The Model Mayhem interview: Clint Davis

There are times when you discover and are truly inspired by a great artist. Clint Davis was one of those people for me. Clint is a freelance photographer, art director, and graphic designer. As an Art Director he created magazine covers for Import Tuner, Lowrider, Turbo, Sport Compact Car, and more. He has been featured in PDN and Advanced Photoshop Magazine, among others.

Clint has some amazing work, and has some really great business ideas. His “Photo Box Campaign” took the concept of a self-promotion box a step further.  As a former art director, he saw too many generic mailers and wanted to do something different. Using the slogan “Give Me A Shot”, Clint put together a box full of stuff tailored to the potential client including a disposable camera, business cards with his work, and information all wrapped up in a cool box. For more info, check out Clint’s blog post at

He recently teamed up with Nick Saglimembi to produce a video tutorial series, “Master Compositing”, and create the world’s first 3D magazine, “WMDB 3D”. Watching him go through how he put together a few images was really inspiring for me… I even put together my own first composite.

When Client agreed to do this interview, I was ecstatic [Yes, I’m a nerd like that] as I had so many questions for him. This interview barely scratches the surface but I hope Clint inspires some of you the way he has inspired me!

Check him out at

Reuben Dixon: Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Clint Davis and I was raised by wild guinea pigs. Since then I moved on to be a freelance designer and photographer.

Reuben: What do you love talking about?

Clint: Personally? When I’m not working, I’m out riding my road bike with my friends… usually talking about dogs, girls, partying, and grand visions of the future.

Reuben: How did you get to where you are now?

Clint: I always enjoyed creating things, especially things that other people enjoy experiencing as well. Turns out I have a knack behind the camera and excessive patience for spending hours behind a computer.

“I always enjoyed creating things, especially things that other people enjoy experiencing as well.”

Reuben: What are some turning points that really pushed you forward?

Clint: Two come to mind. One would be my job as Art Director for Source Interlink Media (designing numerous International titles such as Import Tuner, Turbo, Honda Tuning, Lowrider, Sport Compact Car, etc.), which placed me around tons of creative people in Los Angeles. And the second would be moving on from that job and pursuing my own interests.

I felt I had garnered enough experience to be self-sufficient. Those first few weeks not working from 9-5 was pure creative freedom, and during those first few months I massively changed my portfolio.

Reuben: From a former Art Director’s perspective, what do you look for when you work with photographers and models?

Clint: For photographers, a unique look, AND being consistent with that look.

I see too many photographers combining weddings, cars, glamour and landscapes all into one portfolio. If you’re good, and you KNOW you’re good, keep bugging those Art Directors and Photo Editors to get work.

Of course be sure you’re barking up the right tree. I doubt a motorcycle magazine would hire somebody with a portfolio full of flowers.

Models? The best advice I can give is be real with yourself. The definition of beauty is subjective. There is a role for every body type, color and attitude out there. A common mistake is having a portfolio full of images that are Photoshoped so extensively they look fake. Any real professional in the position of hiring models can see straight through that curtain.

“If you’re good, and you KNOW you’re good, keep bugging those Art Directors and Photo Editors to get work.”

Reuben: Do you have any advice for up and coming photographers and models?

Clint: Don’t get comfortable. Keep learning. If your body is aching because you’ve been up late the night before and you’re being pushed for a deadline, good. Work hard while you’re young(er) and have the energy.

Reuben: Do you still use your “Photo Box Campaign”?

Clint: I haven’t sent out any new boxes, the response was well received, especially among fellow photographers. I halfway wanted to prove that there are inexpensive ways to get the word out.

Reuben: How did you choose who to send the boxes to and what were the strategic business reasons behind that? Why did you set things up that way and what emotion/reaction/response were you looking for?

Clint: I chose to send the boxes to magazine photo editors, college media directors and ad agencies. Of course I wanted them to be blown away, and be compelled to contact me. Considering the low number sent out, and the feedback received, the results were very satisfactory.

“Copying an idea verbatim is very bad taste, put your own spin on any work you do.”

Reuben: What advice do you have for someone who wants to replicate the concept and make it their own?

Clint: I got the idea of the box from Casey Templeton’s mailer. Copying an idea verbatim is very bad taste, put your own spin on any work you do.

Reuben: For local companies, did you bring in your portfolio instead?

Clint: Yes, I have my own printed portfolio to showcase for an in-person interview. After all, if I’m meeting in person they’ve probably already seen my work on the computer screen. Showing big, high resolution prints in person proves the images are high resolution. Maybe I’m old fashioned but there is just something special about holding a printed image as opposed to viewing on a computer screen. A printed image OWNS that particular page; however millions upon millions of images appear on a screen.

Reuben: What photos make up a good portfolio and its presentation?

Clint: That’s all relative upon who you are presenting to. But for broad advice: You want to have a lot of variety of a consistent style. If one image is HDR, another is natural lighting, and the next high key, the interviewer is going to think he’s viewing someone with multiple personalities, and they don’t want that. Interviewers hire you for the look you bring to the table. Very rarely, if ever, will they request a style different from what you display within your portfolio.

Reuben: How did you learn compositing?

Clint: Through a progression of things. I had a job where I basically was a pen clipping monkey for a motorcycle magazine. Ever clip out a motorcycle with a pen tool? Yeah, takes damn forever. That made me quick with the tool. Then I started working for Import Tuner, who had the best car covers in the business, as far as I’m concerned. The pressure was on to make beautiful covers that usually consisted of a picture of a model, a car and a background, and the Editor says “put them together”. Covers typically took 3-4 days to make them just right.

“One of the most overlooked rules of compositing is matching the direction of light.”

Reuben: Who do you look up to for their compositing work?

Clint: Jim Fiscus, Nick Saglimbeni, Michael Muller, Dave Hill, Jeff Ludes, Rian Flynn, Douglas Sonders. A long merited list.

Reuben: What are some touch points and/or criteria you have when assessing the quality of a composited work?

Clint: One of the most overlooked rules of compositing is matching the direction of light. Second would be the quality of the cut out objects, and third I look at the consistency of color. Keep a close eye on those, and you should have a convincing composite.

Reuben: Why did you decide to make a compositing video series?

Clint: Basically Nick Saglimbeni, author of Mastering Retouching, asked me to do it, and I jumped on it. Nick’s a very respectable and acclaimed Photoshop user, so the answer was easy.

“Second would be the quality of the cut out objects, and third I look at the consistency of color.”

Reuben: What will people learn from it?

Clint: I literally take the viewer from start to finish on all of the composited images. As far as I know I’ve never seen that offered on other tutorials… well, with images as complex as the ones in the series. Each tutorial is one take of recording, just sped up in certain areas. That was a nerve-racking task. And before all of that I intensively go over the main tools on the first disc.

Reuben: So, what’s next? How do you keep learning and growing both as a compositor and photographer?

Clint: Like I said before, never get comfortable… unless you’re on vacation, then it’s acceptable. That, and practice, and seek out inspiration, a lot.

Clint was generous enough to offer $50 off his Master Compositing videos to Model Mayhem Edu readers. Use the promo code CLINTREF50 to get you discount at


I am Reuben. I take pretty pictures of pretty people for Glamtography. Please do not ask me to shoot nude or implied--I always wear clothes when I shoot ;)

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