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Should I get a mannequin to practice lighting?

F K , Apr 10, 2007; 08:45 p.m.

I've been reading Master Lighting Guide, which is a really good book on all kinds of lighting style such as broad, short, butterfly, side and loop lighting. Since it's hard to find models, I'm thinking of getting a mannequin to practice on. Has anyone practiced on a mannequin before? How is it? Where can I get an accurate one? Thanks


Scot Steele , Apr 10, 2007; 09:22 p.m.

I've bought cheap mannequins for art projects at the major online auction site. You can buy a head (with neck) for about $15. Full bodies are far more expensive, but probably not necessary for your purpose. You can also get a cheap wig for checking what a bit of back-light looks like with any given light set-up. Real wigs are pricey, but costume wigs are $10 bucks or a bit more, and probably good enough.

Best, Scot Steele

Steve Hovland , Apr 10, 2007; 11:00 p.m.

Just get a cheap foam head without wig. Then use yourself.

Benoît Marchal , Apr 11, 2007; 04:45 a.m.

I do. I bought a torso and head from a closing shop for a fraction of the price (25 euros) on eBay. I would not spend a lot of money on it as you probably won't use it for an extended period of time: mannequin are patient but they are not great looking models (having said that, I recall an exhibition where the photographers was using mannequins instead of human models and achieved interesting results but I disgress).

I produce a podcast on photography (popular in France) and I've used the mannequin to illustrate lighting challenges and how to overcome them. If you're curious, it's here: Lumières d'été


Bob Donlon - Albany, NY , Apr 11, 2007; 11:43 a.m.

I've been looking for a somewhat realistic mannequin from about mid-torso to top of the head and haven't been able to find any reasonably priced.. anyone know of a place that sells them reasonably priced? I'm thinking of resorting to a large Barbie Doll Head

Bill Cornett , Apr 12, 2007; 10:13 a.m.

One of the things I use mannequins for is to gauge the light reflection in the eyes. For this I require some very good mannequin heads, not just the cheap ones. Although the more inexpensive variety can help a lot in terms of general light set-up when you are starting out, I find that the more expensive ones with the really good eyes are very helpful for critical lighting practice.

Happy shooting. -BC-

Dolly Genannt , Apr 15, 2007; 11:24 a.m.

I just picked up 2 of them (for free) at a local Beauty Supply School, they use them until the hair gets too short to practice cutting their heads....check out my folder called "SB800 test shots" and you can check her out. I put the head on an old Sewing Bodice that you make handmade clothes.....my mom had it in her attic....works great! I put my veil on her head and added some flowers....instant bride! hehe I too had nothing to practice on.....my 3 year old wants no part of this learning curve :)

Good luck

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