Portraits

“We’re selling confidence”: plus-size boudoir photographers

Boudoir photographers in Halifax are shooting more plus-sized women — and they’re having more fun doing it

Plus-sized model Lindsay MacKenzie.
Plus-sized model Lindsay MacKenzie.   Jenn Gregory

The first time Lindsay MacKenzie did a boudoir photoshoot she was so nervous she had to take a shot.

At the time of the shoot three years ago, her self-esteem had plummeted due to postpartum depression, and being a size 20, she knew she didn’t exactly look like the typical boudoir model.

But after appearing in more shoots, and seeing how “amazing” she looked in photographs, MacKenzie is now a familiar face in Halifax’s plus-sized boudoir scene.

MacKenzie says boudoir “helped [me to] actually get out there and show myself off and not be ashamed of umpteen stretch marks.”

More plus-sized models

Jenn Gregory, who owns and operates Halifax Boudoir Photography, not only shoots boudoir — she specializes in shooting plus-sized boudoir models and clients.

Gregory says when she first started shooting boudoir six years ago she shot mostly “younger, skinnier models.”

“But certainly now half of our clients are plus-sized,” she says.

The explosion of social interaction on the Internet have motivated women into “embracing your size, embracing who you are as a woman.”

She cites an abundance of plus-sized models such as Robyn Lawley and Tess Holliday.

Operating out of a residential studio, Gregory shoots women’s portraits, headshots and business photos, but she specializes in boudoir work. Though she does occasionally hire models, most of her boudoir shoots are for paying clients.

She says most of her clients get boudoir photos for their partners or as a present to themselves.

What is boudoir?

Boudoir, derived from the 18th-century French word for “a woman’s bedroom or a private sitting room,” is a genre of photography that usually takes place in a bedroom and depicts women in what Gregory calls a “soft and sensual” manner.

Models typically wear lingerie, but Gregory stresses that boudoir is not pornography.

“It’s not erotic. Although we do shoot nudes and implied nudes, they’re not about eroticism,” she says.

‘A huge confidence builder’

Though Gregory enjoys shooting women of all sizes, she especially likes shooting plus-sized clients because she gains satisfaction from helping boost their confidence.

“The first thing that [plus-sized clients] mention when they contact us is ‘I wish I could lose 10 pounds, I wish I was skinnier, thinner, prettier,’” she says.

But when she sends them her final images, she says they frequently tell her how much it’s changed them.

“They’re just so much more confident now,” she says.

Gregory provides professional hair and makeup services to clients and personally helps them pick out properly fitting outfits.

MacKenzie says Gregory’s use of lighting and posing to hide problem areas was “a huge confidence builder.”

“My biggest insecurity is my stomach, because I’m bigger, and stretch marks are hard to hide,” she says. “[Gregory] knows how to pose women so that if they have insecurities about certain parts, it doesn’t require insane amounts of Photoshop or anything like that.”

Plus-sized model Paulette Lewis Jackson.
Plus-sized model Paulette Lewis Jackson.   Jenn Gregory

Self-esteem

Heather Crosby Gionet, owner of This is Photography, also shoots boudoir and has modelled in boudoir shoots herself.

After two pregnancies, she says she has since gained 40 pounds and suffered from postpartum depression. However, she says having boudoir done has helped her build back some of her confidence.

“I thought it would be rewarding for me to see that I still got it, though I’m not the same as eight years ago,” she says. “I don’t look at those photos and think ‘Look how sexy I was.’ I look at those photos and think ‘Look how sexy I still am.’”

Negative comments

Though Gregory says responses to plus-sized boudoir have been overwhelmingly positive, MacKenzie still feels a stigma.

MacKenzie says people often comment on Facebook that “[your] photos are so beautiful” — a statement she says “almost feels like a backhanded compliment” because it suggests “the photographer has done more work to me.”

While working for another photographer at a beach shoot, someone commented on Facebook that she looked like a “beached whale.”

As nine other plus-sized women were also at the shoot, MacKenzie says, “It really pissed me off. Just because I’m confident, doesn’t mean they are.”

The future

As one in four Canadians are now considered overweight, Gregory would like to see more “large and in charge” boudoir models in the future.

She says because she’s shooting so many plus-sized women, she’s started using “larger ladies for promotional material.”

“We want to show more plus-sized women so that more plus-sized women will feel comfortable shooting with us. Because if we show them how you can actually look, they’ll be more comfortable to put themselves out there,” she says.

“Everybody needs a confidence boost. Everybody needs to feel beautiful and good about themselves. It’s not just for size 0.”