I'm writing this having just gotten back from my little interview session, or whatever it's called, at the photography studio for the boudoir shoot groupon which a dear friend gifted to me. I have to say… I'm starting to feel somewhat uncomfortable about this.

A quick note: while I will mention the name of the photography studio I went to at the end of this blog, my goal here is more to speculate about the boudoir photography industry than to simply gripe about a particular studio.

For starters, the impression I'd gotten from perusing the boudoir session web sites of various studios was that this is a pleasantly exciting and rather involved experience. Most of the package deals I saw on-line included things like the woman in the session talking to the photographer ahead of time for suggestions on posing and clothing, having her hair and make-up done for the actual session, trying several outfits and locations during the shoot itself, and ending up with a handful of lovely photos. This is apparently not, however, what the boudoir photography session groupon that I have gives me.

Maybe it's just me, but there's something… distinctly off-putting at having a small, perfectly made-up, sharply dressed, cute young woman have almost nothing to say to me, but instead pretty much just hand me a (often rather confusingly worded) questionnaire to fill out. I was even less thrilled to discover hair & make-up was not included in the groupon package deal — it will cost a minimum of another $100, if I want them to do it. Further, the session is for one single 11" x 17" photograph. If I want more than that, it will cost approximately $85 to $100 extra, depending on what size and how many. That's not even mentioning any photoshopping I might want done, of course.

For heaven's sake, I'm a frickin' doctoral student — money is always tight. Further, I'm taller than average, 30 pounds over my ideal weight, and tend to wear clothing that leans heavily towards the comfortable and practical rather than the sexy or fashionable. I'm definitely no clotheshorse, and I'm not girly — I tend to not bother with make-up at all if I don't have to, which means I'm not really that good at it. Further, when a friend asked me what was entailed in having my hair done, I bewilderedly replied, "I have no idea! I mean… I brushed it! It's clean! What else are you supposed to do with it?!" So I was a bit… startled, shall we say, at some of the questions: things like what outfits I'd be wearing, or what type of sexy category I'd put myself in.

I'd actually been half-expecting the discussion to be mostly about helpful suggestions for the upcoming shoot. To have the interviewer (I'm pretty sure she wasn't the photographer) almost boredly suggest I do some research to figure out how I wanted to be photographed — and maybe do some shopping first for the outfits too — was quite dismaying. Frankly, if I'd had the groupon in hand at that moment, I think I'd have asked for my money back right then and there, despite it being a gift.

So, is it just me? Do most women come in already thinking of themselves as sexual categories like "Playboy bunny" or "blonde bombshell" or "pinup girl" or whatever? Did I just miss out on the memo that all women must have a wardrobe full of sexy clothes, and already know how to pose to look their best? Am I the only one who, say, doesn't even bother buying thigh-highs because I'm both taller and heavier — even when at my ideal weight! — than the largest category on the (laughably incorrect) "fits all" stockings?

I'm starting to wonder, too: a friend of mine mentioned that photographers own the copyright on their photos. How exactly does this impact my photography session, and why wasn't this mentioned in the introductory interview? Does that mean they can do whatever they want with photos of me that they've taken? If I want my photos in a digital format, does this mean I have a limited number of times I can print out my own photos, or what?

In retrospect, this is all very weird, to me. I've never really thought of myself as a sexual category. I always just thought of me as me, you know? It took me decades to become comfortable with my body, but even before then I thought of myself as smart and thoughtful, or strongly determined, or fiercely independent, or tall and striking… but not really as a sexual object that had to spend a lot of money to make sure everyone else believed that too. Do men ever think of themselves that way? -or is it just women who get to be so lucky?

There's another point I just realized, after glancing at some of the on-line photos, and a bit of commentary from a friend: I don't even really like much of what is considered "sexy" in this society. Corsets make it hard for me to breath or move naturally. Try tying me up or sticking me in an artsy cage, and I'll do my best to hurt you. Thongs grab where I really don't want my clothing to grab… and the idea of several hours spent in stiletto heels or funky platform sandals makes my feet ache in sympathy. That sort of fantasy dress-up really isn't me. Clearly, if I want this to work, I'm going to have to figure out what I feel is sensuous.

So, to reiterate: this gift coupon for what is titled as a boudoir photo shoot appears to grant roughly two hours of the photographer's time, and not a whole lot more. Anything else — props, clothing, makeup, advice, etc. — seems to cost quite a bit extra. I'm really curious now as to whether all these boudoir photo shoots I see on-line are equally as… limited. I'm also starting to wonder how a busy and frugal woman can manage to fit this into her schedule. She has to research what poses and what makeup style she likes; figure out which poses and makeup styles would look good with her body type and coloring; if necessary, purchase the clothing and/or makeup for the shoot, then make herself up and do her hair as well… about the only thing she doesn't have to do herself is take the pictures! Heck, now that I'm thinking about it, that might be the rational way to go: find a good friend you trust, do all the prep work together, then schedule a weekend day to have fun taking photos of each other.


Considering this later and with a cooler head, I don't think I can return the groupon, as I waited too long (out of nervousness) to contact Fotos by T — the groupon will have expired by the time the 72 hour waiting period has passed. On the other hand, the website emphasizes wanting to be very sure that clients really like their photos, which is encouraging. Also, the studio location is really nice: a lovely old house with many pretty locations, indoors and out, for photography. Another odd note: this studio has a long list of five star reviews on Yelp from enthusiastic women. While some of them doubtless are thrilled about family shoots rather than boudoir shoots, there are still quite a few who specifically mention they went in for boudoir sessions. I'm starting to wonder if this is just me… and how I can get the best I can out of this, since I'm kind of stuck doing it at this point.

Maybe I'll try to figure out how to emphasize strength and brains instead of fragility and fluffiness. Or maybe, instead of being photographed, I'll just ask the photographer for two hours of her time to just talk about what the boudoir photography industry is like! :)


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