Kelly Willis, owner of Modello Fine Portraits in Deer Park, Texas, made a deal with one her best clients who wanted a boudoir photo session. She gave the client and any friends who also wanted a boudoir session a special rate if they agreed to pose for photos she could use at competition.
“She posed and let me take that picture for competition. It was shot in my studio with a canvas backdrop. After I shot it I edited in Photoshop and took it into Corel Painter and painted it. The flowers and the basket were not in the image; I composited them in. She had bent her leg where the bottom of the foot was showing and I didn’t like that,” explains Willis.
The image scored a perfect 100 at the recent Southwest PPA District competition and won a Sunset Print Award. Beyond the overall composition and Willis’ masterly painting, the judges were drawn to the rim lighting.
“I had a strip of light on the right-hand side, the direction she’s facing, up against the wall angled toward her to get that rim lighting. I had a fill light in the back of the room and a reflector on the other side to throw just a soft light on her back; I didn’t want a strong light,” explains Willis.
The print originally scored a 91, but one of the judges challenged it. He wanted to review the image because he thought it was flawless and used a perfect color palette. He was especially drawn to the use of rim lighting. Upon further review, the other judges concurred and brought the score up to 100.
“One of the judges pointed out that there are eyes in the background, and another saw a face and thought it had a haunting quality,” recalls Willis. “I didn’t do that on purpose, and didn’t notice it until the judge pointed it out. I worked on this image for how many hours and didn’t notice that?”
Willis says she used a filter for the water effect in the foreground and edited the image in Photoshop to get the exact colors she wanted to use prior to taking it into Painter.
“I edited it in Photoshop by adding and changing color, compositing in the basket and flowers, and then painted the entire image in Painter. The original background canvas had a design with a darker brown, but because of her hair and yellow scarf I wanted to bring out the yellow, for example” explains Willis.
The image was printed on a fine-art watercolor paper with a deckled edge by Jonathan Penney Inc., Chapel Hill, N.C. Though created and printed specifically for competition, this image is representative of Willis’ commercial work as well. “I like to paint the final image and provide a one-of-a-kind oil painting portrait for my clients,” adds Willis.