All photos shown in this BLOG post are of me!
photo credit: Tamara Knight Photography
I did not seek out boudoir photography. In fact, quite the opposite. I was an award-winning portrait photographer with over 10 years’ experience when boudoir found me. One of my brides asked me to photograph a boudoir session for her and I said yes. After 10 years of photographing all genres of photography, I figured I could do this one too. How different could this be from a regular portrait session? Well, other than the client will be next to naked in front of me and very nervous. From the first moment of my first capture, I felt something very special inside me as an artist and as a woman. It was like I was watching a flower bloom and I was there to document the metamorphosis. Almost a surreal experience. There she was looking nervous and scared, and there I was encouraging her, guiding her, and helping her feel relaxed, free, sensual, and beautiful. It felt so natural and easy.
The images were breathtaking, so feminine and lovely. When I showed her the back of the camera, she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Who is that? Is that really me?” She welled up with tears and so did I. “That’s you” I said, “And you are incredibly beautiful”. From then on it was pure magic and I can tell you for sure that when she left from our session, I don’t think her feet were touching the ground. She looked different to me. Her posture was better. She walked differently, she talked differently. She could look at you straight in the eye. She looked like she knew she was beautiful and could finally say that about herself. She looked like a woman full of confidence and owning her beauty. She was transformed. As she left, I thought, “I did that”. “I did that with my art”, and I don’t think my feet were touching the ground either!
When I realized that, with my photography, I could truly help women believe in their beauty and see themselves differently. To see themselves as “beautiful”, and to rebuild their self-esteem and confidence, it was a game changer. Because it no longer was about creating a pretty picture. It was about so much more. I had found my true calling as an artist…by accident.
I know, first-hand, that women are super critical of themselves. That when we look in the mirror, we are looking for flaws. And that all those insecurities rise to the surface when you shed your clothes and it’s just you, vulnerable you. I get that.
I am that too. In fact, I grew up with very low self-esteem. I grew up in a large family and being a middle child with a weight problem I felt invisible. I didn’t get the attention, my pretty, thin, older sister got. Nobody really looked at me, they looked right through me like I wasn’t even there. My older sister barely acknowledged me, and my mother constantly compared me to her. “If I could just lose the weight” she used to say. To me, this meant, I was unworthy of her love as I was, and most certainly unworthy of my own love for myself. I share this family portrait because it truly represents how I felt growing up. This portrait was a large portrait that hung prominently in our home for many years. You can see that I am out of focus in the front. My mother selected this particular portrait, I am sure the professional photographer had a selection to choose from. She picked the one with me in front, big and blurry. I look completely out of place, like a last-minute addition, and somewhat invisible. Family portraits are meant to foster a sense of belonging and the love of family. Unfortunately, this one had the opposite effect on me.
It took me until after I left my childhood house as an adult (23) and on my own that I lost the weight. When men started to look at me, I thought they were looking at someone else. I kept looking behind me! It took me a long time to believe what I was seeing in the mirror. I kept seeing the ugly fat girl, unworthy of a second look. It was a slow process, but I got there. Finally, able to feel “beautiful”. Finally, being called “beautiful”. It was a long time before I could accept a compliment and not brush it off. It was a long time before I felt “beautiful”. I learned that the word “beautiful’ is a real trigger for me and how it makes me feel about myself. It has been a long journey of self-acceptance and self-love. And quite frankly, I still do struggle with this from time to time. Those negative thoughts do occasionally seep into my head and play those old tapes of unworthiness and self-doubt. Looking in the mirror and saying out loud that I am “beautiful” is still difficult for me at times. But what I have learned over the years, is that beauty comes from within. It isn’t up to anyone else to determine your value, your worth, or whether you are beautiful. It is totally and completely up to you.
I have come to realize that there is power in beauty and beauty in power. I have learned just how incredibly resilient women are, and that I am. We can overcome many obstacles, endure many hardships, and still shine bright. It is a gift that all women share. We all have access to a “beautiful” inner light of confidence.
When I was truly able to see my beauty and believe in myself, I became keenly aware of the beauty of others. It is exactly why boudoir photography is such a good fit for me. With my artist’s eye for beauty and my desire to help other women, it balances all the negative beliefs I had about myself and my past. Without those trials of confidence in my youth, I would not be the woman I am today, nor have the empathy for other women in need of a confidence boost. I feel incredibly blessed to have found boudoir photography as my career, or should I say, it found me.
My boudoir photo shoot
To be honest, I was shooting boudoir for 5 years before I was ready to step in front of the camera myself. I knew I had to do it. I knew I needed to know what it felt like for my clients. I owed it to them and I owed it to myself. How could I authentically instill confidence in other women if I wasn’t able to step outside of my own comfort zone?
So I decided to go to a photographer friend of mine in Orlando, Tamara Knight, and I put my sensitive self-image into her capable hands. Needless to say, I was riddled with anxiety, all of those old insecurities rose to the surface. Will I look alright? Am I too fat? Am I too old? I hate my hair. I hate my body. All of those silly negative thoughts were spiraling around in my head, and I felt like I was stepping off a cliff! But Tamara, made me feel comfortable immediately and calmed my nerves, loaded me up with tons of encouragement and compliments, and those tapes in my mind were silenced. Replaced with positive feelings and thoughts about myself. I love sharing my portraits from that session. I love everything about them. It was validation of everything I was hoping it would be. And the proof of my growth as a woman and a celebration of my own self-love.
It’s not selfish to have self-love, it’s necessary in order to become the best possible version of yourself.
I have been on both sides of the camera in boudoir photography, and I can tell you from experience that when you are with the right professional, the journey is truly transformational.
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