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Capturing Confidence: The Vital Role of Trauma-Informed Practices in Boudoir Photography

Behind every captivating boudoir photo is a profound story waiting to be unveiled.

Woman in lingerie on clouds

To the untrained eye, boudoir photography is simply photos of women in lingerie. But, it is so much more than that. In her book, Body & Soul: Lucrative and Life-Changing Boudoir Photography, Susan Eckert describes boudoir as “a means of exploring the power and beauty of our feminine qualities; a tool that enables us to explore and communicate the essence of who we are and how multifaceted we as women can be”.

What is boudoir photography?

Boudoir is a style of photography that delicately accentuates the intimate, sensual, and romantic facets of the female form. While its popularity has surged in the past few years, it is not a new genre of photography. 

One of the earliest and most iconic manifestations of boudoir photography was the era of pin-up girls. Emerging in the 1930s, these pin-up models were strategically featured in advertising campaigns aimed at inspiring young men to join the military. These alluring figures graced recruitment posters adorned with slogans like “She’s worth fighting for” or “Come home to your girl a hero”. This pioneering form of boudoir not only captured hearts but also paved the path for contemporary boudoir photography to shine by normalizing its presence in the world of advertising.

My journey into boudoir photography was driven by the deep desire to create a comforting atmosphere within the walls of my studio; a sanctuary where women could explore their vulnerabilities and strengths. As more and more women experienced boudoir in my safe sanctuary, an increasing number of clients entrusted me with their deeply personal stories. These narratives spanned the spectrum, from stories of resilience in the face of sexual and domestic violence, heart-wrenching accounts of divorce, battles with eating disorders, to the diagnosis of cancer. It was here that I began to learn about trauma-informed strategies and started implementing them into every boudoir session. 

What does it mean to be trauma-informed?

At the core definition, trauma-informed is being informed about trauma. Stacey Hansen, a functional health coach with a specialty in trauma informed care, describes it as understanding the way adverse experiences can affect the nervous system and providing a safe environment for that nervous system.

So, why is this important?

“All of us have endured some kind of traumatic experience,” Stacey mentioned. “That means our nervous systems were triggered in some way and we either had the coping skills and capacity to process those emotions or we didn’t”.

Participating in a boudoir photoshoot can be an incredibly vulnerable and deeply personal experience for women. It's a journey that demands courage and self-acceptance as individuals open themselves up to capture their intimate, sensual and authentic selves. This vulnerability can cause emotional triggers to be brought to the surface.

“At its core, the word ‘vulnerable’ means that you are exposed to be harmed,” Stacey said. “The only way vulnerability can grow is through a trust-based relationship, however it can still trigger a stress response within the body because it is unprotected”. 

Being able to build a relationship that is based in trust with my clients is the first step I take to make sure they feel comfortable in my studio. It is my goal to show women how they can tap into the power of self-realization of their own beauty and strength while keeping them safe. For so many women who have experienced trauma, especially sexual and domestic violence survivors, their bodies were used and controlled. As a mom of two girls, I have this instinct to protect the women that come into my studio. As a photographer, I want to show these women how strong and powerful they are. Through boudoir, I can do both.

“Having authority over your own body can teach women that their sexuality can be something that isn’t exploited but beautiful.” Stacey explained.

Giving survivors a space to take back control of their own body and find beauty and power in it is an impact I never thought I would have as a photographer. 

Woman sitting down in a fitted evening gown posing confidently

Trauma-informed photography strategies

Anyone can learn how to implement trauma-informed strategies for their clients. Here are a few ways to get started.

Have a conversation with your client about their preferences:

“At the end of the day, you don’t know what may trigger your client,” Stacey said. “If you are able to have a conversation with your client before-hand, this may allow you to avoid some of their triggers without getting into personal details of why.”

As a photographer, I always want my clients to feel safe around me. I have a conversation with each of my clients and we talk about their comfort levels (if there are any parts of their body they don’t want to be highlighted, what parts of their body they love and are confident about, etc.) Half of boudoir is listening to your client about what they have to say, how they feel and what they want to take from the experience.

Always give agency to your client:

“Everything should be an invitation; nothing should be an ask.” Stacey said, “The most powerful thing you can do for your client is give them control over everything that will be happening.”

At the beginning of every boudoir session, I always make it known that my client has control over the entire session and, if they say “no” to any invitation, then I will not be upset. Even after giving them that control, I continue to ask permission throughout the session. Some examples include: “Can I move your hair?” or “Is it okay if I move your bra strap?”.

Understand that your client is in a vulnerable space:

“The most responsible trauma-informed practices are aware that you are navigating a human being that has a nervous system that will be elevated in a vulnerable environment.” Stacey said.  

I always take into account how hard a boudoir session can be for each client. It is my goal to empower my clients and make them feel a little better about themselves and, for some clients, that takes a little extra preparation and consideration. 

Understand you can’t make a person feel a certain way:

“You can create an atmosphere that you perceive to be safe to the best of your ability,” Stacey said. “After that, it is your client’s responsibility to communicate if that environment meets their needs.”

In photographing hundreds of women throughout my career, I have come to be very aware of body language. It is very important for me to pay attention to my clients’ body language and facial expressions. If I notice my client’s facial expression changes, even though they have verbally agreed to try something new, I will deflect and switch to something different. Body language is a strong language and it says so much about a person, which is why I use it as a tool to make sure my clients are comfortable and as a guide on if/when we need to change direction.

woman in lingerie posing by the pool

Music is a powerful tool:

“As much as music can empower someone, it can cause a nervous system to be triggered,” Stacey said. “In my practice, I don’t play any music that could have ties to anything.”

I always ask my clients if they would like to play music in the studio as a way to help them relax or as a way to get excited. Some clients bring their own, pre-selected playlists that fit the vibe they envision for their boudoir session. Music is never a requirement, but always welcome in my studio.

For many of my clients, their interest in boudoir photography was driven by a desire to try something new or to create a unique gift for their partner. Yet, these sessions evolved into transformative, empowering experiences full of self-discovery and healing. The trust these remarkable women have placed in me to accompany them on their journey is a privilege I hold near and dear to my heart. My goal is to raise awareness about the profound significance of trauma-informed practices in boudoir photography so women everywhere can have a safe space to embark on their path to self-worth and empowerment.


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