Currently on year 4 of my boudoir self-portrait project, I can finally say with confidence that I have bettered myself as a photographer through this project. It started out as a means to an end...an effort to getting my husband an anniversary present at the last minute when I procrastinated just like I tell my clients not to do.
It quickly became a challenge to do it more regularly AND to outdo myself every time. Sure, there were flops. Thousands of images that were instantly deleted. Dozens of times that images turned out way differently than I imagined...in a good way.....and dozens of times that images turned out way differently than I imagined in a "EEEEEWWW, OH MY GOD. NO!" kind of way.
Looking back on all of them over the years leaves me with the reassurance that I am, in fact, evolving as a photographer, as a more confident woman, and as a self portrait artist. I do believe in practicing what you preach, no matter what your passion or profession.
Recently, a "colleague" of mine (I guess that's what I call other photographers, right?!), wrote an article on FStoppers featuring an old article of mine on the Business of Boudoir about what I think it's so important for boudoir photographers to practice what they preach. Sorry for that run-on sentence.
I wanted to reiterate a few of those points, as I know that a lot of boudoir photographers are reading this blog. But I also want to demonstrate to my clients and potential clients reading along that I HAVE in fact put myself in your shoes so many times I can't count them. I know how it feels to see an AWFUL photo of yourself, and I know the kind of power an AMAZING photo of yourself holds.
If you are a boudoir photographer-- more so than ANY other type of photographer because THIS is SO very emotional and personal to our clients-- you absolutely should know what it's like to be in their shoes. They come to you nervous to the point of shaking, they trust you to empower them and not make them feel even more insecure. They trust that you are an expert. To be an expert....TRULY an expert...you need to never stop learning. Self portraiture is an amazing way to work on getting there.
It was through self portraiture that my style evolved into what it is at the moment. I learned that I was very drawn to less posed, more "imperfect" type of images. Darker. Grittier. More emotion. Black and white and white and black. Had I only been shooting clients, I may have never discovered that as I loved to keep it bright and clean and cheery and safe. If you are struggling with evolving your style, you may discover that self portraits help you hone in on what yours is.
And just like I go on and on about feeling AMAZING about yourself through boudoir photos to my clients...HEY. That applies to me too. I need a lift, a boost, a "hey girl, you've still got it!" every now and then. Especially now that I am holding back on actually photoshopping my own self portraits...it's a really amazing demonstration of how seeing the REAL you look great in a photo can be a massive confidence boost.
As a professional boudoir photographer, why WOULDN'T I do this!?
According to some other boudoir photographers, here's why they feel that self portraits aren't for them:
"I'm a hairy dude. Not a pretty woman." Um. SO.FREAKING.WHAT?! Men deserve to feel awesome, too. Male boudoir photographers ALSO should know what it's like to be in front of the camera. It would be an outstanding learning exercise.
"I'm overweight." Um. So.FREAKING.WHAT!? I can guarantee that you are telling your clients to embrace themselves with boudoir photos as they are RIGHT NOW. How can you say that and not put yourself in the same position, regardless of your current physical appearance? Let it be a confidence boost for you the way it would be for your clients. And yes, you WILL get all those "IMMEDIATE DELETE" images, but it will make you appreciate your craft and yourself as an artist all-the-more. And the more often you contribute to your project, the less "IMMEDIATE DELETE" images you will get.
"I don't have a pretty studio." And neither did I when I first started this project. And the majority of my favorite self portraits were not taken at my pretty studio anyhow, although that tends to be slightly more convenient because it's kid free. Learn to use what you've got, whatever that is. Another learning exercise. Put yourself in challenging lighting positions. Put yourself in tiny spaces. Work with zero wardrobe. Work with no professional makeup. Push yourself...that's the only way to get better.
"I tried once, and I'm scarred for life." All the more reason to try again. I applaud you more for doing it a second time than a first.
"Because it's narcissistic." Nah. It's field research. I personally feel that sharing (some of) them demonstrates to my clients and potential clients that boudoir photography is nothing to be ashamed of. That you should be proud of your images. HOWEVER, you obviously do not NEED to share them publicly if you truly don't feel comfortable with it. But that should not deter you from taking them at all! I certainly save a LOT of the images for just my husband and I, as do many of my clients. This isn't about drawing attention to yourself. It's about making a statement that BOUDOIR is for EVERYBODY and that you TRULY believe in the power of it.
If you have never done a boudoir shoot before, whether you are a photographer or not, I encourage you to go out of your comfort zone a little bit. I'm willing to bet that you won't regret it.