photo styling gone wrong

by | Dec 30, 2014 | Photography | 61 comments

I love looking at catalogs and magazines where the styling is creative and artfully done.  Of course, one I enjoy most is Anthropologie.  Their presentation is amazing and always so inspiring.

When I saw the use of a hand mannequin in their gift look book, I thought it might be fun to get one to use for pictures of our milk paint and products.

anthro hand

It’s hard not to have a little fun with a hand mannequin.  Kriste and I clapped with it.  We “raised our hand” and gave a thumb’s up and even saw if the wooden thumb could bend at an angle as freakish as my thumb.


My thumb won.

Then, we tried styling it in pictures with the products.  Holding a brush seemed like a no brainer, but who holds a brush like that?  And why is a wooden hand holding it?


Maybe showcasing the logo on the handle?


…or against a darker background?

missmustardseed-3866 missmustardseed-3867

It just seemed weird.  In the Anthro version, it looked quirky and artsy.  In our version, it looked like an arm reaching out of the counter.

I tried a different angle….


Better, but still kinda weird.  Was someone lying down holding a brush?  On a piece of marble?

And lastly, the one that takes the cake…


It looks like someone passed out while painting.  And I photographed it.

I still laugh every time I see this picture.  What in the world?

This is the only way that looked successful (or at least not creepy) to me, but I think the hand will look better when painted and distressed a bit.


So, the moral of the story is that things don’t always work out as planned and it’s okay to poke a bit of fun at yourself when they don’t.


  1. Carolyn

    To me, it just looks a bit too “new.” I would give it a coat of Miss Mustard Seed milk paint and add some instant chippy goodness!

  2. Denise

    Have it holding your paint color samples, or some small trinkets maybe…most of us have paint on our hands while painting, so your idea of painting it just might be what it needs 🙂 I actually find the wood hand very unique and fun. Sometimes we just have to laught at ourselves when nothing else is working. Happy New Year!

  3. kristin

    I agree with your thoughts. I think another important thing to remember is we may like a look, or love a look, and the way something is styled, but it doesn’t/won’t/can’t (realistically) translate to OUR style. I think that is the case here. The hand in the anthro ad is still kind of odd (to me) but it is their STYLE and works. The hand is not MMS STYLE. I say go outside your comfort zone but always stay true to who YOU are and YOUR style. It’s what got you to where you are now! I can think of so many advertising examples and if you were to throw the item into another shoot it would just look weird. I (we) love your style and it is YOU! Be true to that always.

    • marian

      Thanks, Kristin! Yeah, that’s what this was… Just trying something new. As I’m putting milk paint in an ironstone bowl, I just feel like I’ve done this fifty times and I need to break out a bit.

  4. Debra@CommonGround

    Hilarious, and yes, a tad bit creepy. oh, and love that thumb!

  5. Liz Anthony

    The thumb thing is freaky? I thought everyones thumb did that. Hmmm guess not. As I read that post and saw the weird pics I kept thinking put paint on that hand, it makes everything look better. Whew! Thank goodness u wrote it. Lol I feel better now.

    • marian

      That is funny! Yes, I’ve seen some of the real animal fur hats that look like something elf-people should wear and the wonky teapots that are totally not my thing. I love that they try things that are so unconventional, though.

  6. ashley ozuna

    Hahaha hilarious! I thought the photos were cool……………then you pointed out what they looked like to you……….and I still think there cool! xx ~Ashley

  7. Teresa

    Its always fun to add a bit of whimsy and change things up. This post reminded me of a old “Seinfeld” episode when George was hired to be a hand model. I guess people really do get paid to model their hands but thankfully you don’t have to worry about paying your hand model!

    • Kate

      I always think about the old Madge Palmolive commercials when I hear about hand models. It’s a running joke between me and my husband – I’ve accumulated a few scars on my hands throughout the years and he tells me it’s ruined my modeling career with Palmolive.

  8. Jenn

    I giggled at the fainting painter. Yes, a bit creepy. I agree with your take on the last one with the card. It would definitely feel much more “Mustard Seed” if you painted and distressed it a bit. Even better, stain it and dark wax it maybe? It’s fun to play around and see what does (and even doesn’t) work.

  9. Betsy @ Happily Ever After Etc.

    “It looks like someone passed out while painting. And I photographed it.”
    Well I would take pictures if I found a painter passed out! It just needs a little mustardizing… paint it, style it, it does seem like a good concept though! You’ll figure it out and then it will be amazing!

  10. Rhonda

    Well I loved your pictures with the hand! Creative and different, we need to change things up a bit I think. But I do agree that you have to “mustardise” the hand, it needs an antique look:)

  11. Jenny B.

    This is hilarious. 🙂 I sort-of have a phobia (or some other word that’s not quite as harsh as “phobia”… maybe “strong dislike?”) of fake hands. I see them a lot at flea markets, and I always shudder and move away quickly. They just give me the creeps. 🙂

    • Kate

      I feel that way about fake feet – you know the wooden ones put in shoes to keep them in shape. It reminds me of marionettes which I find kind of creepy.

  12. Gretchin

    LOL MARION!! A few posts back I was crying and cheering over the Whole 30…now ya’ got me laughing!! Happy New Year!

  13. Gretchin

    Sorry about the misspelled name MARIAN! Happens to me a lot because my parents decided to spell my name with an “in” ending 🙂

  14. Liz M

    I personally love the hand! It is wacky and that is great!! I bought one years ago when I had an Etsy shop and used it to style my merchandise. I think the issue with your hand may be that it is the same color as your paint brush. I, too, would like to see it painted or stained darker.

    I love Anthro also and love to recreate some of their wacky ideas- I love how they think out of the box and that encourages my creativity. (What people don’t know is that their merchandise is poorly made of cheap foreign materials, i.e.: their bedding falls apart in the wash or at the dry cleaners. So buyer beware!)

  15. kells

    if I was given a wooden hand everytime I attempted something from anthro and it didn’t work out for me I’d have like 24 wooden hands in a closet somewhere….I died laughing at that last one with the passed out person and the paintbrush…although creepy it was true to life, Painting makes my hands feel like they are wooden and I wanna pass out…especially cutting in…oy!

  16. Marie Claire

    I was reading this in the living room and I started laughing. My eighteen-year-old was like ????? because I don’t normally start laughing when I’m alone in a quiet room. So, I showed him the post and he started chuckling. When he saw the “fainting” one he burst out laughing, too. That was too funny.

  17. Quandie

    I have to admit, my first thought was “keeled over dead” not just “fainting” … maybe because I’m sure that is how I will go one day. I can see the obit now “Quandie passed away while doing something she always loved”. LOL. All joking aside, I am with Liz M, I love the hand.

  18. TracieMcOB

    I had to laugh at your comment about the painter fainting – lol – funny1

    Where did you get your hand? I actually have been looking for one like that for my son – he’s on a ring binge. I thought it would be a cool holder.

    Thanks so much

  19. Kelly

    I LOVED the one of the passed out painter! I felt exactly like that when I finished painting my kitchen, kind of wooden with no flexibility left in my hands. Thanks for the chuckle and thanks for sharing.

  20. Pam

    Mustardize that hand please. 🙂

  21. Melissa @ DaisyMaeBelle

    I’m sure you will figure “the hand” out and it will look wistful and whimsical just as you imagine. As for the freaky thumb thing, mine might win…Happy New Year! Melissa

  22. Jelena

    Oh, the “passed out while painting” photo is fun! 🙂

  23. Libby

    The reason it looks weird with the brush is that there’s no contrast – the hand and the brush handle are the same color/material………in the Anthro photo, what catches your eye is the contrast between the different textures.

    And btw, what you have is called “hitchhiker thumbs” and lots of people have them! My husband first noticed a weather person (woman – that sounds weird) on our local tv station had them and that neither of our thumbs were like that, so I had to do some research. Now I notice everybody’s thumbs!! 😀

  24. mary

    just an idea, but what if you tried using the bowl at the item to be held, and not the brush and see if that works?

  25. Jo Scarpino

    Waiting forever-
    I saw this right after I read your article. It’s kind of creepy, too!
    I think painting your mannequin hand will be great!

  26. Tammy

    I got a chuckle reading today’s post. My favorite…the passed out hand because we have all painted until we felt like dropping. LOL Loved the post!

  27. Emily

    Hi Marian, I think it would look great painted. As a unique thing, I wonder how it would look with painted fingernails. Lol!

    Hope you have a great year!

    Take care.

  28. Terrie

    I think I like the hand, but it need some help. It needs to be painted, and have some more props in the picture, besides the brush and bowl of paint. The colored background helps a lot. I think you just gave up on it too soon. 🙂

  29. Ali Foster Claypoole

    Ha! Painting’s your thang! Do your thang! Anthro’s was funky and yours while funky is a little too close to flesh color and not banged up enough to distance it from being ‘real-ish’ for me. Thanks for sharing! For beginners like me, it’s always encouraging to get reality doses from the pros!

  30. Karen G

    We laugh with you, Marion.
    Thank you for that and Happy New Year!

  31. nancy

    Maybe its just my perspective of being a nurse looking at this but, it looks a bit skeletal, or forensic (as in “hey do you draw the chalk lines around the dead painter or do I” or “not surprised, these new European colors are to due for”). But what if you paint it with typewriter and see what happens? It could be a great seasonal thing…. You guys will get it to work!

  32. nancy

    To die for, that is

  33. Wendy

    Too funny! I feel like Pinochio should be peeking out from the table, though. :-). Once it has your touch, I am sure it will be amazing & everyone will be out to go buy a hand to paint up!

  34. Cindy Barganier

    LOL, Glad it’s not just me! At least you gave it the old college try, right?
    Carry on my friend.

  35. Kim

    I love this post and the hand. As a former art major we used this as well as the small figure and had more fun posing it. I say bravo to mixing it up and having fun in the process!! That’s at the heart of creativity. It’s not always about the final outcome.

  36. Julie @ follow your heart woodworking

    Marian, you made me laugh. I really don’t like the hand in any of those poses, but love your descriptions. It’s nice to have you sharing the “real life” things that happen to you.

  37. Trudi

    Ok. I literally laughed out loud at your person passing away while painting comment and photo. So funny! (Although I have felt a bit like that after some painting projects!)

  38. Kaye

    This was so funny! Someone else may have already said this, but you do realize that the hand in the ad was surrounded by other items, right? Whereas you tended to isolate it, limit it to solitude, thereby making it look odd. No matter. I, too, love the humanity you infuse into your blog. It’s as if an old friend is talking to me! Have a happy new year!!

  39. must love junk

    OMGosh, I burst out laughing at the ‘passed out’ hand! (I have to confess I was thinking it looked more like ‘keeled over’ while painting-yikes!) But I do love the hand and the whimsy that it brings to your product photos! I think the last picture really works 🙂

  40. karen

    I literally laughed out loud… thanks for a good laugh! 🙂

  41. Jessie

    I love the hand against the dark background. It seems to make the hand pop!

  42. Wendy D.

    I think the hand is a great idea, but you need to put your style into it. Distress the hand and the background, add some box wood. Would look great holding a barnof your brush cleaning soap if it were a different color. Keep trying you will come up with something, you always do! 😉

  43. Bonnie

    What if…… dipped each finger in say Luckett’s green, Boxwood, Apron Strings, Mustard Seed Yellow, and Sky for a “Spring” blog. I’m so ready for this winter to be over that I’m already thinkin’ Spring!

  44. Kristi

    Haha! It totally looks like a dead hand in that one picture. Yeah, I would paint and distress the hand. Actually, I’m shocked that you didn’t paint it straight away. 🙂

  45. beth

    you are still one of the best photo “stagers” out there, but that passed out hand is hilarious!

  46. Deb

    LOL!! This must have been so much fun! So it’s worth it for the laughs .Everyone’s comments are so educational about why this doesn’t feel right – especially the one about being true to our styles. I agree, painting and roughing it up might make it more Miss Mustard Seed!

  47. whitney

    Ha! I bought a hand like this to photograph my jewelry, and I can’t quite get it right either…but I think yours actually look ok (except for the hilarious passed-out painter, thanks for the laugh). And I love that you have a double-jointed thumb like me…mine turns back more than yours, even! I was so disappointed when I broke one thumb and after healing it looks “normal” now instead of quirky like my other one. Anyway, Happy New Year to you!

  48. Heidi

    Hello Marian
    I consider you a brill photographer and like your photos a lot. Maybe the “problem” here is that you have two wooden objects, the hand and the brush and this makes it look weird and maybe that’s why the hand with the jewelry and the tag look better… Sorry, if this sounds like “wanting to teach you”, it’s not my intention at all – please bear in mind, that English is not my mothertongue 🙂 cheerio and a happy New Year from Switzerland, Heidi x

  49. Talitha

    That just made me laugh so hard…. Thank you for sharing!

  50. Janice

    I think the problem might be that the handle of the paint brush is the same color as the hand. In Anthro’s photo it looks white-washed (or something). I think if you had a contrast you would love it. I know I would.

  51. margaux

    what color is on the paintbrush

  52. Jeanine C.

    This made me laugh! I do think a bit of milk paint will heal all wounds 😉

  53. Cindy

    THAT was FUNNY. I was thinking it looked like someone died with the brush in their hand…


  54. angela

    I probably missed it but where did you find the hand? I would love one to have for my paper mache birds..ya know “a bird in the hand…..”

  55. Lisa

    Omg I laughed so hard. I started reading it to my husband and I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard. Then he started laughing even though he wasn’t seeing the pictures and I wasn’t able to read any further. Thank you for the laugh!

  56. Jean

    Haha! That’s hilarious! I sell the hands in my shop, but they’re stained much darker. I think the darker would look much better….but maybe not the laying down dead one!


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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