Why I started shooting boudoir

I haven’t always been a boudoir photographer. I actually began doing photography to promote my gym, Styrka, located in South Tulsa. To promote the gym, I wanted to ensure that videos and photos had a professional look to them, rather than the poor quality phone pics that inundate social media.

Over time, I refined my skills and began investing in better equipment. I spent countless hours watching instructional videos on YouTube, taking online courses, and reading educational content on professional photography websites. I began to see photography as a worthwhile venture in itself, but my focus was naturally inclined toward fitness photography since that’s the world I’ve been immersed in professionally for the last 15 years.

Then I stumbled on a channel from a boudoir photographer in Los Angeles named Michael Sasser, owner of Sasser Stills Boudoir. Sure, it was a nice perk that his channel was chock full of women in lingerie, but the content was educational - lighting, posing, composition, editing.

I then saw a video of his in which he explained his own journey away from wedding photography and into full-time boudoir. He explained that when he was a wedding photographer, the reactions to his photos would be along the lines of “oh that’s a nice picture!” and other such kind but skin-deep compliments. But when his clients would see their boudoir pictures, their reactions were more along the lines of “I never knew I could look so beautiful.”

As a personal trainer for 15 years, that kind of body positivity resonated strongly with me. Time and again, my fitness clients who struggle with negative body image also struggle to get results. They’re constantly comparing themselves to others, and they never feel good enough. But clients who embrace body positivity tend to be more focused on what they can do rather than how they compare to others., and they always end up getting better results.

The beauty in boudoir is that I can show my clients that they are enough. They’re already stunning. They don’t need to look like this model or that, or have this body type, or whatever. Boudoir is about embracing your beauty exactly as you are. I strongly believe that’s an empowering form of self-love.

Now, the elephant in the room: I’m a male photographer, and I photograph women exclusively - usually very nearly nude and sometimes completely so. I was keenly aware of potential obstacles breaking into this subgenre of photography. There’s sensuality in my work, but a boudoir shoot is not sexual. It’s extremely important to me that my clients feel comfortable and that I conduct myself with the utmost professionalism. During the shoot I am directing poses, adjusting lighting, ensuring my camera is exposed correctly, composing shots, and thinking ahead about the next shot. I maintain a strict hands-off policy, only directing my clients verbally and beginning every shoot by reminding them that if at any time a pose I am directing makes them uncomfortable, they may simply say “can we do something else?” and I will move to the next pose no questions asked.

The result has been a venture that has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. I love hearing my clients’ reactions to their photos. I love hearing them embrace body positivity. And as many of them do, I love hearing that they are eager to come back and do another shoot!

I still do fitness photography to promote Styrka, and I dabble in other genres by request - usually for friends. Professionally, I’ve made it my aim to specialize in boudoir and be known and recognized for it. I want my clients to have a positive, memorable experience they’ll want to tell their friends about. And most of all, I want them to absolutely fall in love with their photos - and themselves.

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