Dear Boudoir Photographers,
You're a master at posing. I know this because I see your work, and it's phenomenal. You're killer at lighting. You know how to make natural or artificial lighting perfectly hug a person's shape. You know how to help people feel comfortable and "look their best."
But I've noticed something. All this amazing posing and stellar lighting means one thing for plus size people - you're making them look smaller.
You're hiding their stomachs in the shadows. Clients always have to keep their chins up. You're only shooting from above. You've smoothed out stretchmarks and cellulite. Your clients look amazing, sure, but they also look much, much smaller than they are.
Why is that our goal? Why is that how we measure the success of a photo shoot? I get that some poses do this. I shoot from above, too. I have clients put their chins up sometimes. Light and shadows can sometimes hide or shape people's bodies in a way that makes them look thinner, but every pose doesn't need to be this way. Our responsibility as photographers is to capture a person as they are from every angle, and let our clients know it's ok. Their bodies are awesome and deserve to be documented. We need to start changing out goals.
A boudoir photographer I follow recently said "we don't shoot to share imperfections" but we fucking should! I want to! When we fail to capture our clients' "imperfections" - i.e. things that diet culture, the beauty industry and the patriarchy has deemed unworthy - we are reiterating that they are not good enough. They aren't worth love and respect because they have a belly or scars and flabby skin on their arms. As photographers who claim to be involved in self love, isn't this exactly the opposite of our mission statements?
I want to celebrate people's bodies for all they've accomplished. I want to throw parties in the body's honor, and I cannot properly do that if I'm hiding bits and pieces of those amazing, wiggly, jiggly bodies. I see ways I can do better. Do you?
I also understand that you're shooting to sell. You want your client to go home with a ton of photos they really love, and you think that if you photograph a person's stomach or rolls, they won't buy those prints. That's messed up for two reasons. A) It sucks that you assume a fat person can't love their body. By not shooting those parts of a person's body out of assumption, you're projecting your fatphobia onto them. B) Even if a person won't buy those photos, don't you think it's worth including them so your client sees that every part of their body was treated equally during a session? That could be their epiphany moment. "Hey, my boobs and butt look awesome in these photos. I don't really like my stomach, but if it's in here too, maybe it's not so bad." Wouldn't it be wonderful for a client - no matter their size - to realize that?
Let's stop applauding photos for the sole reason that it made a person look smaller. Let's make a goal to shoot people in their entirety that captures who they really are. Let's applaud laughter, O-faces, messy hair, freckles, muscles, stretchmarks, surgery scars, and more. I want to get better at this. I'm striving for this. Please, strive for this, as well.
A fellow boudoir photographer who is always learning,
PS - I write this as a chubby babe who would be super bummed if a photographer hid my chubby tummy or my jiggly thighs. It sucked being told by a photographer I admired that those parts of my bodies were imperfections. I imagine that feeling is a lot worse and more frequent for women who are larger than me.