Everything you want to know about boudoir from local powerhouse Elise Kutt, owner of Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique and Naughty Bettie intimates boutique.
Why would someone want to do a boudoir photoshoot?
SO many reasons! To try something new, for one. There’s a lot to be said for doing something to shake things up a bit. Doing a shoot is also a way to get over the fear of being photographed. I think the #1 thing I hear is: “I’m not photogenic.” I truly believe everyone is with the right coach to guide them through. And, when someone does a photoshoot, they get to see themselves the way their loved ones do! We’re usually so much harder on ourselves, so to be documented in a way that allows us to see what our favorite people see in us is really beautiful.
Finally, my favorite reason is just to be seen in general. I feel like in today’s world, often we feel unseen in different parts of our lives. To exist in a space where we see you, we feel your energy, and we get to know you—that’s pretty powerful!
What kinds of shoots do you offer and how are they different?
The term boudoir can really exist across styles, wardrobes, and genres. For our studio’s purposes, we bucket them into categories like modern boudoir, retro pinup, glam, and couples sessions. Different things empower different women! So, for some, it’s taking off more clothes and, for others, it’s putting on more clothes. I like to call our studio an empowerment experience—because it doesn’t matter to me if you want to wear clothes or if you want to document your body totally nude.
Is boudoir for men, too?
Yes! Very recently there’s been an uptick, and this year I have photographed more men in boudoir than I ever have in the past. I’m finding, especially with regard to the couples sessions we do, that there isn’t as much conversation around body insecurities that men have. But they have just as many as women do, they’re just not talking about them. So, it’s been really incredible to see men showing up for this experience too! This work is for everybody—and every body.
What is your pre-process for getting someone ready for their shoot?
Because our studio takes more of an art therapy approach to our sessions, the prep is an especially important part of the process. We send out multiple emails before the session, so they feel cared for from start to finish—and beyond. They feel seen even before they get seen. That includes videos that my team has put together for every step, from hair and makeup to mindset to pose coaching to shopping for lingerie. There’s also a pre-shoot, virtual design experience where we go through the motivation for the shoot, the vibe the client wants, and how they want to present themselves in these images. We’ve tried to build an intentional experience that covers every aspect, so all they have to do is show up.
What if someone is nervous about getting naked? Do they have to wear lingerie or something really revealing?
That’s a huge part of that virtual design session, where I get to ask them a million questions about their life and how they dream of being documented. It’s all up to the individual and their comfort level. A lot of people think when they book a shoot, they’re booking one genre, but often it’s multiple genres in one session. They may want to document all the ways they show up in their lives… their professional side; their sexy, spicy side; their casual, hanging out on a Saturday side. This experience is empowerment first; what is worn doesn’t really matter!
What do you say to someone who is thinking about booking a shoot?
Do your research. Look for photography studios that take an intentional approach to every part of the process. This experience can be harmful if not done correctly. You want a photographer who is not only comfortable posing and coaching, but who is also trauma informed. The job of the photographer isn’t just to dress you up, pose you, and snap a photo; it is to create a space where you feel most comfortable giving your most authentic expressions.
What didn’t I ask that you wish I did?
What a lot of people want to know is how to find lingerie to wear for their shoot. I think it’s the number one question that my industry sees and, again, part of my intention in building this whole experience in an inclusive way was in noticing the anxieties that came up in the process before I opened the lingerie boutique, Naughty Bettie, inside the studio. I acknowledged that there was one part that was missing, and I wanted to solve those feels so that there was no point across the entire experience where they would feel insecure or stressed. They can come in and shop in the boutique with photographers who know how to fit and know what shoots the best.
By having the onsite lingerie boutique, clients enter a space where the mission of creating a safe and supportive environment for self-expression is carried all the way through. As we talked about earlier, boudoir doesn’t always mean lingerie. It’s whatever someone wants it to be! It can look different ways for different people and I tried to curate a collection of size-inclusive options that can be accessible to all body types and all styles. This experience is one that every single body can utilize in their self-exploration journey.
Mod Bettie & Naughty Bettie
706 Curve St SW | Grand Rapids