How stretch marks reveal the essence of boudoir

“Retouching” is common practice in photography—removing blemishes and ‘imperfections’ that may detract from the intent of the image. In glamour photography, it’s common not only to remove things like acne and scars (they will often still show through makeup in a high-resolution photo), but to alter the physical proportions of the model using Photoshop.

Recently I was editing some images from a shoot, and found this one:

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I confess that I had a genuine moment of inner conflict over whether to edit out her stretch marks. It didn’t take long for me to decide against it, and my decision cuts to the heart of why boudoir photography is distinct from glamour.

Unlike glamour, boudoir is not intended to idealize a certain body type or ‘look’. Boudoir is intended to capture a woman’s natural beauty. Rather than being elaborately staged, it conveys a narrative—as though we’re peering in on an intimate moment. In boudoir, the model rarely faces the camera; if she does, it will usually be a subtle glance rather than an intense, front-facing pose. Boudoir captures a woman exactly as she is, her purest and most beautiful self.

In staying true to these ideals, it was not a difficult decision to keep the stretch marks in the photo. I can relate—years ago I was very overweight, and even though I’m pretty fit these days I’ve had stretch marks on my stomach ever since. The gorgeous body in this photo has delivered three babies, and I think the marks add to her beauty. Our bodies tell a story, and I believe that the purpose of boudoir is to convey those stories—not to chase some impossible ideal.