Your intimate portrait session: It’s like a day at the beach!

Meme courtesy of eatliver.com
Meme courtesy of eatliver.com

You know summer has landed when your Facebook timeline is being populated with photos of friends outfitted in their beach-going best. That is their bikinis, one-pieces, Speedos, etc. Add to this a three-day, mostly-sunny Fourth of July weekend and the skin-filled Facebook photos abound!

And even if they are not posing in their beach attire, they will often add a post expressing excitement of their sandy and/or otherwise water-themed vacation destination. This means someone somewhere is going to get an eyeful whether the individual is lying out or shooting down a slide. To this, we generally harbor neutrality. Those heading to the beach often can’t wait to try on that new swimsuit and those viewing the vacation pictures, outside of being a little jealous, typically won’t think much of it. In fact, most of the time we wish them a great time on their getaway and add a few “likes” to boot!

Now, change the setting. Broach the subject of boudoir or intimate photography to some of the same less-than-modest folks and they might come back with something like: “I could never pose in my underwear” or “I would never let someone photograph me like that”.

To me this is a mystery and continues to be fascinating. I have touched upon this in blogs and information pertaining to our “You” by Abanathy Photography, LLC website, however, in light of the holiday weekend’s Facebook posts, I thought it might be a good point to expand upon a little. The main question, as it pertains to this intimate portrait photographer, is: Why would someone, who snaps a quick selfie in a revealing two-piece swimsuit and immediately posts it unedited and unposed for all the world to see, suddenly becomes bashful if that swimsuit were exchanged for a similar bra and underwear?

Of course there are a few good reasons out there when posing the question with the main one being: What is so different between a bikini and a bra and underwear? Both cover the same intimate regions, both reveal the same areas of the body, both are openly available at Walmart, and, in some cases, private undergarments cover more skin than the public bikini.

I did a little research and found some valid points from different blogs as well as in the comments left under those blogs. First would be the suggestion of intimacy issue. Whether or not the wearer could step back and look at the issue objectively is irrelevant, as there are many who simply cannot let go of societal norms. For this reason, some do not want to be in their underwear in front of strangers out of fear someone might get the wrong idea. The result could range anywhere from being a distraction (remember Sue Ellen Mishchke on Seinfeld) to putting the wearer at personal risk.

Second would be the difference in fabrics used and, therefore, functionality. Some underwear might fit loosely (creating the risk of accidental exposure) or be relatively see-through. A bikini, on the other hand, is designed to be opaque and form fitting. While this is a valid point, it is also somewhat irrelevant to this debate. There is quite a bit of underwear out there today that is not only opaque, but hugs the body in such a way as to prevent accidental exposure.

The third point (without getting too graphic) is the difference in how the two mask details pertaining to the part of the body they are tasked with covering. In other words, some fear the underwear might hug too tightly in places leaving little to the imagination. Of course, this too is somewhat irrelevant as bikinis (although they are designed not to) have been guilty of this as well. And in public no less!

Of course these are all more or less functional differences, many of which can be compensated for. But I did find at least one blog (Naked & Shy with Underwear vs Bikini Swimsuits) which offers a more sound, unshakable argument for the perceived differences which leads some to flaunt their new bikini, yet run for cover in their underwear, and that is: Psychology.

We are essentially trained, from birth, that underwear is secretive while swimsuits are publicly functional and acceptable. It is the only argument that truly holds water. After all, whether you are in a bikini or a bra and underwear, you are showing the exact same belly, shoulders, back, arms, legs, thighs, and feet in both cases. And isn’t that what it is about? What is covered as opposed to what is seen? We could easily step back and objectively view the situation this way and see how silly the opposing views are (especially with the varieties of underwear produced today), however, in reality, it is hard to shake those ingrained “truths”. Especially in American culture.

The thing is, as an intimate photographer, my primary fascination with this phenomenon is this silly side and how it pertains to portraiture. You see, I really don’t have to contend with many of the societal standards and functionality issues posed by underwear in one of our “You” portrait sessions. So, to have someone who has 40 selfies of themselves in a thong bikini on Facebook tell me they are too shy to book a “You” session is somewhat ironic.

For starters, you are likely going to wear your most elegant, sexy, presentable underwear to the portrait shoot. And many of these garments are going to cover a lot more than that swimsuit ever could.

Second, the setting is much more isolated and personal. If there were to be an accidental exposure issue, remember several things: You’re in front of a professional photographer, accidental exposure can be Photoshopped, and you have final say as to what is revealed in your portraits.

Third, intimate photography is not necessarily about being nude (unless that is your desire). (See our article: Boudoir Need Not Necessarily Be Nude). It is about you as a beautiful woman being photographed in a very elegant, intimate way that makes you glow and feel good. Many of the portraits will ultimately show less of you than what one could easily view as you are unsuspectingly lying out on the beach.

Lastly, the only people who will see these images will be you, the photographer, the assistant, your significant other and/or anyone else of your choosing.

So maybe you can see why it’s almost funny the different mindsets some have about being photographed in their bikinis vs. their skivvies. Who knows, maybe (and hopefully) I might have even debunked a couple of fears you might have about booking a “You” portrait session! Basically, if you are feeling nervous about posing sexily in your undergarments, just look at it as if you are snapping a very elegant selfie before heading out to the beach for the day!

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