Mannequins vs. Models: Which One Should You Use For Your Product Photos?



Every fashion store owner has probably encountered the dilemma of choosing between mannequins and models to present their products to customers. You see, selling online is all about first impressions. You cannot afford to create a store that customers cannot trust because you would lose out on so many sales. You want everything to look organized and professional when you drive traffic to your store. Your store has to look flawless, and one of the ways to do it is to ensure some consistency and professionalism in your product photos. For entrepreneurs that sell fashion items, you have to show your customers how a particular piece looks when worn using either a mannequin or a model. So the big question remains, which one do you choose, a mannequin or a model?




Starting a business is tough whether online or in a physical store. You want to keep costs as low as possible while ensuring that you do not compromise your business. When deciding whether to use a mannequin or a model, you have to compare the costs of using each of them. For a mannequin, the cost is the one-off payment you make when purchasing it. The moment you purchase it, it is yours to use as much as you want for as long as it lasts. Of course, there are the product photography costs, but you can also save on these if you know how to take perfect product photos.

Models, on the other hand, need regular payment since they will not be showing up on set to pose in your clothes for free. For starters, you will need to set aside a budget for the models’ wages if you decide to go in that direction. Professional models will cost more so if you are a little strapped for cash, you might have to use amateur models. Either way, using a model will be pricier than using a mannequin.






Mannequins cannot strike poses so setting them up is pretty easy. You just need to fit your mannequins with your products, place them in front a good mid-range camera like the Nikon Coolpix B500, and snap away. Models, on the other hand, need time to try out different poses, makeup styling, and different clothes. You also need to consider the model’s compatibility with the items you are selling regarding age, size and body type.


The target audience needs to see themselves in the models so if you are targeting an elderly audience; you will need an elderly model. Using models also involves much testing since every model is different from the next. Some are easy to work with while others are a total headache so, you might find yourself letting a model go and spending more time recasting another one. You also need time to test out your customers’ reception for different models to determine the model that gets the best results.


Market reception


Some customers prefer seeing the product on a mannequin while others prefer seeing it on a live model. The end goal is to have your customers visualize themselves rocking your products and both mannequins, and live models can achieve that. Mannequins do not add personality to your products which also means that customers will not concentrate too much on them. Your customers will not try to see themselves as the mannequins as is the case when you use live models. They, therefore, won’t have grounds to see fault in your products and the presentation.


Live models add some personality to your product, unlike mannequins. It is, however, a double-edged sword because using the wrong model can drive potential customers away. What does it mean when we say “using the wrong model?” Well, for starters, a model that does not fit in the age bracket of your potential customers is a wrong model. A model that does not fit your customers’ lifestyle is also a wrong model. Let us also not forget that people can be vain and they sometimes hate someone else just by looking at their appearance.



The verdict


There is no concrete answer on which one is better for your product photography between using mannequins and live models. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.


Mannequins are easy to assemble and set up since they do not require makeup and styling. They also provide a sense of uniformity and consistency on your website which is critical to website design and content. On the other hand, mannequins do not tell a story. They have no personality and customers cannot relate to them. Some customers also find mannequins to be quite creepy. Mannequins are actually quite creepy especially the bald ones that resemble cyborgs. A customer might feel creeped out when they go through a website with several pictures of the same mannequin wearing different clothes and looking like a cyborg playing dress up.


Live models bring your products to life by adding some personality and a level of professionalism to them. They can strike different poses offering a degree of flexibility. You can also use them to upsell your customers by pairing different outfits and jewelry in your product photos. When used correctly, live models can increase your sales. On the other hand, using live models is time-consuming and very expensive. It is not practical for small businesses with low budgets to use live models for their product photography. It might also be distracting to the customers if they are bothered by the model’s appearance.




The only way to be sure of the method that works for your business between using mannequins and live models is by testing. Take a few product photos using a mannequin and the other using a live model then compare which one converts better. You can even save some money by taking the pictures yourself if you learn the art of digital photography. It is advisable to use headless shots for both the mannequin and the live model pictures to reduce customer distraction. Mannequin headless shots reduce the level of “creepiness” in the picture for customers who find mannequins creepy. Headless shots when using a live model allow the customers to visualize themselves wearing your products without any distractions.



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