"I've never felt more like a woman" | Orange County Boudoir Studio | Mother's Day Celebration

I have been LOVING all the mamas in and out of the studio this past month, as we've been celebrating Mother's Day. Yes, yes...I *planned* to feature a beautiful Southern California mom on the blog each week this month, but, well, things got a little busy and I fell behind on my blogging schedule. I also NEVER feature a woman on the blog without her getting to see her images first and choose her favorites. So, screw it - we're going to celebrate all the way into June. 

Today, we are featuring Miss S. I had the pleasure of photographing her sister last year, who had such an amazing time that she told Miss S she just had to do this. As a photographer, that is seriously the highest compliment someone can give me. I found both of these women to be absolutely beautiful and genuinely good people.  I could ramble on and on, but I'll let her tell you about the experience herself. 

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"This is something I have been curious about in the past but never really thought I would have the guts to pursue. Then my sister told me about how great her experience was, and after seeing the amazing pictures I was hooked. I don't think I actually knew what exactly boudoir pictures were but after I saw how classy and tasteful Mandy's work was there was no question this was something I would definitely need to cross off my bucket list. I also wanted to be able to capture this time in my life. Becoming a mom has been such an amazing and life changing experience."

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"I did have my usual hang ups about my body that I had been carrying for years, like I always thought I had broad shoulders that made me feel I look like a line-backer, my moms hook nose and my super skinny legs but then I had a baby 6 months ago and that added a whole new list of things to feel insecure about, like my even bigger gut and that I no longer have a butt. But I figured Mandy knows what she's doing."

(As a boudoir photographer in Orange County I've come to hear many - often somewhat crazy - self perceived "flaws" that women see in themselves (i.e. line-back shoulders). I love being able to help women move past those insecurities and realize that NOBODY else sees those things in them, and learn to be a little kinder to themselves.)

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"I was so pleasantly surprised and relieved to see how relaxed and comfortable Mandy made the whole experience. She was so laid back and honest about what did and didn't work. And she really seemed to keep in mind all the hang ups I did have and reassured me she wouldn't do anything that made me uncomfortable or didn't look good on camera. She was also really clear during the shoot so there was no question as to what to do...she takes all the guess work out."

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"I have never felt as empowered as I did after that photo-shoot! I thought I would have felt a lot more nervous but as the shoot went on the more comfortable I felt. Once we were done there was not one part that I regretted and left feeling like I could do anything! Also it was a great excuse to get out of my granny panties I had been rocking since I got pregnant and treat myself to some cute panty sets that get me in a good mood every time I wear them."

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How did you feel when you saw your images?
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I think this was the part that I was the most nervous about. After the shoot I knew Mandy did everything to make my body look it's best but I was worried about what I had done with my face! Was I too stiff? Did I look relaxed enough? But once we got to the viewing session I should have known there was nothing to worry about. Mandy is a true professional, down to the little details. She started the [viewing] session with a cute video that got me right back into the mood I was in for the actual photo shoot, but this time all the hard work was done and it was time to just relax and enjoy the show. 

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"I'm not too proud to admit I was actually lead to tears, a reaction I was not expecting, especially since it was one of the last pictures that elicited such a strong response. It wasn't even the most 'flattering" and actually showcased what most would try to hide- my belly rolls! But at that moment they felt like such a badge of honor and I felt like such a Mom! It felt so honest, natural and real. I never felt more like a woman. It was such a relief to see how good all the photos came out, some sexy, some cute, some silly, all beautiful!"

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To any women reading this, considering their OWN boudoir experience...this is what Miss S has to say to you:

"Do it! Do it! Do it! I am a tomboy at heart and tend to keep it safe and comfortable but I'm so glad and proud that I got out of my comfort zone...And now I have amazing pictures to capture such a transformative time in my life.

The whole experience was Awesome! Mandy was Amazing! And the photos came out great! From her professionalism to her attention to detail you can tell she loves her craft and she loves bringing out the best in women! I loved the stories she told about her experience as a mother which led her to this work so you can tell she is genuine when working with other women and especially moms. Thank you for what you do Mandy."

What are you waiting for? What's holding you back? Let me help you work through those insecurities and learn to see yourself as others do - BEAUTIFUL. All you need to do is reach out, and I'll take it from there. 

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Mandy Merino Photography is a Fullerton, California based boudoir portrait studio. We're an all female staff specializing in fine-art style sexy, nude and intimate portraits in a loving and judgement free zone. Our clients come from all over Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego and through-out the Southern California area. We love photographing all women, but really love helping moms break out of day-to-day grind and reconnect with the sensual woman who hides within. 

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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