I have read many (and created one) websites, which will tell you how to prepare for a boudoir portrait shoot. They tell you to pick out some sexy outfits. They tell you to get your hair and makeup professionally done. They tell you to drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. They even tell you how to avoid unnecessary skin blemishes by advising when to shave beforehand. However, one thing I don’t see on a lot of these sites is how to deal with one thing that will creep up on you and, if left unchecked, could ultimately carry through to your portraits: Nerves!
Initial nervousness has been a recurring theme with many of our “You” sessions, which is why I would love to take this opportunity offer some calming advice which can go hand-in-hand with clothes, makeup, diet, and grooming. After all, what happens on the inside is just as important as what happens on the outside when bringing out the sexy in you!
First of all, I will assure you, this can happen to the best of us! Whether you are outwardly timid or regularly flaunt it for the world, when it comes to a relative stranger photographing your body in such an intimate way, the butterflies will likely begin to flutter.
And, as many of our clients are between the ages of 30 and 70, I can’t really blame them! From a time before the invention of “sexting”, these generations (mine included) were raised with a well-defined sense of modesty. When you were young, you were told you mustn’t undress in front of anybody and you mustn’t talk about certain parts of your body with anyone except your parents and doctor. Simply put: Your business was your business and your clothes were like an impervious fortress between you and the world. To physically expose yourself in any way was amongst the top no-nos of our youth. And, by the time the 90s exposed us to scantily clad celebrities on a whole new scale, this modesty was well-ingrained within us to keep it secret, keep it sacred, and keep it hidden.
Today, many of us are married, in relationships, have children, and/or watch television with more risque content than ever before. And while many would argue these facts of life will reshape your definition of modesty, the prospect of a stranger photographing you in your skivvies or in the buff could trigger those age-old defenses all the same.
So, how do you steady these nerves before your boudoir shoot? The first thing many would say would be “alcohol!”. BAD IDEA! Too much might see you shift from “How am I going to do this?” to “What was I thinking?!”. But fret not! There are a few other tricks:
- Psych yourself up before the shoot: It is likely you will have some time between booking your portrait session and actually heading to the studio. During that time you will likely have the opportunity to role play a bit! In the days leading up to your session, when dressing or undressing alone in your bedroom, pose a little. Do so as if the photographer is there and you have been charged with giving a sexy smile or posing seductively. Use a mirror, laugh a little, smile a lot, and be free with expressing your body. This might seem a bit silly at first and could potentially stir some nerves as well, but this is a good thing, as it will serve to take the edge off for your upcoming shoot!And, thanks to our wonderful imaginations, you can even begin rehearsing the scenario while going about your daily routine. During breaks at work, rest in the evenings, during drive time, etc. let this scenario play continuously on some level in the back of your mind. After all, you wouldn’t give a presentation on Friday without first rehearsing it in your head all week now would you?
- Get to know your photographer: For all intents and purposes, the photographer will likely be a stranger to you before you decide to book an intimate portrait session. This is why it is very helpful for both of you to meet before the day of the shoot to simply become a little more familiar with each other. Part of the reason I like to have a consultation with clients before setting up a “You” session is to let the them get to know me a little and become more comfortable with me. It also helps me better tailor the shoot to your individual personality! And, I can’t speak for other photographers, but, for me, I am willing to meet multiple times if that would put the client more at ease with me. It can even be a casual conversation where we don’t even talk much about the shoot! The bottom line is: If you are comfortable with me, it will translate well into your session.
- Consider it from a third-person perspective: While your boudoir session is, in fact, all about you, it might be helpful to consider the dynamics of the situation. Unless they disclose otherwise, this is not going to be your photographer’s first rodeo. He or she is an adult and is very used to seeing their intimate clients in various stages of undress. You are not going to show them anything they haven’t seen before. Think of them as you would your doctor, but with a couple important differences: The appointment with your photographer is going to be a lot less invasive and a lot more fun!
- Think if it like a day at the beach…with more control: This is where the concept of context will amaze you. Think of your intimate shoot like you would of going to a public beach. When you head to the sandy shores, you are often more or less revealed in either a one or two-piece swimsuit, you are surrounded by strangers, and you don’t really think much about who might or might not be looking at you. Heck, sometimes you might even loosen your top IN PUBLIC to reduce tan lines. An intimate portrait session is often not going to find you revealing much more than you would on a public beach. The only difference is: You are wearing underwear instead of a swimsuit (and, thanks to the last 30+ years of department store ads, that line has been sufficiently blurred), you are a bit more familiar with the photographer and his/her assistant than you ever will be with whoever else is wondering the beach, and unlike those stroll-abouts the photographer has nothing but professional intentions with your time together.
- Take a warm bubble bath, shop, exercise, meditate, relax: If time permits, you may decide to relax in a nice bubble bath the night before your shoot, take a shopping trip, head to the gym, or simply meditate to recenter yourself. Any of these will help to convert that nervous energy and calm your mind. Let’s face it: is there anything a nice bubble bath can’t prepare us for?
- Bring your favorite music: One thing that can put people at ease in just about any situation is familiarity and one thing that can do this more than anything is music. Your photographer will likely have some tunes picked out for the session, but most will not object to a client bringing in their own playlist. And whether it is Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” or Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”, the trick is to find music that, for you, is upbeat, makes you feel sexy, and is fun!
- Bring a friend along for moral support: On the topic of familiarity, while nearly naked in a room with strangers and camera equipment, another calming agent could be to have a friend come along with you strictly for off-camera support. Having someone there who you fully know and trust can be a source of strength in an otherwise vulnerable situation. And, like with nervousness, the energy formed between two long-time friends in this situation can really create wonderful levity which will often translate into amazing portraits!
- Turn your nervousness into exhilaration: Adults don’t have enough, if any, opportunities in life to truly feel free. This is one of those opportunities and, in the right state of mind, it can be amazing! So bend the taboos, release your worries, and turn that nervous energy into that of exhilarating freedom! Be beautiful, be sexy, be playful, be soft, be vulnerable, and own it all with the driven intent of being proudly and uninhibitedly human for just a little while!
I think this is the best tip to wrap this blog. Ideally, one would want to enter their intimate portrait session as at ease before the lens as they would be before their partner or by themselves. While it would be difficult for many to reach this level of comfort in an unfamiliar setting, hopefully, any one or a combination of these tips will help to quiet your nerves and allow you to enjoy the experience to its fullest.
And don’t be shy, if you have any additional tips, be sure to leave them in our comments section below!