For me, it began as an impulse buy—one of those group discount emails offering an hour long boudoir photo session for something like half off. Well, I call it impulse...but impulse for me also involves a couple hours of extensive research into the photographer, reviews of the studio, etc. The studio website showed hundreds of photos of women of all shapes and sizes, looking amazingly relaxed and sexy. Of course, I knew that the photographer could pick and choose which photos to use on her website, and could have picked only those women who already had perfect skin and zero cellulite, but her website also said that the images would be photoshopped. And while I'm not wild about the flagrant use of Photoshop to quote the great Tina Fey, "Let me have my Photoshop. For today is about dreams!" Throw in the option of professional hair and makeup, and I was sold.
My boudoir photos were going to be a gift for my husband. I made the very regrettable and (ok, I’ll say it) idiotic decision of booking the shoot in January... right after the holidays. Oof. I hit the gym hard after a proper holiday binge, and in the days leading up, made myself as presentable as possible: touching up my hair color. Adding eyelash extensions. Getting waxed (everywhere). Picking up some sexy new lingerie. This once discounted experience was getting outta hand expensive, but I was also super excited.
As the date approached, excitement led to anxiety: I was going to be mostly naked in front of at least one stranger. Now, I am a pretty modest person. Well, not Amish modest, but I can count the number of people who have seen me naked as an adult on two hands, and that’s including doctors, overly zealous Lululemon sales associates, and anyone in the locker room who happened to catch a glimpse as I dressed under cover of a towel (yeah, I’m that girl). I worried myself into a frenzy about the prospect of being so totally exposed, with my non-Kate Upton body, in front of people. And not being able to actively cover up. And having to try and look as happy and relaxed as those girls on her website? And these images would be preserved for all eternity? And maybe they’d somehow get out and people would see them? OR MY DAD?! I could never attend Thanksgiving dinner, run for office or show my face at work again!!!
At that point of crippling anxiety, I called my friend. My incredible, open-minded, non-judgmental friend, who also just so happens to be an amazing stylist. As the phone rang, I thought about how weird and creepy it was that I was calling up a friend and begging her to come look at me in various states of sensual undress. But, as I said, this particular friend is incredible, and she not only agreed to join me, but also talked me down from that proverbial ledge when I started to get super stressed about the whole experience. My verbal hand squeezer.
D-Day. I arrived at the studio with my bag of tricks: sexy undies, leather boots, a bottle of wine to take the edge off. My sexytime Go Bag, essentially. We met the makeup artist on the elevator up to the studio, and she was just delightful. Her attitude immediately put me at my ease, and things got giggly. Then came the meet-and-greet with the photographer, who was equally fantastic. I had feared that she would be some scary, black clad icicle, a la Katinka from Zoolander (don’t laugh at me—I’m an industry outsider). She was a completely warm, welcoming woman, who seemed genuinely excited to meet me and make me look amazing.
After a quick and startling transformation of hair and makeup, we jumped right in. I had brought two outfits, one sweet and sexy, and one a little dark and dangerous. As I climbed into the set bed in my pink bra and panties, my heart was racing. I didn’t know how to be a sexy model! Would she snap something from a bad angle where I had a double chin? Would I just look scared in all the pictures? Would I annoy her with my inability to chill the eff out? She started by putting me in a very detailed position. This leg here, at this angle. Other leg down. Arm up. Hair splayed out. I felt my body fall into what I could tell was a flattering position. The camera started snapping, and I wish I could say I stopped being nervous, but that never happened. What I did find was that I quickly developed a total trust for the photographer, with the added bonus of my friend occasionally dropping in helpful tidbits. So while I was still terribly nervous, I knew everything would be fine.
After outfit number two was put away, along with the chair I’d straddled for some photos (Me! Straddling chairs! For a camera!), my friend reminded me of something we had previously discussed... that if I felt comfortable enough with the shoot, I would take a few topless shots. By this point, I was having such an out-of-body, who-the-hell-is-this-person-in-my-underwear-mugging-for-a-stranger moment, that it seemed only natural to lose the corset. Pop, snap—and they’re out. AHH! Bare boobs in front of people who weren’t already on my nudity list!!! The photographer stepped right in and started positioning my hair and arms to make sure the photos were tasteful, and then stepped back to take a few shots. It was a rush, and even in the midst of my pre-stroke condition, I was glad I’d lost the top.
It seemed like it was time for me to get dressed again all too quickly. The photographer had the proofs ready in a matter of minutes, and then it was time to view them and pick my favorites.
I had figured that there would be one or two moderately acceptable pictures, where my face looked ok and I didn’t cringe at my body, that she could photoshop to a point where I didn’t hate them. What really happened was that, when we started looking through the proofs, I was so taken by how truly amazing they looked, that I teared up a little bit. I couldn’t believe I was looking at pictures of myself, barely wearing any clothes, and I didn’t want to immediately look away. In fact, I had a hard time whittling down the 80-some photos to the 20 that would be added to an album for my to give my hubby on Valentine’s Day... and I couldn’t wait to see the final pictures. I’m a little embarrassed at how spastically I checked my email over the next few weeks to see if they were ready.
When the time came to give the album to my husband, I was so proud of it and anxious to see how he would react. His face while he looked through the book was so worth all my waxing, working out, and stressing out. I was just glad to see he loved it as much as I did.
I anxiously await the photo album of his boudoir photos next year.
For any of you ladies out there considering having boudoir photos taken, oh my gosh—stop considering, and get on the horn now to book it. Find a good photographer that has some good reviews online. Forget about that extra few pounds, forget about your weird mole... but most of all, forget about the fear. Not only will you look and feel super sexy, but you'll be so proud of yourself throughout. Toot toot (that's me tooting my own horn).
Marie P lives in NYC with her husband and their fat cat, whom they both love. Equally.