By Julie Roberts at Julie Roberts Photography
Whenever I bring up the idea of boudoir photography I get bombarded with comments from women who love the idea of a session but aren’t happy enough with their bodies to brave being in front of a camera with practically nothing on. As if “happy enough with our bodies” is something we will ever achieve. As if we need any more reminders of the body image issues that plague our culture.
I once photographed a tribe of amazing people in a primitive township in south Africa. They lived in huts with no floors, no running water … and no mirrors. Which meant they had never really seen themselves and they also had no ridiculous self hatred based on what they did/didn’t/should/shouldn’t look like. One lady had only a few teeth and wild, frizzy gray hair. She was so exciting to look at and so fun to photograph. When I showed her the picture I had taken of her on the back on my camera she went wild with laughter. I didn’t speak Zulu and they didn’t speak English, but I still understood their incredible joy at seeing themselves for the first time.
It changed me forever. These women certainly wouldn’t meet our ridiculous standards of beauty … but they were some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. And they taught me a lesson in self worth that I will never forget. Since that experience, the importance of photographing people has held a different place in my heart. A place where I realize that ALL people are beautiful. Cultural standards are meaningless here. When I have the opportunity to photograph someone, I have a chance to change how they view themselves. I’m not talking about photoshop. I am talking about seeing people as they are and finding their encompassing true, beautiful self. I have learned to find the beauty in people and show them what they look like through my eyes.
I could talk about flattering poses, angles, and light…but the most flattering thing I could ever do for someone in front of my camera is to let them see their own beauty and believe in it. WE have to learn to believe in our beauty. We are so busy comparing ourselves to others, dwelling on the flaws, and obsessing over what we wish we looked like. Instead of comparing ourselves and judging others, we need to offer up a little acceptance and a lot of love – for others and ourselves. We need to learn how to see our unique beauty and find joy in who we ARE. God made us…these perfectly imperfect people with silly smiles, belly rolls, crazy hair, big teeth, short legs…it’s all beautiful!
I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I feel like it’s important for me to share this and hope that I can influence at least one woman to look at herself in the mirror today and smile back. See a freckle and say “cute!” or spend a moment admiring your shape or skip the admiration and go on to sheer awe at what your amazing body has accomplished. Maybe you have climbed a mountain, run a marathon, or survived an illness. My body has grown and birthed two beautiful babies, and I am so proud of that.
I think maybe believing in our own beauty begins with simply seeing it. We see ourselves and then instead of judgment and criticism, we learn to say “okay” and maybe even “pretty”. And then we begin to feel a little more comfortable in our own skin.
When I began doing boudoir photography I never realized what a platform it would be for making this kind of change in the lives of women. The reactions surprised me as much as it did the ladies I photographed. Mostly I get comments like “I had no idea I could look like that!” And it’s not a lie! It’s just a matter of getting out from behind your own veil of self doubt and seeing some truth from someone else’s perspective. Who knew boudoir photography could be a ministry in self worth? It surprisingly has such a positive, powerful, and encouraging effect on everyone I’ve worked with. Don’t we all deserve a boost in the self worth department?
And yeah … there will be gorgeous photos in the end that you might want to share with someone special. Nothing is more exciting than delivering your “sexy book” to your husband-to-be as a major surprise wedding day gift. But what’s even better is that before you surprise him with the photos, you’ll be noticeably more confident and self assured. And he won’t be able to figure it out what is so different but he will definitely like it!
Essentially the boudoir session itself is really all about being honest, being silly, and having a whole lot of fun in a situation that might seem intimidating at first. It’s about going beyond your fears and insecurities and grasping onto a new way of thinking about yourself. Give yourself permission to feel beautiful and sexy…you absolutely deserve it! Whether you decide to do a boudoir session or not, I hope reading this has been inspiring. And if you are interested in doing a boudoir session…I would love to have the honor!