Posing the Model
Because the hat has tipped me off, I know the bird(s) will need a landing place, so the tips of the fingers would work. I thought that a single finger might be harder to work with depending on the bird (which we don't exactly have handy), so I decided on "tips-up" type of gesture which will probably be the most flexible. The model here is an incredible professional and needed nothing more than to hear my plan and she completely understood. Val has to be one of the best models I have worked with so far in my career. She also carries a bevy of props with her, and this $1,400 hat was amongst her menagerie of garments.
Lighting The Portrait
Push The 'Add Some Birds Button'
I then took a Dodge brush (large and soft), and added a bit of randomness to the background texture with a 9% opacity on the brush and proceeded to paint
I also found some feathers and this nifty bird and placed them into the image. The feathers were sliced up from a larger image and placed using the multiply blending mode into the photo. Mind your depth of field here, as the front feather would not be in focus given the ƒ5.6 and focal distance. So, I used lens blur on that puppy and then doubled the layer because closer objects have more contrast than those in the distance and these feathers are pretty light using this mode. The other feathers are similar in process but might have less opacity for the previously mentioned reason.
The so-big-you-could-eat-it crow was next, and it was going to be fun (well, fun to me anyway). First we create a curve adjustment layer and mess with each color until it seems to fit the scene. In this case I was using her skin tone as a goal for the breast area of the bird. I used the dodge and burn tools to "re-light" the bird so it matched the lighting configuration. I also added some tonal changes to help it appear more realistic than it did in the stock photo which I bought for a wee pittance. I moved the bird into position over her hand and painted in the claws as I felt they should be using a round damn-small brush (almost a pencil). Remember to borrow tones from the rest of the bird to make it appear real. I then revisited my dodge and burn layers with fresh eyes after flipping the canvas vertically. Remember to do this every so often so you can see things you missed the first time. As the feather of the bird pass in front of her bodice, I added the shadows there to help it become a more solid object in the reality we have created here. Shadows are the key and you have to pay great attention to them. I might cover the types of shadows at some point (yes, there is more than one type) so everyone knows where to start and how to build them up.
Final step was to add a photo filter adjustment layer (some seemingly random flavor of blue) to cool it down just a bit and rescue any value error I might have created with my meaty-fisted tone curve on the fowl in question. After staring at it for a bit I also added an overlay layer and used a white brush to bring her "forward" from the background (thanks to my earlier creation of her mask). Total time to complete is about an hour, sans potty breaks from the green tea binge I was on at the time. Questions?