Boudoir photographers tend to the fears and concerns of their clients on a daily basis. In a boudoir session, the client is not only stripping down layers of clothing, but also layers of built-up emotional mindsets on body issues.
Some clients feel they are not photogenic or their weight is an issue. We hear all the excuses such as "I hope I did not break your camera" or "If I only had a better body for a shoot like this." But once they see their images, they find their confidence is regained. However, as much as a boudoir photographer can tell their clients to relax, if they have not stepped into their shoes, are they really fully understanding their clients fears?
That was me. Even though I had done some modeling as a teen back up in NYC where I was raised (yes, you can see me as a hand model in MacMillan textbooks circa 1980, and no, I do not know why my royalties have not sustained me thus far from that gig), I never did a session not only an adult, but as a boudoir client myself. While I was speaking with Jen Rozenbaum about her boudoir images she revealed: "I took these pictures in celebration of my 40th birthday. I wanted to remind myself that age is just a number and instead of being scared of my 40s, to embrace them!"
I was tired of being the hypocritical to my clientele, explaining how to relax and that they looked amazing. What did I know about how it felt on the other side of the camera? Off to the self-timer and closed studio I went.
With my own clients, I can direct. So, I get a range of around 50 solid shots to show them at their reveal. However, when shooting yourself, there is no one to direct. No one to make sure the angle is perfect. You have to rely solely on what you know as a boudoir photographer. It was as if I was blinded for a moment and had to rely on all my other senses in order to create the same level for myself as what I give to my clients.
The entire session, I walked around my studio, nervous someone could see in, worried that the lace dress everyone is shooting in now will not look as fabulous on me as it did for them. This was all until I saw the images after I was done. I finally saw and felt what my clients did every time they stepped foot in my studio. No matter how much confidence we project as boudoir photographers, when it comes to our own, we have the same fears and insecurities.
After this session, I decided to see not only what my clients felt about being in front of the camera, but also what it was like to have someone else in the room with them in this intimate moment. So when I was visiting my dear friend, Cate Scaglione, we decided to do a quick impromptu session on a beach in Staten Island. The feeling of someone else having control of those images that I would not see for a few weeks was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Top it off with the fear that I had no idea if they were even worth her time for editing.
Yes, I ran through all these emotions that my clients go through every time. And now I get it! I get the impatient feeling with the worry and the concern that our clients face every time they leave our studio. But just as every other client of Cate's in awe of the final product, I too was taken back. I said the same quote every boudoir photographer hears from their clients: "Is that really me!?"
Not the Only One
I asked a few photographer friends about their reasoning behind their own sessions as well as their experiences. Jen Rozenbaum wrote about her experience with Photographer Mike Allebach in regards to her own boudoir session:
As far as being in front of the camera, it's nerve-wracking, but so important for all boudoir photographers to do it. It changes your perspective to be in your clients shoes. Experiencing the nerves, confusion on what to wear, and giving in to the process really makes you appreciate your clients' perspective. I try to do it about once a year, not only because I want to be able to explain to my clients that I truly do understand what it is like in front of the camera, but because I learn and grow from the experience as well
Not Just for the Ladies
It is not just female photographers that are wanting to bare it all in order to connect more with the concerns and fears of their clients. Men are becoming more and more willing to do a boudoir session, which is more commonly known as "Dudoir."
"Getting in front of the camera was frightening, exhilarating, and enlightening all in one experience. As the session went on, I got more comfortable and actually had less nerves with the least amount of clothes. The whole experience gave me a greater connection to my clients and allows me to speak to their fears and excitement all from firsthand knowledge now," wrote Shawn Black about his session with photographer Cate Scaglione.
And then there is Cate, my dearest photographer friend who I trusted my first session with that day on the beach. She wrote:
The truth is, I've never been comfortable in front of the camera. I see it all the way back to my awkward childhood photos. I believe for many of us, it's not a lack of confidence about self or what we look like, but more perhaps about a fear of being noticed or being the focus. We spend so much time observing or focusing on others that the thought of being in the spotlight can be unnerving.
She said she decided a good way to avoid that was to be her own spotlight, at least to start. Scaglione mentioned that we as photographers have an affinity to certain aesthetics and truths about aesthetics the way an average client wouldn't. She put it perfectly when she said: "You want to be photographed by someone who can help you see yourself the way you want to. It's all a trust factor."
In reaching out to our clients in every other aspect, the one we need to explore more often is being in their shoes. Experiencing a boudoir session for yourself, whether a self-portrait or from another trusted photographer, can enlighten your perspective on your own shooting in ways you have not explored in the past.