Women’s Empowerment || Why I Shoot Boudoir

Why do I shoot Boudoir Portraits?


My niche of photography is the one that’s talked about with hushed tones, is referred to as “naughty/sexy photos”, and something that you would never tell your mom about. But why? Why are we so quiet about such an empowering experience?

It’s seen as taboo. Even though it’s more popular now than it’s ever been. But when you think boudoir, what comes to mind? Pinup images? Suicide girls? Old Playboy magazines? The idea that only “bad” girls take “naughty” photos? But what if I told you that boudoir is for all women? All body types, not just what society deems ‘beautiful’. Boudoir has gotten a bad rep. I get that. We as a society sexualize everything to sell more. But then we shame women who are seen as sexual. We’re pretty screwed up, now that I think about it. So let me tell you a little about me, and why I shoot this niche. Maybe it will give you a new perspective on these empowering works of art we label ‘boudoir’.

My Story:

Believe it or not, I started boudoir photography because of my mother. My favorite image of my mom is the one she had taken at her cosmetology graduation. She’s mid-twenties, young, full of life, hopes and dreams, and beautiful. She was already married and a mother, but she was also so much more. She is all dolled up in her glamour shot: long-ass nails – painted bright blue, her she-mullet coiffed to perfection, standing tall, looking like a bad ass, a feather boa around her shoulders and nothing else. This was only a head shot image, but a different view of the woman I grew up with. I can see the real WOMAN she is, I can see her as more than just ‘mom’. I see her as a woman who has goals, ideas, plans. The kind that don’t revolve around what we’re having for dinner. I see strength. That’s a gift I want to give to everyone who walks into my studio. So I started doing intimate portraiture.

A short time later, I had my first booth at a bridal fair. I had 90% wedding images, and 10% boudoir photography on my table. The boudoir images were tasteful. And hidden. Tucked away safely in small albums, clearly labeled, so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities. Glanced upon only if they were interested. While my wedding images were BIG, and beautiful and took up most of my booth, my boudoir images were secretive. I was so WORRIED about offending potential wedding clients.

It still didn’t work. A potential bride came through with her mother and aunt. The aunt opened the boudoir album, glanced at the images, closed it, opened it again, made a face, and looked me dead in the eye and told me “These are smut!” She was horrified. I was worried she was going to catch a case of the Southern Vapors. My only response was to look back at her, and say, “Yes, but it’s classy smut!” I was flabberghasted. I didn’t know how to respond to her obvious distaste for what I do. I wasn’t prepared to be the bad-ass, beautiful, empowered woman that I am today. You see, I was still in my cocoon of caring what other people thought about my work. She left from my booth and stood 10 feet away giving me dirty looks the entire time her sister and niece perused my table. That woman left a bad taste in my mouth.

But why?

Growing up in a Southern Baptist household, modesty was a virtue (Can I get an AMEN?) Being seen and not heard is a way of life in the Baptist church. But it isn’t a way of life for me. I wanted to live out loud. To take what the world had to offer, and to be seen, heard, and respected. It was hard for me to shake off those lame ass traditional gender roles when I first started testing the waters of what it meant to be woman that lived her life authentically.

Fast forward a few years, from young me who went through women’s studies classes in college, to present day me who opened her very own small business. It took baby steps, it took lots of education and support from my family, an amazing husband who supports everything I do, it took surrounding myself with other queens, strong women who helped me amplify my voice and become the empowered woman I am today.

Now, it’s my turn to give back.

Next month, I go to another wedding fair. This time, I’m showcasing ONLY my boudoir images. Photos of women, and men. Couples even. They will be large displays. Beautiful pieces of art work, hanging PROUDLY at my booth. Why? Because I am proud of what I do. The women who trust me to photograph their beauty deserve my pride and confidence when I display their images.

It’s my turn to help those women who may have lost their voice. Their purpose. I shoot boudoir to bring out my client’s inner self.  I help her see on the outside, what she’s always felt on the inside. I empower my clients. I want to lighten the load on my client’s shoulders: the one put there by our society, by marketing and advertising, that is handed down from generation to generation, telling my girls that they aren’t good enough. That their “imperfections” define them as opposed to their strengths.

That. They. Aren’t. Enough.

And that’s bullshit.

So what I’m saying, why I shoot boudoir, it isn’t about the ‘naughty’ images – though that is a benefit. It’s about being a woman, and all that that entails. It’s about feeling good in the skin you have. About creating a vision of the woman you feel like you are on the inside, and bringing it to life. It’s about saying, hey girl, I see you. I see the real you. The You you may not recognize when you’re rocking that yoga pants and sweat shirt combo, with that messy hair and the ketchup stain. I do this to remind you that you’re more than just mom, or wife, or sister. You are more than teacher or sales clerk. You are fierce and important. You are strong and independent.




And if you cry at your reveal. Awesome. I’ve got some tissues in the studio with your name on them.


Interested in learning more about my Akron boudoir sessions and the packages I offer? Check out my boudoir page here. Looking for something unique that isn’t listed on my site? Don’t be afraid to ask! I’d be happy to set up a customized session just for you.

Here’s how you can get in touch with me:

Love Gwaltney

Grá Intimate Portraiture

Your Akron Boudoir Photographer

Phone:  (234) 208.5744