boudoir (/ˈbuːdwɑːr/; French: [bu.dwaʁ]) is a woman's private sitting room or salon in a furnished accommodation usually between the dining room and the bedroom, but can also refer to a woman's private bedroom. The term derives from the French verb bouder to sulk or pout, or boudeur sulk or sulking, and originally was a room for sulking in, to put away or withdraw to.
Yes, a literal definition of the world boudoir. It's a lady's bedroom. Or a sulking woman. This blog post is about photographing a woman sulking in her bedroom. Thanks for listening folks, goodnight.
Just kidding. Well, sorta.
Boudoir photography, in its most basic definition and form, is somewhat intimate, personal photographs that an individual (usually but not always a female) has created to give to a significant other as a gift of sorts. Boudoir has become a bit of a niche genre that is marketed to brides-to-be that want to give their groom a special sexy present before their wedding night. Well, this is from my hours of researching people who shoot boudoir, so it's not exactly scientific, but it usually goes like this. It's called boudoir photography because it is usually set in the bedroom of the woman a photographer is shooting. Now I am not going to play with pronouns too much while writing this blog but I'll be clear that it's mostly marketed towards people that identify as female. There are guys who request boudoir, but honestly it's been lambasted as tongue and cheek and silly. I have yet to receive a boudoir inquiry from a guy that feels confident in his sexuality and body. Please guys, give me a call. It almost sounds as if I'm asking for a date there. I'm not. I just love to have variations in my clients.
Let's build some universal truths as to what I feel boudoir should be. Let's take the significant other out of the equation. I get it, it's a great gift, and I've totally marketed it that way in the past. Yes, your significant other would probably love to see you in various states of undress, well lit and beautiful, but let's talk about you.
I don't want to make the blanket statement that posing in the buff or near buff is the most empowering thing someone can do. It's not. There are many forms of empowering actions. I feel like this happens to just be one of them. Again, we are focused on the self at the moment. A boudoir session doesn't have to be for anyone but yourself. There's something primal, slightly narcissistic (I say that in the best way possible, even though I don't believe in healthy narcissism but that's another story for another therapy couch) and possibly emboldening about displaying the human form. I'm kicking myself as I type this because I had a pretty good statement that was something to the effect of:
Everyone has a little bit of self appreciation in their rear view mirror. Everyone. And it's okay from time to time to look back at it and make sure it's still there. When we look good, we feel good. Like right now, I look like a disheveled mess that lost four paragraphs of this blog to the internet gods. I don't feel the best. But when I've taken care of myself, eaten healthily, brushed my hair, I feel better. Especially with my body.
Anyway, maybe you've gotten your body to a point you feel proud of. Maybe you have overcome a difficult experience in life and want to show off. Maybe you just love yourself and want to embrace the beautiful perfect and imperfect sides of you. And yes, maybe you have a significant other that wants to see a more primal, sensual part of you through photographs.
It's okay to love the way you look, to get more in tune with how you feel. It's our job as a creative and photographer to help you with that image. Boudoir isn't the vision of the photographer. It's your vision on how you can see yourself in a flattering way. We just help with that vision. So if people are showing up to photograph you with the intent of institutionally contrived sex appeal, they really aren't giving you a service. They are taking your picture. Which is pretty self-centered.
I firmly believe shoots like this are successful with a couple key ingredients :
1) Trust and comfort:
You're trusting someone else to portray you in an intimate fashion. Your comfort follows. Not just your comfort with me, comfort with yourself. Boudoir clients who can become an actor, or play a part, or go to a special place in their heads, often have the most successful shoots. This has absolutely nothing to do with posing, too. My poses aren't going to make you look better. Your attitude is going to define that. I get to know my clients on a more human level. I want to know their comforts, their fears, their funny stories, their sad stories, their favorite music, their favorite candy bar. When they talk about these things, you can see their eyes light up and it's amazing.
What I find most important to bring into a session is humor; humor more than anything.
If you don't know this about me, I spent a good deal of my entire adult life working in mental health. I worked with very sick individuals. They didn't have many great moments in their life thus far to subscribe to, so I actively participated in trying to find something that would make them laugh. Coping skills for the mentally ill and coping skills for the non-mentally ill are pretty much the same. Humor is a pretty great equalizer. Countless studies show that when you are laughing, your heart rate lowers, as does your blood pressure, and your brain and body create all those lovely neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine to make you feel a whole lot better. In boudoir sessions, this is a must! You're more likely to be yourself or someone else if you're rolling on the floor laughing between takes.
2) Hair and makeup: “I can do the makeup myself” I’ve heard that one before and I simply have to disagree with that when considering boudoir. You are investing in a pampered experience. Do not give yourself more headaches by rushing to do that yourself. You’re great at makeup you say? I believe you completely but even makeup artists love getting their face done from time to time. I firmly believe makeup and hair is as important as the photography itself. This is why all my packages include it. Why? It’s transformative and enhancing. A licensed cosmetologist or esthetician can help you see certain qualities you have but aren’t familiar with. If you want to take the route of transformation they will be able to help you realize this new persona. I’ve never had a client that was regretful that they had someone pampering them before the shoot. That is also a big portion of boudoir, pampering. You’re letting someone else take care of you. Isn’t that the point? “I can do my makeup myself
3) Wardrobe, everyone needs assistance.
I always want you to feel like you're in control of the situation. You're dictating the world, I'm just helping you walk through it. This is why it's so important we discuss wardrobe before the shoot. I don't want people going out and buying things they aren't used to wearing. Nor does the session have to be about specific clothing. Sometimes it's not even about clothing! (Ha ha ha, get it, boudoir, not about clothing.) Let’s face it there is a lot of lingerie out there. It’s complicated. What you grab off of amazon or Victoria’s Secret has to flatter you. I’ve had sessions where people go out and purchase something that “looks sexy” but in reality isn’t very flattering to their body type or personality. The more confident you feel in your undergarments the more confidence you will have in your images. This is vastly important. Don’t select these alone.
It has to be about attitude. Your attitude. I cater to the mood with music that you've picked. (It makes me talk less, which is a good thing. You’ve made it this far, you can see I'm a talker. I'll never tell anyone to act a certain way. I shutter at the thought (not a spelling error, a pun!) of saying "act sexy."
A) That's inappropriate.
B) That's a perfect way to be awkward and do the opposite.
I want people to go to places they find happy in their mind. Think about times in your life that you felt totally free and happy. Maybe it’s with someone? Maybe it’s with yourself? Maybe that moment hasn’t happened yet but it’s a fantasy you have. This is the space to explore those feelings. They all show up on your facial expressions. Your mindset can be the sexiest part of a photo shoot like this. Now I find that empowering. It’s your fantasy, I’m only there to guide and document.
I decided to revisit this concept after a boudoir marathon weekend we held a week ago. Why? Boudoir isn’t that common. Not many photographers do it correctly and there is a general misunderstanding as to what it actually is. I loved each and every one of my clients and it’s also a reminder to teach me how to flatter all body types. I can’t say this enough, all body types are beautiful. I want people to be proud of themselves and knowing that I got them there is a wonderful feeling. If you follow this formula with some easy puzzle pieces I can assure you that you will have images you will have forever. You’ll look back on them years from now and be proud. I really think that’s something worth investing in.
If this has peaked your interest or you would like to know more about the boudoir packages I have available, please click on booking on my website’s menu. I would be happy to answer all your questions.