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  • Writer's pictureStefanie Jackson

My Personal Boudoir Journey

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

When I was 19 (2010) I responded to a craigslist ad for assisting a wedding photographer, and started learning about the industry. Tim was an older photographer, established in the business, and I was really looking at this opportunity to learn and grow.

At that time I was dating someone enlisted in the Navy, and they had deployment orders coming up. I had mentioned kind of in passing to Tim how I was thinking of what I could send my boyfriend, and that I'd been contemplating a boudoir shoot. He was all for it and offered to do the shoot for me. I wasn't 100% committed yet, but he talked me into it. I gathered some things that would be considered stereotypical sexy outfits, things I thought guys liked to see women in. Tim thought it'd be sexy for me to be holding a glass of brandy, so he poured it. I took a few sips, because why not? Then he pulled out a robe (he had all kinds of props) and told me to "just try." So I wore the robe, just the robe and glass of brandy. There was never any physical touching or advancement, but it felt wrong. I hated the images. I didn't feel empowered. I was looking at these photos and saw a different person. A person and an image that someone else wanted me to be. I've never showed anyone those images, I don't even know if I have them anymore.


Preparing for my empowerment session with a gold glitter latte from Goddess and The Baker


Working weddings with him after that was uncomfortable. Off. Just not right. And one day, after reviewing my images from that weekend's wedding, he told me through text that "you either don't what you're doing or you're just not paying attention." I was angry. We had worked 5 weddings and now he says this? I told him that my shooting style is different from his (I like details and shallow depth of field, he apparently did not) and I was confident that my images were composed exactly how I wanted them to be. Even though I meant what I said his words hurt, but I didn't fully comprehend yet just how much they would effect me. He was supposed to be my mentor, my teacher. That's not how you teach. Needless to say that was pretty much the end of that working relationship. I went to the studio and took all of my photos.

For years I questioned myself and my abilities when it came to photography. So much so that I even stopped shooting for a few years. When I finally decided that I wasn't going to let anyone else ever define me again, I started finding my voice. I invested in myself, in workshops and education. I re-entered the wedding industry, started following people I could trust, and creating a network of women who want to empower others. I shot a couple small boudoir sessions to create wedding gifts for a few friends, and the way my friends reacted to their photos (not how their significant others reacted) made me realize what this was truly about. This wasn't for anyone else, this was for them. The way the session made them feel, empowered, beautiful, strong, like they could take on the world. That was what was important. That was what they needed.

In expanding my knowledge on how to effectively communicate, and my now background in mental health, it became clear to me how much my first boudoir, and mentor experience had a negative affect on my life and how I viewed myself. I needed to neutralize those thoughts and bad feelings. I found a photographer who's made it her mission to share her own stories and help empower other women through her photography: Kelly Lemon. I followed her for an entire year before making the decision to book with her. I needed that journey to trust through engagement and seeing her posts, not to mention she's based in Seattle. So when she announced a pop up marathon in Chicago, I committed. I knew that if I was going to go on this journey to helping other people find their confidence, I needed to have the experience myself. A few weeks before my shoot I actually had a cyst removed from my cheek, and I almost canceled my session because I was worried about scarring. If I did that I would have been the biggest hypocrite in the entire world! And you know what, you honestly couldn't even tell.


I had a friend drive over (2 1/2 hours) with me for moral support. I was met with so much love and acceptance from Kelly, I was instantly calmed and ready for anything she threw at me. I thought, "this is how it's supposed to feel." She took the time to figure out what I needed out of my session, everything was tailored to my wants and needs, and that's exactly how I operate when it comes to my own clients. I am so thankful to Kelly for showing me that the way I want to operate my business is doable. The way I treat people is actually needed in this industry and I'm not crazy for wanting to do things the way I do. It's so much more than pretty pictures.

To me, boudoir is about connecting to yourself and honoring your body. Knowing that you are strong and capable and worthy. You and your body can do amazing things, no matter what it looks like or how it moves. This is my passion: human connection, vulnerability, and positive self image.


All professional images by Kelly Lemon Photography

Hair and make-up by Shauna Hyler

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