Boudoir photo shoots are kind of a new thing for the general public.
Throughout the past, models and actresses were the only ones you’d see posed intimately in a professional photography setting. The model and actress life, in and of itself, is a pretty mystifying idea.
I feel like when ordinary, every day, non-actress, non-model girls think of boudoir photo shoot sessions; they ask similar questions. Who is this person, posed and photographed like this, and why is she important?
Did she get hooked up with a session like this, or did she seek it out herself? What is happening during a boudoir photo shoot session?
There are so many questions. Just a few weeks ago, I was photographing a woman in her 50s who broke down right before her session was about to begin. She said to me, “Who am I to be doing something like this? What gives me the right to be here? What am I, crazy?” It opened my eyes. For a moment, I panicked. For a moment, I thought she had a point. All of my clients' testimonials reminded me about why I do what I do, and then I recentered and replied, “Because every woman deserves to feel beautiful and own a beautiful portrait of herself.” And she smiled the most fantastic smile of relief, nodded her head, and we began our session.
I’m here to assure you that a boudoir is not just for fancy or well-known women. I photograph everyday women. Everyone between 9-5ers and entrepreneurs. The college grad and grandmothers. There are bachelorettes, brides, and 10-year-anniversary celebrators. I photograph the thin ones and the curvier ones, and everyone brings something different to the table. I LOVE what I do, and I’m here to demystify it for you. Hear me out.
We have fun. We get hair and makeup done, we chat and become acquainted or catch up on old times, we dress up and dress down, and we make it one heck of an experience for everyone involved. And by we, I mean me, my client, and a makeup artist. I don’t have a team; it’s just me. No one is running around with a clipboard, and no one else is fixing lights for me. Clients get to have fun and feel beautiful, and I do all the technical stuff.
Once the makeup artist is done, it’s just my client and me, and we get right down to business. And by business, I mean oo-ing and ah-ing over beautiful lingerie, checking over our inspiration/mood boards, and going over posing pointers and what she can expect to hear me say during our session. Simple as that.
When does the Boudoir Experience start?
The boudoir photo shoot experience starts at the first inquiry. After we get to chat for a bit and nail down some basic info, I send a more detailed questionnaire. The questionnaire gives everyone a chance to start thinking about how we want to run our session. Is she going for a dark and moody look, or a light and airy look? Are we keeping it casual with natural light and cotton pieces, or are we glamming it up with sequins and fancy lighting? I would say that if you checked out my work on my website or Instagram, you’d agree I have a pretty consistent style of lighting and shooting. But curveballs are my jam. I love new locations and different ideas from clients. I also love it when they say, “You’re the expert, I trust you!” because that leaves me open to exploring the ideas that are always jumping around in my head.
I've been a photographer for a long time, and even before that, as a teenager, I assisted my parents, who are also Master Photographers and international print competition judges. I’ve photographed weddings, events, family portraits, newborns, seniors, and everything in-between. I can quickly adapt, and I think that’s what makes it all so exciting for me and reassuring for my clients. Once the questionnaire comes back, and we talk it over, we discuss possible boudoir photo shoot dates.
Once we have an appointment, we lock it in with a retainer and continue planning. We research what’s already been done and share inspirational photos using a mood board on Pinterest or email photos and links back and forth. I want to make sure I’m making her vision come to life, so getting on the same page ahead of time is essential. And if she doesn’t have an idea, that’s fine too. We’re going to make some beautiful photographs together whichever way it goes down. I provide her a few of my blog posts that talk about, Preparing for a Boudoir session. There is also a lingerie guide to shop from or at least help her decide on her ideal style. I also let her know how to prep herself the actual morning of the session.
The morning of the boudoir session, my makeup artist and I will meet her at our shoot location. The studio is the other location where it's going down! We’ll look over the outfits she brought so we can get a good idea of how we want her hair styled, as well as her makeup, and then the makeup artist will get right to it. I know that some photographers provide champagne or other alcoholic refreshments for the makeup chair, but I don’t. I don’t feel that it’s necessary, and drinking can also make someone’s face and eyes look more tired than awake. I want my clients to look and feel their best throughout the session, and I prefer to use conversation to lighten the air instead of alcohol or other substances. If she insists on bringing some, I let her know all the things I feel, and if she still wants to, then hey, that’s fine with me!
Once we get done with makeup, we thank our makeup artist and send her on her way. I’ve only had one or two clients insist on paying a makeup artist to stay throughout the session, and it’s so great to have the help! And while I’d love to have that more often, it’s not the norm. From there, we decide which outfit we’ll start with first. We usually begin more covered-up to ease into the whole shoot process and end up with the least clothed option.
You might not think so by looking at my photos, but every person I photograph comes in nervous. They’ve likely never done something like this before, and like you, they aren’t sure what to expect. They could read all of my blog posts and get the low down over and over again, but they’ll still be nervous until a certain point after the shoot begins. In my experience, starting with a beauty shot or two and letting the nerves go slowly is the best way to ease into this type of session.
Twenty minutes in, they’ve heard all of my posing directions, and they start to do the things themselves! When I start seeing the chin lift, the eyes and lips relax, and the wrist twist, I know I’ve gotten them to a more relaxed place, and that’s when the fun starts. She’s become more confident in her movements, and now she can focus more on letting loose and giving more of herself to the camera. I know some photographers do, but I don’t adhere to a strict posing flow. I believe that every client moves differently, and not every pose works for everyone. I especially don’t want to ask her to get into a position she can’t and end up sending her into a self-conscious downward spiral.
From the moment she walks in for hair and makeup, I start to observe her movements and nuances and keep a mental note of those during the session. Flow posing is also for high volume photographers, and I’m not pumping out multiple boudoir sessions in a day. Ideally, I photograph one girl and then have her back the same day for an in-person viewing and ordering session.
Typically hair and makeup start about 10 am and run for about 60-90 minutes. By 11 am, or 11:30 am, we start shooting and finish around 1 or 1:30. The client will leave the studio and grab lunch while I load up the images and get them ready for her to view the photographs.
About 60 to 90 minutes later, she’ll come back and start narrowing the photos down to her favorites. Once we have them down to a good variety with some similar poses, I’ll help her narrow them down even more by comparing similar images. When we reach a standstill, we’ll look through sample albums and decide which build is the best option for the images she’s keeping. I do my best to keep my offerings elegant and straightforward so that decisions are effortless. Once assembled, she can opt to add in a companion album, the digital files, a superimposed handwritten note into the album, or any prints and wall enlargements. At that point, she’d pay the balance due, or we’d come up with a payment schedule. Her final products would then be delivered straight to her doorstep!
I’m asked very often if I provide digitals instead of an album or prints, or if they can view and order from home. The answer to those questions is less simple than you’d think. I mentioned earlier about my parents being Master photographers and how I learned photography through assisting them. I’ve also watched the industry evolve from film and prints to digital cameras and download galleries.
Because of my experience, I’ve intentionally designed my studio based on offering a full-service photography experience. A large part of what I do includes guiding clients from start to finish, and that is something that will never change. I could easily be one of those low maintenance, shoot & burn, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am photographers who charge next to nothing for a next-to-nothing-experience, but I never will be. I work with busy people, and there’s nothing like helping an active person check a big thing off their list.
They may insist and be very capable of putting an album together or having some files printed, but they’re likely to go to CVS or Snapfish. That just doesn’t cut it for me. There’s nothing worse than seeing your photos printed and poorly displayed. Most clients wouldn’t even know how bad it is until they see it next to the products and prints I offer. This is my area of expertise. I build time into the process so that they can spend one hour, with my guidance, to finish their order instead of taking a whole week, pushing it off to the last minute, and sitting behind a computer by themselves to make hard decisions that are easily made with my help. Not to mention arguing with their spouse about the importance of money spent on keepsakes rather than takeout four nights per week.
On the other hand, I’ve had clients grossly overspend because they were overwhelmed, pinched for time, and too afraid to let anything go.
This is why I’m here. I have the answers you’re looking for and an eye for what makes one photo more of a keeper than another. I’m here to provide you with quality, well-printed images you can be proud of. And digitals overprints? I rarely agree to this, but you can have sharing-sized images for viewing and social media for every print or album image you order with the option of ordering high res downloads. But not without tangible photographs to go with it. Why? Because print matters. Because the internet’s going to go down one day, your hard drive will eventually crash, or The Handmaid’s Tale could happen IRL, and everything in your life could disappear. And I’m sorry, but an image on a screen does not give you the same nostalgic feeling as a beautifully printed photo in your hands. You cannot display an image you love from your monitor so that you can see and enjoy it every day. I’ll always offer digitals because that’s just the age we’re in, but not without some printed version of it first. Okay, I think I just went off on a tangent, but print is something that means a lot to me.
In the case of Boudoir, specifically, I believe that these types of images belong in an album. They’re not exactly the kind of photos you’d go framing and displaying around your home. Generally, we like to keep these babies tucked away for enjoying in private, especially if there are kids at home. In 2020, you can expect to see lockable print boxes added to my list of offerings as well as albums. Beautiful little glass boxes holding your favorites images, printed on the best of the best paper. So exciting!
So now that you’ve heard about what a Boudoir experience with La Femme Boudoir would be like, what do you think? Does it sound less unattainable than you once thought? What object could mean more to you than the most beautiful photograph of yourself? And what other types of experience could bring you this kind of self-awareness and confidence?
One of my recent clients posted this poem as the caption to one of the photos from her session. It made more of an impact on me than I could have imagined, and spurred me to book my boudoir session. I think you’ll like it too, so I’ll leave this right here.
“The girl I used to be
Was never good for me
But she taught me how
To be who I am now,
So even though I left her
In the life I once had,
I still need to thank her
For walking me to
Where I am now.
Thank you for the lessons.