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When Samantha McGranahan started taking boudoir photos, she was surprised and frustrated by how many last-minute cancellations she received. Women who had been impressed by her work, enjoyed talking with her, and committed to a scheduled session at the UNVEILED Photography studio suddenly had excuses why they had to cancel. McGranahan knew it was more than a coincidence; after examining the problem more closely, she realized that these women were scared.
They were not scared of McGranahan, who is incredibly warm, personable, and supportive. They were afraid of being exposed, spending time and money on themselves, and not liking what they saw in the photos. “For the sake of my business, I needed to stop the cancellations, but even more importantly, I wanted to make them feel good about themselves,” says McGranahan. “I realized that I could use my photography to help women feel empowered and confident, and to renew their self-love.”
Speaking with her clients, she knew that many women decide to get boudoir photos for other people, wanting a fun and romantic gift for their spouses or partners. While pictures showcasing a woman’s sexiness and beauty do make excellent gifts, that gift-giving motivation was not always enough to keep clients committed to the photo session. It was also too narrow: the women weren’t considering how the photos might make them feel. “I wanted women to do this for themselves more than for someone else,” says McGranahan. “Women are often focused on doing for others, but we have to give some attention to ourselves.”
That’s exactly why client Amanda Allen signed up for a session. “As I got older, had kids, and became consumed with life, I never really did anything to care for myself,” she admits. Allen has always loved art and photography and sees boudoir as a combination of those two things. After seeing a Facebook post and some of the albums on the UNVEILED Photography website, she made an appointment. “I wanted to look and feel beautiful like the women in those photos,” she says.
After committing to the photo shoot, Allen was excited, but also very nervous. She did not know what to expect or how to prepare for the session. “I have a mom body, with stretch marks and scars. I didn’t have any idea what to wear. I didn’t know these women, and was so afraid of being judged,” Allen says. This is a thought process typical of many of the clients McGranahan photographs, women who feel uncomfortable with their bodies or unsure of how they will be perceived. “There’s a very uniform concept of beauty in the media, which makes every woman who doesn’t look like that feel less than beautiful,” McGranahan says.
To help reassure her clients, McGranahan and her team developed a system, beginning with a pre-session communication plan. Each week leading up to their session, clients receive an email with specific instructions and encouragements. One provides links to an album of previous UNVEILED Photography shoots, so they can find inspiration and styles they might want to try. Another gives a timeline of things to do in preparation for the shoot, like when to schedule a manicure or waxing (although doing so is not required, by any means) and what to do day-of. There’s also an email with helpful tips on what to wear during the shoot itself, which is a very difficult consideration for most clients, including Allen. “I felt like I had boring clothes for the shoot,” she says, “but after reading the emails, I realized that I had picked outfits that were most me.”
Every email includes words of encouragement, support, and kindness. The website and social media pages do too. In person, McGranahan and her team exude positivity and openness, and they arrange the photo shoot so that clients feel comfortable from the start. This system is orchestrated but it is not phony; the team at UNVEILED Photography are completely authentic.
Allen explains, “I did not know what the expect. How do you prepare to be your most vulnerable in front of strangers? But as soon as I met them, it was like I had known them my whole life.” From helping her choose the right outfit to styling her hair and makeup, the team made sure Allen felt comfortable and beautiful. “I was lying on the black couch, half-undressed, and Samantha gave me a peek at the photos she had taken. It was all me and I looked like a model. It was so uplifting,” she says.
That is the experience McGranahan creates at every photo shoot. They have a professional stylist to do hair and makeup, they use props that are glamorous and lighting and angles that are flattering, but they see this as just enhancing the beauty that’s already there.
“We do a minimum amount of editing, because it’s not necessary,” McGranahan says.“Every woman who comes in deserves to have that spotlight on them and feel fabulous.”
For many women, a boudoir photo shoot is an empowering event. Finding the courage to undress for the camera, giving serious thought to who you are as a sensual being, and allowing yourself to express your personality and beauty in front of strangers is a monumental task. Afterwards, women often feel more confident and self-assured. “I feel like a stronger person after doing this, more myself than I have in years,” attests Allen.
Learn more about UNVEILED Photography, view photos from other shoots, and read tips and advice from the team at UNVEILED–Photo.com.
From left to right, UNVEILED is:
Hilary Owens, Image Production Manager
Samantha McGranahan, Owner and Photographer
Priscilla Rocha, Studio Manager
Lindsey Martin, Hair and Makeup Artist
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