Every year, for our anniversary, I’ve made it my personal mission to make sure that Walt and I get professional photos taken of ourselves. Our first anniversary, we couldn’t afford a photographer, so I took a few with a tripod and a remote. (They weren’t that great.) Year two, we hired Nessa K (our wedding photographer) and it was an amazing experience. Year three, we hired Brittany Esther who flew in from Canada, and that was also wonderful. Walt does not like having his photo taken, but because I insist on it, and because I don’t ask for anything else — no jewelry, no baubles, no fancy dinners, no cards — he obliges. This year, I thought we’d do something a little different; give him a little reprieve. I thought it would be fun to have just my photo taken and given to him as a gift. He would reap all the rewards of the photos without having to sit through them!
And so the idea of my boudoir session was born. I’d always wanted to have a boudoir session done; the seed has been growing ever since I discovered that women hired boudoir photographers for pre-wedding sessions to gift to their spouses after their big day. The idea had been brewing for a long time, and only until this year did all the pieces come together:
- I signed up for a one-day “workshop” in New York, sort of spontaneously, for September (our anniversary is in October)
- One of my friends had an apartment in SoHo that would be the perfect spot for a session
- I know a lot of NY/NJ photographers and was able to hire one that I trusted to see me declothed
While having professional photos of our relationship is a good enough reason to have an anniversary session every year, I also like to do this because I hunt for a new photographer every time. There is so much talent in this world — heck, even in this city — that I want us to be photographed by as many of them as possible. I have a wish list the length of my arm! And because I haven’t been shot by them before, it’s always a learning experience to talk to them as a client would, to actually shop like a client would, and to experience being on the other side of a lens like a client would.
That is why I do it: for photos, and also to remember what it feels like to be the client. The jitteriness! The anticipation! Picking out the outfit, choosing the right lip color. Perusing pin boards for hair inspiration. The build-up! Making a connection with the photographer; how does she make me feel more comfortable? It’s a big learning experience.
As a photographer, it is easy to forget that potential clients have such a huge variety to choose from. So here’s what I learned as I prepared for, and then received photos from, my boudoir session…
1. I hired a photographer I liked and trusted, and whose work I liked and trusted.
Before I got my session done, I asked some of my photographer friends who shot boudoir in New York. I listened to all of their suggestions and looked at their work, but nothing really caught my attention. Then I saw my New Jersey photographer friends’ fitness portfolio. It’s strange that their fitness photos made me want to hire them for boudoir photos, but I’ve always liked the way this photography duo saw and lit things, and so I asked if they would be interested in shooting boudoir. Luckily, they said yes.
I was never interested in the typical brightly-lit, happy-sultry photos that look like they’ve come out of Victoria’s Secret magazines. I was interested in more fine-art, slightly moody shots that I knew that these photographers could do. So the session became a hybrid: half bright, pretty photos for Walt, and half moody portraits for me.
2. Pinterest is not all that bad.
There are so many people making a ruckus about how Pinterest is ruining photography. People “pin” inspiration images of wedding moments, poses, projects, etc. It’s one thing if a client wants every single image on a pin board to be replicated for their wedding, but if it’s a general collection of ideas, inspiration, or suggestions, I fail to see the problem with that.
I remember being really intimidated when a client would hire me and then I’d discover their pin board of their engagement session or their wedding inspiration, and they were all moments shot by the greats like Ryan Brenizer or Jonas Peterson. I’m neither of those guys and my work is my work. But after shooting the session or wedding, they’d always be happy. They understood that their pin boards were just of pretty things that they liked and not necessarily a storyboard of what they wanted their wedding to look or feel like.
I started pinning boudoir stuff to a pin board for ideas of what I’d want to wear. Then I noticed a few poses I liked and a few poses that I did not like (the shot of the elastic on the underwear waistband pulled against a stiletto is so not what I’m into), so I pinned some of the poses that pleased me. Then I noticed the kind of light and shadow interplay that I liked over the bright, white, evenly-lit boudoir photos that look like underwear ads, so I pinned those too. In no way was I thinking, “I want everything that is happening here,” “This is a must-have when I get my session done,” or “I need to replicate this!” It was more of a way to get my own creative juices flowing.
3. Creative photos are awesome, but if I don’t feel pretty in them I won’t print them.
In New York, I was enthralled to find real bagels at every corner shop. By the time my session happened, I had some carb bloat. The photographers took some beautifully composed and lit photos, but I didn’t feel pretty in a few of them because I felt that I had bagel tummy in them. Even though I’m a relatively fit and attractive person, I was self-conscious about this. It’s nothing that they did wrong — it’s just a hang-up I had about myself. I gave me more insight into the client’s thought process: when I’m photographing a person — no matter how gorgeous I think they are, or how stunning they are in person — I try to put myself in their shoes. Will they like this photo because it’s awesome-looking? Or will they like it because their joy is genuine and they look good?
Sometimes I see absolutely stunning technical photos, but the subjects look strained or look awkwardly posed. I’ve had clients veto the pretty, perfect shot that I’ve suggested as cover photo for their wedding album in favor of an oddly-lit, slightly blurry moment that shows more emotion or realness, and I totally get it. People want to look like the best version of themselves.
. . .
This is a personal post on a business blog, wherein I try to share some of the topics that run through my mind when I’m interacting with clients. So obviously, due to the nature of the photos, I won’t be sharing the link to the photographers’ website here. I will share two of my favorite (non-racy) photos. Thank you for reading, and for understanding :)