Today's post comes from the book The Art of Posing: Techniques for Digital Portrait Photographers by Lou Jacobs Jr. In this book, Jacobs profiles eleven of the industries finest portrait photographers to find out what is behind their amazing images. This post is an excerpt from his profile of photographer Marissa Boucher. Find the entire profile and ten others in this new book, available at Amazon.com and other fine retailers.
Marissa and her husband Weston are a team who own Bouchér Photography, a wedding and boudoir studio in San Diego, CA. The pair began as high school sweethearts in 1997 (they had the same high school photography teacher!) and now have two hairy “kids,” Boston terriers. Their blog says, “Our passions and interests include our faith, travel, music, good books, nature, health/fitness, red wines, food, and global/local charitable organizations.” The Bouchérs were voted Best Wedding Photographer in 2005 by their local ABC TV station. Marissa puts pictorial emphasis on photographing women in pinup poses that please their husbands. She has developed her own boudoir posing book, and this chapter includes her boudoir poses.
ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND
I started in photography at Palomar College though I was shooting in high school at age of 17. Our business started on a small scale in 2001, and I taught myself techniques the best I could. I fell in love with photography and switched to digital in 2003, though I will always miss the darkroom. My husband is also partly self-taught.
In 2003, we were talked into shooting a wedding. We really enjoyed the experience, being newlyweds ourselves, and we began a full-time operation of Bouchér Photography. By 2006, I was ready to launch the boudoir portion of our business, Woman Captured. Kimberlee West and I shoot boudoir and she is my business partner for the Boudoir Divas. Under this name, we produce educational materials for other photographers. Kimberlee and I wrote a book about boudoir techniques in 2007. Woman Captured had unbelievable growth, and in 2008 we went from shooting in a small garage to using a 4500-square-foot studio in San Diego. Our materials are available online at www.theboudoirdivas.com. We plan to release tutorial video footage in late 2009.
ABOUT YOUR STUDIO
Our studio is in a commercial warehouse where we have large framed canvas gallery wraps everywhere. We paid special attention to moody lighting and overall ambiance. Five of us work full time. I am the creative director, and I run the studio and do marketing. I also shoot our bigger boudoir packages. Weston shoots and manages the wedding portion of our business. I am his second shooter on weddings.
Crystal Carr, our studio manager, is also a Woman Captured boudoir photographer. Our shooting space is about 1500 square feet. We have ten handdesigned boudoir sets, a few high-key areas, a dark and moody set, and a vintage bed with crown moldings on the wall behind it. There’s a viewing and sales room for boudoir, and another for weddings, plus a 1000-square-foot production area, a break room, and a dressing room.
Although my husband and I shoot weddings together, our studio specialty is definitely boudoir photography, where we spend about 70 percent of our time using the custom sets we created. In addition to the vintage bedroom and other sets we have a few outdoor locations available for a special fee. In 2008, we did about 120 sessions, and in 2009 we anticipate about 200. Boudoir denotes sexy, classy, “for his eyes only” photography. It allows a wife to give her hubby a gift that will add a little spark to the marriage. Our boudoir packages include an album and range from $560 to $1600.
GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH CLIENTS
Ours is a high-to-medium-volume studio, and we limit the time we spend with our clients. Once a client books her session, we send her a PDF that answers frequently asked questions and helps to prepare her for the shoot. This keeps her from having to e-mail or phone us.We also send a questionnaire that will help us determine what look the client is hoping to achieve, what she would like to accentuate about herself, and what she would prefer to hide. When women arrive in our studio, they typically understand the process. We chat a little more about her feelings and go over outfits and choose corresponding sets. This way, when we are chatting she doesn’t need to bring up any self-perceived flaws that would create negative energy.
During the shoot itself, we get to know each other. However, boudoir posing can be very challenging. For that reason, we have memorized about 14 poses that flatter all body types, and we can really give the client the attention she deserves.
We want our client to feel that she’s in a safe environment where she can get outside her comfort zone. We are fun and friendly and avoid making her feel like she has to meet our photographic expectations. Our 14 poses range from lying down, sitting, standing, to different variations in between. Not having to think about what poses to do next allows me to create informal energy and a positive experience. I value a client’s facial expressions even more than her poses.
In our boudoir marketing we put a great deal of emphasis on the experience. We want our client to enjoy the shoot so much that she leaves thinking, “Well, even if the photos are terrible, I had so much fun and it was worth every penny.” But almost always, when the client sees the photos she just loves them, and it’s icing on the cake.
FIRST PORTRAIT POSES
I always begin with the “Laura” pose, with the subject sitting on her side, usually on the floor on a cute rug or fabric. Her body is angled with her face in the foreground and her legs in the background. It’s a simple pose, and I usually demonstrate it first, which is much more effective than describing it. Since I am working with clients who are typically nervous in lingerie, I think they would shake in their boots if I asked them to improvise!
The more direction you can give with boudoir photography, the better. I’m aware that these ladies are nervous and will eat up any bit of instruction I offer. I think if I were photographing say, seniors, it would be my goal to get them amped up and comfortable to do their own thing. But with boudoir clients who you want to look their glamorous best from hair to toes, one must be a very detail-oriented photographer.
We photograph a variety of presentations and angles during each pose, including from just the eyes, lips, and upper body, to full length. We are always hoping our shots will have a bit of a fashion-forward look, so creative composition is very important. We observe our clients as much as possible to find their most flattering face and body angles. At least once or twice I try to put myself in a position that I would be least likely to choose to shoot from, and it’s where I usually end up getting some of my favorite shots. I also like to take a few photos that show that we are in a studio.
Our “Laura” pose is one of our favorites for head-and-shoulders portraits, because it’s extremely flattering for everyone. A number of our clients are fuller-figured women, and they often ask us to avoid their tummy area. To do that, we usually use our “Keely” pose, which shows off the entire body but highlights the back, and lingerie choices are very important. A longer corset that isn’t too tight can be one of the most flattering choices on a full figure.
We don’t do full-length shots too often because they are the most challenging to pull off for boudoir clients. To create a great full-length boudoir photo, the client needs to be completely comfortable, and there needs to be movement to the photo as if she is walking, dancing, or showing off in some way. I am not certain why full-length boudoir photos of nonmodels tend to look a bit awkward, but unless your client has abundant confidence, I would just take a few full-length shots and make the majority of figure pictures more cropped.
We do use a number of props. Vintage couches and chairs are a must for us at Woman Captured. Scarves and hats can also add a bit of movement to a stiff expression. We want our props to look real and not outdated, so we use vintage items that will remain hip and classy in the client’s mind when she looks at her photos in years to come.
When we use a prop it is usually to show off a certain feature. Having a woman lean on a folded chair forces her to create a gorgeous arch in her back, rounds her shoulders, and shows off her neck and décolletage. We also use a small vintage couch often. Having the client lie on her back seems to show off a woman’s curves beautifully. This is a great way to keep the subject’s hips a bit more blurred in the background since they are another self-proclaimed problem area. We also ask women to lie on their backs quite a bit, keeping her face sharp in the foreground.
DISCUSSING WHAT YOU ARE DOING
We never discuss the “why” of whatever we do with the lights, camera, etc. For example, I don’t want the client to know that I am turning her body into the shadows to hide her tummy. It would upset her confidence. I want her to feel that she is a complete joy to photograph. Professional compliments are a must, and we never stop talking as we are shooting. If the photographer goes quiet, the client starts to wonder, “Am I doing the right thing?” We try to be expert and casual about inspiring confidence in boudoir clients, who may be nervous about posing.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHTING
Our lighting setups are very simple. We were self-taught, so we really have to use our eyes to realize the best lighting on the subject, rather than be able to refer to traditional ratios or setups. With all of our lighting arrangements, we aim for fine pictorial quality. More than anything we want our lighting to look like the client is appearing in a classy fashion magazine where she looks drop-dead gorgeous. We use large softboxes and reflectors to put emphasis on the face and chest while trying to minimize the tummy and hips. There have been times when I have used a video light as a spot on a woman’s face along with the softbox flash. Hot light seems to really clean up the skin and do away with any lingering shadows. When lighting boudoir clients, I look for falloff or shadows on the body, plus full even light on the face, which makes this technique come in handy.
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