These are a set of shots I took a few months back, but I'll be working on a similar shoot soon (same model) and figured it would be good to see what sort of things worked, what didn't and what could be improved on with the existing photo's so I can carry that knowledge over to the next shoot.
The overall concept was a cross between a bit of a bad-arse/troubled on the inside kind of character. We wanted to show someone who had that sort of a flair on the outside, but a somewhat troubled mentality on the inside.
Secretly, I picked the location of an old factory purely for my love of urbex, but I felt (and still feel) that it fit the theme for the character (where do renegade girls spend their time?):
Personally though, I can't shake the feeling that there isn't enough substance, or that something just sit right, can't work out what though...
I can be lazy at times, many of these I never got around to fine tuning (exposure, colour, contrast, detail etc.) let alone releasing.
I'm noticing as I'm processing these, that a lot of my attention seems to be in balancing the detail. In some situations I feel there is too much detail, such as background clutter, which is distracting. Most of it is treatable (is that the right word?) with local contrast adjustments, especially on black and white images (it's less of a problem for colour because you can always scale back the vibrancy).
If nothing else, I certainly feel that I'm grasping a stronger understanding in the relation between colour and tone for black and white imagery.
I certainly get what you mean about background clutter, there can be instances where there’s either too little or too much detail and it can make the picture sterile or cluttered respectively. I think it's good to strike a balance between the two, to have an interesting environment that doesn't take too much away from the primary focus of the subject (remembering that the environment itself is by extension, also the subject).
Admittedly, I've already put these pictures through all the contrast and colour adjustments to dial the clutter back to an ideal level, to give an idea though of what it was like before and after though:
Though that was a worst case scenario, the others were originally much more subdued. I just found that the surrounding clutter was keeping me from looking at the model, that's when I'd consider dulling it down
Still working on pose though, I think I get where your coming from, the first image you mentioned does look bland in comparison to the second.
I certainly get what you mean about background clutter, there can be instances of having too little as well as too much. I think it's good to treat the environment as an extension of the subject, but it's also important to maintain some separation so the viewer is able to clearly make out the details.
All of these have already had the adjustments made, but to give an idea on what one of the shots looked like before and after:
Though this was the worst one of the batch, the others I found were much more subdued.
Pose is something I do feel I need to pay a bit more attention to though, and I agree with what you say about the differences in the two pictures you mentioned. I'll try experimenting with some finer poses, maybe even focus on having the model move through them rather than having still poses to see if I can coax something out that way as well.