We are delighted to present to you photographer Marlen James, who takes all kinds of photos, but has a special place in her studio for boudoir shots. Here we get the ins and outs of boudoir photograph from Marlen, who combines her professionalism with a distinctively friendly and down-to-earth manner.
P: What inspired/motivated you to go into boudoir photography?
MJ: I started out doing glamour shots when they gained popularity in the 1990’s. I also started to photograph weddings, and took pictures of brides getting ready for the big day. Some brides wanted sexy, sensual shots – it can be a great gift for grooms and became a busy business. Moving into boudoir photography was a natural extension from there.
P: Why do people want their boudoir photos done?
MJ: Lots of reasons. Sometimes people want to celebrate a milestone, like an anniversary or reaching a weight loss goal. Others may be fulfilling a partner’s fantasy, or just doing it for themselves. I take all kinds of photographs, some more suggestive and some more explicit, depending on what the client wants.
P: Who are your clients?
MJ: Most of my clients are women, with the youngest being 22 years old and the oldest in her 60s. The majority are between 30-35 years old – these women tend to be comfortable with their body and it’s at their peak, so they want to remember this stage.
Sometimes I have couples come in together, for either posed pictures and some video (I often tell them to make out for these).
P: Have you ever gotten boudoir shots done of yourself?
MJ: Yes! I got them done for my 30th birthday and my 35th birthday. I want to do them every 5 years, to see my body as it changes. For my first shots, I needed to drink a bottle of wine just to show my boobs. [laughs] I have more confidence now.
I also have my assistants get their boudoir shots done. I think it’s important that they know what it’s like to be the client. It also helps them with directing the models when they’re behind the camera, which is the hardest part of the job.
P: How do you find clients?
MJ: The website does most of the work – I really try to provide a lot of information there. I wrote everything myself. I know it’s not technically perfect that way, but I prefer it because I want people to get a sense of who I am through the site. I also think it helps that I’m a female photographer – many women are going to feel more comfortable working with another woman.
I also get clients through referrals too – sometimes people need that little bit of extra support or motivation.
P: How do you work with your clients?
MJ: We have an initial survey where the client tells us from the start how much she wants to show. But more than that is my own experience and approach, as I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I’m pretty efficient. I’ve seen it all – you can’t scare me! I’m just as comfortable taking a shy woman and working with her while she’s naked, as I am taking a confident woman and telling her what to do (even if she thinks she knows). Directing the model and figuring out how to get a good shot – that’s the hard part and I’m good at it.
P: What is the best part of your work?
MJ: The best thing about the job is the people I meet. It’s amazing. I get to know such a wide range of people, including lawyers, teachers, policewomen. My job is like playing Barbies. Some people choose to do their own make-up and hair, but often I get to do it, using all that training I got from my glamour shot days. Then I get to pose them. The shoot itself is the most fun.
Then there’s editing, which is important, but I don’t like to edit the photographs too much. Some people think they have to look “perfect” according to what we see in magazines or ads. I explain that while they may focus on what they see as their flaws in the photographs, their partner sees beauty or sexual appeal. During the shoot, I invite clients to look behind the lens to see themselves. I tell them, that’s how your partner sees you. It’s a powerful moment.
For me, it’s the woman who has been in the same relationship for 10 years, when it’s hard to keep the spark alive, she benefits the most from getting boudoir photography done. They are proof that she can still work it – she can have shots that are really sexy but pretty too.
P: What would you say to someone who is drawn to getting boudoir photographs done but is hesitant to take the leap?
MJ: It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people. You won’t regret it.
Thank you, Marlen, for your sharing your experiences with us here at Plenty! Learn more about Marlen and her photography at her website.