The creative process is different for everyone. The inspiration for this image happened quite by accident, meaning it wasn’t during one of my “play time” segments where I encourage subjects to try something completely new and different. No, the spark for this concept struck me quite by accident, when I was trying to get my client into a different pose altogether.
The Pose That Didn’t Work
I wanted to try a new pose I had seen in my next shoot.
Since I can’t show you that original image due to copyright, I’ll have to explain it to you as best I can. Picture a woman with the lower half of her body on the floor, her legs flat like frog legs but with her heels touching to form a diamond shape, while the upper half of her body hugs the corner of an ottoman similar to the image above yet with both arms wrapped around the sides of the ottoman.
I showed the picture to my client who was willing to give it a shot but we soon realized she wasn’t flexible enough to pull it off. She played around with it a little until she found something that worked. Below is what she came up with.
I actually prefer this version better for several reasons.
First, I like how she extends her back leg as it lengthens the line of her body and creates that sloping angle that runs from the top of her head down to her toe.
Second, I love how she rests her head down on the bench and grips the edge of the seat with both hands. It gives the image its emotion — and third, I was struck how her body and the bench form one symbiotic shape. The bench becomes part of the structure of the pose as opposed to it being just a piece of furniture it takes place on.
The bench extends the line that starts with her back foot and continues up her body eventually disappearing out of frame.
Wow, I had never seen anything like that before.
When I got home and looked at the image on my computer, more ideas came to mind.
I immediately thought of this chaise lounge I use a lot and how the line running up her body could continue along the sloping backrest. It wouldn’t flatten out like it does with the bench.
Hmm… that would be even better.
I would try this shot again with my next client but this time using the chaise lounge instead of the bench.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words… That Tells A Story
It was around this same time that the idea of incorporating a story into one’s images was floating around in my head.
I knew the best way to express that with a single image had to do with creating emotion, and creating some kind of drama.
The emotion I got from Keilandra’s pose was that of longing… a yearning for someone who has left her either temporarily or for good. We don’t really know so the viewer has to fill in the missing parts of what happened — which is good because it engages the audience even more.
How To Tell A Story With A Single Image
The easiest way to tell a story with a single image is by introducing another person into the frame, or a prop of some kind, then capturing the subject’s reaction to that person or prop.
With the case of my evolving image, I immediately thought of a man’s dress shirt and tie being left on the end of the chaise lounge. It made perfect sense because the line from her foot up her body, then up the backrest would act as a leading line to the discarded clothing.
I knew I wanted to make the tie the highlight of the shot and also that I would need the shirt and tie to contrast each other and that the tie should be a light shiny color to reflect the light I was going to aim at it.
A shiny silver tie with a dark blue shirt against the camel color of the chaise lounge would be perfect.
My Second Attempt
I tried the pose again with my next client, Amber, along with the shirt and tie placed at the opposite end of the chaise lounge.
This was a definite improvement but I didn’t feel I got the lighting right. The brightest part of the image was on her. I also wasn’t crazy about the placement of the shirt. It looks like a spider and the tie is not the focal point.
I don’t feel I got the same emotional note as I did with Keilandra either. Most likely my fault for not directing her properly… or forgetting to direct her at all. I had so many things going through my head at the time it’s easy to forget something.
I also had the problem of the light stand being too close to the chaise lounge. That’s why she’s more lit than the tie because the light on the boom was too far over. Next time I would move it back from the chaise lounge which would also pull the light over the shirt and tie more. That would cause the subject’s legs to fall into shadow as well, serving as a matching bookend to the shadow on the other side.
My Third Attempt
For my third attempt I used a model, Ivy, that I’ve worked with before.
I had about four concept images I wanted to shoot, with my priority being to correct the things that didn’t work for me in the two previous versions of this shot.
It’s much easier to work on these types of images without the time-constraint of a normal shoot.
As you can see, I moved the light out of frame and towards camera more which cast light on the front of the tie, and also allowed her legs to fall into shadow a bit.
One of the biggest improvements, however, happened when she suddenly fully extended her back leg. Up until that point it had been slightly bent.
I can’t tell you what a huge difference that made because it almost exactly matches the curve and angle of the backrest on the chaise lounge which resulted in accentuating that leading line even more.
This is what can happen when you allow yourself time to play and experiment.
A Fortunate Mistake
It was a fortunate mistake that Keilandra was unable to get into the pose originally intended for her, but something of greater value came out of that.
I hope this has given you some insight into my creative process. Granted, I don’t go through this exercise with every boudoir pose. I just saw special potential with this one in particular.
The image has been a catalyst for me to start shooting more conceptual and story-based images. Some may eventually make it into rotation in my regular boudoir shoots but these images are more for personal artistic fulfillment and for photography competitions.
I entered this image into the 2021 WPPI Print Competition in the Boudoir category and missed earning my fourth Silver Award by 1 point… ugh! It scored a 79 and you need at least an 80 to earn a Silver Award. I was disappointed to say the least. I wanted this image to earn some recognition, but we don’t always get what we want.
What it has awarded me, however, is something far greater — and that is an invitation to step through a door to a new way of thinking about what’s possible with this genre of photography.
This one image has taught me new things about boudoir and posing that I’m just now starting to explore and write about — stay tuned.
Thanks for your time!
Bella Mitri Boudoir
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