The Boudoir Photography Empowerment Movement
July 26, 2023
While modern boudoir photography contains echoes of the classically inspired imagery that infused boudoir when it was birthed along with photography in the 1890s, modern boudoir, with its emphasis on individual empowerment, celebrates a multitude of styles and bodies. (Scroll through to see examples of boudoir by Jasmin Jade, Kara Marie Trombetta, and Teri Hofford.)
In recent years, boudoir photography has majorly evolved from a genre about creating sexy pictures just for him into a far-reaching body-positivity empowerment movement. In fact, it has exploded into a form welcoming for all types of women, men, and gender-queer individuals as a safe space to celebrate their unique beauty, confidence, and power.
Boudoir photography is as old as photography itself with the first boudoir photographs being clandestinely printed on postcards and kept hidden under apothecary counters for those in the know. These early images typically depicted a series of images of a woman going from complete dress to a state of undress in settings like her boudoir (private dressing room) or in plein air (outdoor, naturalistic settings). These images, though explicitly illegal, harkened back to the imagery and emotion of classical paintings of the female nude.
These days, there are as many types of boudoir photography as there are photographers who shoot it. Some photographers even say that there are as many types of boudoir photography as there are people who want to be depicted in it.
Boudoir photographer and educator Kara Marie Trombetta says, ““The definition of boudoir photography is one of the most argued about amongst photographers, but I find that just like any other genre of photography it’s open to interpretation by its artists and subjects. Personally, I simply define “boudoir” as self-celebrating intimate portraiture intended to benefit primarily the subject themselves. . . the goal should be to celebrate the subject in the way they desire to be captured.”
This trend in attuning boudoir photography to the deep inner needs of those being photographed is indicative of the new trend of boudoir photography being utilized as a mode for deep healing for the subject.
Body positivity expert Teri Hofford says, “For me, boudoir was the means through which I was able to have difficult conversations with folks about their relationship with their bodies and use the photos as a means to help heal that relationship. It is vulnerable, beautiful, at times sexy, sensual and provocative, and it pushes folks outside of their comfort zone in the most glorious way.”
The vulnerability inherent in boudoir photography is what paradoxically makes it so powerful. When someone feels their own power and beauty while in their most vulnerable state, that confidence can carry over into all aspects of their lives.
Boudoir photographer Jasmin Jade says, “Boudoir photography for me means more than just a pretty photo of a woman. It goes deeper than that. For me, it’s all about empowerment. When I photograph a woman, I want to empower her in her being. They say your struggle is your gift. When I was younger, I struggled with being powerful. I struggled with putting myself first and setting boundaries, among other things. I know how it feels to not feel enough. Nowadays, I empower other women with the strength I possess through the things I’ve been through in my younger years. It’s not about the photos; that’s just the icing on top and the final proof that they are in fact amazing, powerful beings.”
A photoshoot can provide a cornerstone experience in a person’s exploration of what it means to truly love and value themselves and their bodies just as they are. It gives someone the opportunity to feel beautiful, strong and resilient while being the center of attention. This experience, in itself, can be transformative, but the impact is exponential. The resulting images can become a touchpoint to continuously access that experience over time, allowing that person to create and embody new, more empowered narratives about who they are and how they can be in the world.
Photographers who embrace the empowering capabilities of boudoir photography can be powerful agents of change for their clients, and in this age of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-celebration, there is a large and growing market for photographers who would like to add this genre to their portfolio.
Take a deeper dive into the Boudoir Photography Empowerment Movement on The Portrait System Blog, where you can also access a free pdf sampler of Kara Marie’s digital boudoir posing cards along with a discounted month of membership.