Tenth Anniversary Gift | Orange County Boudoir Photographer

“I’m already having the time of my life, and I haven’t even put on a teddy yet!”

- Ms A (during glam/mimosa portion of her photoshoot)

Ms A reached out to me with the intentions of planning a super special gift for her husband for their tenth wedding anniversary (and let me tell you, we created a gift to beat all other future gifts. #sorrynotsorry, future gifts). But what I love the most, is how much of a gift to HER it was. While trying to plan the perfect session, it led her down a path of self discovery and acceptance, and ultimately changed her perception of herself.

That’s the magic in what I do.

When women reach out to me with the goal of creating a gift for a significant other, I always giggle inside a little bit, and then remind them that this is also a gift to THEMSELVES too. It’s just that us women need that “excuse” to do something nice for ourselves.

Let’s hear what Ms A had to say about the experience...


“This session was a gift for my 10-year wedding anniversary. After ten years of marriage and two kids, I wanted my husband to see me as a strong, sexy woman again (there was no indication he didn't, just my insecurities). Most importantly, I wanted to FEEL sexy again. “

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“I really don't like getting my photo taken! It's hard for me to pose seriously for photos without doing something goofy because I never know what to do with my face. I also had reservations about showing my tummy, about which I was very self-conscious.”

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“The session itself was much more fun and comfortable than I was expecting, and I felt like an actual model! But the whole process was also different from what I expected... I feel so happy in my own skin again, and accepting of my flaws but also my strengths. I never expected to feel so affected by it all in such a positive way. “

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“I loved the weeks leading up to the session where I got to spend some time picking out lingerie and shoes, and also the anticipation of waiting for the photos. But the session itself was so fulfilling that I would have to say it was my favorite. And of course seeing my husband's reaction the first time he saw the photos was also pretty awesome. :) “

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“I definitely got emotional seeing myself the way I was hoping: a strong, sexy woman. When I look at the photos now I still have to remind myself that it's actually me. ;) “

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“In general, the whole process from start to finish was an unexpected exploration of how I saw myself. I never realized that in my day-to-day life I was focusing so much on my flaws and not embracing my body's beauty. Preparing for this session changed my outlook because I wasn't going to be able to hide in front of the camera. I discovered what I like and dislike, and what lingerie flatters me. During and after the session I truly felt sexy again. I am walking taller and I'm more confident than I have ever been. When I look in the mirror now, I notice my perfections and strengths before my flaws (if I notice them at all).”

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“Mandy exceeded any and all expectations. She guided me perfectly throughout the whole process and paid attention to every little detail to make it an amazing experience! From having my favorite music playing when I arrived, to making me feel completely at ease during the session, she made the experience comfortable but so much fun!! “

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To any ladies who’ve been considering their own boudoir experience:

“Just do it. Don't wait for "the perfect time." Do this for yourself, you deserve it! Go buy that lingerie, those high heels (or whatever you're into) and take a couple of hours to feel like the sensual goddess you are. It is so incredibly worth it.”

I don’t think there’s much else I need to say. Are you ready to get in touch?

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"It was exactly what I had hoped it would be!" | Orange County Boudoir Photographer

The first time I met today’s beautiful client was on the phone, and after that one conversation, I knew I adored her. When I asked why she wanted to have a boudoir photoshoot with me, she teared up as she told me her story.  She was reaching out to me at a time in her life when she wasn’t at her ideal weight. After falling off her fitness plan while caring for a dying family member, she had gained weight and as a result no longer felt sexy and beautiful.

This is something that we women do – especially as mothers. We spend so much of our time taking care of everyone else, that we forget to take care of ourselves! We put everyone else’s needs first, and then if there’s time left at the end of the day…maybe we’ll take a moment for ourselves. For Miss M, that was even more true because she’s a nurse; a caregiver at her core. To her, caring for everyone else just comes natural.

This natural instinct in women, is what I think draws us to an intimate portrait experience and why it can be so powerful. To put a day on your calendar, and declare it to be ALL FOR YOURSELF and let someone else (me!) take care of you. To clear your head for a little while, and simply be a woman. A beautiful, confident, sexy woman. An opportunity to connect with a side of yourself that you’ve not seen in months, years…or for some people, ever.

I hear it all the time, “I need to lose 10 pounds, and then I want to do a shoot,” and I’m here to tell you NO YOU DON’T. You absolutely do NOT have to lose weight in order to love your body, and feel sexy and beautiful. In fact, sometimes it’s at those low points in life when you need this type of pick-me-up. The kick-in-the-pants you needed to help you get yourself back on track. A reminder to put yourself first from time to time. 

Here's what Miss M had to say about the experience:

"I am a registered nurse and am currently working on my Master's degree. I wanted to do this because I was feeling down about myself for gaining some weight and my husband has never said a word about the gain. He only compliments me and tells me how beautiful I am, everyday, at my worst and my heaviest.

I needed to see myself as beautiful and sexy!

Sexy is not a size it is an attitude and I needed to remind myself of that!!"

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"My favorite [photo] was also my best friends favorite. When she saw it, she said "it looks like a Chanel perfume ad" - what a compliment that was!!! Believe me, true best friends have no trouble telling you when you don't look good!!"

"My favorite [photo] was also my best friends favorite. When she saw it, she said "it looks like a Chanel perfume ad" - what a compliment that was!!! Believe me, true best friends have no trouble telling you when you don't look good!!"

"No fears, no obstacles- I knew I was doing this for me as a surprise for my husband- I was only worried about looking too HEAVY!!"

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"[My boudoir experience...] reminded me that I am beautiful and sexy regardless of my weight. It also reminded me to WEAR the lipstick!!! Who cares what others think!!!!"

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"It was exactly what I had hoped it would be! Having my best friend there, the mimosas and Mandy telling me I looked HOT!!!!!"

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"JUST DO IT!!!!! It will make you feel empowered and gorgeous! It will pick up that self esteem that has hit the floor."

She's absolutely right, you know! Get in touch and let's talk about helping you pick that self esteem up off the floor, and start seeing yourself as the badass, sexy lady that you are. 

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Mommy Needs Friends | Life of a boudoir photographer

This one goes out to all my fellow gypsy souls! Those of us who are blessed and cursed with wanderlust. Those who know the complete loneliness of picking up and moving away from everyone you know and love, but do it because your dreams pull you.

Something that I’ve struggled with most of my adult life is loneliness. It’s followed me around from the moment I left my home state of Kentucky after college. I moved to Chicago with one of my best friends and had grand plans of big-city-living with my BFF. It was going to be epic! Well, as life does, plans changed last minute and I found myself all alone in a crappy tiny apartment on the north side of Chicago.

Me looking out the window of aforementioned "tiny crappy apartment". Photo cred: Nolan Wells 

Me looking out the window of aforementioned "tiny crappy apartment". Photo cred: Nolan Wells 

When I say I was alone, I was ALL alone. I had a few work friendships budding, but those hadn’t moved outside of the office yet. Walking home from the train stop after work, glancing into the windows of restaurants, I’d see groups of people eating & drinking, and feel so alone and jealous.

While this time in my life is haunted with loneliness, it’s also filled with so much empowerment and self-realization. With time I found my people, “my tribe”, and even met my husband. Any adult woman who’s ever moved away from home knows how hard it can be to build brand new female friendships (especially if you’re a little introverted like me.) Actually, it’s REALLY freaking hard to make new gal-pals when you’re a grown woman in a new city.

Fast forward to when my fiancé-at-the-time and I moved to LA. Moving with a significant other certainly crushed the initial blow of isolation. We had a handful of mutual friends from Chicago and college who were here, plus I was busy planning our wedding so I didn’t invest much energy into finding a local BFF. My husband, plus our handful of friends, was enough to satisfy my social needs at the time.    

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A few years later, we decided to “move to the ‘burbs,” so-to-speak. I had the opportunity through my job at that time to telecommute full-time, and we were able to eliminate my husband’s 2-hour-a-day-commute. We decided to go all the way, and move to the OC.

We’d moved an hour away from the few friends I DID have, and started working from home. Oh, and guess what…the weekend we moved into our new place, I found out I was pregnant. Little did I know how much of a recipe for disaster that I had brewing.

Around my son’s first birthday, I’d really started to fall apart. I had made a tough decision to leave my full-time job, and pursue my photography career (way more about that here). I’d gone from working 50-60 hours a week and having a nanny, to being home with a toddler 2-3 days a week, in a city where we had basically no friends. I have never felt so lonely and isolated in my life. The move, career change and lack of friends, coupled with what I’m now certain was postpartum depression, started to destroy me.

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I realized I had a great big void in my life: female friendships. I didn’t have a crew for “girl’s night out”. Nobody to go see the latest cheesy chick flicks with. I was so lonely and felt so lost. I had my husband, yes, but a girl needs girlfriends too!

In my efforts to fill this void I started “mom dating” in the mommy group meet-up scene, which I found to be terribly uncomfortable. It’s so hard to talk to a stranger and get to know them, when your kid is whining and you’re overwhelmed with anxiety.

At one particularly embarrassing point, I even decided to post a “personal ad” in the local Orange County Moms Facebook group. I’d had a long conversation that morning with my best friend (who lives 2,000+ miles away), about how I was so sick of feeling this way. I figured there was no harm in letting it all hang out. “So what if a bunch of strangers on the internet think I’m lame”, I told myself. Well, 229 LIKES and 111 COMMENTS later, I realized how 'not lame' I was and how terribly universal this feeling is.

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I had recently started attending local meet-ups with fellow photographers, in the hopes of making new friends while growing my portfolio. It was actually at one of these meet-ups when I discovered boudoir photography. From the moment I downloaded the first memory card from that shoot, I was in love. No other genre of photography had ever sparked my passion quite like that. The hair & make-up. The lingerie & wardrobes. The self-acceptance and empowerment. It seemed like I’d found exactly what I needed. A genre of photography that stole my heart, while also giving me just what I needed in life – to be surrounded by strong, brave women.

I suppose you could say that I’ve decided to take the reins, and form my own tribe. When I say that I hope each one of my clients walks away with a new friend, there's a whole lot of truth in that statement.  

To those of you who are in the same place and reading this thinking, "OMG, yes, that's me!" Don't hesitate to drop me a line! ;)

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Do It For Yourself! :: Downtown LA Boudoir Photography

Admittedly, the morning of this shoot, I nearly “backed out.” I’d been eyeing a friends’ Downtown LA apartment for a while as a shoot location, and when he agreed to let me shoot there, I was SO excited. Those sexy concrete floors, floor to ceiling windows and a stunning view of DTLA is this boudoir photographers’ dream come true. However, when the morning of the shoot rolled around the anxiety set in. All the unknowns of the environment started to overwhelm me, and I was considering just doing the shoot at home – where I was comfortable.

Fortunately, my husband gave me the loving kick-in-the-pants that I needed and told me to get the hell outta my own comfort zone. Thank goodness for him.

 “…Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being; go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” -David Bowie

This quote hits home with me so much. Without a doubt, every time I’ve pushed myself to do something that scared the crap out of me, something amazing came of it. Case in point, this stunning collection of images. 

Here's what Miss C had to say about her shoot:

“No, I don't have a significant other that I wanted to take these sexy boudoir photos for. This was something that I wanted to do just for ME and be proud of who I am, in the skin that I'm in, no matter what anyone else thinks. This was something Mandy completely understood and was just as excited for me to do this as I was."

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"If you took a professional model shoot and added the pampering of a bride, that is what our whole day felt like. Mandy was so professional and personal during the entire process. We met first to discuss what type of style we were going for and gauged my level of confidence. I told her what was important to me (my tattoos) and what I wasn't comfortable with (fluffy midsection). And she paid very close attention to all of those things without me having to remind her or feel uneasy."

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"On the day of the shoot it felt more like hanging out with the girls while getting ready for a night out. That type of trust is what allowed me to let go and be vulnerable and sexy." 

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"These photos are an example of how talented Mandy is to be able to capture my skater punk kid personality while exposing the bad ass sexy lady I never knew I could be."

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Thank YOU, Cami, for opening up and letting me capture this side of you! 

Hair & Make-up by Kathy Huynh Artistry

Special shout-out and thank you to Bucky and Ces for letting us invade your home. So thankful to have friends who love art and understand the power of inspiration! xo

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Boho Bridal Boudoir :: OC Boudoir Studio

I'll admit it. Leading up to WPPI (one of the biggest photo conferences on the west coast held annually in Vegas, which I attended earlier this year), the thing that I was MOST excited about...was 3 whole days alone in a hotel room, with nobody else to take care of other than myself. Selfish thoughts? Maybe, but I'm a mom, and I think any mom who said she never dreams of glorious time alone is lying! I love that (nearly 3-year-old) kid as much as I possibly could, but every now and again, MAMA NEEDS A BREAK. You know what? I took full advantage of that trip, and did just that! 

I slept in late. I got take-out pizza, wine & cookies and rented a chic-flick while lounging in bed in my PJ's. I went clubbing (WHAT?!) one night all by myself. IT. WAS. EVERYTHING. As busy working moms, sometimes you just have to schedule in a little time to center yourself. To be alone with your thoughts, and not have to worry about everybody else's needs. If you've not done that recently, I highly encourage you to change that! 

Don't get me wrong though. I wasn't a total bum the entire time I was there. I also "worked." I put that in quotes though, because it's hardly work when you're doing something you love so much, and this little genre of photography has captured my heart and taken over my life. For better or for worse. ;)

While there, I was also able to recharge my creative energy with a boho bridal styled boudoir shoot with some fellow photographer friends. I'm DYING to do more of this! I looooove the style from this shoot so much, so if this speaks to you...get in touch with me. Let's plan your boho inspired looks. 

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This luxurious lace robe can be found here

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Are you a busy lady who needs to take some time out for yourself? Let's talk! A luxury boudoir experience is ALL about YOU. Just sit back, and I'll guide you through the whole process. Don't know what to wear? I do! No clue how to pose to look sexy? I do! From where your hands go, to how to breathe...I got you! Seriously, I take care of everything. 

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Rediscovering myself in my 30's :: OC Boudoir Photographer

We often associate our twenties with finding ourselves, right? I know I did! I enjoyed the hell out of my twenties. I started my career, explored, moved around a lot, made new friends, had tons of adventures and eventually met my mate. I also dedicated a lot of time in my twenties to thoroughly “investigating” who I was.

My ideas about life and love are very bohemian, and often completely hippy-dippy. I think the relationship you have with yourself is one of the most important, if not THE most important. If you don’t know who you are and what you want in life, how can you choose a partner/friend/career/home that you’re going to enjoy. Right at thirty, I married my amazing husband and thought I had a good handle on what I wanted out of life as I entered the next decade of my life.

One of my favorite photos from our wedding. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings. 

One of my favorite photos from our wedding. Photo by Adam Padgett Weddings. 

A couple years later, I found myself at a crossroads. I was married, my son was about to turn one, I had a good paying job that allowed me the freedom to work from home, and we were all healthy. Everything was seemingly perfect, right? Except, I wasn’t happy. I was kind of miserable. Which made me feel angry and silly for being such a whiney-privileged-white-girl with far fewer problems than many struggle with, yet still feeling so unsettled.

I started doing some soul searching to try to pinpoint the source of my unhappiness. I mean, I thought I knew who I was and wanted in life. After a lot of tears, self-reflection and heart-to-hearts with my husband, we decided that my current job was mostly at fault. I didn’t love what I was doing and was certainly not passionate about it. It was a decent paying job with a lot of perks but still just “a job” and was actually stressing me out in a major way and consuming 60-80 hours a week at times.

I was tired of watching the nanny take my son for walks and to the pool. I wanted to be the person doing those things with him. For years, my dream was to be a stay-at-home-mom. I relished the idea of menu planning, organizing playdates and being Little-Miss-Suzy-homemaker. “I could rock the shit out of that,” I thought. We crunched the numbers, and decided the best thing for our family was for me to stop working full-time. It would be a sacrifice (hello, it’s Southern California and cost of living is cray), but one that we thought would be best.

So, I quit my job. Gulp. It wasn’t an overnight thing, though. I ended up freelancing part-time for several months to help them during re-staffing, but my hours cut waaaay back. I gained two full days a week with my son, and we started establishing our new routine of park explorations and playdates.

Awesome, right? Sadly, no! Instead of finding the contentment that I was expecting, I found myself lonelier than ever and completely isolated. Plus, this overwhelming sense of guilt and confusion. Many women (myself included) dream of being able to stay home with their little ones and raise them. “Why wasn’t this making me happy?” “Am I a monster because I don’t enjoy spending 24-7 with my son?” By this point, it was time to call in professional help. I could no longer deal with my own feelings and couldn’t see things clearly. Fortunately, I found a great therapist with whom I shared an instant connection with. It only took a couple sessions before I had a light bulb moment!

I’M AN ARTIST! However, over the past few years I’d stopped doing anything creative. My previous job had no creative outlets and I wasn’t pursuing anything on my own. I thought becoming a mother had turned me into the type-A, controlling person that I had become. WRONG! As I learned in therapy, creativity without an outlet can sometimes foster itself as perfectionism. Ding, ding, ding! That was sooo me.

I have always loved art and music, but I had never realized how much they define me. Those aren’t just hobbies or interests for me. They’re a part of my soul; part of who I am and where I find peace and contentment. Armed with this brilliant information, I decided it was time to make a change.

Photography had always been a passion of mine. A “someday maybe…” full-time profession. My first job out of college gave me the opportunity to learn digital photography and shoot corporate headshots, events and products, so it wasn’t new to me. I knew my way around a camera. It felt like a no-brainer that it was time to take the leap and try once-and-for-all.

I set out to start shooting again; anything and everything I could get my camera on. I wasn’t really sure what my vision or voice was as an artist, so I gave myself permission to explore. In this vein, I started attending various meet-ups with other photographers where they would get together and photograph one another. When I stumbled upon a boudoir meet-up group, I was intrigued…but didn’t really know much about it. As many, I thought, “oh, they’re just sexy photos,” and is exactly what I told my husband when he asked where I was going.

Nervous and scared, I went to meet a group of strangers. In a park. To take “sexy photos”.

One of the very first boudoir "style" photos I ever took.

One of the very first boudoir "style" photos I ever took.

I came home that night with a passion that I had never seen in myself. I had never had SO MUCH FUN with a camera in my whole life. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. It wasn’t a group of girls being vein and taking sexy photos of each other. Instead, I found a group of women who are passionate about art, who love and embrace themselves as they are and encourage one another. I was hooked and so in love with that collection of images.

From there, I was ravenous. Hungry for more! I set out to learn all that I could and practice as much as possible. I started spending my “laundry days” folding clothes and watching countless online classes on posing, lingerie, lighting and the business of boudoir. All other types of photography basically flew out the window for me. “Am I crazy?” “What will my family and friends think?” These are the questions that swirled around in my head as I debated taking the leap to dedicate my business solely on boudoir photography. Fortunately, my ever-supportive-husband re-confirmed things for me. “You should go for this! I see a hunger and passion in you that I’ve never seen before.”

When I decided to follow my heart and stop worrying about what everybody else thinks, it was like the clouds parted and things clicked. It filled so many voids in my life (more on this subject in a future blog post). I had always loved hair, make-up, fashion, and playing dress-up. This was an opportunity to combine my talents and interests in an exciting new career path. Little did I know how much it was going to change my life and revitalize my own self-confidence.

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That’s not to say it hasn’t been a rocky road filled with fear, doubt and difficulty. Some days I still ask myself what the hell I’m doing and wonder if I’m cut out for it, but then I’ll receive a glowing testimonial from one of my clients and they re-confirm things for me. I’m doing so much more than making art with my photography; I’m HELPING women reclaim their femininity (sometimes discovering for the first time) and realize what badasses they truly are. 

A boudoir photoshoot with me is so much more than taking a few sexy photos. It's an experience, from beginning to end. For some, it's therapeutic and maybe one of the scariest things they've ever done. For others, it's a celebration of who they are and acceptance of their unique beauty. As Dita Von Teese once said, "It's not about seducing men. It's about embracing womanhood."

That's ^^ me. One of the first images from my boudoir selfie project.

That's ^^ me. One of the first images from my boudoir selfie project.

I'd love to hear YOUR story. Get in touch and let's chat. 

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Moody Milk Bath :: OC Boudoir Studio

If I could have a second dream job (in addition to being a boudoir photographer), it would be working with the person who creates the soundtrack for a movie. I'm not sure what that exact title is, but, I think that would be so much fun. Nothing makes me happier than listening to awesome music while creating beautiful art. And that's exactly what I felt while creating this collection of images. We listened to an entire Radiohead album during the shoot, so it seemed only fitting to use their new song in the video for this session. Turns out, it perfectly represents the mood and vision for this shoot. 

Listen to it loudly and enjoy! 

SONG: Spectre, by Radiohead

I wanna hear what songs/bands/artists inspire you! Comment below with your inspiration. I love the idea of developing a concept for a shoot based on the inspiration of one album or musician. 

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Miss A

I'm so excited to feature this beauty in my very first blog post. It's fitting, as she was one of the first few women to walk through my doors and entrust me with her boudoir experience. The moto and motivation for her shoot was YOLO! "...you only live once, and one day I would like to look back at myself and see my full sexy potential."

I agree, girl! You're a badass sexy woman. We all need a little reminder from time to time. 

"My favorite part was the effect before and after the shoot. Before the shoot I started exercising more, taking care of my skin and hair, thinking about what I wanted to look like as a sexy model. After the shoot I felt sexier than ever, kept talking care of myself and I knew for a fact I was sexy because I had seen the pictures and it was proof! "

Any advice for other women considering a boudoir session of their own?

"Do it ASAP. It brought me out of a funk I had been in for a couple years and motivated me to be who I really want, it was the exact kick in the pants I needed. You can either spend the money on a shrink, or sexy photos. " 

 

Let me help you see your full sexy potential! Get in touch and let's chat about what a session planned just for you would look like. 

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