"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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Boss Babe Spotlight: DAHLIA BOUTIQUE | OC Lingerie & Bra Boutique

Welcome to the OC Boss Babe Spotlight! #ocbossbabespotlight

What’s that, you ask? It’s a monthly feature on my blog where I’ll be spotlighting local Southern California female-run businesses, who are doing their part to empower women! In case you haven’t noticed, a big part of what I believe and do here is empower women. I think a woman who knows her worth and recognizes her beauty is unstoppable!

Have you ever heard that you should surround yourself with people who inspire you and you can learn from? That’s where the inspiration for this blog series is born. My personal desire to meet, interview and photograph some of the most badass, hard-working, confident lady-bosses in LA & Orange County. 

This month, I'm featuring Dahlia Boutique located at 246 Main St, Seal Beach, CA. As an Orange County boudoir photographer, I spend a lot of time shopping for lingerie. You know what's most surprising...the lack of local lingerie shops (especially outside of the mall)! So when I stumbled upon Dahlia, I had to get my butt in there ASAP. Then, when I met the fabulous women working in there, I wanted to know more!

Here's what they had to say...

How did Dahlia Boutique get started, or what was the inspiration? 
Dahlia Lingerie and Bra Boutique was created for women who have a hard time finding their bra size; those hard to find sizes and styles.  A wonderful alternative to chain lingerie stores that only carry basic sizes.  A place where women can get a professional bra fitting and walk out embracing their bodies and feeling beautiful.  

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Can you tell us a little about the owner?
Leticia is a strong, independent business woman who opened this boutique to help other women. She always found that the department stores didn't carry her size either. She found her niche and embraced it. Lety has been a member of the Junior League of Long Beach and a volunteer for the Boys and Girls Club. She is very involved in her community and giving back to others.

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How did it find it's home in Seal Beach?
Seal Beach is a charming beach community filled with families. Main St is definitely a wonderful place to shop with many one of a kind boutiques and local owned stores. When Lety came across 246 Main St and found a corner location, she knew it was meant to be! With so many growing families, moms need a local place to shop for their unmentionables without having to go all the way to the mall. A place they can easily go to after work or while the kids are in school.

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How do you choose which brands and styles that you want to carry? 
We carry a variety of brands. Some are widely known and trusted brands, others are smaller designers who have specialty lines that are unique and hard to find. We love to find brands that are beautiful and well made of course, but also brands that offer the 28-30 bands and the 38-44 bands. You would be surprised how many women come into the store wearing 36DD and walk out in a 32F.

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Most important thing women should know about buying the perfect bra? 
GET FITTED!!  Not once, not twice, but every time you buy a bra. Women's bra sizes can change on average 6 times in their lifetime.  Gaining or losing a few pounds can mean a different bra size. Having babies and/or stopping breastfeeding can change your size (DRAMATICALLY!!!). Age and hormones change them as well.  Get fitted at least every year.  We recommend getting a new bra every 6-9 months.  

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Kierstin Shettlesworth,  Assistant Manager at Dahlia

Kierstin Shettlesworth, Assistant Manager at Dahlia

What are your favorite things about working in the lingerie industry? 
I love helping ladies find a new version of themselves.  Teaching them about the importance of a proper fitting bra and how it can make a world of difference.   Ladies love to shop, there is no doubt about that, but it's often our undergarments that need the most attention.  There is nothing like having your bra and panties match!  You walk a little taller and feel like you really have it all together, at least that day!


While I was in there chatting, we got to talking about bra fitting parties - which is something they offer - and I just knew I had to throw one! So, join us this THURSDAY, 11/10 from 6pm - 8pm. The Dahlia ladies will be offering up complimentary bra fittings, and I'll be bringing the wine & champagne. If you've ever been curious to meet me and ask your boudoir session questions, this is a great time to do so. There will also be a killer doorprize! Every lady who attends will get her name added to a drawing for a chance to win a complimentary boudoir session with Mandy Merino Photography, and either a chemise or bra and panty set from Dahlia Boutique (offer good until February 14th, 2017).

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Get more information over on the Facebook event page. Button below will take you straight there. 

Hope to see you there!


Are you, or someone you know, a Boss Babe in the Southern California area committed to empowering women? If you'd like a chance to be featured on my blog, please get in touch via the form below! 

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Sexy Little Bride :: OC Boudoir Photographer

Shoot days are a little like Christmas morning for me. I never know what my clients will unpack out of their wardrobe bags when they first arrive. Even though we often meet and go shopping before a shoot, and I create a custom mood board with wardrobe recommendations for every single client, I still don’t know what they’ll end up bringing to their session. So, seeing all those lacy little numbers being unpacked is like heaven for me. My creative boudoir photographer wheels start turning and I begin imagining how I’m going to photograph that specific client, in each outfit.

This girl right here, well, she pretty much nailed it with her wardrobe. Truth be told, she rocked everything about session – but it all started when she laid out all her beautiful wardrobe options. She had such a sweet and bubbly personality, and then when the camera pointed her way…RAWR! We laughed and had so much fun, and girlfriend was fierce AF. 

“I wanted to give my fiancé an unforgettable gift on our wedding day.” MISSION freaking ACCOMPLISHED.

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A bit of advice from this beauty to women considering their own boudoir session:

"Pick out outfits that are true to you so you really do feel amazing in front of the camera, and just have fun. I know it can be stressful leading up to the day wondering about your bare body for the world to see, but its your body and you are doing this for you." #word

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What was your favorite part of the experience? "Seeing the photos was the best for me; all the suspense was lifted. I honestly didn't believe it was me in some of them."

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"I have always been very insecure about my body and most importantly my arms in photos. It was very tough to overcome that since most outfits are sleeveless."

FACT: It's fighting these fears head-on and conquering them, that makes boudoir photography so empowering! We ALL have insecurities. 

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What was it like working with Mandy for your boudoir experience? 

"She was amazing! From the chit chat we had before I bought all the outfits, all the way until I got my album she was extremely helpful and easy to work with. I don't think I would be as comfortable as I was, if I ended up working with someone else. It felt like a great friend was taking these photos..."

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Big thanks to this beauty for sharing her photos and experience with us! It was my pleasure, and I hope you and your husband enjoy these for many, many years! 

To all you sexy Southern California Brides, let's talk about creating the perfect gift for your future spouse. Wanna know the best part about it? It's also a huge gift to yourself! In the midst of all the wedding planning stress, what could be more fun than setting aside a day that's all for you? Part of my job as an Orange County boudoir photographer, is making you feel amazing about yourself! That confidence is going to compliment your wedding dress better than any other accessories. ;) 

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Rock-N-Roll Badass Beauty :: OC Boudoir Photographer

I strive to custom tailor every single one of my sessions to fit my clients personality and style, while also adding my own twist to it. When Caitlin and I collaborated on a "sexy biker/rocker" styled shoot, it was a match made in heaven. I LOVED every minute of it as our styles blended together perfectly. We had such a blast during her shoot, and the fact that she walked away with a collection of images that truly represented HER personality and style...well, that made me a happy girl. 

Some feedback from Miss C about her session:

"After working with several different photographers, doing boudoir with all of them, I definitely felt most natural with Mandy. Her home was inviting and warm, congruent with her personality. The session felt organic and customized to fit me..."

Mandy wasn’t afraid to laugh with me, to embrace the awkward situations, where I repeatedly tripped in my heels, while attempting to look sexy. It felt like I was hanging out with an old friend, no fear of judgement.

How did you feel when you saw your images?

I was floored. I am so blessed to have been able to work with Mandy. I feel she was able to capture my best features from behind the camera, through prompting and guiding, as well as being able to recognize my best angles."

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Do not not let anything keep you from this experience. It is tailor made for you, so there should be no excuses or fears holding you back.

What was it like working with Mandy?

"From the first correspondence to the final viewing session, Many has carried herself as a professional who beams true passion for her craft. Her energy is contagious to be around and definitely helps dissipate any nerves you may have about the experience."

You're such a beautiful soul, Caitlin! I've loved getting to know you and make art together! 

Curious about what a shoot styled just for YOU would look like? Shoot me a note and let's start getting to know one each other. 

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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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