What Is It Like to Be a Hand Model?

A model presents a 9.27-carat pink and white diamond ring at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong in 2011.

Photo by Laurent Fievet/AFP/Getty Images

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Caroline Zelonka, informationista:

I worked with a professional hand model on a TV commercial shoot. He was a regular model and actor, too, but he had a special comp card similar to this one. He was hired a lot for his hands. As a man, his hands weren’t particularly big or small, but female hand models often have smaller, more delicate hands, mostly because smaller hands make diamonds and other expensive jewels look bigger. Hand models get a lot of work in the jewelry category.


Anyway, the hand model came equipped with a case of sleeves! He’d cut off the arm portion of different garments: sweatshirt, white dress shirt with cuff links, business suit, sweater, etc. Just the sleeves, mind you, all pressed and arranged nicely in a case.


Me being me, I asked him if he had any special grooming routines. This was before Zoolander. He said he got a manicure once a week and wore latex gloves to protect against scrapes or chapping. Again, if he was a woman, he’d probably have to make sure all the hair from his fingers were plucked. Much hand work is done in extreme close-up, magnifying tiny flaws.

The hand model also went through makeup. The makeup artist applyed some foundation and concealer to even out his skin tone.


I’m not sure how much he charged. The client was actually complaining about this: “Why do we have to hire a special hand model? How much is this gonna be?” I joked that it would cost an arm and a leg. However, I believe his rate was the regular actor scale—at that time approximately $1,000 for the day.

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Answer by Alex Wu, hands used in a Facebook product video:

I wouldn’t consider myself a hand model, but my hands were featured in this Facebook Single Sign On for Mobile product video.

At the time, I was working on mobile marketing at Facebook. We were getting ready to launch a new mobile product for developers called Single Sign On that would enable users to sign up for mobile services using Facebook credentials instead of asking them to create new accounts and passwords every time they wanted to sign up for a new service.


The decision was made that a product video would be good to medium to show the product in action. We had a script and crew to film but no “model.”

Enter my hands.

The communications lead on the project walked around our team area and asked each person at his desk to show her his hands. After looking at a few, she came across mine and decided right then and there that she would launch my short-lived hand-modeling career.

The shoot was scheduled in one of our meeting rooms with fancy lights and a nice dark backdrop for the shot. There was a showcase prop, the kind of thing where they place necklaces in jewelry stores, where I could awkwardly rest my hands.


The script had estimated the time of the video to be less than three minutes, so I thought the shoot would take maybe 15 minutes max. I was majorly mistaken. The whole process took more than an hour.

First, the director/camerman had me hold the phone in a variety of different ways to see what would look best. After a few iterations, we decided that the phone looked best in my left hand with my right hand initiating the actions.


If you look at the video closely, you will also notice that the phone is being held by my fingertips instead of my hand. This was because fingers would obscure the screen if I held it as I normally would. This is actually a very uncomfortable way to hold a phone for more than an hour and led to some serious hand cramping.


Most phone commercials actually do this, as it turns out. See Apple’s example:


The idea was that the narrator would read the lines, and I would follow his lead and act on cue. We had to reshoot a few times because the app would occasionally freeze, the phone wouldn’t react the way it was suppose to act (I believe we sped up the video a bit in postediting to make it feel more smooth), and I had trouble holding my hands still—rookie hand-model mistake.

At the end of day, I came away with new respect for hand models—not a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination.

And I am retired, so please don’t reach out to me for new bookings.

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