The Male Perspective for Boudoir Photography

The Male Perspective for Boudoir Photography

Being a female boudoir photographer for many years, I may take some things for granted with my clients. There is not a shoot where a client doesn't ask me to assist in attaching a garter belt to her stockings. So, I am literally kneeing on the floor, with a woman's bum close to my face. We laugh the whole time, but in all seriousness, I sat back and wondered one day if I were a man, would this be any different?

Seeking Answers

I turned to my good friend and boudoir photographer, Shawn Black, of Couture Black, to give me some input on being a man in a typically woman-dominated genre. (I said typically; don't go off the deep end with comments there!)

He wrote that in the boudoir business, a man is perceived one of three ways.

  1. By a male that is not a boudoir photographer and always begins with the question: “Oh, do you need an assistant?” They don’t think we work and all we do is shoot half-naked women all the time. 
  2. By women who either don’t know much about myself or my brand as a whole and react with “Oh I could never be shot by a male photographer; that is just weird."
  3.  And the last (best) group is by my clients who absolutely love my work and are the biggest evangelists of myself and my brand.

As a female photographer, we get a lot of "can I be your assistant?" By the way, a little tip for anyone who is a habitual offender of this: it is not original, so please stop asking. However, I did realize that I never had to worry about a woman not wanting to shoot with me simply because of my gender. It was not something I thought of before.

He noted that it was difficult to overcome some of the obstacles presented to a male photographer in a female-dominated industry. Shawn was a well-established wedding photographer prior to being a boudoir shooter, whose brides were more than happy to help when it came time to build his portfolio. Starting off in the wedding industry has given him a great level of respect from his already booked clientele. The trust they put into him for their big day does not fade away and allows them to work together on a boudoir session.

Without starting from my wedding business, I cannot begin to fathom that initial hurdle of building a brand from scratch. Initially, this was the focus of my business, but once I shot my first non-bridal client, my focus and perspective changed as I had my eyes opened to the greater world of female body confidence issues. These non-bridal session were for the women themselves, whereas my bridal clients focus was on creating beautiful images to be given as a gift.  Not dealing with many of these issues myself as a man, it was eye-opening and made me really start to delve into how to create an experience that leaves each woman with a different view of herself.  So, I find myself doing a lot more research and asking more questions so I am sensitive to their concerns about their body.

Challenges Faced

Some of the other challenges that he faces is the need for more staff. He felt that even if he could do hair and makeup, which he cannot, he would still need female assistants in the room purely to cover himself against any possible legal situations. He admits that as his business grows and the brand's reputation has spread, it has become easier with far fewer obstacles than he had in the past. There will always be hindrances as a male that cannot be directly overcome. 

The ability to attend women-only networking groups whose memberships very often are comprised of my key demographic I can only tap into by sending members of my glam team, who are awesome, but can’t speak to the work with the passion that I have for it.

Success Rate Is Not Gender Specific

I did some digging and research to see what the consensus was on the idea of a male boudoir photographer's success rate over (or under) his female competition. It was noted in several outlets that some women actually prefer a male over a female photographer for one reason: a male can shoot edgier sessions. What was a photographer's perspective compared to the client's? I was intrigued to know how Shawn felt about this statement.

A little of it may be the male/female aspect, but I feel that is more of the individual photographer's style. I've seen many female photographers shoot edgier and more provocative images and males whose entire portfolios are soft and airy.

However, my hypothesis held true on the success rate depending on gender. It was irrelevant. If the photographer is professional, respectful, and can put out images that cause a client to change her tune about her body image (for the positive), then the gender behind the camera loses its value. The artist's work is not diminished in value simply because of their gender. 

Easing the Comfort Zone

Ultimately, the majority of clientele are nervous shooting a boudoir session for the first time. They are doing something outside of their comfort zone and sometimes baring it all in front of the camera, regardless of who is behind it, female or male. As the session progresses, those nerves fade away. They let go of who is behind the camera and focus on how amazing they feel in front of it.

By the time they see their images at the reveal, they are your biggest supporter, and that is because you are not a female photographer, not a male photographer, but a professional photographer that created beautiful images they are proud of and showed them exactly what they never thought they could look like.

To see more of Black's work, check out his site, Facebook page, and Instagram.

All images used with permission of Shawn Black.

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15 Comments

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

Revised it to make sure I was clear on what was meant by my thoughts. I was not saying it was creepy--it was about how would a client feel if this was a male shooter. I was curious That is why I went to check it out from another perspective.

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

It was only to help make sure everyone understood. This was about Shawn and being featured:)

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

I changed the word creepy because I agreed it was not the best choice of words. I am sure people can plainly see this entire string of comments and understand.
This article is suppose to be about Shawn's amazing work- so lets let him have the moment.

That is exactly what happened to me. I never read the word creepy and was asking my self why is Pete talking about. I thought you were talking about a book or somebody else comments
Good Point!!

Jennifer Tallerico's picture

And to your revised statement--That was the point of the article! To show that many women do NOT feel this way.

Anonymous's picture

"I prefer a female doctor because I don't want a male doctor fondling my testicles. " - really guy? you're sexualizing that? I think that's your problem.

"Some might see that as being homophobic.. Oh well." - no, i see it as you sexualizing doctors and masseuses.

"Lighten up ladies, not all men are trying to get their rocks off or are rapists, nor is a woman's body being admired a bad thing. These are the kind of attitudes that put men in their graves long before women." - then why do you want only a woman doctor and masseuse if it's not sexual for you?

Timothy Daniel's picture

Great article Jennifer, it's nice to hear this from a female and male perspective that isn't my wife, and the little voice in my head. I think trust is more important then the gender/orientation of the photographer ...

Mark Niebauer's picture

As a male who has done female boudoir, I find for myself, you must create a comfortable relationship with the model first. This should be done before the shoot. Party with them, get to know them weeks before the shoot. Build trust first and never violate that trust.

Shawn Black's picture

Jen thank you so much for coming to me as your male perspective for this article. I love how the final piece came out and I hope it give male and female shooters a little better perspective about being a photographer in this genre.

Mike S.'s picture

This is a great topic, JT! I've given it quite a bit of thought myself and put together a blog post that you can read if you wish: http://www.beyondboudoirphoto.com/blog/2014/9/male-or-female-photographer
It might add a somewhat different perspective to the discussion, as I work outside the mainstream of the commercial boudoir trade.

Dave McDermott's picture

I often get asked about the assistant thing. They don't realise the amount of work involved in a shoot of any sort, let alone boudoir.

Oh my typos of my giant fingers on this tiny phone. I hope my point is illustrated in favor of our male pros, which Jennifer is too.

Good evening FStoppers

Those who actually shoot boudoir, we know that clients have anxieties and misconceptions about what a session *might* be like before it even starts. Male or female pro!

The gender issue, as Jennifer points out, is not necessarily warranted at All, but fragments of a nervous imagination. Also, ideas proliferated by haters who shame women who are shot by men and their make photographers. And yes, this happens as Shawn can attest.

Some struggle with fears like ...

"How will my husband feel if another man sees me dressed intimately?"

"Will I be more self conscious if the opposite sex sees me as an object of desire..."

"Will my friends and family view this as a form of infidelity?"

It's not actually about any creep factor gentlemen... but rather a fear of the unknown. Women are used to being undressed (locker rooms etc) with other women so it may perhaps lessen the boudoir idea. But it's still there....Many are still nervous as hell, even until the shoot begins.

What we all know, we are professionals. Our posing, lighting and methodology are quite clinical actually. When a client sees that, they stop seeing make v's female.

Laughter is used as an icebreaker. Being in the moment of the session levels that gender playing field, takes those fears away.

Jen highlighted what is always a lively debate and concluded how one male pro ... Shawn! (who I have photographer as male boudoir!) approaches the boudoir pro gender factor. No controversy and quite supportive of men

Motti Bembaron's picture

Ah, sorry to see that you think it is creepy that a man should photograph a boudoir session. I only photographed a few of them, three of those sessions were with escort girls, can't get more "creepy" than that. right? :-). It was a lot of fun and all six girls/women I ever photographed did a second shoot with me.

Maybe you should rethink the men you associate with :-)

At least you corrected your article but it still shows a specific mindset.

In my situation I am a male photographer who specializes in low end real estate photography. Though I am paid I hardly consider myself a "pro". I consider myself to be a paid amateur, as I purchased my first budget camera about a year ago and am still very much learning even just the basics of composition and lighting.

Recently I decided I wanted to add something more to my photography in order to expand my horizons. I love challenging myself and am not afraid to take on something new that I have zero experience with.

I looked at wedding photography, but I like to keep my weekends free. I looked at studio portraiture, but the initial setup costs were prohibitive. Finally I came across boudoir. To be clear I arrived here based solely upon the business aspects and my appreciation for artistic beauty. And nothing, in my eyes, is more beautiful than the female form.

Not having a client pool to pull from - "I see you bought a house I photographed. Would you like to pose half-naked for me?" just doesn't cut it. So I resorted to the sleazy world of Craigslist, posting an ad looking for women who would like to pose for a boudoir shoot at a discount price. I contemplated offering my services for free, since in all honesty I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured with a little confidence I could convince them to pay me.

There is, however, one little wrinkle that I forgot to mention. I'm from the Northeast, around Philadelphia. But I'm currently living in ultra-conservative Southeast Alabama. Not exactly a hotbed for art, especially what would surely be seen as lewd art.

But I tried anyway.

In less than two weeks I had booked my first client. A former stripper who was now married with two children was wanting something special to gift her husband on their anniversary. Again, not knowing what I was doing, we arranged to meet in a motel room. I showed up, she showed up, it was just the two of us.

She had zero qualms about me being male, and I was friendly while also being very professional. I brought some props and clothing as did she. I had no lights, so the curtains remained open. The entire shoot I did using a Nikon D5500 with a 50mm 1.8g.

The pictures were awesome.

That same day she told a friend of her experience, and I booked her a few days later.

Since then I have shot a total of six boudoir sessions. Never once has the fact that I'm male been an issue.

I see the beauty in the women I am photographing. The lines, the curves, the way the light lays across her hips, the way the sheets run down her leg. To me it's all about the art. About making great pictures that my client can be proud of and that makes her look her very best.

And I believe this attitude comes across to my clients.

The point of all of this is if you approach your business and your clients with professionalism, I don't believe it matters one bit what your gender is. Regardless if your are a man or a woman and regardless where you are shooting - even if that happens to be in the heart of the bible belt.