Take a look around. Research other photographers in the area, and I don’t just mean their prices. Look at the quality of their images. Look at their posing, the styling, the lighting, the composition, the environment and the finish on the image.
I find it very hard to blow my own trumpet, I’m not perfect but here goes...
Some photographers don’t take the time to learn how to get all the aspects right. It’s so easy to pick up a camera and off you go. I made this mistake myself about 7 years ago. I was a hobbyist and had a decent-ish camera. I did an online Diploma. Then I thought all I needed was to get a backdrop and a couple of studio lights and a few cheap props from ebay and off I went. I was so naive. I bought cheap equipment and didn’t take the time to learn where my lights should be positioned or how to pose people. And editing was a whole other ball game...I used to spend hours editing one image just to get the backdrop looking passable. The hours I spent on one gallery was absurd.
When I decided to explore a career in Photography this time around I knew that the very first thing I needed to do was to train. So in my first couple of years I’ve attended 7 in person courses and spent hundreds of hours watching training online, all with the best photographers from the UK, Australia and Canada. I’ve learnt how to pose and light for maternity, newborn, family and boudoir sessions as well as learnt about fine art lighting and editing techniques. I still have so much to learn and I’ve learned that that attitude is key. There will always be something more to learn and improve upon. Photographers who don’t invest in themselves to raise their standard will stay at that same standard forever.
Let’s talk about posing. If I look back to my early work I will now be able to spot all sorts of errors. I’ve trained my eye to spot minor details that add up to what makes or breaks an image. With boudoir sessions, the eyebrows must be relaxed. The hands must be relaxed and angled a certain way. The feet must be pointed and dainty. Any parts of the body that can be bent should be bent. Shoulders should be relaxed. Faces should be pointed towards the light. Catchlights in the eyes are everything. Getting any of these factors wrong can create an uncomfortable distraction to the eye meaning the image doesn’t flow and isn’t enjoyed by the viewer. It’s not easy to make a pose look natural!
The hands...When we look at a photograph, we automatically look at the eyes first, and then the hands. If the hands are looking weird it’s hard for us to move on from them and look at the rest of the image. As time has gone on, I’ve become more confident in posing hands or giving them something to do. It’s often what I focus on the most.
The face...We often hear about people having ‘good sides’ and it’s true. During shoots I always explore faces positioned to the left, centre and right to find their ‘best side’. I try hair being pulled around to each side and up & over. I have learnt that you can’t break the outline of the side of a face with the nose. There is certainly a fine line where the face position is at its best. I can see it easily now, that’s what comes with plenty of shoots under my belt. Because quite a lot of my poses are taken from behind the head, it’s crucial for me to direct ladies to raise their chins rather than their eyebrows so that they can comfortably look at my camera without straining their foreheads. Because strained foreheads create tense looking images. I’ve also learned how to accentuate the jawline because it’s so easy to make someone look as though they have a horrendous double chin when they don’t really.
The body...During my sessions I demonstrate posture. Chest forward, shoulders relaxed, back arched, legs elongated. I push my ladies to give me the best possible posture that they can manage. I can spot when someone is holding back and can give me a little more. I position arms to create flattering triangles and position the legs in a flattering way.
When my ladies arrive for their boudoir shoots, I explore with them what they’d like to accentuate and what they’d like to flatter the most. I then look at their chosen lingerie and create a bespoke plan for their session based on what style suits each of the rooms and which poses are best for the style of lingerie. I don’t have any expectation on my ladies to pose themselves and I go in to the shoots entirely prepared so that all my lady has to do is follow my lead and direction, hopefully leaving no space for any nerves!
The camera...I’ve learnt how to use it properly. Some photographers shoot in Automatic mode because they haven’t taken the time to learn how to use it in Manual mode. I know how to expose for the best light in the room, capturing flattering shadows and highlights. I’ve seen so many errors being made elsewhere where the photographer hasn’t paid attention to where the light is falling or posed their subject in the right place according to the light. In order for an image to look appealing, the light has to fall on the face from a certain angle. This is why they use a torch at the bottom of the face when telling scary stories in the dark, it looks bad! I use a shallow depth of field to create the blurry backgrounds and put the focus on the subject. This means I have to be very careful with focusing as there is only a small area in focus. I always aim to get the eyes nice and sharp so I take multiple photos to make sure I do. I get my camera and lenses calibrated regularly to make sure I get the best focus.
The lighting...For all my boudoir sessions, I shoot with natural light. One room is dark and moody, while the other is light and airy. Both have very different looks but create a beautiful contrast between the two. One room is perfect for silhouette shots and contrasty shots while the other is perfect for light and dreamy shots. I absolutely couldn’t pick one over the other! In the large dark and moody room, there are two windows so I can cut the light down on one to create a certain look. All windows are diffused so the light comes through softly. I pay attention to the way the light falls on the face and body. I have a decent enough camera to be able to handle low light even on gloomy days.
Editing...After the shoot, it’s time to edit the images. When I first started, I had very limited knowledge on this crucial part of the process. With Boudoir images I edit responsibly. My aim is to enhance it rather than change it too much. I aim to get it right in camera as best as possible, so that with the general image there are only minor tweaks to make with cropping, exposure, contrast etc. My aim is to make the subject stand out as best as possible. I bring out the eyes and make the skin look flawless. I smooth skin because often the camera can show up too much detail, often more than the eye can see. I will remove blemishes and get rid of stretch marks if the lady wants me to. I’ve been asked to cover up tattoos before as well. I spend hours perfecting each gallery and then create black & white conversions for each image.
The environment...After spending the first 18 months shooting at home (luckily I had a very supportive partner who didn’t mind me taking over the house) I opened my very own studio in May 2019. It’s quite a big building and there’s a large room for my Portrait Sessions, a dedicated makeover room and two rooms that I use for Boudoir Sessions. Each room is fairly simplistic as I like the focus to be on my subject. After shooting at home it’s amazing to have a professional purpose built space.
Styling & what to wear...After all the shoots I’ve learnt so much about what to advise my ladies to wear. My advice focuses more on what I think flatters the best rather than what we may have learned is ‘sexy’. I don’t like the stockings, suspenders and heels combo. I don’t like teddies. I don’t like a man’s shirt. Stockings & suspenders don’t flatter most body types and personally I find them really dated. I find that with teddies, you lose the curves on every body type. A lot of ladies tend to choose them because they accentuate the chest and loosely cover the tummy area, but I like to find the curves on every body, and a teddy just doesn’t help me with that. I find that a man’s shirt is also often chosen to cover up. Yes we see Pinterest images of 6ft slim ladies looking gorgeous in a man’s shirt but for the majority of us, it doesn’t translate well. Men’s shirts can make us look boxy, wide and stocky. I much prefer a long, light lady’s shirt or even better...a kimono. My absolute favourite is a bodysuit. These gorgeous garments cover the tummy area smoothly and come in so many different styles and colours. I have a whole clothes rail full of them in all sizes and colours and team them with kimonos. I really can’t get enough of them. I also have a selection of heels and other accessories that are always growing.
I suppose what I’m trying to explain is that you are in good hands with me. I understand how much a bad photo can affect your self-esteem so profoundly. It’s happened to me a lot. I want to do the opposite of that. I want to give you images of yourself that you’ll feel proud of. That you’ll look and think ‘Wow, that’s me!’ It isn’t just a case of snapping away, I hope I’ve showed you that there is so much more to it than that, and every piece of the puzzle has to be in place in order to get it right. Boudoir Photography is considered to be one of the most challenging, I see it being done wrong A LOT. It makes me sad, I feel sorry for the poor woman in them and wonder how they made her feel. It’s so important for me to get it right. Yes I earn a living from it but I also feel a huge responsibility and a passion towards building women’s confidence through my work...because the world needs more confident women!
If you’re interested in a shoot, head over to my ‘Prices’ section to see my packages. I’d love to have a chat with you about your reasons for wanting a shoot and welcome you to the studio.