Let's face it, most popular subject of photography is a woman, in some shape or form. See, I don't have a problem with it - I appreciate the beauty, the lines and shapes of women of all sizes, ages and races. I've always been a strong believer that there is no need to heavily alter woman's appearance in Photoshop (especially if you shoot in colour and not in an 'artistic' manner), because what that's telling us is that as she is, she is not enough. I had an interesting encounter with a photographer who got in touch with me and wanted to work with me. He proudly sent me a folder of his work that contained before and after images of women he had shot in his studio. I was stunned (not in a good way). The after images showed slimmer waist, larger breasts, skin with no pores, and so on. It made me sad for a moment - is that how he sees us? A beautiful trophies to add to a portfolio? Shouldn't a photographer look to enhance the beauty she already possesses?
So, how do we bring out the beauty of women? How can we go away from what is conventional (and boring, and done a million times)? One theme that I did recently was Fragments of a Femme - small bits and pieces of a sensual woman. We don't need to see full length body shot, we don't need a close up of her skin and make up. This is more about setting the mood - alluring, erotic, dark. Maybe it's something you can take in your work next time you are photographing a woman and are stuck for ideas. Simply start thinking - what is feminine? What is erotic?
Your job or your mission as a photographer is not to appease to the model and focus on making her 'beautiful'. She's already beautiful and she knows it. Your job is to create a mood, to show a visual story that is interesting to look at not focus on smoothing her skin or changing the size of her body. Even the commercial world is already starting to (slowly) move away from this, although they still have a long way to go! But, in personal work - why would you do it? Redirect your skills and vision onto creating something that is truly feminine (unless your theme is masculinity) and shows your ability to create a set of images that say something more than just "I am good at retouching".