How Boudoir Photos can Increase Self-esteem and Sensuality
By Tiffany Aron
"Romanza" is the image that inspired Carol Calandra to have her own set of boudoir photos taken. She doesn't like to boast, but Carol Calandra truly knows what it feels like to glow during pregnancy. Comfortable in her new body, she was ready to show it off. "I myself had never felt more beautiful in my entire life," said the Web designer, who lives in Seattle. "I had an absolutely gorgeous belly." So at 8 1/2 months, she channeled her confidence into something that had been on her mind for a while even before the weight gain: she hired a photographer to take sexy nude photos of herself. The boudoir photo, as it is called in the trade, has often been thought of as a guilty pleasure. For a fee, professional photographers can transform the average man's or woman's fantasy into real-life images, all during a private shoot. Whether initially picturing themselves in the centerfold or looking to put some spice back into their relationships, many everyday folks are discovering that these photos can also be a great way to raise self-esteem and explore sensuality and natural beauty. Subjects can choose to wear sexy lingerie or nothing at all, but while often provocative, the photos seldom cross the line into pornographic or kinky. "I feel every woman is sensual and sexy just the way she is," says Theresa LoSchiavo, the Washington state-based photographer who took Calandra's photos. LoSchiavo has been specializing in what she calls "intimate portraits" for the past 8 years, after making a living as a wedding photographer. She was encouraged to pursue this genre by a friend, who was looking through some of her old photos and spotted one of a woman kneeling provocatively on a bed. LoSchiavo's work evolved during a time when boudoir photos were shot in a shady studio, where the subjects put on "stupid clothes," as LoSchaivo describes it, and plastered their faces with garish makeup. The final results were unnatural misrepresentations of the person, transforming her into someone barely recognizable. "I don't make over anybody," said LoSchiavo. "I may enhance, but I don't change anything." LoSchiavo says while her clients range in age, body type and sexual preference, they almost all are reluctant at first, needing a prod from their spouse or partner to get in front of the lens. However, once they schedule a consultation with the photographer to settle on the look of the shoot, a certain curiosity emerges, she says. Clients start to wonder how they might look as the centerfold. "It's more like a fantasy," said LoSchiavo. "We want to be the girl in the photo." LoSchiavo tries to get to know her subjects first and find out something about them before the photo session. She charges $360 to shoot three to six rolls of film in a session that can last most of the day. "I find what I am looking for, a connection is made and we are having fun," she said. Tommy Edwards, another Seattle-based photographer who has been producing artistic erotic images since 1980, also insists on meeting new clients first to find out what they feel comfortable with and what kind of look they hope to achieve. His prices vary, depending on how elaborate the set is. He once arranged a $7,000 session for a woman who flew from South Africa but has also done simple shots for as little as $100. Most people have a desire to see themselves as sensual creatures, Edwards says. And the days of people feeling perverted or embarrassed about expressing their sensuality, he says, are thankfully gone. His clients are diverse and include a 72-year-old woman who always wanted to have nude photos taken, but was raised to believe that it was somehow wrong. LoSchiavo's shots of Calandra included one photo where her breasts and the top of her pubic line are exposed and her husband, who is hidden behind her, has his hands on her belly. "'Wow, I look that good?'" Calandra remembered saying after she first saw the picture. "'Damn, that's hot.'" Her husband, who calls it the "ooh-la-la" photo, thought it was classy, so Calandra had it framed and matted. It now hangs in the living room. But good taste isn't always so easy to find in a client, the photographers say. Both LoSchiavo and Edwards turn down prospective clients regularly. LoSchiavo won't shoot anything that she considers pornographic and she does not hesitate to turn down men, many of whom request close-ups below the belt. "They think sexy is centered around the penis," she said. "I screen men a helluva lot harder." Photos of whippings, spankings, animals, children or anything that would degrade someone or cause them harm are out of the question with Edwards. He believes intimate photos should raise a person's self-esteem, especially among women, who lose confidence after years of hearing boyfriends tell them they're too fat or too thin. The biggest reward for Edwards is watching a woman view finished photos of herself for the first time, which often dispels her own negative body image. Many break down in tears. "I believe every person has a beautiful side to them," he said. "I will find it. Always."