Using a mannequin to practice photography lighting

Posted March 15, 2009 in Mannequin How-To Guides

Many of our customers are photographers and photography students who buy and rent mannequins from us to practice their lighting. Mannequins have many advantages over live models – they never complain, are always available, they can hold a pose indefinitely without moving and they never get bored. Plus they don’t have to sign a model’s release form.

On the serious side, I was following a discussion thread on Flickr for photographers  ( and saw this helpful comment about using a mannequin for photography lighting. practice. This is courtesy of ac12basis’ photostream on Flickr

I have a mannequin and I got it for a single reason. I wanted to work on and understand how lighting affects the face shadows. And she is very patient with me, and won’t tell me to “hurry up I’m tired of sitting here. ” And she won’t complain about so many flashes in the face.
The one I bought was based on a specific recommendation. It is a rubber one, as I was told that it reflects light closer to real skin than others (styrofoam, cloth covered whatever, hard white fiberglass).

The only fix I made was to the eyes. I used clear nail polish over the eyes, so they would reflect light similar to the human eye. Warning, a decent one is not cheap. Then you have to get a wig (or 2 or 3).


True the more “lifelike” the mannequin, the more expensive it will be. There are some mannequin that look more like dolls – the cheap imports from China. The mannequins that you find in the windows of high end retail stores, resemble people and are also much more durable. That is why they cost so much – unless of course you purchase a used one at companies like Mannequin Madness.



2 Responses to “Using a mannequin to practice photography lighting”

  1. lovely@digital cameras February 8, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    Great idea on how to practice your photography. You can’t have a better subject than a mannequin.

  2. photo enthusiast February 19, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    really?this is awesome…i will tell my friend about this…he is tired of model students’ compalains…thanks …great help….

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