By Laura Wallis
When choosing the most personal, memorable gift for their betrothed, some brides-to-be are turning to boudoir photography. After all, what does your partner love more than every inch of you?
The bonus? Posing for artful boudoir photos is a uniquely empowering experience. “A lot of people feel like the session needs to be a gift for someone else,” says Katie Bellini, photographer and owner of KB Boudoir in Westwood. “But very quickly they realize it’s something they needed, too. It’s something they deserve.”
One misconception: boudoir photography is all about lewd images. Photographers will assure you that they are more focused on capturing their subjects’ unique beauty than any inherent sexuality. The client determines how revealing the images will be. “Yes, some of [my photos] were a little extra,” says Marissa Wolff of North Plainfield. “But those were for my husband only. Many of them were classically beautiful.”
Considering booking a session? First, consult our guide.
Shopping for a boudoir photographer is like researching for a wedding photographer. In fact, some wedding photographers offer boudoir sessions. Scope out their style online, then have a conversation with the artist.
This type of photo session will have you at your most vulnerable, and the photographer’s personality will impact your comfort level. “My entire experience, being a plus-size bride, was really challenging,” recalls Marissa, who worked with AnyaFoto in Hackensack for her boudoir shoot. “She took the time to speak to me about body positivity issues. That really resonated with me.”
Beauty decisions are personal, so there are few firm dos and don’ts when preparing for your shoot. If you normally don’t remove body hair, then embrace it for your photos; if you are waxing, be sure to do it a few days ahead of the shoot so any irritation can calm down.
Some photographers say that a neutral nail color is best for photos; but if your signature hue is red—go with it!
One area where many pros draw a line? “No spray tans!” says Katie. “Even if you’re an avid tanner, there could be a blotch or a line.” The color of a spray tan, she also notes, can look artificial through the lens. Similarly, avoid too much real sun exposure pre-shoot, which can lead to awkward tan lines, or worse—sunburn.
Otherwise, hydrate and eat a good breakfast on shoot day. Posing can be hard work. “She told me [it would be hard] and I was like yeah sure,” says Nicole H. of Brick, who worked with KB Boudoir for her shoot. “I texted her the next day to say that I could feel every muscle in my body.”
While lingerie comes to mind first, really anything goes.
“Open your closet and see what you have,” says Katie. “Is there a silky tank top you love? A sweater that falls off a shoulder?”
Nicole posed in one of her fiancé’s work shirts, plus a jersey from their favorite baseball team.
Many boudoir shoot packages come with hair and makeup included, so the day begins with an hour or so of pampering from a stylist.
Unless you’re already a pro in front of the camera, it may take time before you feel fully at ease. Your photographer should walk you through the shots that feel doable to you and suggest more daring poses (and wardrobe changes) as your comfort level grows.
“It was awkward at first,” Marissa recalls. “One thing that helped me—Anya asked me what outfit I wanted to start with. Which would make me most comfortable right now?”
The level of exposure in boudoir photos ranges from modest coverage to fully nude. Your comfort level may change as the shoot goes on (shoots typically last 1-2 hours).
“By the end, I was exposing much more than I ever thought I would have!” says Nicole. “It is really an in-the-moment thing.”
When it’s time for the first glimpse at your photos, which might happen on the same day as the shoot in the photographer’s studio, expect an emotional experience.
“Originally, I wanted to give the book [to my fiancé] the night before our wedding,” says Marissa. “But when the photos came, I was so excited, I had to show him. I couldn’t wait!”
Next comes selecting the images you want to purchase. Typically, the result is a bound photo album, frameable prints or a digital gallery.
Every photographer takes a different approach to digital alteration. Pimples and temporary blemishes are likely to be erased, but cellulite, stretch marks and scars may not be.
“I try to photograph [perceived flaws] in a really beautiful way,” says Katie. “I want them to recognize themselves and know they look beautiful.”
The short answer: costs vary. The shoot itself may run several hundred dollars. Tack on editing and an album and a total cost of $2,000 to $4,000 is not uncommon.
Alternatively, inquire about mini sessions. Some photographers offer these basic options (say, a 30-minute session and a limited number of digital images) for just a few hundred dollars. Note, though, that these are no-frills sessions, with no hair or makeup included, and little time to ease in.
“A lot of people think they have to wait to hit a certain goal in how they look to book a shoot,” says Katie.
If you’re tempted to dive into a shoot like this, it might help to remember that perfection is not what it’s about.
“If we wait,” adds Katie, “we miss out on opportunities and our body is worthy of being documented in every season of our lives.”
Photographer: Anya Day
Christina Hernandez Artistry
Danielle Salerno Photography
Location: Ocean City
Photographer: Katie Bellini
Wild Raven Boudoir
Photographer: Torri Koppenaal