“Ever since we began concentrating on boudoir photography our goal has been to make every woman we photograph look and feel beautiful,” says Elizabeth, sitting next to her husband at their Minneapolis studio. “And I like to think,” adds Aaron, “that we’ve done just that.”
Laura Hockert, a frequent client of the Vovks’ 4 Girls Glamour studio, concurs. “Elizabeth and Aaron have this uncanny knack of making you look your best,” she explains. “They are so good at what they do. Their pictures are so beautiful that you feel empowered when you’re posing for them.”
Hockert remembers her first session with the couple. “I was so nervous,” says the Minneapolis resident. “A few minutes into the session Elizabeth stopped photographing me and brought her camera over to me so I could see some of the images she had shot. They blew me away. I remember screaming, ‘Oh my God! I look so good!’ I couldn’t believe how great they made me feel.”
When Aaron recalls Hockert’s reaction, he smiles and nods. “That’s something we hear all the time,” he says. “In fact, if a client is nervous or concerned about something during a shoot—say she may feel a bit heavy or be worried about stretch marks—we’ll take the time to show her images we have already shot. Invariably that will relax and even encourage her.” Another common reaction to these mid-session reveals, says Elizabeth, is a client enthusing, “She’s gorgeous.” Then after a few seconds, she will exclaim, “Wait, that’s me!”
“What we hope to do with our boudoir photography is empower women,” says Elizabeth. “We’re all about capturing their confidence, beauty, provocativeness with a dash of intimacy and seduction.”
Aaron and Elizabeth started their wedding, senior, and newborn photography business, Noah’s Ark, in 2009. Both had full-time jobs—he as a retail shop manager, she as a medical lab technician—and enjoyed their ever-increasing part-time photography schedule. One day Elizabeth discovered boudoir photography online and began researching it. “This looks like something we should be doing,” she told Aaron, then transformed a room in their home into a boudoir studio. She photographed six coworkers to start. “I fell in love with this the first time I did it,” she remembers. “I knew immediately this is what I wanted us to do.”
By 2014 they had given up most other assignments to concentrate on boudoir. “There were so many pluses,” says Aaron. “We regained control of our lives by not having to shoot weddings for 14 hours on Saturdays. Weather was no longer a hassle. We had more time for our five children, whom we homeschool. We were hooked.” They cut back on their day jobs. As word spread, business increased steadily. Last year they were able to devote all their time to their boudoir photography company, 4 Girls Glamour. Today they’re doing 12 to 16 sessions a month.
In January, the Vovks will be teaching pre-conference sessions at Imaging USA on boudoir posing techniques. Here, they share some tips on working with clients.
Get to know your client. Boudoir photography is by its very nature an intimate experience, so it’s important to form a relationship with a client and get to know her likes and dislikes. “It’s a little like dating,” explains Elizabeth. “We have phone consultations with our clients to help us get to know one another. We ask why—that’s the big question—and for whom they are having these pictures taken. Do they have a significant other? Is this for an anniversary or a birthday? We also chat with them during their hair and makeup session. This relaxes them as well as helps us.” Adds Aaron, “Getting to know a client also allows us to discover what will evoke a natural smile or show their sensual side, what makes them who they are.”
Explain your process. The Vovks go into great detail on their website, blog, and social media about exactly what a client should expect before, during, and after a session. That includes what to wear, tips on tanning booths, advice on hydrating with water days before a shoot, and more. It’s preparation, but also anticipation. “We want to prepare our clients for their big day but we also want them to get their wheels spinning about making these pictures the best they can possibly be,” says Elizabeth.
Reassure your clients. “We know that some clients will be very nervous when they begin their shoot,” says Elizabeth. “And that’s OK because nerves mean they are outside of their comfort zone, and as we tell them, that’s where all the fun stuff in life, such as growth and self discovery, thrive.” To calm a nervous client, Aaron or Elizabeth may stop a session to ask how they feel. More often they’ll simply show the client some of the images they’ve just made. “We get it and are used to nerves,” says Aaron. “But it’s easy to get a nervous client to calm down or simply relax once she is confident.”
Use time-tested posing techniques. An average session takes one and a half hours, and the Vovks have learned what makes the best, most saleable, images. Elizabeth, who Aaron claims is a master poser, explains that she tries to get clients to follow a natural posing workflow. “I want them to remain comfortable and have everything flow naturally,” she says. “We may do slight movements of the hand or face but everything else will stay the same. We may start her on her back on the bed and then have her roll to her side and then the tummy, so it’s easy. That way I can photograph one look in just 15 to 20 minutes.”
Elizabeth is a fan of angles. “I look to have an angle between elbow and waist, for example, and make sure they keep their arms away from their bodies,” she says. “Their hands, because they are intimate, should always be touching their hair or their body or their outfit. Jaw lines are important; every one is different and it’s vital to get good definition in a jaw line to trim their face properly. For that reason, I never shoot a woman straight on but from different angles.”
Adds Aaron: “Eyes help create the connection so they have to be in just the right position. “For example, if a woman is touching her thigh or breast, it’s best not to have her looking at the camera at the same time. Have her look away to create more intimacy.” For women who are “super smiley,” and can’t help but grin when looking into a lens, Aaron asks them to relax their face, close their eyes, count to three, and slowly open them while looking into the lens. “That’s when I catch that intimate moment that their significant other will love,” he says. “We also love that moment.”
Boudoir photography has become a rewarding way for the Vovks to express themselves while making a living. They find it’s also a vehicle for giving back to clients.
“It never ceases to amaze us how many women have told us how their pictures have moved them so much,” says Aaron. He remembers a 70-year-old woman who came in to pose for an album for her husband. “They were about to celebrate almost 50 years of marriage and this was to be a surprise for him,” says Aaron. In the middle of her session the Vovks offered to show her some of the images on their camera back. “She laughed and said, ‘I’d love to see them but I’ve forgotten my bifocals,’” remembers Aaron. A few weeks later when she came to view her images on the Vovk’s 65-inch screen, she couldn’t stop smiling. “That’s not me,” she exclaimed. Then it hit her. “Yes, it is,” she said. “And I’m beautiful! Wait til my husband sees these!”
“That,” says Aaron, “is empowerment.”
RELATED: A gallery of the Vovk's work.
Robert Kiener is a writer in Vermont.
Tags: boudoir photography