Confessions Of A Boudoir Photographer
19 Nov 2015

Confessions Of A Boudoir Photographer

For the past decade, I’ve been in the rather odd position of getting paid to have women get naked, or nearly so, in front of my camera. Some are for

19 Nov 2015

For the past decade, I’ve been in the rather odd position of getting paid to have women get naked, or nearly so, in front of my camera. Some are for commercial clients such as hosiery companies. Some are everyday people who want to give sexy photos to someone special as a gift. Sometimes that special someone is themselves.  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way about myself, people, and life:

  1. _DSC5635watermarkedThere are no perfect bodies. No matter how amazing you think someone looks on the street, those clothes hide some secrets. Everyone, no matter how seemingly perfect, has something that must be “dealt with” either in Photoshop, or in their own mind.
  2. I feel a lot of pressure:  Our society is saturated with images of perfection, and none of us are totally immune to it. I feel a huge responsibility to make my clients look amazing. It’s one thing to  make someone look kind of chubby when they are in their Christmas sweater… it’s another matter when they have put themselves in the most vulnerable spot imaginable: naked in front of a stranger holding a camera. One wrong angle, lighting pattern, or critique of a photo could leave someone worse than I found them. Of course, the opportunity exists to create something that really lifts them up and makes them feel more beautiful. Either way, the fewer clothes, the higher the stakes. It’s a painstaking process.
  3. Everyone wonders if there’s anything sexy happening off camera. The answer is no.
  4. Editorial portraiture is more interesting to me than sexy photos.  Yes, sexy is fun to shoot, absolutely… and expression is even more fun. 
  5. I don’t get hot and bothered over nudity anymore. I love the female form. It is poetic. Like  rock star on stage with a guitar and streaming lights, like the angular Teton Mountains, its curves and texture and mystery begs to be photographed. And sure, I used to be more easily amused when I was a younger man. Now, it’s just part of the job, just another body. There’s one caveat: To my lover, girlfriend or wife: when you share your nakedness with me, with intention, in the context of our love connection, your bare flesh fascinates and excites me endlessly. It’s all about the connection.

    Helmut Newton quote "the photographs don't arouse me"

    Helmut Newton quote “the photographs don’t arouse me”

  6. Sexy is a state of mind. It’s all about feeling gratitude for your physical being. It’s about reveling in your 5 senses. It’s about enjoying your sexual nature without any shame. If you don’t feel sexy, there’s nothing I’ll be able to do photographically to change your mind about that. Please, be nice to yourself. Love yourself. Learn to feel really good in your own skin.
  7. The Last 1o lbs are a lie part 1: Oh, how I wish I could have a dime for every person who has said, “As soon as I lose 10 more pounds, I’m in coming in for photos”.  It never happens. Also, it doesn’t matter because I can sculpt the light and add or subtract “20lbs” from you by moving the light just a few inches.
  8. The Last 1o lbs are a lie part 2: I’ll make this personal, tell me if you can relate. I have often created some kind of line in the sand, a “finish line” of sorts, that when I cross it, I’ll allow myself to be happy / worthy / sexy / whatever/. The line either constantly moves, or when I cross it I find that I’m not much happier than I was before, and create another one to chase after.  Happiness / sexiness / worthiness is something I can give myself permission to feel right now. Today. The second I place it out there in “tomorrow”, I’ve lost a small battle with my own shame. Give yourself permission to be amazing TODAY. You aren’t going to do it tomorrow. I promise. Do it today. Like, right now, while you are reading this.
  9. My mother and I don’t talk about my work.
  10. Being on set is pretty boring.  If you were a fly on the wall, this is what you would see and hear:“Ah, okay… you look gorgeous right there. I love the way your breasts look in that light…”
    [adjust a studio light]”How’s your boyfriend doing these days?”[click, click]
    “Stop! Okay. To the right a little…”
    [try a different f-stop or aperture setting]”Yeah? I bet Hawaii would be an amazing spot for your anniversary”[click]
    “Alright, you look constipated. Breathe a little..”
    [goddammit, my light trigger didn’t work…]
    “Step toward me 3 and a half inches. NO MORE. come, come, come. STOP! Too far… go back. okay, almost there…””Do you think you’ll end up having any kids someday?”
    [hoping we get this shot in before the sun goes down and kills this great window light]
    “Suck in… belly in…. suck ! SUCK IN! HOLD IT… okay… GOOD!”[click click click click]
    [hate having to tell women to suck in their belly even when they don’t seem to have one]”Yeah, I’ve got two daughters, 16 and 18, they are awesome…”
  11. Playboy used to be fun. Now it’s about the articles. And how to properly set up lighting for skin.  Those guys are masters.

    pam5censored

    Not my photo… this glorious capture of the lovely Pamela Anderson was featured in Playboy Magazine in 1994

  12. Being a straight guy is a liability from a marketing perspective. See point #3 again.
  13. I’m in it for the money.  Look. I love photography, but I love riding my motorcycle even more.  If the money is right, I can be talked off of my bike, and into the studio. Regarding boudoir –   I’m really good at it, I create a very comfortable and positive experience for you, and that’s worth a lot of money. Also. Motorcycles are expensive. 😎
  14. I’ve seen lives change because of boudoir photography. One in particular comes to mind. I’ll call her “Rachel”. She entered my studio a plain-jane athletic type on the tail end of a failing marriage. Months later, I met her again. She almost looked like a different person. She was radiant, dressed in sexy, classy feminine ways, carried herself differently, and most importantly, started commanding the respect of people around her. She left her abusive husband, her business started booming, and she attracted an amazing love into her life. She explained, “I didn’t know that I other people could see me like that until I saw it in your studio”. This will forever be one of the high points of my photography career.

No matter what style I’m shooting, my artistic standard is best summed up in the words of Dr. Ferry Porsche, designer of the iconic sports car by the same name:

“If you can create something time cannot erode, something which ignores the eccentricities of particular eras or moments, something truly timeless, this is the ultimate victory.”

 

See more of my boudoir work, click the pretty picture below:

I am currently accepting new portrait commissions, and am available for travel nationwide. Contact me to discuss your photo shoot.

much love –
Paul DuanePaul Duane Photo Logo 2014 BLACK 300 wide300dpi


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  1. Mandi November 21st, 2015 11:31AM

    Well written Paul. Excited to see what you do next!

    • Paul Duane December 2nd, 2015 9:53AM

      Thank you! The next chapter of my photography career is going to be a lot of fun. Stay tuned!

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