Why A Beginner Needs a Mannequin

Why A Beginner Needs a Mannequin

Here’s why a beginner portrait photographer needs a mannequin.  A mannequin is a steady, reliable subject.  Just like a beginning painter needs an apple, a vase and other simple objects to sketch and paint, a new portrait photographer needs a mannequin to practice.

A few years ago I got real serious about my lighting skills.  Not wanting to damage my marriage and bore my wife to death, I purchased a mannequin.  The investment paid off.

I Sold It

I sold it, but read on… it’s still educational.

Learning from a Mannequin

Learning from a mannequin may sound counter-intelligence.

“Hey, who taught you how to light?  A dummy?” I can hear the hecklers yelling.

Actually, that’s not the case at all.  Because a mannequin doesn’t move, you have all the time in the world to get it straight.  I would never want to practice on a client.  That’s just unprofessional.

You can set up the mannequin, and then adjust your lights.  Once you’re done, you can move the mannequin and leave your lights set up so when your client arrives you are ready for the session.

Working with a Mannequin

Working with a mannequin is different than working with a life-sized Barbie doll (if there even is such a thing).  They are easy to dress.  Super easy.

Pants and Skirts

To put on pants and skirts you remove the upper half of the body.  (Don’t worry, they are very light weight) and you can put a skirt on from the top of the legs.  For pants, you remove the left leg and put them on one leg at a time.  (There’s a joke hidden in that statement.)  Once the pants or skirt are on, you place the torso back on top and give it a slight twist to lock it in place.

Tops and Dresses

Tops and dresses are even easier.  You remove the arms and slide it over the head.

copyright 2017 db walton
Torso with Arms removed
copyright 2017 db walton
Shirt Goes on Over the Head Very Easily

Then, you put the arm in the sleeve (shoulder end first), and attach it to the torso.

copyright 2017 db walton
Arms go on through the sleeve, shoulder first.

Because BOTH arms remove by simply lifting upward on the arm, putting shirts and dresses on the mannequin are easier than dressing a baby.  (Okay, dressing a baby can be difficult, but it is easier than dressing yourself!)


You simply place a wig on its head.  The wig it comes with isn’t anything of high quality, I will admit that.  But, it is included with the sell of this mannequin.  It just goes on the head like this…

copyright 2017 db walton


This mannequin is one that allows for shoes.  It comes with a stand that has two options.  Option 1 is the stand attaches through the bottom of the right foot.  For that option, you would have to drill a 1/2″ hole through the sole of the shoe… But wait!  Option 2 attaches the mannequin to the stand through a rod that goes in to the right calf.

copyright 2017 db walton
Hole for Calf Stand Adaptor

It comes with the adaptor in case you want to put shoes on it.


I’ve mentioned sections that come apart.  I will elaborate on all the pieces.

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Upper and Lower Sections

As you can see in the above photo, there are two main sections, and here is a breakdown of the rest:

  • Upper torso and head – one piece
  • Lower legs – two pieces:  buttocks with right leg, and left leg (screws on)
  • Arms – left and right, attach easily
  • Hands – left and right, screw on at the wrists.
  • Base stand – one piece metal plate with a rod that supports the mannequin either through the hole in the arch of the right foot, or via an adaptor rod into the right calf.
  • Wig
  • False eyelashes – two, one for each eye.


This mannequin is made of fiberglass reinforced plastic resin.  If you were to break or crack it, it can be repaired with Bondo and painted with satin latex interior paint.

The makeup on the face is painted on.  A decent artist could re-paint the face giving it different color eyes, lipstick, and makeup style.

copyright 2017 db walton
Closeup of Makeup

I’d go so far as to say if you got bored with how it looks, you could give it a complete paint job.  After all, it’s made of the same stuff Corvettes are made of.

Lighting Practice

Once you get it home, set it up and practice your lighting skills.  You can then practice your Photoshop retouching skills.  You can do this repeatedly until you feel confident, and then you can sell it to the next beginner.

copyright 2017 db walton
Mannequin Short Lighting

To purchase this mannequin, click here.