Category Archives: Models

Photographing a model in Paris

Yesterday I photographed a model in Paris. Kira is an American professional model, but she could pass for Parisian (and indeed has some French ancestry). We met in the morning, and started with some shots with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I was looking for backgrounds that said “Paris,” but more of everyday life and not so much the Eiffel Tower, so we got on to the Metro.

Kira on the Metro © Harold Davis

Kira on the Metro © Harold Davis

At the Passy Metro station, just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, Kira’s natural elegance was on display. But in the court at the Louvre in the front of the equestrian statue of Louis X IV, I made her loudly proclaim “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” as though she were heading to the barricades (the tourists in the background seemed unmoved, as did the statue).

To the barricades! © Harold Davis

To the barricades! © Harold Davis

After some time photographing (and posing) we were both eager to get out of the chill wind. So we retired to a cafe (where of course the photography and posing continued).

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Models are people—not things

In the Pixar movie Finding Nemo one of the characters is a shark named Bruce in a 12-step program. Bruce has extremely dangerous looking teeth, and clearly has an appetite for fish. In a meeting of his 12-step program Bruce loudly chants, “Fish are friends, not food” in an Australian accent—although if I were a smaller fish I wouldn’t want to tempt this particular shark by getting too close!

Jade by Harold Davis

Jade © Harold Davis

I try to keep a mantra similar to Bruce’s in mind when I photograph models. Models are people, not things. If one takes the time to get to know the person behind the model facade even a bit, the results can be inspiring. After all, people have character, and capturing this character is an important part of what model photography is about—even (or particularly) when the camera is pointed at a subject who is model and is a beautiful woman.

A case in point is the shot of the beautiful model Jade, shown above. Jade is best known for her fetish look. You can visit her website by clicking here. When I shot Jade as a person I was pleased to get a somewhat different look: personal, playful, and somewhat sexy but without the hard edges seen in most of the photos of her.

Repeat after me, models are people—not things!

Click here to see the models category on my blog, and here to see a gallery of my model photography.


The idea behind Within the Canvas (below) is to show the model emerging from a background. It is not clear where the model begins and where the model ends. Model and canvas seem to flow together. The fabric the model is wearing is part of the canvas. Or, is it?

Even as an issue of three-dimensional spacial relationships consider: Is the model is in front or in back of the canvas? Depending where you look in the image, both are possible—leading to potential paradox and visual impossibility. A potential solution is to assume there is a slit in the canvas, but this doesn’t really work (observe her hand).

Within the Canvas by Harold Davis

Within the Canvas © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

To make this image I shot the model on a white background. She was wrapped in sheer, white gauze. In post-production, I placed the model image as a layer on a canvas background, then added a series of textures on top of the Photoshop composite.

Related stories that show images with models and textures: Everything in Moderation; Like a Titian.

Also see: Impossible gallery; The eye believes what it thinks it sees; Models category; Models gallery (some models are NSFW).

Everything in moderation—even moderation

I shot Kirsten using a large, strobe-powered softbox as the single source of illumination. The softbox was on a low setting and positioned above and to the right of the model. You can see the reflection of the light in Kirsten’s beautiful eyes. The low-level of very diffuse lighting, and the position of the single light, account for both the overall attractiveness of the light and the radical light fall-off on the left side of the image.

Kirsten by Harold Davis

Kirsten © Harold Davis

To process the image in Photoshop, I used a number of textured overlays on top of the background image of Kirsten. For example, one of these overlays was of linen canvas with a very definite texture. Another was the scanned papyrus that I’ve used in my Floral Tapestries (the background shown in Thistle While You Work is an example that uses this scan of a piece of papyrus).

The trick with this kind of post-processing is not to overdo it. As Oscar Wilde put it, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” I wanted Kirsten to look as gorgeous as she is naturally, and slightly abstract—but I didn’t want the post-production work to make her look artificial.

See Like a Titian for a related post-production treatment of a model.

Like a Titian

With this image featuring the travelling model Kellie my idea was to recreate something of the feeling of a Titian painting, particularly in the folds of red velvet draped on the couch. Besides the studio model shot I used a desaturated image of the setting sun (and bird). To complete the image, I add several layers of virtual textures (I will be writing about digital textures in a future story) and a small margin of background.

Kellie by Harold Davis

Kellie © Harold Davis

I’ve printed Kellie on canvas to reinforce the visual reference to historical masterworks, and am experimenting with adding by hand an actual (rather than virtual) coat of varnish that I can work to recreate the craquelure of an old oil painting.


This is a shot of professional model Liz Ashley. The lighting is from one strobe, hand-held to the left of the camera.

Liz by Harold Davis

Liz © Harold Davis

Different Kind of Flower

Mermaid by Harold Davis
Mermaid, a photo by Harold Davis

The glare of reflected sunlight on the swimming pool was blindingly bright. There was a wide dynamic range of lighting levels from the light on the water to the attractive model’s face in shadow.

I knew it would be a challenge to capture this entire dynamic range without blowing out the highlights or losing some of the details of the darker areas in the shadows. So I set my camera to auto-bracket shutter speeds, and used Continuous shooting mode to fire off three shots in rapid succession.

62mm, 3 exposures at shutter speeds of 1/125 of a second, 1/250 of a second; and 1/500 of a second, each exposure at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held; exposures combined using Nik Merge to HDR Efex Pro and hand-layering in Photoshop.

Eros: Sensual Portraits

Eros: Sensual Portraits

Everytime I post an image of an attractive woman on my blog I get emails asking whether my marriage is in trouble. I appreciate the concern, and thank you! But as Phyllis says, the fact that we can work together on a project like Eros: Sensual Portraits makes our marriage stronger.

For me, photographing an attractive model is not so very different from photographing flowers (for that matter, there are some pretty overtly sexy flowers like this poppy) or mountains, or clothed people, or any of the many things I like to make imagery from.

But I digress. Eros: Sensual Portraits is a Kindle book, available in electronic form from Amazon. Here’s more about the book:

The photos in “Eros: Sensual Portraits” are my favorite ones that I’ve made from sessions with professional models over the past year. It is my hope that these black and white images are seen as tasteful and respectful, even though they are unabashedly sensual and erotic. My idea is to celebrate the beauty of the models, and to create with photos and some words what amounts to a love poem.

The forces of eros and sensuality are part of what makes this world a fun and wonderful place to be. The beauty of the female human form can be presented in a way that is erotic without being blatant. In fact, it is well known that artfully decorating with attractive lingerie can be more arousing than full disclosure.

I hope you enjoy my love poem. It has certainly been fun to create!

Warning: Full frontal nudity. For adults only.

Here’s the link to Eros: Sensual Portraits on Amazon (it is only $2.99 to download).

Eros: Sensual Portraits is our second straight-to-Kindle e-Book. The first one is DAM: Be the Boss of Your Photos.

By the way, it’s easy to read a Kindle book on your Windows PC, Mac OS-X, iPad, or almost any other device. There’s no cost for downloading the readers for these platforms.


Keira 2

Keira 2, photo by Harold Davis.

This is a monochromatic studio portrait of Keira, a professional figure model.

Usually, as I note in Creative Portraits, I prefer to use the camera to show someone’s eyes when I photograph them—after all, the eyes are the window of the soul. However, with this photo, I think having Keira’s gaze demurely turned downwards works, because the demure posture contrasts so strongly with the beautiful sensuousness of her naked body.


Amanda Lightly

Amanda Lightly, photo by Harold Davis.

Briefly noted: This is a high-key shot of professional model Amanda, exposed without flash to take advantage of the beautiful light coming through the window.



Gabriella, photo by Harold Davis.

I think this shot of Gabriella was a little too bright and contrasty because the soft box was dialed up too much and a bit too close to her face—on the right side of the image you see here. But looking at the RAW file, I liked the way this high key portrait showed the lines in her face, making it almost like a mask. So I processed the photo to emphasize this effect, essentially desaturating it then adding back in selective color in the eyes, lips, a bit of blush on her cheek, and some color in the hair line. One more take on virtual, digital make-up!

Eros Art Exhibit


Kellie, photo by Harold Davis.

I have nine monochromatic prints (including the image of Kellie shown above) in The Eros Show, on exhibit (and for sale) at the Arthouse Gallery & Cultural Center here in Berkeley, California. Some details:

Preview (honoring Timothy O’Leary’s birthday): Friday, October 22, 7PM to Midnight

Eros Art Opening: Friday, November 5, 5PM-10PM, with live shows starting at 8PM; the Eros exhibit will run through mid-February

Where: Art House Gallery
2905 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley Ca 94705
Info: 510-472-3170
Admission: FREE

The Gallery is near the corner of Russell and Ashby, just a block over from Ashby and Shattuck. Ashby BART is barely two blocks away.



Kirsten, photo by Harold Davis.

Briefly noted: Kirsten has a mischievous twinkle in her lovely eyes. As soon as I saw her I knew I wanted to make a portrait that did her justice. Her eyes, of course, would anchor the portrait, ever so nicely framed by the saucy twist in her hair. Mischievous twinkle or not, I think there’s a veiled curtain of sadness that lurks behind the sense of humour and beauty Kirsten shows the world.

For some of my thoughts about making portraits, and some portraiture techniques, check out my new book Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques.

Figure Study

Figure Study

Figure Study, photo by Harold Davis.

Briefly noted: These are fair-skinned models painted in silver and gold. Monochromatic conversion gives the impression that the skin tones are much darker than reality.

Silver and Gold

Silver and Gold

Silver and Gold, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This shot of two models in metallic body paint didn’t seem to present any particular post-processing difficulties. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. A close-up view of the shot on my 30 inch wide monitor showed a band-aid under the gold paint on one gold finger. When a photo is as graphically simple as this one, the flaw would have spoiled the show.

Phyllis gave me a hand with the retouching, which used the skin from an undamaged finger rotated, resized, and warped to replace the fiber of the wrapped bandage. I bet you can’t tell which finger was fixed using this virtual plastic surgery!

Edit: Over on Flickr, I had some incorrect guesses about which finger was fake. It took quite a while for Marty to “finger” the index finger on the model’s right hand.

I think it is significant that it took a while for someone to point out the faked finger, after all there are only ten possibilities. It’s almost like a kind of visual Turing test. Apparently, sophisticated viewers of a photo can’t tell which part was digitally created and which part was captured directly by the camera.

The moral: don’t take the reality of anything you see in a photo for granted.

Here’s a close-up of the hand in the photo before the bandaid was retouched out: