A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to attend a behind the scenes production day here in Prague where new sets for Melisa Mendini’s own site where created.

It was a busy, very long but most interesting schedule with just a few people on set.

Babes-Sites: Different Styles, Different Worlds

Most of us only see the final images on the different pay-websites out there. Each of these babes’ sites has its own approach in look & feel. Competition is more than hard and without a clear distinction there’s definitely no money to make. Here are a few well known (big) sites:

  • Hegre-Art is one of the force and influencers in modern Erotic Photography. His girls are legendary.
  • Met-Art is a collection of erotic photography displaying teens in natural splendor (= non-glamour).
  • Femjoy is calling itself “Pure Nude Art” – another infinite collection of explicitly posing girls.

Every single one of these sites is now more than a decade in business, earnings are steadily declining yet there’s still money to be made here. All of these sites are also experimenting with porn. Either fully integrated in the same brand or marketed by a spin-off site. I don’t know how much appreciation the regular guests are showing for this.

My angle is: the more porn the less income. Too much free stuff out there. And in my opinion it just diminishes the reputation/brand. Anyway…

Final Explicit Images - Melisa Mendini Photo Shoot

Melisa Mendini: Creating Her Own Home

Despite all the above, Melisa has put it in her head to create her very own, neat, defined web presence, called “Melisa Mendini World”. For over a decade, Melisa (real name Kristina) is successfully in business as international traveling glamNude model. She has conducted over 2,000 photo & video shots based on her own natural, sexy style and personality.

Using the example of Melisa Mendini’s World (MMW) here is not a promotional event but a good case study to proof that this kind of site still can be a profitable business model. And for us it’s a great chance to get behind the scenes insights of a real production day.

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Frank Metzemacher: Lead-Photographer MMW

I had the chance to talk with Frank – the lead photographer for Melisas’ site – a few days after my visit on set and elicit a lot of facts and secrets from him.

Q: What’s the main style MMW is aiming for? What do people want to see and pay for?

We are producing Explicit Glamour. Different to Hegre, Met-Art and others is Glamour our look we distinguish ourselves from them. These poses are like anywhere else explicit – that’s the spicy ingredient visitors are paying for.

But there’s one more thing: This site is solely dedicated to Melisa and her friends! Based on that we are able to fully concentrate on her, her personality, charisma, looks etc. People are visiting and buying access to MMW because they are (huge) longtime fans of Melisa. Melisa is most thankful to have such a strong community of followers!

Final Explicit Images - Melisa Mendini Photo Shoot

Q: Did quality and depicted style change during the last decade?

The longer the big players are in business, the more obvious the quality contrast gets. On one side the masses got really cheap in look and quality, on the other hand – since affordable DSLRs are offering also great video capability – a few really raised the quality bar in storytelling and looks. I like all the competitors that are stretching out for quality. The audience loves it and there is still money to be made in this segment.

Explicit poses are standard now but unfortunately a few sites started producing porn the “artsy” way. It neither bothers me personally nor does it affect MMW’s business approach in a negative way, but I simply don’t consider this a “healthy” way of development. However, it is in my opinion not completely bad for us because I am very sure that a reversion to (explicit) beauty will happen sooner than later. Porn will always be porn…

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Q: What’s a typical production day for MMW?

A normal production day endures about 10 hours – from accessing the location to the wrap-up.

Q: How many sets are produced per day?

We shoot about 4-5 sets photos/videos on such a day. Mostly the sets are mixed in their elaborateness of lighting. Meaning we have some that are simpler but then we also shoot specific looks that take twice the time. I mix strobes with continuous lighting, using color gels every now and then and so on.

Q: How many original photos are captured and how many make it into the final selection?

I shoot about 200 images per set. After having selected the best shots, we will publish 100-130 of them.
Our philosophy is not to constrain the selection too much because our customers love Melisa and they want to see as many different photos as possible – even if the differences from frame to frame are minimal. Sometimes it’s like a flip book; in 5000 pixel 🙂

We get a lot of positive feedback regarding this approach.

Q: Are videos important?

Videos are very important to our audience as they really are able to convey more closeness and connection between the viewer and Melisa. We shoot them with Panasonic video cams at the moment because it’s more convenient when working under time pressure. DSLR videos are great and offer a different look & feel yet it takes 3 times longer (handling) to create the same quality footage as with a conventional cam. From all of our sets we have captured approximately 90% in video format. On average, a single video is about 10 minutes long.

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Q: Is MMW produced in studio or on location?

95% of the scenes are shot on location. It just ads so much more structure, message and feel to a scene without bending over backwards.
In studio we create very selective series which are mostly based on a playful lighting setup.

Final Explicit Images - Melisa Mendini Photo Shoot

Q: Who is searching for locations and how do you find them?

Right now we are mainly producing in the Czech Republic and Germany. Both, Melisa and I have a vast knowledge about locations filed based on former productions/shoots we did for different reasons. If we need to find something new, we use the normal booking sites such as Airbnb for short-term apartments, hotels, etc.

Q: Who’s developing the concepts for the sets/mini-series?

Mainly Melisa, based on the outfit she brings to the set. 70% of it happens ad-hoc on set. Yet based on the location, audience wishes, and strategy, Melisa prepares the outfits and looks at home. Later on these creations will then be used to develop the various stories/sets. A few times a year we plan for very specific topics like Christmas, Easter, a themed pictorial topic (for example outdoor) or similar things.

Final Explicit Images - Melisa Mendini Photo Shoot

Q: What’s the camera gear you’re shooting with?

I’m a Canon shooter for years now. Currently my work’s done with a 5D Mk3, and a bunch of Canon L-lenses like 16-35/2.8, 35/2.0, 50/1.4, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8.
I’m most flexible with this gear and can basically create all my shots.

Q: What lighting equipment do you utilize for the MMW shots?

Monobloc-strobes are from Bowens; the R and Pro series. The day you visited me I also shot with an Elinchrom pack. Modifiers are everything imaginable used in studio (umbrellas, boxes, dishes etc). Then portable battery strobes from Jinbei (Bowens adapter) and a few Canon Speedlites.

For continuous lighting (video) I utilize Jinbei’s 2 kW LEDs.

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Q: What’s the typical lighting characteristic you use? What does the audience like?

I generally love to work with a soft lighting characteristic. First it makes the post-processing much easier (we can’t retouch every single photo) but secondly, the audience simply likes it. They mostly want to see anything of Melisa’s body, and a soft lit scene eminently appeals to the body. It’s not about evenly lighting the full scene but having Melisa’s curves alluring, softly lit.

One of my favorite lighting setups is the two side lighting: Key light from some kind of frontal direction and as a counterpart a rim-light from behind that modulates and accentuates the lines. It’s an effective setup with which I can work fast and that leaves both of us – Melisa and I – with a quite large action radius.

Q: Who’s doing make up & styling?

95% of the time it’s done by Melisa. That’s because if she’s taking care of it herself, she actually also looks & feels like Melisa on the photos. She has her beautifying process for photo sessions down to a T. No wonder since she has been doing this for over a decade now. I can totally trust that she knows best what to do in order to create this natural appearing, seducing, lovely girl we know from the pictures. That’s what fans love to see and that’s we want to give them. The audience is priority number one.

Q: Get the photos retouched? If yes, what’s the process?

Series: Due to the large quantity of images we create per single series, we can’t retouch them in the traditional way – we can’t do skin retouching for series. For sure we enhance every photo in Lightroom, work on brightness/contrast, sharpen them, and finally put a specific look to a series. But skin problems that may appear every now and then sometimes simply can’t be touched – these photos just get sorted out.

Wallpapers: Melisa also offers wallpapers. Those are of course fully retouched and enhanced 🙂

Final Explicit Images - Melisa Mendini Photo Shoot

Conclusion: Hard, Fast-Paced Work

The personal talk I had with Frank and my impressions I got on set led to a pretty obvious conclusion: It’s darn hard work coupled with a lot of management tasks. It just seems very similar to my production work although the output quantity for MMW has to be immense and the post-production approach is different.

One last thing Frank revealed at the end of our talk: The site itself is quite demanding to work on every day. It’s not just the shoots, it’s the cannel. It’s business.
And in the early stage it really seems to be a back-breaking job.

Frank Metzemacher PhotographyAbout Frank Metzemacher
Frank is a self-taught photographer, born and working in Cologne, Germany.

Frank started out creating professional concert/band photography. After a very successful period, he got increasingly interested in people photography. To fuel his new journey, he started several collaborations with amateur models to learn about proper and advanced lighting but also establish knowledge in post-processing (retouching & looks). Today Frank is an internationally published professional people photographer and the lead creator for Melisa Mendini World.