Chances are you’ve heard of boudoir photography— a photo session that highlights sexiness and intimacy and one that often results in a creative, sassy gift for a significant other. One of the most popular occasions for this type of gift is a pre-wedding or honeymoon present, but these sessions also give a woman a chance to celebrate herself.
“As women we tend to focus on our physical flaws,” says Vancouver boudoir photographer Kelsey Goodwin. “A photographer sees you differently and puts you in a light and angle that highlights your assets and gives you a chance to appreciate yourself.” Goodwin says the biggest reason women hesitate before doing a boudoir shoot is that they think they won’t know how to pose or look sexy in front of the camera. “It’s natural to feel anxious when you’ve never modeled before, but the truth is, as long as you’re relaxed and having fun, you’re going to look great,” she explains. “Some women are concerned because they’re older or heavier, but honestly, everyone feels sexy after a shoot like this. You’ll be surprised how comfortable you’ll feel and how much fun it actually is.”
Vancouver newlywed Tracy Smith had a recent boudoir shoot, and says the hardest part of the experience was picking her top 10 images for printing. “It was so much fun to have your hair and makeup done, get dressed up in something intimate and have some photos taken,” she enthuses. “It really is a liberating feeling to have so much attention focused on you, and I admit I loved being in the spot light.”
Nadine Trinh also booked a boudoir photo shoot before her recent wedding, prompted by its promise of empowerment. “To me it was a way to celebrate being a girl, to be portrayed as ultra-feminine yet bold, confident and alluring,” she says. “It gave me a moment to enjoy myself. And who doesn’t want their grandchildren to one day realize that their granny was one hot gal?”
Trinh googled random boudoir images online and selected Goodwin for her edgy style and tasteful, creative photographs. “My criteria were that the photographer should have an impressive portfolio and a creative eye, as well as the ability to capture candid, natural expressions,” she says. “When I happened upon Kelsey’s website, I couldn’t wait to get in touch with her.”
The Internet is an excellent tool to familiarize yourself with the particular style of a boudoir photographer. “Select a shooter with the amount of experience that you are comfortable with,” says Gina Chong from Butter Studios. “Also, ensure you are familiar with their work and style so that when you receive your photos, there are no surprises in terms of the posingand the lighting that the photographer favours.”
Word of mouth is another powerful tool when it comes to sourcing a good shooter, adds Ellen Ho from Hong Photography Studio. “Ask around for recommendations from people you know and trust, because it’s important that you feel comfortable with the photographer doing the shoot,” she says. Ho sends boudoir subjects an email to help them prepare for the shoot, with a message encouraging clients to get pampered beforehand and purchase some new lingerie. “That way, when they come into the shoot they feel good about themselves,” she explains.
For Trinh, the shoot was even more fun than she had anticipated. “Kelsey provided excellent direction and I didn’t really have to think too hard,” she says. “I felt relaxed and confident throughout the session, and even though I felt a bit silly at times, Kelsey reassured me that I actually looked great and she was right!”
Making the experience fun and relaxed is part of the shooter’s job, says Gina Chong. Butter Studios has a special section designed specifically for boudoir photography and it helps to set the mood. “They may be a bit shy at first but after the first couple of poses, my clients start feeling comfortable and begin striking poses automatically,” she says.
Newlywed Tracy Smith’s shoot was done in her home, something that certainly made her more relaxed and comfortable, she concedes. A glass of wine ahead of time didn’t hurt either, she says. “My photographer made me feel like I was a brilliant, sexy, flirtatious model—and it shows in the shots. The photos turned out amazing; I may even frame a couple for our bedroom.”
Her fiancé was “blown away” when she presented the images to him, Smith says. “He loved them, and said they look like photos right out of a magazine. I took a couple of me in Canucks jersey and he thought those were the hottest ones. think what he likes most about them is how much I opened up in the shots.”
Trinh says other brides considering a boudoir shoot should go ahead and do it. “Not only is the experience memorable but it makes a great, personal wedding gift to your fiancé. The photos are a keepsake and a constant reminder of your inner foxy self,” she says. “Don’t think too hard about it and don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the process and just laugh at yourself when you need to ease your nerves. I learnt that I enjoyed my images as much as my now-husband!”
Price & Time: Boudoir shoots typically take an hour and start around $250, going up to $500 and even $900 depending on the package selected. Some packages include options like hair and makeup styling, a hotel room or loft setting and photograph albums.
Banish the Bulge: It’s important to have a conversation with your shooter about how much editing you want, says Chong. “If you prefer a more natural approach then it is important to set that expectation earlier than later.” Goodwin uses Photoshop to edit the images of other women as she would edit her own. “I’m conscious of small bulges and skin retouching but I don’t edit anything major because I like to preserve your natural beauty,” she says.
What to Wear: Wear anything that makes you feel sexy or confident. Corsets, garters, swimsuits, funky lingerie, pearls and heels are popular. If your significant other is a chef, consider donning an apron. If he’s musical, bring along his guitar as a potential prop. Some studios offer clients a variety of props and jewelry such as hats, veils, headbands, gloves, boas, shoes and lollipops.
Don’t Judge: yourself, that is. Poses that might seem silly, exaggerated or outlandish at the time of the shoot may well surprise you when you see the photographs. Trust your photographer, relax and have fun with the experience. “My boudoir shoot helped remind me that I am beautiful and that I need to give myself a break on the little insecurities I have about my body,” Smith says. “It can be a real confidence boost, so if you’re going to do it, have fun with it and treasure just how beautiful you really are!”
Gina Chong Vancouver based Gina brings over 10 years of professional experience to her boudoir photography.
Kelsey Goodwin Influenced by fashion and fine art, Kelsey specializes in boudoir and is based out of Victoria, BC.
Ellen Ho Ellen hosts boudoir sessions from her French Couture loft or from the comfort of your home.