The first time I ever saw a boudoir album was in my engaged friend's garage. She made a leather album featuring gorgeous photos of herself, some in lingerie and some with nothing at all! She planned to gift it to her partner moments before they walked down the aisle on their wedding day. I thought it was a cute wedding gift idea and a spicy way to be like “Check out this sneak preview, teehee.” When the time came for my own wedding, I dreamed of doing my first boudoir shoot. But since I was a broke bride ballin' on a budget, investing in a boudoir session was just not in the financial stars for me.
Three years later, I kept finding myself thinking of boudoir shoots. Ugh, but are boudoir photos a good idea? Was it weird that I wanted to do a boudoir photo shoot even if I was already married? Am I conceited if I wanted professional hot photos of myself? Whatever, fuck it!
So for my 30th birthday, I booked my first boudoir shoot with Offbeat Bride vendor Regina as the Photographer and…
I loved it!
And I especially recommend it for anyone who identifies with a marginalized community and is considering doing a boudoir shoot.
Wondering “Why is boudoir photography so popular” or “What happens in a boudoir photo shoot?”
Here's everything I learned from doing my first boudoir shoot!
1. Boudoir is a gift to yourself.
Traditionally, boudoir albums are gifted to a partner moments before the wedding, but honestly, DO IT FOR YOU, bby! I saw this photoshoot as a gift to myself and not as something I was doing FOR my partner (although he can enjoy the pics too if he wants, lol).
2. How do I find an inclusive boudoir photographer?
If you search boudoir photography, most likely you'll find examples featuring a lot of scantily clad skinny cis het white women. Those photographers got a “Thank you, next!” from me. Aside from checking out the Offbeat Bride vendor guide, you'll want to search through a prospective boudoir photographer's socials and portfolio to see if they're actively featuring diverse clients.
I promise you that inclusive boudoir photographers are out there, and the right one for you will encourage you to bring your authentic self to the shoot. After all, it's important to find a boudoir photographer who you're comfortable with, especially since you're maybe about to show them your butt.
3. What should I wear to a boudoir shoot?
Whatever makes YOU feel good! Even if it's an oversized t-shirt and sweatpants! Boudoir isn't just lingerie and nudity. Your boudoir photographer can help you plan a wardrobe around your level of comfort, whether that means full coverage (a sexy sweater subtly slipping off your shoulder), partial coverage (like having a bed sheet sexily draped on you), or no coverage (buns out, baby!). All levels of coverage are awesome, it's up to YOU to determine what makes you feel your best. I brought a lingerie set that accentuates my favorite body parts, a feathery hot pink robe, and a halo crown headband because I feel like a powerful witchy empress when I wear it. Wear what makes you feel confident!
4. How do you look good in boudoir photos?
I'm the CEO of saying “But what should I do in this photo?” to the chagrin of my friends holding the iPhone. Even before my boudoir shoot I was like “Eeek, but what do you do with your face in boudoir pictures?” Here's the secret: your boudoir photographer is an expert in posing. Their whole job is literally making people comfortable on camera and to guide you through poses.
Plus, your boudoir photographer knows if you FEEL good, then you'll look good too. Months before my shoot, my boudoir photographer invited me to her studio to see the space. We had snacks and she asked me lots of amazing questions about myself, like what was my favorite body part (my decolletage), what I liked doing for fun, and even my favorite hype-up music! It got me feeling comfortable and relaxed around her, like she was a good friend I could trust enough to show my boobies too. On the day of the photoshoot, my photographer brought in hair and makeup artists to glam-ify me. She even had my favorite drink on hand for me to sip on while getting ready. This helped me look and feel my best, especially since I was about to get real vulnerable on camera!
5. Do you have to be sexy in boudoir photos?
If sexy photos is your goal, then great! But boudoir can be a fun way to express yourself, too. I've seen people bring props like a guitar, cigars, or even roller skates! As for me, I brought three giant tupperwares of ramen noodles that roughly amounted to the weight of a toddler (more on that later). I communicated with my boudoir photographer that although I wanted some sexy photos of myself, I also wanted ones that showed off my goofy side. After all, I don't take myself seriously in my regular life, so why should my boudoir photos be all moody and nude-y?
6. Boudoir encourages you to take up space.
Many folks from marginalized communities are expected to make ourselves small. I see boudoir sessions as a way to take back your power. Mainstream wedding media might make you feel that boudoir is only for skinny cis het white women. But literally anyone can have a boudoir photography session. Boudoir is for all genders. Boudoir is for every gender expression. Boudoir is for all body types. Boudoir is for all races. I said it in this post, but my hot take is that the more bad-ass photos we put out of ourselves, the more we encourage others who identify with us to embrace their power and take up space, too.
Plus, no matter where you are in your self-love or body image journey, boudoir photos are a fun way to see yourself in a new angle (literally). After my boudoir session I was like “DAMN, I CAN LOOK LIKE THAT? Nobody is allowed to talk shit to me ever again!” I started flicking off cops and punching racists in the butt. Ok, I didn't do that, but I did see a huge difference in my self-esteem and body image. Basically my attitude became “You can't talk to me like that because I'm hot as fuck,” and that's the level of confidence I want everyone to have all the damn time. And more importantly, I love, appreciate, and respect my body in all of it's phases. Like, hello! This walking bag of meat and bones got me through 30 fucking years of life and AS A BONUS looks uh-mazing?! I will never be mean to you ever again, body.
But why the noodles?
Whenever I saw pretty photos of people eating noodles, it was almost always Caucasian women slurping down pasta or super racist depictions of East Asian women. I wanted to do a messy food shoot to capture my silly, food loving personality but also present a Southeast Asian woman through a lens that wasn't fetishized or dreamed up by a white man. But also, come on, these photos are fucking hilarious.
So, what is the point of a boudoir shoot?
Ultimately, you decide what the point is. Maybe you want to keep them hidden away in a nice velvet album and peek back on them every once in a while to remind yourself how incredible you are. Maybe you want to share them on socials and be like “HELLO WORLD, HERE I AM!” Or maybe you want to gift them to a special someone. Whatever your reason for doing a boudoir photo shoot is, let it be meaningful to you first before anyone else. Here's a quote from Moira Rose from Schitt's Creek that perfectly captures how I feel:
Take a thousand, naked pictures of yourself now. You may currently think, “Oh, I'm too spooky.” Or, “Nobody wants to see these tiny boobies.” But, believe me, one day you will look at those photos with much kinder eyes and say, “Dear God, I was a beautiful thing!”– Moira Rose, Schitt's Creek
As for me, I'm going to blow up that noodle photo and put it in my foyer for all my guests to see when they walk in.