What happens when you combine a gorgeous suite at Hotel Monaco in Old City Philadelphia with a belly dancer who is also gorgeous? Magic. That’s what. Selene Rose is the kind of girl up for anything, including get totally drenched in a shower just to get some amazing shots and well, the results are just that, amazing. I have gotten the pleasure of shooting this babe a few times and these are my favs so far! I just love how effortlessly sexy and her these boudoir images are, because to me that’s what sexiness should be about! I tried so hard to narrow it down to just a few favs but by now most of ya’ll know self control is not my strong suit so enjoy some many favs of this oh so wet boudoir session!
Why Other Photographers Want You To Spend $2500+ on a Boudoir Session And Why This Photographer calls BS
Not too long ago I was scrolling through Instagram and almost every few posts were by boudoir photographers I follow and I notice one common, and honestly, disturbing theme. Each one of them talked about how every woman should get to feel beautiful and sexy and every single image featured a perfectly made up woman, with not a hair out of place and thats when it struck me. For many of my colleagues, boudoir is about taking an everyday woman and turning her into a "bombshell version of herself" and that includes hair and makeup and pushing this idea that by doing a boudoir session, the client will get images they can't believe are themselves. They use hashtags like #everydaytoslay and tell women its about feeling feminine and glamorous and I just start to roll my eyes at it all.
Because truthfully? Thats not what boudoir is to me. I couldn't imagine requiring my clients to pay for professional hair and makeup if thats not something that feels right to them. I couldn't tell a client that is her time to be feminine and glamorous because not every woman feels her sexiest in lace and satin. I couldn't fathom running a business where I base my marketing strategy off emotionally manipulating clients. I couldn't ever define sexiness or beauty or confidence off high end lingerie or arched backs and the curves of her body because I know it leaves out so many folxs who ideas of those things are far more amazing than those limited ideas.
I know this may make me a few enemies in this industry but I think the truth is worth it. Those photographers, they aren't actually in this to empower women....they are in this for the money. They see dollar signs in helping boost a woman's ego and want to take every thin woman they can show her how she can look like a Victoria Secret model for day. They use airbrushing and have rules about what you can bring to a session and require you to purchase more than the session, usually a lot more, to get your images. They don't champion diversity, they believe beauty looks one particular and narrow way and they know that by creating a high end, luxury experience based around telling a woman she is beautiful, they will make money.
Their portfolios lack bigger bodies, women of color and queer folxs. And when they do include them, they are they edgy queer folxs, thin lesbian couples, the appropriately curvy women and a few women of color sprinkled in to look diverse. Their language is intrinsically feminine and frilly and elitist. And woman who are like me, who look like my clients, have no place on their social media, their facebook groups and their websites because we stand against the very thing they desire...to photograph societies idea of perfection and to work with women who wouldn’t dare to speak their mind.
And you know what? It works. Take a single mom, sell her a $250 session that includes nothing, glam her up with all over the top makeup, push her toward being as naked as possible, teach her some sexy poses, tell her to suck in her belly and touch herself sexually, photo shop her skin smooth and remove the wrinkles and stretch marks and laugh lines and then have her come back to your studio for a “reveal party” and bam! She’ll easily spend $2500+ to get those images because she has never seen herself or her body look like that, because well, she doesn’t really look like that. And the photographer uses this to their advantage to sell sell sell. You’ll have to buy an album ($1500+) to be able to purchase your digital images (900+) and of course you have to have all of those images because when will you look like that again, all while never realizing how much this whole thing was going to cost you. And if you decide after seeing the images to only buy a few? Well just know you’ll end up in some facebook group being bitched about because you wasted the photographers time because you didn’t want to spend $2500+ on the experience.
JUST STOP YA’LL.
To that I raise my middle finger and call BS along with a loud eff that and every single one of the badass babes I have gotten to work with. I love that they come with their own hair and makeup or have a friend do it or hire one of our incredible artists or hell, don't do anything at all. They come with suitcases and Ikea bags full of their favorite things that make them feel incredible. They bring props and t-shirts and lingerie and dresses and their boyfriends jersey and their favorite bra and underwear. They rebel against societies ideas of who they should be. They are every size and stunningly beautiful in their own way. They laugh and dance and roll around with me. They walk out feeling THEMSELVES because I have no agenda to make them into anybody else idea of beauty. And that to me is what boudoir is all about. About feeling like the best version of yourself and allowing someone else to see the genuine you, just with some posing, coaching to feel at home in your body and a whole lot of laughter in your underwear.
You can be in this boudoir business and make money. You can sell incredible products, create an amazing experience, make women and queer babes feel great about themselves all while keeping your integrity. You can create packages for clients that value the product you create through an appropriate price tag without using selling strategies to manipulate someone into a higher sale. You can price yourself in a way that doesn’t lean solely on large album sales that need those manipulative strategies and still make a lot of money. You can create a business that is about empowering women and actually empower ALL women, and maybe even make room for folxs who aren’t within the binary. You can people feel incredible, all without making them into someone totally different.
And to the clients out there? You don’t have to pay $2500+ to have images of yourself that you love. You don’t have to want an album or prints to feel good about yourself. You don’t have to become someone else to feel sexy and beautiful and incredible. You don’t have to even want the images if for you its just about the experience of being seen. Boudoir doesn’t have to be a once in lifetime, extravagant experience. It can also be $500 and that price difference doesn’t devalue you. It just means you might want something different. It might mean an album isn’t important to you. Or you only want a few images. And that is OK! It’s also ok if you aren’t totally in love your body yet. Its ok if you are still self conscious or nervous or scared. It’s ok if you aren’t ready to show that part or this thing or whatever. No one should ever yell at you or pressure you to do or be or show anything you aren’t ready to. You also can totally want to the prints and the albums the beautiful art of yourself too! You just should be empowered to choose for yourself, not bullied around into a sale just because you fear never feeling that good again. Boudoir is about you, babe. YOU. And while the rest of the world might tell you what you are supposed to want and have to have and have to be to do a session, let me be one voice saying the opposite.
I might be out here alone in this thought in an industry obsessed with manipulating women, that’s ok with me. I’d rather be known for allowing women to choose what feels right for them, for wanting them to have those digital images, for telling babes they are beautiful right here, right now without the hair and makeup and photoshop and be in the business of actually loving all bodies, not just the societally accepted ones.
So to all women and queer babes out there that are tired of not seeing themselves represented, to the photographers fed up with this rat race to make a lot of money off of manipulating women and to the champions of real diversity, never sit down, shut up or be quiet. Be different, be bold, and most importantly be pulled toward the light of standing in your own truth. Be found in the light and shine brighter than ever toward those that need a way out of the dark. You’ve got this babe.
** Header image curtsey of Lace Boudoir. **
I have shot engagement sessions in Old City Philadelphia so many times but Ala and Roy brought such a new perceptive to one of my favorite places! These two are historians, 18th century historians to be exact, and so it felt appropriate that we shot their engagement session in one of Philly’s neighborhoods that is rich with history and to start their sessions in the historic 18th Century Gardens! Roy is one of the most easy guys I have ever gotten to work with. He has such a sweet demeanor and was totally down to love on his beautiful fiancé for their session, something that some guys aren’t so into. It was darling the way he would pull her in for snuggles and kisses and because of that, their session was just perfection! As we walked around, I learned tidbits of history, both theirs and Old City and it got me so excited to work with them again next year at one of my favorite Philadelphia wedding venues, The Maas Building. I just know that their day will be every bit as vibrant as their engagement session and that to me is what I love about this job - madly in love couples, celebrating love! Enjoy some of my favorites!
The number of times I field emails from couples telling me how nervous they are for pictures because one of them is just so awkward are too many to count. Almost every couple I work with at least one of them is apologizing for the fact that they don’t know what to do or will be awkward, and within minutes, I am showing them just how NOT awkward they are! Jackie was def one of those people. But a few minutes into her and fiancee Kit’s engagement session in South Philly, she exclaimed, “Hey! This is more fun than I thought it would be!” And this photographer’s heart rushed with joy! Having couples who are up for anything and trust you AND think it was actually fun? A dream ya’ll!
I know first hand the nerves of having your picture taken and how especially as an LGBTQ couple it can feel overwhelming to be totally yourself and not worry about someone judging you. Its why I spend so much of my sessions talking to my couples from behind the camera. I want you to be yourself, whoever that is, and feel like being photographed by me is a safe, fun, and affirming experience. And I love when that comes across to my clients too! I loved what Kit wrote on her facebook page after they got their gallery - “Considering how much I hate PDA and having my picture taken, the fact that I don't hate my face in every one of these tells me we picked the right wedding photographer. Thanks Amanda Swiger!”
I am so excited to get to work with these two again next summer at one of my dream venues, Power Plant Productions, right in Old City. I just know their day is going to be the perfect celebration of their love for each other and the big gay party they are dreaming of! Enjoy my favorites ya’ll!
Meet Meghan ya’ll! She is an incredible boudoir photographer out of Toms River NJ and last Monday she and I met up to trade boudoir photos on my roof deck overlooking Philadelphia! And it was pure magic ya’ll! I will be blogging the stunning boudoir photos she took of me very soon but I am just in LOVE with these Philly Roofdeck images of her. From her purple hair, to the great outfits, to that booty, to the city in the background, the whole session was such a breath of fresh air and different from my normal work and I love love love it! It was so nice to just hang out with someone who does what I do and who just gets that this industry is wayyy too over saturated with men! We laughed and traded stories and shot each other and it was the kind of thing I needed! So please enjoy some of my favorites, although its a lot more than a few this time! I had wayyyy too hard of a time narrowing this one down ya’ll!
** Wanna book your own roof deck or normal boudoir session?? You can find more information on how to by clicking HERE **
Old City Philadelphia has quickly become my favorite location for portrait sessions and elopements! And not only because its the part of the city I call home but also because there are SO many different vibes and colors and unique spots within just a few blocks of each other. I love that this place I call home also allows my clients so much variety in their engagement sessions and Marianna and Josh’s Philly engagement session is no different. The rich colors and history, the stunning views of the Ben Franklin Bridge from atop Bridge on Race, and these two getting lost in each others eyes…well ya’ll, it was perfection.
I am so happy that more and more unique, unashamedly themselves couples are finding their way to me. From tattooed to queer couples, non-traditional weddings to offbeat elopements, one common thread remains and that is how much love my clients have for each other and the trust they have in all my crazy ideas! And it makes me love my job even more!!!
Josh and Marianna, thank you for asking me to be apart of this incredible season of your life and I am already excited to spend your wedding day with you next year. Jordan and I had SO MUCH FUN hanging out with ya’ll and your momma and sister and I hope that these images are exactly what you hoped for! Enjoy my favorites (or many favorites in this case!!!) and get excited to see these two on here again next fall!
There are some people you just click with, who you instantly feel like old friends with even though you barely know them. For me, Sarah and Maria are those kind of people. When I met them at their engagement shoot I was struck by how much like Jordan and I they are….they value family and tradition but also doing things in a way that speaks to them. They are committed and kind but also a ball of nerves. They are funny and also so incredibly real. And when you take that magic and you throw in the incredible Maas Building in Philadelphia, you get a lesbian wedding that is what dreams are made of. From their stunning BHLDN gowns, to the bright details, to opting to get dressed together, to the planning by Philly DIY, to the brides walking each other down the aisle, to cupcakes made by the brides, the entire day was full of love and joy.
As a queer business owner in Philly, working within my community is one of my favorite parts of this job but a close second is working with clients who really want me to be apart of their weddings. Sarah and Maria would have done anything to have me there and ya’ll….that makes me feel so good! They trusted all of my crazy ideas and were always down for one more photo and as a result, these two have TONS of stunning portraits together!
Sarah and Maria, you two are one of my favorite couples for a lot of reasons but the number one reason would be how you made your wedding day your own. You took traditions and made them work for you, threw out the ones that didn’t fit or made new ones altogether. Watching you both get lost staring at each other and repeating over and over how beautiful you thought the other was is what makes me so incredible honored that I was the one to not only capture that beautiful day but also witness the kind of love that brightens any darkness. May you two have a lifetime of happiness and giggles and joy together!
Enjoy some of my favorite highlights from their day!!
Bianca and Rosea asked me to photograph their Philadelphia Cambodian Blessing Ceremony at Rosea’s moms house before they left for their destination wedding in the Dominican Republic a few days later and I was so honored to be apart of such an incredible day of celebrating and blessing their marriage. So many of their favorite people crowded into a South Philly row home and the energy was as vibrant as their beautiful traditional outfits. Following a beautiful ceremony, there was food and food and more delicious food, shots of Hennessy all around and I even had a chance to steal Rosea and Bianca away for a few moments and photograph some beautiful portraits of them to commemorate that day. My favorite part of the day was watching person after person come up to them to give a blessing, gift and tie a red chord around each of the couples wrist. For over a half hour love was just given to this couple and it was beautiful to be apart of and capture and I am so honored they chose me and Jordan to be the ones to capture it all for them!
Enjoy a few of my favorite images from their day!