Updated: Jan 3
Hey, hey, hey. Welcome to Souls Undressed. I'm Tori Rankovich, your host + today you're listening to episode 013 + we are diving into Boudoir.
I am a boudoir photographer + have been dabbling in all of that for four years now + have fallen completely, 1000% in love with the art form. I talked a little bit about it in the Body Appreciation episode that we talked about + I might have even mentioned it in the episode about Changing Your Norm, but today, I wanted to just completely unpack all of what I have experienced + what I know about boudoir photography + really give you my firsthand input as the photographer who gets to experience this journey with each of these women who choose to partake in a boudoir shoot.
Today, after I read our quote, we're going to dive in to talk about what it is, what it means to me, how I got started into it, what other women have gotten out of it or why they have booked + then, at the end, we're going to dive into my list that feels like it is 75 pages long + we're going to talk about why I think that everyone should experience it.
Without further ado, let's dive into our quote.
"You are lovable, despite how others may have hurt you when you needed their acceptance + care, most of all. You deserved better, you deserve better. Being made to question your lovability is not your fault. It's scary to open ourselves to being loved again, but we have to remind ourselves, we are worthy being loved unconditionally that we are enough." -Peabody
I chose that quote for this episode about boudoir because I think more than anything when women come into my studio, they are at a point in their lives where they are ready to give themselves the love that they feel they deserve, or they're at least to a point of opening themselves up to potentially see that. I won't say that everyone comes in expecting to come out feeling ultra-worthy. I think a lot of women come in feeling absolutely terrified + a lot of women come in thinking they are going to hate the session or they are going to hate the pictures or they are going to feel uncomfortable, which it still blows my mind that women still invest in me + the business + the experience when they feel that way, but it is very common, a lot o women come in to do the shoot for maybe a loved one, or maybe to kind of experiment with the idea because their friend did it + they felt like it looked cool.
Then, obviously, there are the women who come in to do it for themselves, but I think that what happens consistently every single time, whether it is expected or not, when a women comes in, she ends up leaving, realizing that the experience was for herself. Is she going to have some photos at the end that she can share with others to then serve them too? Possibly, but regardless of why she stepped into my studio, she steps out knowing that she just gave herself an experience + that's something she can revisit on her own terms or at her own whim to revisit those feelings or the empowered, badass encouragement + love + appreciation that she has found for herself.
Let's just dive right in.
Alright, alright. I have to try to be concise with myself in this episode because I don't know if I have ever found something that I am equally as passionate about as I am about boudoir. When I was writing the notes for this show, I asked myself, "What is boudoir?" I feel like that's one of the biggest questions that I need to answer in recording this because while I know a lot of women might come listen when I talk about it on my boudoir page, there are a bunch of you also who will be listening who maybe have never experienced boudoir, may you have never even heard the word! Or maybe you've heard the word + you thought it was just some weird that derived from another language that you didn't know what it meant. So, what I wrote is that boudoir is empowerment, boudoir is healing. It is self-reflection, it is pulling back the curtain of shame, it is feeling worthy, it is confirmation of your badassery. It is love for oneself. The point is that boudoir is so many things.
I've had women come in + shoot with me after having children. I have women come + shoot with me after getting out of abusive relationships. I've had women come in who have just conquered their own abuse from themselves through self-harm, through mental trauma + struggles that they've had a hard time climbing out of. I've had women come in who are just looking to have some fun + treat themselves, whether it be for a birthday or a random afternoon. I've had women who have come in to create something powerful + special for their husband. I've had women come in to get photos for their husband, but I've noticed that they really are coming in step into this empowering title as a wife. There are so many different reasons that women choose to love themselves in this way, but there really is an infinite amount of reasons that a women may choose to do this.
I think the biggest point that I want to get across in this episode is there's no right or wrong way to do boudoir. There's no right or wrong way to create that experience. I intentionally have called my photography sessions "experiences" on my website + when I'm talking to potential clients or to different friends, because the whole thing is an experience. It's not just a photoshoot. This is not something where it's a point-click-shoot, we're done, kind of thing. It's not go, suck it in, hold your breath, shift your butt + look away. Yes, I am going to give you posing guidance + yes, I am going to tell you where to go, but I am also more so focused on how you feel during that experience because this is just one giant battle zone in general in life. Be it, from the things you take in on your Instagram feed, or the voice in your head that sounds like someone else's' that is criticizing you, or your own voice in your head every time you walk past a mirror, or the ways that you feel when you go in to buy a pair of jeans + the sizes have shifted four sizes since the last time you'd bought jeans. Not because your weight has shifted or your size has shifted, but because the clothing industry has shifted. There are so many different things that happen that create this battle zone instead of our minds about ourselves that impact our perception of ourselves + our relationship with ourselves. Boudoir allows you to just see yourself. To literally just see yourself as you're existing.
I promise I will get to my notes + I know it sounds like I am rambling, but I don't think that people understand how often I have women in my studio see a photo that I've taken of them, like they just did the post that made their arms tired, + they're like, "Oh my god, you're amazing, you did that!" Then, I'm like, "No, girl, YOU DID THAT. YOU existed! I just snapped the picture!" Photographers might kill me by saying that "I just snapped the picture," because yes, more goes into my job than just snapping a picture, yes, I am paying attention to detail, yes I am posing you + I am helping you with your outfit + I am prompting you naturally to give you those natural expressions on your face, but YOU are the beauty, you are the art form. My job does not exist without you. The amount of trust that you have in yourself + in me, is what determines how much you get to see you coming out in those photos. That is what boudoir is to me.
Boudoir is realizing that you are the whole ass, entré. You are the main focus of your whole life. Yes, you might be a mother, a teacher, a caretaker, a service industry worker, a grandma, an aunt, a sister, whoever, but you are your own first. If you're not your own first, there are going to be times when you're no one's. That's because other people have to make themselves, their own first, too. So, the chances of someone being able to make you their first, all the time, is completely impossible. So, boudoir for me, is recognizing that you as a human sack of skin + bones, are the whole thing. You're the whole deal. I really just want every person that walks into my studio or that comes across t.e. boudoir on Instagram or once my website is done comes across my website, can really just realize like, "Oh shit, that can be me." Yes, my prices will change over time. Yes, they've gone up from when I started + I was only charging $125.00, but this is not some $1,500 experience. This is an accessible experience that I think that every human being should have the opportunity to experience.
Do I shoot men? No, I haven't yet. I'm not sure how I would navigate doing that, but do I love to make men feel empowered in their underwear or their sweatpants, or whatever? Hell yeah, but I haven't a found a way to make that work in my life personally. What I do want to do is hold + create space for every person that walks into my studio to realize that I'm not overly posing you, I'm not overly photoshopping you, I'm not doing anything to you to change who you are already in your day-to-day existence when you wake up + roll out of bed. All I am doing is directing you on how to maneuver + shift the delivery of what you already are. I think that if more people could realize that, we would have fewer people feeling worthless or feeling like they have to compare themselves to other people or feeling like they're less than or feeling like they don't look sexy enough for their lover or for themselves, whatever. So that's my goal with boudoir. That's what it is to me. That is the driving purpose + factor behind it for me.
How did I start? That's a question that I get a lot. How did you get into boudoir? I think that peoples' minds run when they're like, "How did this chick start taking pictures of naked girls, like how does that start?" I dove into this in one episode, I think the episode talking about how my photography business got started, but I will dive into that a little more here, too.
In 2015, in the Winter, I graduated from college + I bought my camera, my first camera with my money that I got from my graduation party. I decided that I needed to start using it right away. I'm the kind of person that once my hands sit still for too long, I'm like, okay, what's next? So we decided, my best friend at the time, decided that there was no way that we were going to let that camera collect dust, we were going to start taking pictures. So, I went + took one of my girlfriends out to the area club near us + we started taking pictures, it was like February, but it was so cold. It was windy, the windchill was super low. We were out there for probably an hour, maybe 40 minutes + at that point we just couldn't be outside anymore. My hands we're literally like numb + if you're a photographer + you've taken pictures in the Winter-time, you get me.
So, after that, that was my first time ever using my camera, I absolutely adored it, I had so much fun giving direction + learning where to sit + crouching down to the ground + whatever else, but that wasn't enough. I was not down to freeze my butt off all Winter, I being cold. One of my girlfriends had this, we both had this interest in following different models who posed feeling empowered + sexy. I think early on, before Instagram was really used for sales as much, it was used for photographers + models + stuff. We were both really into like launderette models + things like that + the way that the body looked so beautiful in its' art form. So we decided, hey let's try that. We can't go outside, it's cold as balls, let's just do stuff indoors.
We started out, our first outfit was a sweatshirt, a pair of boy-short underwear + a beanie + I think it was like Calvin Klein boy-shorts. I used to have like really cool twinkle lights with like a white curtain behind my bed, so it looked pretty cool, so that's how we started. That was the first ever boudoir photos that we ever took. Then, over time, I actually think it was before this, maybe like a year prior to getting my camera, or two, one of my best friends at the time was getting married + she decided to do a boudoir photography session for her wedding gift to her husband + she had hired two local girls from a couple of towns over from me who had been dabbling in boudoir photography for bridal gifts for peoples' weddings coming up. Those girls went on to create this + join in on this boudoir company called Three Boudoir + they have boudoir studios in a variety of different cities + states across the country. They're absolutely amazing. We shoot a slightly different style of photography + our editing styles are different, but these women are so soulful + so amazing + they have taught me so much about what I know about my camera, about what I know about interacting with clients, what I know about expecting compensation for my worth. I've learned so much from them.
So, early on, the first time I ever had any experience with these girls was at my girlfriend's bridal boudoir shoot + they let me come + watch + I was just so fascinated with it + I was giving them input + we were just joking around all day + I knew that it was just something that I had so much compassion for + by compassion I mean I knew that I loved it, but I was like, "Oh my gosh, I can't do this. This is what these girls are doing, I'm in college, like I am going to love it from afar," you know when you have this guilty desire for something? That's where I was, that's what I had.
So, after college, after I got my camera, the girls had moved up to Chicago, the three boudoir girls + they had really blown up with their Three Boudoir company. So, I started asking them questions + I made sure I could feel them out + make sure that they weren't going to be offended or upset if I started doing the boudoir in our area.
I started shooting boudoir in my bedroom in the Winter of 2016, + then started shooting with clients who were just my friends throughout that summer + fall + it slowly just picked up from there. Because I started just with girlfriends + I started in my bedroom when I was living at home with my dad, I got a lot of experience early on making different types of spaces + environments work for me in what I had in mind or what I was envisioning. I would say truthfully, that has made me so much stronger of a photographer because lighting in your bedroom is not always consistent, you totally have to play off the weather, you're indoors, you can't use the light inside because if you've ever tried taking photos with the light on in a bedroom, it is so yellow, it is ridiculous. So it really forced me to have to practice + get better at shooting at different heights + different angles + shooting around my dresser or shooting around my closet or whatever.
I would say that because I started out in just my bedroom, from scratch without any real experience, it really gave me the ability to get stronger as a versatile photographer. I would say for the first two years, I just shot for fun as far as boudoir goes. We would wait for the right time of year when we could get the right sun, or we would be like, "Oh, it's been a few months since we did that last time, let's do it again!" Slowly, over time, we just got more + more comfortable. We would go find launderette that we would want to try out or we decided let's do a jean shoot topless. Then, I did one with just tennis shoes on + a beanie + all sorts of really fun, creative stuff that was just showing me how much passion I had for capturing the female body in a sexy, but tasteful way. I think that's one thing that sticks out to me about the boudoir that I shoot + the styles I am inspired by. It's this seductive energy, while feeling strong + confident + independent + empowered. I think that especially in the world that we live in, seductive + sexy + confident can be perceived as skanky, or dirty, or wrong + I think that that image or idea in itself, is a driving factor for me to continue pursuing boudoir + showing it off as the art form that it is.
I think that the more we see a woman's body covered in the same kind of fabric that we would see it on a beach, looking beautiful + breathtaking + artistic as fuck, it helps us shift our perspectives + realize that the human body is absolutely stunning + that so many things are absolutely stunning with all of their different imperfections + all of their different variations. I think that's the biggest thing that boudoir has taught me is that there's no one image that is beautiful. There are so many different variations + such a spectrum of beauty + worthiness + just all of these things that we're constantly reaching for. I think that so many people are constantly striving to feel worthy. Your perception of what worthiness is or your standard that you're using to judge it off of, that's such a spectrum thing, your level or standard for worthiness looks totally different than the person next to you. Your perception of worthiness was probably taught by something else, so you can't expect or derail or ruin your own life, or your own headspace or your own mindset because of something that was taught to you unnecessarily by somebody that isn't you.
So, I touched on this in the intro, but I do want to talk a bit about why women have told me that they have booked my experiences in the past. Self-love after abuse. I've had women come in after physical + sexual abuse.
Self-love after having their babies. I think that postpartum depression isn't something that is spoken about enough + I have had a variety of women come in after having their babies while they're in the process of dealing with their postpartum or when they're feeling like they have a moment to bring their head above water with their postpartum to come in + have a session loving themselves, loving their energy that is pouring out of them, loving this body that created life, that has been amazing for me to watch + i've loved seeing women do that just to kind of further care for themselves in this new phase of life.
Women have come in to give themselves love after self-harm to embrace their scarring or to embrace the body that has helped them find this point in their lives through that healing.
To feel beautiful with an insulin pump. I've had a mama come in that has an insulin pump + she was like, "Should I take it off?" and I was like, "Well, do you wear it everyday?" and she's like, "Yeah..." and I was like, "Well, then hell no you shouldn't take it off!" Just like with women with glasses, that's my favorite question, "Should I take my glasses off?!" I'm like, "Well, do you wear them all the time?" "Well, yeah." I'm like, "Okay, well, don't you want to feel beautiful when your glasses are on? The only way to help you feel beautiful with your insulin pump in or with your glasses on, is to take photos of you looking + feeling beautiful with those things on! That's the only way we're going to shift our norm."
Women have booked to feel like a bad bitch, that's real verbiage. To help with acceptance of their scars, whether they be physical scars, whether they be from accidents that happened. I think that scarring that come from accidents that are out of our control, the shoot itself to embrace those things can be so empowering.
I have had a variety of women come in after surgeries that almost took their lives or accidents that almost took their lives + are able to come in + embrace their whole selves as beautiful human beings + see the ways that their scars blend in with the rest of their bodies + create their story. You can look at a woman or at a man or at a child + you can see their story across them + scars only further tell their story. I think when we can see ourselves looking super effing stunning with scars across our legs or our backs or our arms that we realize like, "Oh shit, that only makes me more me. That only adds more charisma to my story, that only allows me to tell more about my journey."
Also, obviously, the norm reason for buying boudoir originally + I feel like stereotypically, is to give as a gift, but I am happy to have noticed that a lot of women are doing it for themselves, too. Obviously don't underestimate this as a gift, hello, what is better than giving your man a booklet of your sexy-ass photos the day of your wedding? I actually have had the honor of doing bridal boudoir + wedding photos for a groom that got the photos + I got to get pictures of his face when he got the album + it was absolutely awesome.
I also want to, before diving into the How Can I Help segment, I want to dive into my many reasons that I wrote down to why I think that every woman should experience boudoir. Maybe before I dive into this, I'll talk a bit about what my experiences are like.
So, you'll reach out to me + you'll be like, "Hey, i've been thinking about boudoir, I think am ready to book, can you tell me prices or can you tell me more information about your studio or what you offer?" Or you might be like, "Hey, I've already checked your prices out, or I don't care what the price is, I want to book this session, let's pick a day." I always am going to have you, if you're shooting in my studio come at 9 a.m. or as close to 9 a.m. as possible that is the ultimate sweet spot as far as yearlong goes for the lighting in the studio, but I also have the option for you to shoot boudoir outdoors at a private location chosen by you or me, or we can shoot boudoir in your home if you wish to do it in your own bedroom where you + your lover stay or sleep.
I love doing boudoir in home because it makes it so much more sexy + personal as far as being in your own space, but I also know that it's not always convenient to have somebody come over into your house + it's not always free for me to come to you. So, if you live further than 20 miles from me, I will charge a dollar per mile over 20 miles, round trip. So, it might cost you a bit extra, but always encourage people to do that if it's something that they've considered because it's something that means something to you.
You'll come over, you'll get to my house. My contract asks you if you wish to see my dogs or not, so i'll either have them kenneled or you'll get to see them. They're big + kind of rambunctious, so I always offer to put them up for you. Then, you'll come on in, you'll check out the studio, I'll have you pull out all your outfits, even if you've already texted me photos, which I usually ask you to do. I'll have you pull them out so we can kind of talk about them, get your visions out on the table, see which outfit it is that you feel most comfortable in or most sexy + that's usually the outfit that I have you start with. So, I'll have you change. I'll ask you if you want a glass of water, I'll step out, let you get adjusted, get some music going on the speaker + then we will get started. You'll usually bring 3-4 outfits. Four is the limit, you don't have to bring 3-4, but it's always suggested to have more than two. If you are set on bringing two, i'll always say, "Hey maybe bring a hat or bring some flowers, maybe bring your lover's favorite t-shirt or something that maybe is a little different than what you had in mind, so maybe sweatpants + a sports bra + then your launderette.
We will work through those outfits. Your session will last anywhere from an hour to an hour + a half + that's just because sometimes we stop + talk in the beginning, the middle + the end. Sometimes it takes a little longer to get comfortable in the beginning, which is totally normal. So, I'm going to shoot your first outfit until I get photos of you feeling badass + comfortable as f. So, I just always like people to know that sometimes it does run over an hour. I'm not watching the clock + kicking you out, but that way you're able to get the most for your money + you're able to leave feeling like you got a wholesome experience + not that you're rushed in, rushed out, posed + told to leave.
After we finish up with your outfits, we will catch up a little bit, we will talk about your timeline, any further questions, you'll already have had time to review the timeline + things like that, but we'll talk about it + get everything squared away, you'll pay the remainder of your session fee + you'll be on the road.
The reason that I feel like everyone should experience this type of experience is because our gender, as women, is constantly taught, pressured, shamed + guilted into covering up. Whether it be our stomaches, whether it be our shoulders, our cleavage, our thighs, our booty cheeks, our arm fat, our arm rolls, our back fat underneath our bra. We are constantly being scrutinized + picked apart + made to feel like we have to hide certain parts of us, but what part of these demands, school rules, verbal passes, comments from parents, comments from people in the hallway, what part of them teaches us how to see ourselves as magical vessels of endless frickin' golden energy. Or vessels who literally can create lives. Who or what in those passes are teaching us that?
That is something that literally blew my mind when I stopped to think about what I wanted to write down. We are constantly taught to cover ourselves up. What is that teaching us about appreciating ourselves? We literally have to think about how thick our tank-top straps are when we're in school K-8, K-12. We have to think about how long our shorts are in the back from the time we're 13 to the time we're 24 + people don't think it's appropriate to comment on anymore, which by the way, when did it become appropriate to comment on the shorts length of a 14-year-old. It's not. I think that when we're constantly being told to focus on those things that we can't do or that we shouldn't do, we miss out on being taught to love + appreciate ourselves for the way that we exist.
If you think about early women in tribal times, that's not what the focus was. The focus wasn't to cover up your legs or your arms. It was to provide + create + use your hands + be sustainable + be effective. You see naked women, literally everywhere. The grocery store checkout isles with your magazines, Sports Illustrated magazines at the mall, you see them at the mall on the posters that are up in the stores, they are literally all over your phone screen, literally all over your phone screen, but each naked body, most of them at least have been photographed by a professional, or by somebody who knew what angles, what lighting, what whatever to photograph. So, we're taught to cover ourselves up as children by our upbringing + our adolescents, but then we see everyone else half naked + we're taught to idolize them. Then you think of being force-fed movies full of lovers telling you that you're beautiful + that the only thing that we have as women is trying to feel acceptable enough by being covered up, but being sexy enough to feel desirable + then beautiful enough to look at, but then also we have to try to find someone else who will tell us that we are beautiful to feel good enough, while also being taught our entire lives that to be good enough, we have to be covered up. I know that that sounded confusing, so I know + can understand the absolute mind-fuck that we're expected to follow + understand + grow through as young adolescent women. It's crazy to me to think about how many women only know how to look at or to other people for validation.
Think about it. You're either looking at someone else + comparing yourself or knit-picking yourself in comparison to what they are putting out, which by the way is a highlight reel, or you are looking to someone else to tell you how great, how beautiful, how proud, how smart, how whatever, you are. It is created an entire population of women who don't feel worthy or valid enough to look at their own goddamn selves in the mirror and say, "Hey bitch, you're beautiful. You rocked it today. You killed that meeting or you're going to kill that meeting. You're worthy of going to cut some flowers, putting them in a vase and putting them on your kitchen table. You're beautiful enough to not wear make up today, or you know what, put the goddamn make up on because it is going to make you feel good." We're not taught until, in my opinion, way too fucking late in life, to appreciate ourselves. So that's what I'm trying to do in my little small town USA through my boudoir photography is teach women in my area, or even now, women across the country + around the world through virtual boudoir, which is cool as shit by the way, but that you're worthy enough as you come, as you are, as you already exist.
You are the dime-piece, you are the treat. All we're doing by posing + talking about the different butt muscles you have, is teaching you the tricks that everybody else who is having their photos taken already know or have already been guided through. For me, boudoir is the medium or the resource that allows women to see themselves the way that they see every woman. It allows me to create a mirror back to women to say, "Hey, this is your bad-ass-ery, all as it already exists. Which is exactly why I most certainly almost always refuse to edit out any stretch marks or any long-term blemishes that you wake up + see in the mirror everyday. What good is it going to do for your mental health, for your perspective of yourself, for your appreciation + love for your body, for your vessel if I edit out every blemish of you + then tell you you're beautiful. Tell me. What would that do for you? That would literally tell you that everyday that you wake up, you're not fucking good enough. Absolutely not. That is not the kind of show that we run around here. That's not what I am about + I absolutely adore companies that do that, I'm not downplaying what they do, but I am saying the experience that you get here, in this house, is not that because I want to show you how absolutely stunning every inch of you is. The same way that you look at you in the mirror because regardless of what kinds of photos I give you back on a Tuesday afternoon, when you wake up to get ready for work, you're going to see what your booty looks like + you're going to see what your legs look like + if I'm going to edit out what your booty + legs look like, what does that do for your Wednesday morning brain? Literally, its just like, "Oh