July 24, 2013
All photos © Jennifer Rozenbaum
The first thing potential clients used to ask Jennifer Rozenbaum about her boudoir photography—before the genre really took off—was, “How is it different from porn?” and “Why would someone want to do this?” Her response? “I would tell them that boudoir [photography] is classy, sexy and tasteful portraits of women either in lingerie or nude, but always artistically done. It shows more than your skin; it shows who you are and represents your beauty.” It also requires, she adds, the perfect play of lighting, posing and clothing (or lack thereof) to create artful seduction.
Rozenbaum—whose studio, Jenerations, is in Long Island City, New York—embodies the very elements that make up her boudoir photography portfolio: edgy and sexy contrasted by sweet and playful. She has always been about pushing the boundaries: As a budding teen artist she didn’t let age restrictions stop her from attending art sessions with nude models (she had her mother sign a permission slip), nor did she settle for a job that didn’t allow her to express her creative side. Instead, she made a profession out of her photography hobby. It comes as little surprise, then, that when she decided to open her photography studio four-and-a-half years ago, she would rise right to the top.
The Art of Boudoir
Rozenbaum’s clients are women who want to give their partners a unique and intimate gift, but are really looking for an experience for themselves. One that will be life-changing. Rozenbaum says sometimes a woman simply wants to discover or rediscover herself as strong, powerful and sensual.
As carefree as the subjects in her galleries appear, Rozenbaum says her clients are usually nervous at first. To ease their anxiety, she holds pre-shoot consultations allowing the client to get to know her. During the conversations, she learns the woman’s favorite candy, music and other personal favorites, and then provides them the day of the studio session. She also connects clients with her favorite personal shopper at three different clothing stores (depending on client’s location), and in addition to getting a discount, the client is given suggestions on the items that work best for her body and the goal of the shoot.
Rozenbaum always makes a point to learn what her client feels are her best physical assets. During the shoot, only the “perfect” poses and camera angles are used to accent those favorable areas. Discussions about the client’s self-consciousness are forbidden.
“My goal is to get the perfect picture out of the camera,” she says. “I try to crop in-camera because I want [subjects] to be able to look on the back of the camera [during the shoot] and say, ‘Wow, I love that!’ It builds their confidence and makes the shoot better for both of you.” She also prefers clean, simple images, which are what her clients want, too. “They want to look like themselves,” she explains.
The equipment she uses to create the ideal image includes a Nikon D3s and D700 with various lenses, including the Sigma 35mm, Sigma 50mm f/1.4, Sigma 85mm f/1.4, Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, Sigma 70-200mm, Nikkor 105mm Macro and a Lensbaby Composer Pro.
During the editing process, Rozenbaum refrains from altering the shape of a subject’s body or making other drastic changes. Her rule is to remove temporary blemishes, but she always asks if a person wants to keep birthmarks, scars and even stretch marks. “Anything that is permanent, I will ask about. I don’t remove wrinkles or pores, but just make them look a little softer.”
No Men Allowed
No matter the purpose or the motivation for a boudoir session, the outcome is the same—pleased women and men. Rozenbaum has found, though, that even if a couple has been married many years, the presence of a man at the shoot adds a level of discomfort for her clients. (And she had a few problems at post-shoot viewings where she allowed men to attend.)
Rozenbaum says the best feedback she has received from women is in the form of testimonials touting their increased self-esteem. “I get letters from women afterward saying, ‘You changed my self-esteem, my marriage, my confidence!’ It’s helping women see themselves the way other people see them,” she says. But she admits that she also loves when she receives a call or e-mail from the male counterparts thanking her for taking their partner’s photos. She recalls a particularly memorable encounter with a man who was at her home studio to read the gas meter. “I told him he could let himself out after he read the meter, but afterward he poked his head around the corner and asked me, ‘Do you by any chance know so-and-so?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do know her, she was one of our clients.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m her boyfriend. I just want to say thank you for the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten!’”
Rozenbaum doesn’t mind the praise, no matter where it comes from. “I will be in a restaurant and a free piece of dessert shows up and the manager comes over and says, ‘You shot my wife.’ It’s hysterical!”
Boyfriends and husbands haven’t been the only source of feedback that drives Rozenbaum. Her own husband, Micha (who is not allowed to look at a client’s photographs for privacy reasons), gave her the encouragement she needed to step away from traditional photography.
“Micha is my sounding board,” she says. “We look through Victoria’s Secret catalogues and I ask him, ‘What do you think of this pose? Is this hot?’ It’s always good to get a guy’s point of view.”
Up Close and Personal
Rozenbaum shoots only about eight sessions per month to keep things personal and well-paced. And every session includes hair and makeup. If someone says they don’t want it, she tells them it’s not an option. “It really makes such a difference not just in the photos but in the ‘fluff time’—the hour-and-a-half just sitting in the chair getting used to the environment and relaxing,” she says. “It really helps with their nerves.”
Another way Rozenbaum connects with clients is through social media outlets, including a YouTube video introducing new products and packages. Rozenbaum has found that many new clients feel they already know her due to seeing her on the videos. For instance, on www.jenerationsblog.com, the public can view new photos and special interviews from past clients who speak about their personal experiences with the studio.
Through Twitter (@BoudoirJen) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/JenRozenbaum), Rozenbaum stays current and in direct contact with the public by posting information on studio specials and trivia for giveaway prizes. She is also a self-described “Pinterest-aholic” (Pinterest.com/jenerations). “As a boudoir photographer, of course, you have huge challenges,” she explains. “We can’t always post the photos, because not all clients want their pictures posted online. And I have to keep it really modest.” But making use of these avenues has proven to be effective. “Anything to make them not forget about me,” she says.
Finding Her Way to the Top
Rozenbaum has learned a lot along the way through experience, but says before she became actively involved with others in the photography industry, she was floundering. Networking and befriending her peers has opened her up to such activities as joining associations like WPPI.
“You need to soak up any bit of information that any photographer has to give you, whether they’re new or a master,” Rozenbaum advises. “You never know when you’ll have a need for it. And it’s great to learn from wedding and fashion photographers even though I’m boudoir. The inspiration is everywhere and there are geniuses out there to learn from.”
Rozenbaum's Top 5 Boudoir Posing Tips
1. Shoot from the right angle. Make sure you walk around your subject, as well as taking a step up and crouching down. Often one small change in angle can produce a much better photograph.
2. Everything closer to the camera appears larger; everything farther away appears smaller. You will notice celebrities always stand with their hips and tush pulled back away from the lens. I apply the same rule to my clients.
3. Get your clients to convey real emotion. Make them laugh. A real laugh is always desirable over a fake smile. Evoke a sexy reaction from them by talking about their favorite celebrity or ask them to think of an intimate moment they have had with their partner.
4. Point those toes! When laying down or sitting, pointing the toes will give your clients a few added inches of length, making them look taller than they really are.
5. Watch those arms. Arms are the most awkward part of the body to pose. They can easily make or break a photograph. When done right, arms can add interest to a pose and show off a woman’s curves.
View more of Jennifer Rozenbaum’s boudoir work at www.jenerations.com. RF