“I guess it more chose me than me choosing it,” explains portrait photographer Erica Peerenboom, whose work is now 80 percent boudoir. Her goal: to make women feel beautiful. “If you wait till you lose those last 10 pounds you’re never going to do it. It’s not about having the perfect body, it’s about being who you are and expressing that.”
We chatted with the central Ohio-based photographer on why boudoir photography is her favorite, and what goes on before, during and after shoot day.
As primarily a senior portrait photographer, what led to your decision to add boudoir?
A few years ago I saw Bambi Cantrell hosting a creativeLIVE workshop on boudoir and beauty photography. At the time I thought, ‘That’s kind of interesting. I’ve not really pursued that.’ So I put some feelers out to see if there was any interest in my area. I was very surprised to find out there was.
What do you love about boudoir photography?
Mainly making women feel good about themselves. Just letting them see themselves differently… You know we’re fed the whole media idealization of what a perfect woman looks like – that’s not the case! Everyone is beautiful in their own way so I just like to be able to show them, they are!
Are there any photographers who inspired you to shoot boudoir?
Top of my list, first and foremost, is Sue Bryce. I love her. She is all about women and capturing beauty and does every type of workshop on creativeLIVE — I’m glued to the screen. I also love Christa Meola. She has a boudoir business in New York and is just amazing with her creative ideas.
Because of the intimate content, do you advertise differently?
I do have a separate Facebook business page that’s 18 and up only. I didn’t think I would promote it to my families or seniors, but I’ve been doing it for three or four years now, and some of the seniors that I shot three or four years ago are now liking my boudoir page and inquiring about sessions.
How do you show your work to potential clients?
When I was first starting out trying to build my portfolio, I worked (and still do occasionally) with models where I’d offer them a discounted rate for pictures for both our portfolios, so they will use them in theirs and I will use them in mine… it’s a win-win for both of us. Now, half of my clients let me share their images once they see them – they’re proud and excited about them and want to show them off.
Do you ever shoot nudes?
Not totally nude, but I’ll occasionally do some topless. But it really doesn’t happen often; that’s not really what my clients are after. They’re more after pretty pictures of themselves — girly, pretty pictures. It leaves a little more to the imagination.
Are there any techniques you use to help people relax during the shoot?
First, I let them know that everybody is nervous when they come, and I reassure them that I will not do anything or make them pose in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable, and that I will guide them through the whole session. I also always play loud music — the first thing I ask is who they like and what they listen to and get the music going loud and have fun — it’s like a girls’ day.
What’s your favorite part about shooting boudoir?
I like the control of doing it mostly in my studio. I occasionally do outdoor boudoir but not a lot, so I don’t have to worry about the weather if it rains or if it’s cold. It’s a year-round business for me that I’m able to maintain.
Describe your studio.
I have a main studio area that has the boudoir bed and it’s very shabby chic, a girly room. I also have a separate area that’s a black backdrop and a couch and a more dramatic light, so they get girly and also dramatic, sexy images — I mix it up. About 90 percent do it in-studio.
Are many shoots done as a surprise for someone?
I’d say about 75 percent do it as a surprise for a birthday, or wedding, etc. Most of the time, I’ll do a sneak peek of a client’s session on Facebook but they know not to Like it or leave a comment so that it won’t show up on their newsfeed and ruin the surprise.
What are your most popular products?
Mostly albums. I do 4×8 accordion albums for husbands or boyfriends that travel because it’s a good size to throw in a suitcase and take with them. I do a lot of 8×8 albums, much smaller, table-size that they can keep and bring out whenever they’d like.
Do you ever shoot couples?
Yeah, 10-15 percent of my business is couples. And usually what ends up happening is the woman will do a shoot by herself, and she ends up relaxing, having fun and realizing how laid back it is and loves her images. So they call for a couple’s shoot.
I once had a gentleman a couple years ago contact me about doing that, and he said it was a date he had planned… he and his wife would alternate every month and plan something for the other person as a surprise. So we did hair and makeup for her, he brought a couple of surprise items (lingerie) and once they left they went out to dinner, continuing with their date. I thought that was very romantic. They even ordered a big canvas over their bed.
What are the main reasons people want these shots done?
I have a lot of brides do it for their fiancé; they’ll do the album and present it to them on their wedding day or night. Valentine’s Day is big; it’s my crazy season right now. For birthdays, sometimes women do it for themselves — they’ve worked hard and lost weight and worked on their appearance, are proud and want to document it. I had a woman who was going to have a double mastectomy because of breast cancer that wanted to have her pictures done before the surgery. I had another woman that was terminally ill and older and wanted to leave some images for her husband.
Any tips for photographers wanting to try boudoir?
Definitely learn how to pose women properly and light them properly to maximize everyone’s potential. You don’t want to light someone badly and have all their flaws show — you want to pose the body in a way that accentuates the positive and sort of conceals what we don’t want shown. It’s all about the lighting and posing for boudoir photography, definitely.
How else does boudoir differ from other types of shoots?
It’s a little different because you have to be able to make all women look good no matter what shape or size, or even age. The post-processing is a little more intensive just because of stretch marks and cellulite — every woman has it. I am seeing every age from 18 or 19 year-olds who are engaged all the way up to 65. So it’s all different ages, all different sizes, not just one demographic. It’s pretty much any woman that wants to feels beautiful and what women doesn’t?
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Erica Peerenboom is a Zenfolio Pro Team member and a proud Zenfolio user for five years. The award-winning portrait photographer specializes in high school seniors and boudoir photography and is based in Marysville, Ohio.