I may be a sex educator who helps other people with their sexual self-confidence, but that doesn’t mean I’m always flawlessly confident.
You might be reading this and thinking “you’re just saying that” but I’m serious. 

Heads-up, the intro to this post will discuss eating disorders. This post will also contain partially nude photos of me. 

My body issues baggage is somewhere in the realm of six jumbo suitcases, a vintage trunk, and several well-organized carry-on bags, all just slightly over the TSA-approved limits.  

I’ve dealt with an eating disorder since I was 10 years old and for most of my life, had a decidedly antagonistic relationship with my body. Getting dressed and doing my make-up can still send me into a tailspin if something doesn’t look just right. I’m a perfectionist with OCD, and all of that shows up in how I’ve interacted with my body over the years. 

So, confidence is a struggle. But over the past two years, my confidence has slowly stabilized. I’ve mostly stopped antagonizing my body, I eat a little bit more regularly (with check-ins from my therapist), and I don’t use exercise as punishment anymore. I wouldn’t say that I have a positive relationship with my body, but I have a solidly neutral relationship with it. It’s here, I’m trying to be kind to it, and we’re not fighting each other all the time. 

Feeling neutral about my body might seem incongruous with getting partially naked in front of someone’s camera and then signing a full release saying they can include my face in photos on their social media channels and other marketing platforms. (Oh, and saying that the photographer could tag my Instagram handle). 

But I don’t regret my decision to do a boudoir shoot—not even a little bit. 

Why I Decided to Book a Boudoir Shoot

If I hadn’t met my photographer well before our shoot, I don’t think I would have booked a boudoir session. For more context, please re-read the previous section on my body image issues. 

But I had met Annika, who is the photographer behind Ma Cherie Studios. She reached out to me at the beginning of 2020 because we had a mutual contact and she was relocating to South Florida. We met up for lunch one day to talk about potential business ideas. 

Our interest areas naturally overlapped. Annika started doing boudoir photography when she was in college, and I started doing sex ed in college. We both were interested in helping people let go of shame and improve their confidence. We both firmly believe that anyone can be sexy—regardless of whether or not they conform to society’s idea of sexiness. 

This meeting was in February 2020, so you can see where this lunch meeting is going. (Nowhere. It went nowhere, because COVID happened). We had great ideas, but they’re just going to have to wait until the pandemic has stopped and we can safely be in groups again. 

Having met Annika in-person, I knew that she had an incredibly relaxed vibe. She’s very soothing to be around, which is exactly what I need when it comes to, well, anything. I followed her on Instagram and even though we didn’t get the chance to work on anything together in 2020, I kept a close eye on her work. I thought about scheduling a shoot, but I had recently started working for myself and wasn’t comfortable with the financial investment yet. Annika is extremely good at what she does, and that’s not inexpensive (but more on that later). 

In November, she announced that she’d be doing a Black Friday sale, and I started to think a little more seriously about scheduling something. I made sure I was subscribed to her email list and when she sent out the Black Friday appointment email, I showed it to my partner and asked if she thought I should do it. Her response was basically, “yeah sure if you want to; it seems like a good deal.” So, I booked a session for February and promptly started sweating. 

Figuring Out What to Wear for My Boudoir Shoot

Booking my session led to a series of emails. Although my shoot wasn’t for a few months, I was already thinking about what I wanted to wear and how I wanted the photos to look. Honestly, I never settled on the ‘how I want them to look’ thing, but I did figure out the outfits, which Annika helped with. 

That series of emails included a survey about my everyday style, what vision I had in mind, where I liked to shop for clothes and lingerie, and a bunch of other things. She asked about how I typically do my hair and make-up, if there were any parts of my body I’m not comfortable with and if there were any parts I wanted to highlight. I also sent her photos of me so that she could get a sense of how I look (we’d already met, but this is a standard form). 

From that form, Annika made me a custom Pinterest board to help with outfit, hair, and make-up inspiration. I only actually ordered one of the outfits from the board, and everything else I used just as inspiration. 

I already own a lot of lingerie and fancy underwear. I love wearing matching underwear sets day-to-day, so a lot of my “basics” could have worked for this shoot. I’m much less comfortable in things like bodysuits and teddies, but I was curious about them anyway. I spent a lot of time searching the lingerie sites I use the most (Bluebella and Playful Promises) for pieces that caught my eye. I also kept watch on the Mentionables Instagram feed as they started to preview their Valentine’s Day collection. 

The board Annika made me had a mix of very inexpensive items and higher-end items. There were simple pieces from Victoria’s Secret, then an expensive bralette, and then a bunch of midrange items. I tend toward the upper end of midrange for my lingerie; the sites I shop most frequently include some higher-end items, but I pretty much always use some type of discount code, which saves me a lot. 

My session included two outfits, so I knew that I would be challenged to narrow things down. I have really conflicting ideas about what I like to wear, so sometimes I’m like “yeah leather bodysuits are great!!” and other times I’m like “a cardigan with lace underwear is perfect.” Both of those selves live within me and are constantly arguing with each other. 

Here’s a list of all of the pieces I seriously considered for my shoot. Some of these things are affiliate links (denoted with an asterisk*) which means if you purchase an item from that link, I’ll get a small commission. I also have a discount code with Mentionables; you can save 10% with code FEMINISTSEXED

There were also about 10 other pieces that I already owned and considered, but only briefly. Those were all things that I didn’t feel like I could make a good set of, or that I’d worn so often that they didn’t feel special to me anymore. 

I went through two different “try everything on and narrow your choices down” sessions with myself (and eventually my partner), and I still couldn’t get it down to 6 outfits. And I only even had two outfits permitted for my shoot! It was a struggle. I actually decided to email Annika and see if I could add on another outfit (she has a variety of things you can add-on to your shoot, including additional outfit slots, shower shoots, white sheet shoots, and more). So, I added an additional outfit and brought my total up to three, which felt much more manageable. 

I still brought six outfits with me to my shoot just in case I freaked out or felt weird in one of them. Annika helped me narrow down my options and we quickly decided on the three I would wear. Here are the pieces I actually ended up wearing: 

The Emerson set was one that I already owned (but I added in the Lumi bra because I preferred it over the Emerson bra). I also brought two pairs of heels with me because Annika recommended at least having them. One pair was my wedding shoes, which are very sparkly. I ultimately decided not to wear them. The other was a pair of 5-inch suede pumps. 

I also bought a lace cover-up from Etsy at the last minute because Annika had posted a photo of another client in something similar, and I loved how it looked. Other than the shoes and the cover-up, the only accessories I wore were my earrings and a necklace. 

Preparing for the Shoot

A few days after Annika sent me the link to my Pinterest board, she sent me three PDFs. One was an information packet which had some general information and advice on everything from caring for your skin before your shoot to places you can get your makeup done if you don’t want to do it yourself, plus a few basic rules (like punctuality and not bringing anyone with you to your shoot). 

The second was a lingerie guide, which gave more information and advice specifically about choosing lingerie. The third thing was a packing checklist, which I obsessively referred to in the week leading up to my shoot and that morning. 

I don’t wax and honestly, I barely shave. I manage to shave my legs maybe once every other month. If outfits stressed me out the most leading up to my session, body hair stressed me out the second most. 

Let me be clear: I personally give zero fucks about my body hair. It does what it does and I alter it when I feel like it. I am well past the point in my life where I alter my body hair for other people; now, I just do it if, when, and how I want to. Still, I had this recurring voice in my head going “but what about the pubes?” 

Pretty much all of my lingerie was sheer, and I have light skin and dark hair, so pubic hair would be visible. Plus, hair sticks out through lace. I fixated on this a lot. 

In the two weeks leading up to my shoot, I was extra careful about sun exposure. I wear a daily sunscreen on my face and neck, but I can get a burn on my body from just 30 minutes of outside time in January in Florida. So, I made sure to wear daily sunscreen too. I also developed a moisturizing routine that I haven’t had since I was in high school. I was so well-moisturized! This was an unexpected perk of the shoot. 

I have a few different skin conditions. One of them causes me to have red splotches on my stomach and around my pubic line. The other causes my hands and wrists to become so dry that they crack and bleed, even when I’m using my medication. I wasn’t worried about the splotches showing up in photos because honestly, I don’t care about them. They’re just my spots. I’m like the yellow-spotted lizards from Holes, except my spots are red and I don’t think I’m venomous. But the skin cracking does bother me. 

First off, it’s painful as hell. Second, when it’s really bad, my hands look like an 80-year-old’s. That’s not an exaggeration—my 80-year-old grandmother has better-looking hands than I do when I’m having skin flare-ups. 

So, to try to reduce the chances of my hands doing what they love to do, I moisturized all the time. Which was great! I also specifically planned my week so that I’d land on a hair-washing day the day before my shoot, and shaved and exfoliated two nights before. I did my fingernails and toenails a few days in advance, too.   

I also had a high level of COVID-related anxiety leading up to my session. I haven’t even been to the grocery store in ages, let alone unmasked in a room with someone who isn’t my partner. Luckily, COVID testing in my area is very accessible, quick, and free. I got a test a few days before my shoot (both a rapid antigen test and a PCR test) and got my negative results before I went to the shoot. Annika wore a mask throughout. I also got tested again one week after my shoot and then again two weeks out from my shoot.  

In the two weeks leading up to the shoot, Annika sent me a couple of reminder emails with tips, plus directions to her studio. Despite my very loud brain saying “but what about the pubes???” I did not actually ask her “but what about the pubes?” 

The Day of the Shoot

At some point, I realized that I would get my period either the day of or day before my shoot. I’m on birth control, so theoretically these things would be predictable, but they’re not. I’ll often start bleeding 10 days before I’m meant to and some months I won’t get a period at all. But the week of my shoot, I started noticing that I was having menstrual cramps. I did get my period and it was heavier than it had been in a while. The day of my shoot, I wore a menstrual cup (I typically wear period underwear). 

My shoot was scheduled for noon, but Annika’s studio is about an hour away from where I live and I knew my hair and makeup would take a long time. I did basically the same makeup that I did for filming You Deserve Good Sex, so I was at least pretty comfortable in the routine. I woke up at 7 am to eat and have a cup of tea, then immediately started in on my hair and makeup. 

This might feel like an excessive amount of time to you, but I actually took the whole four hours to do my hair and makeup (and eat). My hair was the biggest time factor here — although my hair has thinned out since I was a teenager, it still is pretty thick, and heat styling it takes a long time. I curled my hair the same way I do for filming, teaching, and basically any other thing I do, but my hair alone took about two hours. 

I started in on my makeup, which was the same heavy studio makeup I wear when filming.

It might look relatively natural, but I assure you it is not. For my shoot, here’s all of the makeup I wore: 

  • Foundation 
  • Acne concealer
  • Blush
  • Highlighter
  • Eye primer
  • Six different shades of eye shadow 
  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Mascara
  • False eyelashes
  • Brow filler 
  • Lipliner
  • Lipstick

That took about an hour to do. This was also my first time wearing false eyelashes in a long time, but now I’m kind of obsessed with them. Damn. The pair I wore was a pre-glued set that was meant to last for at least 16 hours, and they did! 

Before I left, I moisturized yet again. I triple-checked all of the bags I had packed, touched up my hair, and packed a touch-up makeup kit just in case. And then I checked my bags again. I felt really nervous at this point. I was slightly sweaty and very twitchy. I was pretty sure I would vomit. On the drive up, I listened to the playlist I use for my sex ed workshops, which is just nice and fun. My anxiety ticked up a bit because my GPS showed traffic between my house and Annika’s studio, but I got there just in time. 

When I pulled up to the studio, I quickly touched up my makeup in the car and added my lipstick (which I left off so that my lips wouldn’t get dry on the drive). And then I proceeded to be the most awkward version of myself. 

I hate knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. I will not ring a doorbell and I knock very quietly. So I walked up to the front door, texted Annika, lightly knocked, and then proceeded to stand there without breathing for about three minutes. Finally, we got me into the studio (it took me trying the door and finding it locked and texting Annika again.) 

As soon as I walked in I said “hi! I might throw up.” To which Annika replied, “okay, let’s put your stuff down. Do you want anything to drink?” So, yeah. She has a very calm vibe. I took a glass of champagne (she also offered tea and water) and we proceeded to debate the pros and cons of everything I’d brought with me. 

Well, not actually everything. I left a few things packed away as emergency items, and I didn’t show those to her. Luckily, we didn’t need them! We got everything sorted very quickly and I went to go get changed into my first outfit. 

I do not know how to pose. Intuitively, I know what looks good in front of a camera. I just simply can’t make my body do it without someone telling me what to do. When cameras are around, my brain kind of deactivates. This is a curse and truly demonstrates how much of a miracle it is that all of YDGS got successfully produced.

Right away Annika asked if I was comfortable being posed, and I said yes. She modeled every pose for me, demonstrating what I would do and explaining what it might feel like. She also checked to see if I was comfortable with her doing physical adjustments to help direct me. Annika is very detail-oriented and specific, so there were moments where she would adjust my hair strand by strand so that it would be lying just so over my shoulders. She also helped adjust my lingerie when I needed things tightened. 

Throughout the shoot, Annika would show me photos from the back of her camera so that I could see how they looked. This is absolutely something she does to reward you for holding really awkward poses for a long time. She asks right off the bat if you have any injuries or physical things she should be aware of, because the poses can put some strain on your body. 

After the first outfit, I had to lay in child’s pose for a minute just to release my lower back. At one point I learned that my calves simply are uninterested in helping me stand on my tiptoes for longer than 10 seconds. 

But honestly, despite the periodic physical discomforts, it was very soothing to just have someone pose you. Like I said, when I’m in front of a camera, my brain just sort of deactivates. Annika told me I could move in ways that I felt drawn to, but when your brain is deactivated, you don’t feel drawn to anything. 

I was very content to have her show and tell me how to pose. That level of direction was actually very relaxing. She directed, and I did. It was nice to not have to stress about the poses; I trusted that she knew what she was doing, so I just followed her lead. After the first outfit, I was nervous that my body would be too sore by the end, but it actually loosened up a bit and got easier frame by frame.

Posing for this left me with a calf cramp for two days afterward.

Each outfit was photographed in a different area of the studio. The first outfit was mostly by a large picture window, the second on a leather couch, and the third on a very fluffy air mattress. That meant that I was using my body in slightly different ways for each outfit. 

I haven’t stood in front of anyone in my underwear since my wife and I started dating, so I wondered if that would feel a little uncomfortable. I’ve always been very comfortable being in front of other people in my underwear, because nudity was very desexualized in my home growing up, but I wondered if the amount of time would make a difference in how I felt. Luckily, it didn’t seem to! I felt totally normal standing around in my underwear; the same as I would have felt if I were fully clothed. It also helped that Annika gently complimented me every time I finished changing. 

Because Annika was periodically showing me photos, I also was becoming a bit more confident as time went on. I knew that things looked good, even without editing, and that was reassuring. Once we were all done, I got dressed and gathered up my things, and then Annika showed me the different product sets I could order, which included a few different album types, an acrylic box print, a viewfinder, and some other things. This was nice because it meant I got to see and feel the materials in-person, instead of just having to pick over Zoom later.

The whole shoot lasted about an hour and a half from when I arrived to when I walked out the door. I left my session much more relaxed than I started it. I FaceTimed my partner to tell her about it, and she could immediately tell that I was feeling happy and calm. That afterglow lasted a whole two weeks, which was really surprising! 

Afterward

The day after my shoot, I expected my lower back to hurt, but it really didn’t. My calves, however, hurt for about a week afterwards. I got a leg cramp during one of the poses and I think that’s why my leg kept being sore. But otherwise, I felt really good! 

It was nice to have spent a whole day focusing on me. Not my business, not my house, not my garden or my pets—just me. It’s also really nice to spend a day just feeling vain and really comfortable in my own skin. Annika is really skilled at helping people feel comfortable in front of the camera, and I’m glad that I decided to do a shoot with her. 

After our shoot, Annika edits the photos. I told her during the shoot that I didn’t want any of my scars, skin spots, or body rolls edited out. Her response was really calming; she told me that she doesn’t edit out anything that’s permanent on your body. So scars might be lightly softened, but not removed. Body rolls will stay. But random zits and stray pieces of hair would be edited. Otherwise, much of her editing is lighting and coloring (you can actually purchase some of her Lightroom presets here). 

Our image reveal and purchasing session was scheduled for early March, and I didn’t see my photos until then (except for one preview she shared with me). I didn’t feel particularly nervous about this session, but I did feel curious! 

My shoot fee ($300) didn’t cover any images (digital or print), which is why you have this purchasing session. You pick out the images you want, decide on which formats you want them in, and add-in any of the extra things she offers. 

Narrowing down the photos was challenging. All of the photos were great, so I ended up just choosing based on my gut feeling of what I liked best. I went into our purchasing session knowing that I was going to get an album and the digital copies of the photos I chose for the album, and that’s what I did. 

Once we decided which photos to put in the album, I told her what materials I wanted and that was that! She gave me information on how the album would get to me (she mailed it, but I could have picked it up) and when I could expect to receive it. Because the box is a bunch of semi-naked photos of me, she requires a signature at delivery. The digital images were provided on a flash drive, not on cloud storage. 

This is the box of items that I received. Everything was really nicely color coordinated and the ribbon was all meticulously tied. My album is a dark brown leather (the black is the wrapping paper around the box).

I left the call and then bragged to my partner that I got to see all the images, even though she had only seen the one preview so far. 

The Cost Breakdown

The Black Friday session fee was $195, and then my extra outfit fee was $100, bringing my total shoot cost to $295 plus tax. Because I booked as part of the Black Friday sale, I got a $200 credit to put toward my purchased images, too. I purchased one (very fancy) leather-covered album and my digital files for $1300 plus tax (that accounts for my image credit already). The pages of the album are extremely thick; thicker than most picture matting you would put in a frame, but the leather is super soft.

If I only count the items I actually wore, I spent about $400 on shoes and lingerie for my shoot. I didn’t buy any new makeup except for the false eyelashes and a bottle of nail polish. 

So, my all-in cost was about $2,000. I could have paid for the final images via a payment plan or PayPal credit, but I opted to just pay for them up-front because I knew I’d be able to pay them off by the end of the month. I had planned to get the package that I did, so I’d been mentally budgeting for it since November. 

The Takeaway

The cost of the shoot and images was high, but to me, it was really worth it. 

The two-week afterglow was so, so, so nice. Plus, now I have these really hot photos of me — and they actually look like me. That’s the nice thing about them; I’m not unrecognizable in these photos. They’re a fancy, dolled-up version of me, but they’re still me. 

I’m feeling really appreciative of my body right now, and I’ve felt both excited and nervous at every phase of this process. But I think it says all I need to say that when Annika put out a call for models to help test out her new studio, I strongly considered applying — even though I hadn’t even received my printed photos yet. 

All-in-all, this was a delightful and surprising experience, and I’m so glad I did it. I’ll probably do another shoot with Annika in the future too (and hey, maybe we’ll get to start working on those big ideas soon). 

I did my photoshoot with Annika Roser of Ma Cherie Studios. Annika is based in St. Petersburg, FL, but travels frequently to Boston for photoshoots and will travel around the world. Learn more about Ma Cherie Studios here. You can also follow Ma Cherie Studios on Instagram and Twitter, and support her Patreon here