your other point, getting the kind of photos you’re dreaming of probably are going to cost some money. They’d probably also help boost sales. As I wrote above, you can certainly cut some corners by hiring students or something like that, but it’s not realistic to expect to run a business with zero budget and get the best results.

    Comment by Meredith — March 2, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  25. A great debate! I have a fabulous mannequin called Claudine who is able to work long hours, is available at odd times and doesn’t mind standing around when I’m not quite ready. She never has a Blonde day which might be a gap in my presentation but otherwise she is fabulous. I have also used wonderfully photogenic and creative models (friends) and would like to do this more as I feel it adds a more realistic touch. I will certainly be sourcing more models in the future and even advertising at local art schools and colleges. Thank you!

    Comment by Christine — March 2, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

  26. Great tips. Thanks

    Comment by Katie Hepworth — March 2, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

  27. Great article! Thank you so much for the advice!! :)

    Comment by Hyr — March 2, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  28. Ahhh thank you! This is my one source of debate. Model or mannequin. I have the perfect male model, the items he models sell. The female, not so much. They seem to sell from the mannequin pics.

    Comment by Becca — March 2, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  29. I am new to Etsy and just starting up a store, but I kid you not my husband and I where having this very conversation last night. I too believe live models add a certain connection for the buyer, and can often show how creative one can be with an item. For example when selling a dress the buyer may get some hip ideas about how to accessorize it, or what shoes to add, and if your selling those items too, great:) ……you could possibly sell two more items in one shot. As far as finding models…..I’m the type who likes to keep my cost low and have decided to do it myself. With a few pins and tucks her and there, a tripod and camera with automatic photo taking capabilities I’m set. Granted it takes more time but it’s fun and creative process. Good Luck to all and thanks for the tips Etsy!!

    Comment by Romynovski — March 2, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  30. Thanks for all these tips makes perfect sense.

    Comment by Crista — March 2, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

  31. This might work if I mass produced my items and had multiples ready to list but I make my items in my spare time and have only a couple at a time so to hire a model for one or two items at a time would be silly. I have no relatives to model my items. I am an older person and the items I make are designed for the younger set. I also find that most times I am turned off by the people modeling the things I am looking at. Most stores show their items on manniquins not live models in their store so I see no reason that manniquins aren’t okay for us??

    Comment by Linda M — March 2, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  32. I thought everyone’s comments and pov’s were wonderfully inciteful.

    About the “one-of-a-kind vs model-wearing is icky” question. I tend to agree with both, and think there can be solutions to both. I really like seeing jewelry close up … so I really am drawn in by brightly lit, sharply focused color photos of jewelry set against a stone or branch.

    For those that feel a model gives the best example for “relatability, does-it-fit me” can there be such a thing as a one-of-a-kind that has a “sample doppelganger”? Just make an exact duplicate that is never sold? And keep it as a stock item that shows what you can/have done?

    Comment by Sand City Gal — March 2, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  33. @Linda M, OOAK items are going to be harder to keep photographed on models. My advice about models is geared more to online retailers who sell the same thing over and over and are either working full time on their e-tail business or plan to do so.

    Models that retailers select should complement the brand (as I mentioned in the article). It’s important to select a model that appeals to your target demographic if you’re going to use one. Mannequins are okay, though I think human models are slightly preferable since they help the customer imagine themselves wearing the item and can boost brand affinity.

    Brick & Mortar stores are a little different than online retail. Their customers can try on before they buy, so the need for human models isn’t really there. With online retail your customer can’t try on the item so the model serves as a proxy.

    Comment by Meredith — March 2, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

  34. Great article. I design and make gemstone jewellery and I do agree that using a person provides a better perspective of what I am selling. However, I am also a full-time mum and finds it hard to make time for a photo shoot using a model. I tried it once before using my sister as my model and it took almost half a day. Until I can afford the time, I am quite happy using my half mannequin, pebbles, flowers and whatever interesting backgrounds I can get hold of to showcase my creations.

    Comment by Ai-Vee — March 2, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  35. My products are one-of-a-kind, so to get over that live human/white paper gap I photograph a live human and hang the earrings from their life size photo in the right place. As far as the person who got ragged on for using models who weren’t employees…Give them something and let them be sub-contract labor. They are responsible for their taxes, etc, and can be used on a one or many time basis. Seldom is there a model who works full time for one company. They are just brought in for shoots and leave!

    Comment by Randy Thill — March 2, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

  36. Okay – I agree with most of what is stated above. But, and I’m not a germaphobe, I sell one-of-a-kind hats so they are getting the hat that is pictured. I wouldn’t like to buy something for my kids heads when it has been on another head. I don’t let them try them on in stores and prior to making all of their hats, I would order them from a catalog website where it may show it pictured on a child’s head but I can pretty much be sure the one we get has not been worn. Any solutions?

    Comment by Barbli — March 2, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

  37. @Barbli Doesn’t sound like you can use models. You only sell OOAK products and you don’t feel comfortable having them on models so it sounds like a mannequin is your only option.

    Comment by Meredith — March 2, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

  38. I truly appreciate the article and ability to understand, in how it is written. I am not sure I can incorporate all of these suggestions with my leather items or jewelry. My level of selling on etsy has been amateur at best. I have been selling to the public for 6 yrs, selling online can be exhausting. Actually the marketing is much more time consuming than the joy of creating. I hope these ideas will turn that around for me. Thank you, MJ

    Comment by MJ — March 2, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

  39. @Randy Thill, good call on photoshopping products ONTO models. I do that quite a bit for my online shop. Works perfectly for a lot of items.

    Comment by Meredith — March 2, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

  40. I second the Model Mayhem post

    http://www.modelmayhem.com/

    It’s a great website! Many people work for trade to expand their portfolios — you can source photographers, all sorts of diff folks who will act as models, MUAs, everything. You can create a portfolio yourself if you want to, as you’ll basically be acting as the wardrobe artist.

    Comment by CC — March 2, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

  41. I am a model and I can tell you that Craigs list works – but even better, if you know even ONE photographer – ask them! They will more than likely know models that you can use.

    And models can tend to be flaky, so make sure you meet with them before the actual shoot and dont let them give you the run around :-)

    Great Article!

    I heart all that is Etsy!!!

    Comment by Andi — March 2, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  42. I recently started using live models – well A live model for my vintage clothing business on etsy. The upside is I can take many more photos in less time than using a manni, because I don’t have to dress undress stage etc. The clothes definitely show better. No matter how you cut it though, it just takes time. I tried to do my last shoot too quickly and ended up not being able to use many of the photos. Now that I have done 3 shoots, I see that I need to improve the aesthetics of my photos- which means seamless paper, photoshop and some props. My model is a friend of my daughters and she is a bit more shy than I would prefer. The hard part about vintage is that each item is unique so it would be near impossible to have a different model for each size, style etc. In the end, we are only going to sell items if we have listings up, so figuring out the fastest way to get good photos is the key- manni or live model.

    Comment by annielake — March 2, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

  43. This article addressed all my concerns about photographing our clothing designs on a live model. Our clothing is One of a Kind and I wasn’t sure someone would want to see the garment being worn. After reading this I am inspired to try using live models instead of the mannequin!

    Comment by Deborah — March 2, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

  44. I would like to add only that I have seen some items, jewelry often, that is shown on models who are NOT the demographic one would expect. To be honest, that really turned me off. I didn’t like to think that I might also look like that if I wore that particular piece (man, do I sound nasty!). Like it or not, settings/backgrounds and models should be attractive.

    Comment by Anne — March 2, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

  45. I thought long and hard about this too. I primarily make one of a kind children’s clothing. Before I started I looked at the sort of brick and mortar shops my target clientele would visit. Two examples are http://www.monsoon.co.uk and http://www.bonpoint-boutique.com/. Neither store uses models for the online sales aspect of their clothes, BUT, they do offer a few images with some of their products styled and on models. For people making one of a kind products, this could be a solution: choose a few designs to make inventory of and take professional photos of those, so customers get a deeper taste of your style. Then continue making one off pieces too and do not use models in those photos.

    If customers want to know how long an earring is, then you can measure it and tell them in the description! If they want to know where the hem of a dress falls, tell them the approx length from the waist, or use words such as ‘mid-calf’, ‘on the knee’ etc. Unless the model is the same dimensions as me (and that’s fairly unlikely) I’m not going to be able to tell how long the item is ON ME unless I know the length(s).

    The article is incredibly useful and interesting, so a huge thank you to Meredith for it. For some of us, however, it’s just not realistic to use humans across the board and there are many big, successful online retailers who do not.

    Comment by anna — March 2, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

  46. Great post – love your “germophobic” quote. I totally agree about earrings and the need to see the dangle. I bought a pair a while back that were nowhere near the scale I expected even though the measurements were clearly stated.

    Comment by heather — March 3, 2010 @ 2:19 am

  47. Fabulous article! I have more views and purchases for my product listings that use models in the primary picture.

    Comment by Cathy — March 3, 2010 @ 3:38 am

  48. very good artical, thank you for sharing, i will try that in the future :)

    Comment by huiyitan — March 3, 2010 @ 4:59 am

  49. I have used a professional model and props in the past. I am new to the selling venue but I have been surprised my sales were not with the models. Exposure is the other thing. It is hard work to get
    “out there”. Networking and good photography period seem to work the best.

    Comment by Barbara Jameson — March 3, 2010 @ 5:53 am

  50. Good article with some very good points! I agree that human models are a good choice for clothing, handbags, scarves, etc., but I don’t like seeing human models for jewelry. As others have mentioned (and especially with handmade OOAK items), there is a sanitary issue and many people dislike buying items they know were worn by a model.

    Personally, I enjoy several kinds of photo styles to illustrate a product- some of a photo-journalistic style on a model (for the aforementioned products), some artistic still lifes of the product and lastly, some very plain, just-the-products-please at different angles on a simple background so I can I really examine the item.

    The first two types of photography created a branded image of the company, the latter is just a functional photo that helps the customer get as much of a feel for the product as they possibly can in an e-commerce environment.

    Comment by Christie — March 3, 2010 @ 6:29 am

  51. I don’t think you are nasty. I think you are verbalizing the reaction we all have to a poor choice of model, concious of it or not.

    Comment by Meredith — March 3, 2010 @ 6:47 am

  52. I personally love to see models wearing clothing, jewelry, etc. It allows you to visualize the product in the real world and if you have a drop dead gorgeous model there is that little voice in everyone’s head that says “Yes, you too will look this fabulous!” I am however, completely turned off from products modeled on dirty, sloppy, or disheveled models. There is a reason Victoria’s Secret is successful :) I have been toying with the idea of using models in my pottery photography, right now I try to get at least one shot of a hand holding the mug for size reference but I would like to create more of a social, coffee house, fun with friends feeling. No lips touching the mugs of course!

    Comment by krystallin — March 3, 2010 @ 7:04 am

  53. I like the images on Istockphotos, but I need to buy them to use them, right? :-/
    In this case, is not so cheap!

    Comment by Paola — March 3, 2010 @ 7:06 am

  54. @Paola, yes you have to pay for Istock photos. They are pretty inexpensive (around $1 each for smaller/lower res shots).

    Comment by Meredith — March 3, 2010 @ 7:22 am

  55. I think that using models vs. a mannequin or other prop really brings LIFE to your product. I originally tried to used models on my Etsy site and ran into scheduling problems, so opted for a mannequin. Now that worked great for some pieces but for other pieces I really could see that my work was not showing at its full potential. Sooo, I put in an ad on CraigsLists and Jackpot!! I was shocked with the response that I received for aspiring models that wanted to model for my shop. I haven’t updated all of my pics yet, but am well on my way. :-)

    Comment by Amina — March 3, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  56. Great article and the comments were very informative also. I know I prefer looking at products photographed on people, babies, pets as it brings the items alive. I have the most difficulty with this aspect of my webshop as I am not a great photographer & I don’t have great models easily available. But now I have some new great ideas & will rework my whole site. Thanks all.

    Comment by Deb S — March 3, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  57. Very helpful, I will ask my neighbor girls to help out I am sure they would love it! Thx:)

    Comment by silva — March 3, 2010 @ 8:19 am

  58. Great article! Thank you for all your hard work.

    S.
    moonmooring.wordpress.com

    Comment by Spidr — March 3, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  59. Great article, Thanks for all your hard work!

    Spidr

    Comment by Spidr — March 3, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  60. Nope. I hate models and the modeling industry and I hate small designers copying this crap and I’d rather keep costs down not using people and I don’t want to buy clothes from people who look stupid/bored/rich/cooler than me. So if you use models you lose my sale. I prefer mannequins or clothes layed flat. I never have a problem with fit when things are measured accurately. My love of Japanese fashion magazines, and then Lucky, came from not having to look at teenagers I despised and someone telling me how to wear things when I looked at clothes. I love it when everything looks like paper doll clothes!

    I keep a blog of the worst ugly item + bizzarre models + ridiculous price combos on etsy, not because I want it to be famous, but because I need to get my anger out when someone puts ugly clothes on a model and then tries to make her look high fashion with overdone makeup/hair/poses and sell something for a high price.

    The whole thing annoys me. Just take a clear picture and give accurate measurements if you want my sale.

    Comment by Courtney — March 3, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  61. Very nice advice. In our historical costume company, the question to use live models or mannequins has come up several times. Our conclusion is in favor of live action photo shoots as nothing beats seeing a costume on someone with movable arms and legs and great facial expressions.

    We use family and friends generally and they absolutely love to travel back in time for a few hours plus getting to keep there very own ‘old fashioned’ pictures. It does take time, but the more outfits we do in one sitting the quicker it goes. You can see our work on http://www.mattionline.com or on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/mattionline .

    Comment by MattiOnline — March 3, 2010 @ 11:00 am

  62. I’m with Courtney. I have an Etsy shop and love to buy there also. Some shops I’ve seen just turn me off. Having a model showing body parts that I don’t care to see is a real sale buster. I read an article from a professional business advisor who has been in the business a long time. He said a lot of non professionals don’t have good enough skin for the close-ups in jewelry modeling. It’s distracting and tacky.

    Comment by Sylvia — March 3, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  63. @Sylvia The issue is actually not about whether non-professionals have good enough skin, it is whether non-professionals have good enough Photoshop skills. With photo retouching you can make most models look pretty good.

    Comment by Meredith — March 3, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  64. Thank you for such valuable information and I will be back to visit.

    Comment by Debra — March 3, 2010 @ 3:59 pm

  65. Okay, 64 comments later, I’ve changed my mind about that many times! But I keep coming back to the idea that photos not only sell products, but lifestyles. As a consumer, I find the lifestyle projections of a brand oh so alluring–so I can assume that my customers do as well.

    Comment by Jen Gallagher — March 4, 2010 @ 8:53 am

  66. Great article. I am a children’s clothing designer and this has been my question for a while. Thanks for clearing things up for me.

    Comment by Joycelyn — March 4, 2010 @ 9:51 am

  67. Thank you so much for this valuable information! Great answers to questions I had about my shop!
    Thank you

    Comment by CreatiKnit — March 5, 2010 @ 2:08 am

  68. [...] Photos and Images Ed. Note: This is hands down my favorite read this week. It nicely follows up my article about using models. This article is part 3 of a 3 part series about working with images. Check out [...]

    Pingback by Smaller Box :: Blog :: Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week — March 5, 2010 @ 8:25 am

  69. @blubird – Not sure where you are located, but in the US you can use contract labor, which is what models are. Pay them by the hour or by the job, or in trade.

    Go to http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/index.html for more information.

    Comment by Ken Ewald — March 7, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  70. Whew! That was a Lot of information! I am new here and I can see that this is the place to come with questions. I think the important thing is to have excellent photos. I myself have a way to go, but am working on it. Models or not, it comes down to that.

    Comment by Willow — March 8, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  71. I’m a child photographer and also have an etsy website. I would love the opportunity to photograph your children’s clothing, hats, etc.

    I’m located in San Diego, CA and could schedule a casual consult if you live in Southern California.

    Comment by Shelly VanLuit — March 14, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  72. I have my own models that I would use to photograph your children’s clothing. If you don’t live in Southern California, you would simply send me the products you want photographed on children and then I would create a CD.

    Comment by Shelly VanLuit — March 14, 2010 @ 12:14 pm

  73. I was a model and I completely understand the value of a live model with some merchandise. However, I create one-of-a-kind jewelry. I am not germaphobic, but I personally would not like to purchase jewelry that others may have worn. Since you are not allowed to try-on jewelry (earrings) at department stores, I prefer not to put my jewelry on live models. I will look into the alternatives mentioned, until I can find something better, I will not use live models.

    Comment by Duchess — March 18, 2010 @ 5:00 am

  74. If you approach family members or friends and ask them to be your model and they say that they don’t want their face or the like in photos on the Internet, you can tell them that you’ll crop the photos in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

    Tell them that you’ll show them the photo before you use it and that you won’t use it unless they say it is okay to do so.

    Tell them that you can cut the photo off around the neck or the chin-line. Depending what the item is. This will usually do the trick. They might agree to that.

    You can even make the face area fuzzy or even erase the face out in the photos when using Photoshop, too. I took some FREE lessons from Adobe on the Internet where I learned how to do some of these photo tricks.

    You can even use yourself, if standing in front of a mirror. Do not use the camera’s flash when doing it this way. Here, you can block your face if using the larger digital DSL camera or the 35mm SLR camera. Putting them in the automatic mode is helpful.

    Or, if you have the self-portrait delayed timmer/setting, can even use yourself as the model, too. Be sure to snap off a couple of photos, with facing in diferent directions, etc.

    If it’s a handmade item that you make several of, offer to let the friend or relative keep the one that you used in the photo. That’s another way of possibly getting them to pose for you.

    There’s inexpensive half/quarter manikins that have tops like clothes hangers that can be used. I use one of them alot for photographing things that I make both clothing and non-clothing items.

    hang the manakin off of the curtain rod of my shower curtain with using my shower curtain for a backdrop. Sometimes you’ll see these in use in clothing stores. I purchased mine on eBay. They come in both woman’s regular and plus sizes along with men’s and children’s sizes.

    Might I suggest taking dozens and dozens of digital photos when you first get involved with taking your own photos.

    Try different locations, different backgrounds, and different angles. Also different lightings. Then upload your photos to a program like Adobe Photoshop. Here, you can do some cropping and cut the excess off of the photos. You can also adjust the color, the lighting, and, a lot, lot more. Even masking your photos with different background frames and shapes, etc.

    Over 25 years ago, I had taken some NYI of Photography courses. To me, the most valuable one one seemed to be “The Eye of the Photographer.” In that one, it suggests that you check the background area and remove any unwanted item from same, or change the angle you are shooting from, etc. Some high schools even have inexpensive adult ed photo courses to learn more about photography, too.

    Yes, I’ve been dabbling in photography for well over 30 years and have been putting some of the tricks I learned over the years to use when snapping off photos of the items I have listed in my shop here. Learned how to do both film print and digital photography.

    Comment by Peggy — October 21, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

  75. OOps slipped up when putting my Etsy store link addy up above. Corrected it. A senior moment… LOL.

    Comment by Peggy — October 21, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

  76. Found your article from link on Etsy. Thanks for the great info!

    Comment by Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares — October 6, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

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