Posing The Model
In this shot I wanted something a little more interesting then her just standing there looking pretty. So, I had her leaning backwards over a stool. I thought this did nice things to the hair and also gives us a unique view across the chest. The pearls were added to give you something to look at
Lighting The Model
There are a lot of books that go into great detail on how to light people. Basically you have to hide the stuff they don't like in shadow or by using their own body to obscure the view, while you simultaniously highlight the things they do like. One of my favorite rules is, "keep the rack away from the key light". Meaning, don't point the chest at the key light or it will flatten the chest. You want shadows there, and you are not going to get them if you have the light heading right at them. Rim lights do a wonderful job in the chest area as they can help highlight or shadow depending on the pose. This is a huge mistake I see from beginner photographers, as they are trying to light everything evenly and you don't want that!
OK, so now that we have that rant out of the way I wanted to use Rembrandt style of lighting on her face for this shot. You can tell it is Rembrandt (modified loop), by the triangle of light under her eye camera right. I used three softboxes on this shot, one on the right for a rim light, one of the left for a rim, and the key was just outside of the frame camera left. The rim lights are barely on, and I could have shot this with one light quite easily, but I already had them in place for another scene so I just used them since they were there.
Powerful Yet Dangerous
I take the time to ask the model what they are self conscious about, but I also take into consideration what I think is attractive and find a balance. Justine here doesn't have any issues of which I am aware (and I did ask). She is just a happy and attractive young woman and is open to all my strange ideas in the hopes of becoming a professional model someday.
However, a word needs to be said here on the power the photographer has to really screw up in a big way, and I don't mean from a photo perspective.
People all have feelings, and you don't know all the specifics going on in their heads. They might be near the brink of a break-down and the last thing they need is a shot that makes the look fat, flat-chested, or fugly. If they get shots from you that deflate them personally you can really wreck someone's day, or even worse be the straw that broke the camel's back. I read an awful article a few years ago about a woman that turned to modeling to help her gain self confidence as she was in a personal slump. The photographer was a "friend" that had a camera, and he sold her on the idea of taking some images to show her how attractive she was. In the end her shots were so bad they affirmed what she was already feeling. Of course she became even more depressed and nearly committed suicide.
I realize that story is pretty awful, but it does illustrate an important point in that your images are not just your best attempt to make a model look good, as their might be more at stake they you realize. In this case the photographer could have also had the opposite effect and really made her feel good about herself.
Photographers have a HUGE effect on the self confidence of the model!
Take time to talk to the model about what they want from the shoot and where they might feel they have issues you want to downplay with pose, light, and shadow. I would rather tell the model all the photos were destroyed than deliver any image that makes them look poor, and then offer to re-shoot at my expense.
If you are just getting started working with models take time to work with an experienced model as they already know how to pose themselves and can actually help you quite a bit. I know I learned a lot early on while working with some experienced folks, and this was a lot smarter move that I realized at the time.
Sorry for the depressing subject there, but I felt the need to toss it in here as it is important and is something you might never have considered. But consider it or not, it is still there.
Photoshop & Post Production
Post production here is basically retouching the skin using the healing brush and dodge and burn tools. I should point out that I prefer the older version of the healing brush where you need to designate the source area. I prefer this control to the new one that makes a pretty good guess 80% of the time.
Dodge and Burn were used to even skin tones in areas but they also don't remove or alter the texture.
Once I had the image where I wanted it, I added a few lens blurs to the image to put more of the focus on the face and finally sharpened the eyes for the final touch.
Total time to finish the image was around 30 minutes.