In August of 2022 I began offering boudoir photography here in Flagstaff, Arizona. Boudoir photography has intrigued me for as long as I can remember and it's not something I ever thought I'd offer to my clients. However, I started getting more and more individual inquiries for boudoir sessions, whether it was for a unique anniversary or holiday gift for their partner or a way to explore more self-love and body appreciation. Before I knew it, I was planning my first boudoir event!
By the time you're reading this I'll have finished my third boudoir event here in Flagstaff and I'm sure I'll learn even more from that. But for now, I'd love to share a few things - photography related and not - that offering boudoir photoshoots has taught me.
1. We all take (or have taken) nudes.
This might be something everyone else out there knew for a long time. But until I started offering boudoir photography I guess I didn't realize that most people out there have dabbled as their own boudoir photographer. We all take nudes. And more importantly, we believe that our bodies are something to be admired, celebrated, honored and known. It was during my last boudoir event that I realized, "Hey, you've taken nudes before. The only difference between that and this is that I'm here to get the angles you can't get on your own and make you feel even better about what you're flaunting!". For me, recognizing and calling out the common ground is so important so that I can offer the best, most comfortable experience to my clients.
2. Confidence ages like fine wine.
As I've made boudoir photography more accessible in our town, I've began to book clients of all ages. What started as women in their 20s booking gifts for their soon-to-be-spouses evolved into women in their 40's booking boudoir photography to reclaim power and appreciation for their bodies. And honestly, it's the most empowering thing ever. I was a little nervous when I began booking more mature clients because I wanted to be professional and honor each body and each story in the way they deserved, but I also wanted to keep the lighthearted, playful energy that my brand has become praised for. I'll tell you right now, my more mature clients radiated confidence in a way that my clients in their 20s just don't. And that's coming from a woman in her 20's. We just don't have what they're putting out there, okay? And being a boudoir photographer for women of all ages reminds me that we get to choose for life to keep getting better, we get to choose to be more empowered and more sure of our bodies each year.
3. Lean into your experiences.
Boudoir photography is funny, because your client arrives and there's not a ton of time before they're stripped down to literally one of the most vulnerable places they can be. In lingerie, in a new environment, with a camera pointed at them. I'll say it. It's fucking scary. But clients fall into one of two windows. Either they get stuck in their head with nerves and question every little move and prompt I make... or they throw caution to the wind and trust. My experience as a photographer is that the ones who throw caution to the wind and lean into the experience have way more fun and get a larger gallery at the end. I think this just translates into so many of our experiences in life. We make decisions and either we question them and have trouble being in the present or we soak up every single positive experience that we can from the decision. Caution to the wind, I think, for me.
4. Transparency is everything.
In my case, I'm not quite finished on my home studio. So each boudoir event sprouts from first booking an AirBnB. I take a lot of time and energy and put it into finding a spot that is well lit, has variety in each room and is clean. And most importantly, I connect with the AirBnB host before booking and tell them exactly why I'm reserving their space. There are a few reasons I do this. First, most AirBnBs request no events or parties occur while you're at the location. While I personally feel like the word "event" is a little bit vague, it's best to respect the hosts. Second, many AirBnBs now have front door cameras. So if you do have clients coming and going all day or hair + makeup artists accessing the property while you're not there it could certainly make the host uncomfortable. Third, it just feels better. It's a weight off of my shoulders to be honest and transparent and to know that everyone's on the same team. I've found that most of my hosts are grateful for the transparency and are actually excited to be included / involved by giving their consent. And when they say no, it's not personal, and it'll ultimately re-direct me to the best possible location.
5. Body Type ≠ Confidence Level
This is something I thought I already knew, but being in such a vulnerable environment with some of my clients really taught me this in a different way. I've worked with every body type from tall and lean as can be to plus size and never once did someone's body type define their confidence level. Confidence, it turns out, doesn't come from what your body looks like. It comes from your relationship to yourself and your self-love practices. Confidence is a freaking mindset. And it shows in the final gallery. I think so, anyway. Again, those who leaned into the experience and came in with a comfortability with their body were easy to identify! Having said that, there's nothing wrong with feeling low in confidence and still scheduling a boudoir photoshoot. In a post-shoot feedback survey I send to my boudoir clients, many reported that their confidence levels actually increased after their session and getting their gallery delivered back. Boudoir photoshoots can be used to discover confidence, or to nurture it. Those who came in with confidence were contagious and reminded me to look in the mirror and hype myself up more often!
6. We're in it together.
I love to remind my clients as we're getting started that we're in it together. If they're worried about a nip slip I remind them that we pretty much have all the same pieces and parts and that their nip slip certainly isn't the first or last of the day. If a pose feels unflattering, I'll snap a few shots and we'll look them over together to make sure we can pinpoint anything that they want to shift. I once told my fiancé, "I just want to make art and money at the same time" and I think about it any time I'm with clients because we are making art. Together. It's not just me calling the shots, it's something I want my clients to feel like active participants in. It's something they pay good money for and they should come out of that feeling like a piece of art. So we learn together. We critique together. We suggest together. We fail together (sometimes) and we succeed together (always).
7. The value of creativity.
Finally, and perhaps most special when it comes to what I learned from boudoir photography for my business as a whole, entering this niche has reminded me how valuable it is to continue pushing your creativity. These sessions push me to capture and express emotion and details in a way that sometimes gets lost in the book, shoot, repeat routine of "normal" sessions. I think that's why I've fallen in love with boudoir photography. It's definitely a different pace and different dance than my engagement sessions or wedding days. It's very personal and expressive for the individual I'm working with and for myself.
So what's next for boudoir photography with Nettik Photography? I've got a few ideas! I've been a distant and silent admirer of couples boudoir / intimate sessions for quite some time and I think that would be a fun project to explore. But before any of that, I'm trying to finish up my home studio so that I can offer boudoir photography more on-demand for my clients. There's a list of to-dos there (invest in new lighting, continue removing mid-board, re-texture, etc) that need to be hit but so long as people continue to request this niche, I'll do what I can to continue offering it.