This location looks very busy in the final image - but on arrival there was even more stuff spread around than you see now! I cleared furniture and objets d'art from around the scene to clarify a little.
Although the setting was broadly symmetrical to begin with I wanted to emphasise that and also provide some inward lines to bring focus to Elle. I pulled the chairs out from the table, further at the front than at the back - and this gives a channelling effect towards Elle.
This is important because the horizontal lines across the image can pull the eye out of the image, but the lines of the chairs and chair-arms bring the attention back into the centre.
In a location such as this, it can be very difficult to separate out the model from the background. In this image different types of contrast have been used to bring focus to Elle's figure.
Firstly, the pose although centrally placed is not symmetrical, that puts Elle at odds with everything else in the image. Secondly, Elle's face is contrasted against her hair, which in turn is contrasted against the light chandelier. This in turn is surrounded by the darker tones of the statues. This gives a series of concentric contrasts focussing on the face. Thirdly, not that there is still rim lighting around the legs which provides a separating light against the dark of the fireplace.
Keeping Elle on top of the table is important, there are too many legs below the table line already and added her legs would have competed with the furniture.
I have shot directly at the height of the table. I do not want any of the table surface to appear in shot since it would quickly become a large plane of texture if the camera height were much higher.
I could have shot closer in, with a wider angle lens and a smaller depth of field to create separation, but with significant distortion of the many straight lines. Instead, I have used a long lens (105mm) which has brought some measure of telephoto compression - which has meant the precise placement of Elle to achieve contrasting zones has been important.
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