It all starts with the background. However, a background is not always necessary. Here is an image where nothing other than pure white was used as a background:
The resulting mixture of a black-and-white background and the model in full color yields somewhat of a fine art look. An artificial background can be made in Photoshop as well:
You should already see what I mean when I claim it all starts with the background, because the background is reflected in the water. Another type of background is bokeh shots. I get mine by shooting Christmas lights downtown at f/1.4 with a 50mm lens, but with the lights slightly out of focus:
Be on the lookout for scenes that already contain water. They can make great backgrounds:
Moreover, a great many scenes that do not contain water can be used. Here is one from Copper Canyon, at the southern end of the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona. It was taken on a dirt road:
By far the most useful backgrounds are cloudy skies. Most often, I use only a cloudy sky for the initial background. They are also useful in other ways. In this image, taken on Skopelos Island, Greece, a sky taken in Claremont, California was used:
I strongly recommend shooting all your backgrounds in a bracketed 3-shot HDR series, using an exposure sequence of -2, 0, and +2. If you are shooting skies with big white clouds, set the exposure compensation on your camera to -1.0. This will give an exposure sequence of -3, -1 and +1. The exposure compensation of -1 results in a darker image, and helps to avoid blown highlights (pure white areas with no detail) in the clouds. By far, the most versatile format for shooting skies is the the horizontal landscape format. It is used in all portrait mode (vertical) images of the model, as well a those taken in the horizontal landscape mode, such as this:
My blog post Placing Skies in Glamour Composites, dated June 29, 2015 may be of interest. In Part 3 I shall discuss how to get the image of the model ready.