Pros and Cons of Using Live Models When Photographing Jewelry

by Rena Klingenberg.

Pros and Cons of Using Live Models when Photographing Jewelry, by Rena Klingenberg, Jewelry Making Journal

What do you think about using live models when photographing your jewelry pieces that you plan to sell?

Here I’ll present some points both for and against using live models – and I hope you’ll leave a comment to share your thoughts on this issue.

Benefits of Having Live Models
Wearing Your Jewelry in Photos

First, a live model definitely helps show how the jewelry looks when it’s worn – the length, size, and fit of each piece.

And if you’re showing a jewelry set, customers get a clear idea of how the pieces look and work together.

It would be harder to achieve that as effectively without a live model wearing the jewelry.

It’s nice to have photos of the jewelry both alone and on a live model.

And seeing the jewelry, styled on a model, may inspire people to want to purchase the jewelry to copy that look for themselves.

Why You May NOT Want Live Models
Wearing Your Jewelry in Photos

If people don’t like how the model looks, that may kill their interest in the jewelry.

Similarly, people who don’t resemble the model might feel that the jewelry isn’t their style.

Also, some people are turned off by seeing zoomed-in shots of jewelry that show closeups of skin, hairs, blemishes, and other natural body features.

In addition, I know several people who have a strong “that’s gross!” response to the idea of wearing jewelry that may have been worn (however briefly) by someone else.

(I also know many other folks who don’t feel that way.)

What Do the Jewelers Who Have
Paid for Market Research Do?

I viewed the websites, print catalogs, and ads of several of the major jewelry retailers in the U.S. – from the major fine jewelry stores to smaller artisan jewelry boutiques.

In this unofficial research, the majority of the jewelry photos I saw do NOT have live models wearing the jewelry.

However, they do have occasional photos of a model wearing one of their pieces in one of these ways:

  • If the photos are closeup, the models’ skin tends to look flawless (possibly due to photo editing).
  • Often, though, the photos aren’t closeups, but full-body shots showing the model having a fun or romantic time while wearing the jewelry.
  • Or sometimes the major jewelers use a photo of an attractive person who’s NOT actually wearing their jewelry, but positioned right next to photos or a display of the jewelry – implying that this lovely person wears this jewelry line.

So what did I conclude, based on my unofficial research of the “big guys”?

That if the majority of the big jewelers’ photos exclude live models, it’s a good bet that their expensive marketing research points to more sales when they use fewer models actually wearing the jewelry.

One Other Issue
About Using Live Models

One other point to keep in mind if you’re planning to sell the jewelry that’s been worn by a live model:

To prevent the risk of spreading skin infection and disease via earwires and other pierced jewelry, you should put new findings on pierced jewelry after the model removes it from his / her piercings.

And I would also recommend giving ALL pieces of jewelry a thorough cleaning after the model removes them.

For more about wearing jewelry that’s been tried on by other people, see our discussion, Trying On Earrings: What Should the Rule Be?.

Please Share What You Think

What do you think about using live models when photographing your jewelry pieces that you plan to sell?

Older Comments:

Debbie Sosa says:

I, too, have pondered the question of whether to model my jewelry or not. I currently have 2 necklaces in my shop, that, I personally modeled, because they are larger than I normally make. I only have a shot of my neck, wearing the necklace, so as not to have my face as a distraction to the necklace.
I also used my daughter to model my line of bridal jewelry, wearing my wedding dress, but a shot of her from the chin, down, with a hint of the dress showing.
I had searched other online shops to see how they presented their bridal lines of jewelry, and, to me, the best shops showed the pieces on a live model who was dressed in a wedding gown. I liked this approach because it really gave a sense of how a piece will actually look with a wedding gown.
As for my current shop, I feel a photo without a model is appropriate for most of my pieces.
So, I believe it’s the call of the designer to decide on a model or not.

Michelle Buettner says:

Thanks for posting such a great article! A couple of years ago I had several of my clients and business friends telling me I definitely needed models wearing my jewelry so people could really get a look/see/feel for how it was on a live person. Well, like you, I did a ton of my own research, looking at countless jewelry websites from famous designers to Indie designers and everything in between and I came to the same ‘pros’ conclusion you did – that they showed models wearing pieces of jewelry in a fun, romantic, etc. way which marketed the look/feel/lifestyle of the jewelry. So, that’s what I chose to do to add some ‘life’ to my jewelry shots. I have several young women modeling my jewelry, however, the jewelry they have on is already sold or is ‘for display only’ and pieces customers can actually purchase are photographed using other props or items to make the jewelry pop and stand out vs. having people pay too much attention to how the actual piece looks on someone else.
And, it seems to be working! I get compliments on how the models look in my jewelry, and I get more sales and more compliments on my jewelry that’s photographed in another way.
Great subject you tackled here in this article!! Love it!!

Antoinette says:

I have weird phobias of buying jewelry if I think it has been worn. It seems dirty to me. I know other people who are like me too so I think it is better not too.

beadinggem says:

I think live models are a great idea if there are several of the same design so only the sample is worn. But if you do only one of a kind pieces, then the yuck factor has to be considered. I started using a dressed mannequin as a compromise.

Mara Nesbitt says:


Most of the photos on my etsy website don’t show a live model. I did, however, do a photo shoot with a young woman acquaintance and am planning on adding those photos. Etsy gives you five opportunities for photos and frankly, I may not have enough photos to fill those spots on some of my items. When I think the shots with the model will add to the understanding of the piece of jewelry, or brighten up the page, I’ll use one.

I studied a beautiful “how to” book about making pearl jewelry and scanned some of the pages with particularly fetching photos. Almost all had *partial* head , wrist or neck shots, diminishing the impact of the model and emphasizing the jewelry. I copied those poses with my own live model and am very happy with the results.

Why would a customer assume that you only have one set of earrings, or one bracelet so that they’d be getting a worn item? Even though I do custom work, if I find that I really like the look of something I’ve done, I’ll make it again. I’ve had women order a necklace that I design, and when I post a photo of it, another woman will order one just like it.

Although I fully appreciate the value of market research, I don’t think I get the negative impact of ordering a piece of jewelry that’s being shown on a model, assuming something about the model isn’t distracting.

Deborah Leon says:

I have gone back and forth about using models to display my Sea Glass Jewelry. I finally decided not to use models but to use props that set the mood for my clients to imagine themselves wearing my creations. It doesn’t appeal to everyone but then again I’m not trying to appeal to the masses. Sand, shells, seaweed, waves, and blue sky evoke the feeling for feeling summery and support the concept of sea glass jewelry than any model could…Model or no model…depends on the message you want to send. Thanks for the write up.
Fair Winds and Calm Seas, Deborah Leon

Emma says:

That’s a great question! I don’t know any models so I just use the same old jewelry holders…I think it would depend on the pieces =] Reply

Liz says:

I have used photographs with models and without. I like to photograph the purchaser of the jewelry piece wearing the earrings, necklace, bracelet and making it “her own”. I am fortunate to have friends/relatives that are photographers who have assisted me in getting some interesting photos. I like when only a glimpse of the model is seen but the emphasis is on the jewelry.

Lisa says:

Hi everyone,
Wow, this is a really good discussion and its a real dilemma,
I am new to selling jewellery, I show my jewellery on displays, which I think work well.

The dilemma is I am wanting to promote my jewellery in brochures and I am looking to start a static website, so some of my longer necklaces are to long for my displays and I was toying with the idea of using a model to take photo’s but only using her neck to the length of the necklace to see it in all its glory.

I can see both sides of the coin, but I was thinking of using the pieces I have made for myself , that I wear at my parties as I only make one of a kind, just so my customers get an idea of the styles I make.

Lynn says:

I notice the models are young and thin, I’m not young and thin so it makes me think that it probably won’t look as good on me as it does on the model.

Mara Nesbitt says:

Lynn, I’m neither young nor thin either. The jewelry I make either is designed or can be custom made for large people (longer bracelets, longer necklaces, size-appropriate earrings etc.). Unlike large size clothing which looks stupid on thin models and doesn’t give an idea of how it will look on a real woman of size, jewelry is much more forgiving if you know what sizes you wear.

For example, most bracelets are made 7 – 7 1/2 inches long, but many of my bracelets are 8 1/2 inches. If you measure your wrist and add about 3/4 inches to that, and pick a place on your neck or chest that you like your necklaces to hit, then you can judge which pieces of jewelry are appropriate for you. And just because you’re not thin, it doesn’t mean that you can’t wear a delicate piece of jewelry – it’s whatever you like.

And as for age – nothing makes a woman look happy and vibrant, no matter how old she is, than a piece of jewelry that she loves.

Linda Halvorson says:

I have not yet posted any pictures with live models. However, I am waiting for a picture from the wedding of one of my customers wearing the bridal ensemble I made for her. Thus, this won’t be sold, but will show what I make and how it was worn. Otherwise, I am not interest in showing the jewelry on live models.

Michelle Buettner says:

Interesting comment you make here about the models being young and thin. This was something I took into consideration when I chose models for my website. I wanted women of all ages and sizes, so I have models from pre-teen up to one model who was age 57 and their body types are fairly normal, with more medium to heavier frames. I’ve gotten many comments on the wide ranges of ages and body types that I selected for my website, but the most wonderful fact is that because all of these girls/women are confident and comfortable in their own skin, they look absolutely gorgeous – and they make my jewelry look amazing, so I would tend to believe that it is how you feel about yourself that dictates which types of jewelry you would look good in and feel good about wearing. Don’t let unreal imagines of things stop you from trying something you like,…you will probably be amazed at how wonderful you look!

Lynn says:

Thank you Mara and Michelle for your encouraging comments, and understanding that not all women are young and thin.

Amanda says:

Really great article to read – I love this website!

Last weekend I had a shoot using three models – to be fair they were all young and thin – although one is very curvy… I’m a long way from looking like that myself, but what I love about Jewellery is that it is one of the few things I can see in a Glossy magazine worn by a young and thin woman that I can actually wear myself!

For me one of the main exciting benefits of Jewellery is that its one of the few forms of clothing that isn’t determined by your size and shape – it doesn’t discriminate or dictate – it simply adorns you whatever age or shape you are….
You really are free to be governed by your own personal taste – and its a fantastic, liberating way to convey you sense of style.
I try to make pieces that are affordable, but a little more unusual – so many pieces have several focal points, which can be hard to convey how they look or ‘sit’ in a ‘Still Life’ shot.

I personally find that when I include a ‘modeled’ piece I get a lot more views on Etsy.
Also, one piece that had hardly any views in several months of being listed, I added a modeled shot to my listing at the weekend and it sold within 24hrs!?!

I agree with the comments on how a model can detract, but I do think everything is worth a try – maybe modeled shots work better on some styles more than others.
I always include close up shots of the pieces as well – I find that combining the two approaches in each listing has always worked well for me – But I do seem to sell more pieces that are seen as worn by a model than not.

I think the key thing is to be creative with your photography shots, let your style come through your images as well as your pieces – it can be a fantastic additional way of creating your style / brand etc…

I have currently got more live model shots in my shop than ever before – and I’ve had more views this week than I normally do…
But organising model shots is very difficult, and as I make several new pieces a week – it isn’t possible to have model shots of everything – so I try to achieve a balance by taking model shots once every 6 weeks or so, in order to keep the shop looking fresh.

I guess this, like everything in Jewellery, is a case of finding what works for you, and your own personal style.

Phyllis Melendez says:

I loved using models for our jewelry. I created a fashion show of still shots, then used jewelry shots for the store. They were the young friends of my daughter. They passed around the link to their friends and we got lots of hits that way, plus a few sales!! The fashion show is down now because the jewelry was from last winter, but I plan on doing another shoot again soon – just in time for the new school year!!

Heather O’Cain says:

I use vintage, worn jewelry and remake it into fun modern pieces; part of the cool thing about vintage is the “story” or “feel” and the gently worn look or patina. I do not use a model for my earrings but I use one for my necklaces because , for me, it is so difficult to tell how a piece is going to look without a model!

Jay Johnston says:

I don’t currently use models for my photographs, but that’s only because I’m just starting out, don’t have a budget for it, and am a man, so using myself might not be the best idea. I do plan on using models as my business grows, but for now I am shooting sans model.

Karboojeh Handmade Jewelry says:

Personally, I am put off when I see a poster of a model wearing “handmade jewelry” – and this actually stopped me from buying a polymer clay pendant once.

To me, handcrafted jewelry is not the mass-production type of business and therefore it needs to be represented in a way that sets it apart from the “big guys”- image-wise. It is a niche business, and should reflect this in it’s marketing efforts.

I like the down-to-earth ways of marketing handmade jewelry, the handmade packaging, and the not-so-perfect displays – that are great fun to look at. Handmade artists are usually very creative in coming up with cheap yet attractive ways to dress up their jewelry and put it on display. Even their announcements lack that cutting-edge, expensive look.

Big jewelry lines are not as half creative, and lack the warmth and the innovation handmade jewelry-makers bring to the table.
This is why I was 100% against using models when my niece suggested it for my work.

In my hometown, a silver and gemstone handmade artist uses models on her website and on her posters, however, the models look too fake and loaded with makeup, which is in sharp contrast with her earthly original, ethnic-looking work.

Michelle says:

I feel that the seller is best in a neutral position….that is….
*should step out of the way* ……and that the buyer and the jewellery itself, is best left to allow a positive, creative, private interface – without the sellers supposition enforced at any level.

The jewellery should be good enough to stand on its own imho.

At the end of the day, a turn off=lost sales. The seller loses nothing in being neutral and allowing the item to do the talking. Which is how it is meant to be.

LaRiesha Floyd says:

I have used both a professional photographer and no models and I think it’s important to show both in some type of way. I have head and hand jewelry that won’t serve good if it was just propped up but actually worn by someone to show movement. I think that for some items, it was nicer to have it on it’s own among nature and natural sunlight. I really think that it matters on the nature of the actual item and the message that you want to portray.

Christina Lee says:

Great article and loved all the different comments. I have not done a lot with live models. I do try to get pics of the person who purchased the piece of jewelry wearing it and post those on my website. I feel that helps show real people are wearing and buying my stuff. I have had my jewelry in several fashion shows and have posted pics of the models wearing it, and also was in a local photo shoot to promote local businesses, and have pics of the models wearing my pieces.

Rena Klingenberg says:

Christina, photographing your jewelry on happy customers is a great idea for getting photos of your work on live models. It also shows the world that people are buying and wearing your creations – which is all good! 🙂 Thanks for sharing that!

Darlene says:

I once had a customer at a show who really liked the particular color of the jewelry set I was wearing which I had sold out previously so she purchased the one I was wearing! I switched out the ear wires and boxed it up for her!

Jicsi’s Jewellery says:

I stumbled upon this just while trying to do my own research into using live models (or not) for my jewellery, I don’t currently and while I am trying to get “happy customer” type photos I’m not entirely sure how to go about it (though I do have lovely happy customers!).
This post (and the comments) are all fab! I think in relation to the benefits of having a model dressed up and photos taken in a theme that suits the jewellery that different types of jewellery suit live models more than others.

In looking around at both small and big jewellery shops that I like, I tend to see that shops selling bigger more “statement” style pieces and necklaces seem more likely to use live models, perhaps because they’re easier to see/easier to photograph on a model?

Anyway, that interested me, thought it might interest/be of use to anyone else here! 🙂

Carol Parker says:

I ALWAYS ensure our jewelry is cleaned and finished with a jewelry cleaner before every market event and before shipping to buyers. Jewelry often doesn’t sell right away and ours is handmade. I insist all our products are kept clean and polished so buyers feel confident when they receive our product, modeled or not.

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