We're your GIRL GANG :: Orange County Boudoir Studio

...it felt great to hang with other women who are all about empowerment! They totally felt like my girl gang for the time we were together. I absolutely loved that!

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Win a Complimentary Session | Boudoir by Mandy Merino Photography | Orange County, CA

One lucky Southern California woman has the opportunity to win a complimentary luxury boudoir session with Mandy Merino Photography.

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Part of our mission at this studio is to empower women. To tell them they’re beautiful, and help them celebrate who they are in a judgement free zone. To curate a stream of content that makes you wanna kick-ass and conquer the world (or at least comb your hair that day). I also want YOU to contribute to that stream, by participating in our private Facebook group “BOUDOIR by Mandy Merino Photography”. If you stumble across an inspiring article/quote/link that represents female empowerment, feel free to share it in the group!

Help me grow this awesome group by adding all your fiercest, bravest and most awesome girlfriends and family members. Then, engage with each other! Tell another woman she’s beautiful. You’ll put a smile on her face – I promise! In a social media world where women endure so much scrutiny and social pressure associated with their physical appearance, let’s make this group a departure from the negativity; and a place where you can complement a stranger.

As a way to thank you for helping be grow this awesome group and joining in the community, I’m giving away one complimentary session!  

Here’s how this works:

Invite 10 ladies to join the group, and get one entry into the contest. Invite more friends to get more entries. Example: 50 members = 5 entries.

Must be ladies who live in Southern California and over 21 years old.

Women only, please! I want this group to be a safe place for women to celebrate themselves through intimate portraiture, and recognize how badass they are. A place of “girl power” and female empowerment.

The complimentary session will include a wardrobe consultation, hair & make-up on your shoot day, 1.5 hours of studio time and $100 product credit to use at your viewing & ordering appointment (a $450 value).  

For your entry into the contest to be complete make sure all of the following are complete:

- Minimum of 10 entries required to qualify

- Must like “Mandy Merino Photography” and be a member of the “BOUDOIR by Mandy Merino Photography” group on Facebook

- Lastly, comment on this blog post when you’ve finished all steps

This contest will end once we reach 2,000 members. Winner will be chosen at random once the contest ends and announced LIVE in the group.

The lovely lady who adds the MOST friends to the group will win a $25 Victoria’s Secret gift card. 

Her Heart Melted :: Central Kentucky Boudoir Photographer

Like myself and so many other women, this beauty right here called me up wanting to book a shoot because she was struggling with self-confidence.

All that we endure as women can really leave a girl feeling depleted. Most of the time, we're putting the needs of others ahead of our own and rarely taking time out all for ourselves...especially for things like feeling pretty. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but when a girl doesn’t feel beautiful, then she’s living life missing a huge source of confidence. I believe that ALL women are beautiful and carry a unique spirit that makes them special. When we’re able to realize that, and see ourselves as the beautiful badasses that we are – the world better lookout. That woman is unstoppable.

I want to be that woman. I want YOU to be that woman. I love empowering women to be the best damn version of themselves that they can be, with the power of intimate portraiture.

This session started as an anniversary gift to her husband. In the end, she gained a whole new perspective of herself.

"Viewing my photos...my heart melted. I could not believe how amazing I looked."

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Was the session different from what you expected?

"Yes it was. I thought I would be a little more nervous but honestly I was so much more comfortable. I felt like I was with an old friend"

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To those of you considering a shoot for yourself...

"Do it. You will feel so good about yourself through the whole process. It will show you that you are so much more than what you see yourself as." 

Ready to find out more about a shoot all for yourself? Get in touch! 

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This session was shot at the Spring 2016 Boudoir in the Bluegrass event, in Stanford Kentucky. Mandy Merino Photography offers limited Lexington & Central Kentucky boudoir photography sessions once or twice a year. 

Hold your head a little higher, girl! :: Orange County Boudoir Photographer

Last fall I had the opportunity to reconnect with a beautiful woman that I went to high school with. We cheered together and knew each other kinda, but never really ran in the same social circle. We had very recently found each other via Facebook, when she stumbled across my business page. She'd recently been through a rough patch in life, and was suffering from low self-esteem.

This is a topic that's very near and dear to my heart. I think it's so hard as women to maintain our individuality when we take on the roles of mothers and the swirl of sorrow that can accompany it . I have lived through it! I know what it's like to lose sight of yourself, and have your "mojo" fall to the wayside along with any confidence you ever had in yourself. Truthfully, I think MOST women go through this from time to time, but it's not something we openly talk about it. It's not pretty. We show our "highlight reel" on Facebook & Instagram, and secretly suffer in silence. My own issues with this, is exactly why I became a boudoir photographer. The reason that I love what I do so very much, is because I get to help women tackle their own fears and demons...and by doing this, I do the same. 

I'm so proud of Ms K for facing her self-doubt, and telling that low self-esteem to take a hike! She's a beautiful, strong woman and needs to always remember this. 

"I had developed very poor self-esteem & I really felt that doing this would help to give me the "boost" I needed to feel better about myself." 

"I was extremely nervous in the beginning to be so "exposed" with my personal body image being so poor..."

"I definitely have more of a sense of confidence now. Mandy gave me a few sneak peeks on the camera during the session, that were obviously unedited, and that helped to boost me along during the shoot. I can get dressed & walk down the street now with my head a little higher!"

"I had read all of the fantastic reviews and stories from other girls that had done a shoot with Mandy & everything they had said was all true!! She's AWESOME!!!!!"

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"The entire session, from hair to makeup to mimosas & fruit to the music to the fun outfits -- was all wonderfully fun!!!"

Describe how you felt when you saw your images the first time:

"It's definitely a hard feeling to describe. I guess in awe would be good. I was hopeful that they would turn out good, but they actually turned out GREAT and I was very pleasantly surprised & proud of myself for doing it."

Sometimes, you just have to embrace your pain and sorrow and accept it as your own. Learn to love those things about youerself, and your greatest weaknesses can become your greatest strengths. 

"DO IT!!!!! Mandy makes you feel 10000% comfortable & beautiful & sexy and makes you forget that you have doubts or fears.. It is loads of fun to be pampered & catered to for a day & have gorgeous photos to remember it by!"

So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with me, and let's start tearing down your own self doubt. Take some time to reconnect with the girl we all know is still in there. ;) 

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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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You definitely still "got it" momma!

This woman right here, is the poster child for my boudoir philosophy and mission. I RELATE to her on so many levels. Helping women like her reclaim their sensuality in a totally fun, relaxed and artist experience and walk away with a new-found confidence is why I do what I do. 

So many women think or say, “Oh, I wanna wait until I lose the baby weight to have my shoot.” I absolutely, totally get that. However, what if instead of waiting, you accept the person you are TODAY (stretch marks and extra pounds) and capture this beautiful time in your life. I don’t know about you, but my breast-feeding boobs were pretty amazing! ;) How cool would it be to have photos to remember that unique version of you? 

"I wanted to do something for myself that would make me feel a little like my old self, since having the twins. It was time to get out of the yoga pants, take the mom bun down, and put some makeup on."

"I am not as comfortable in my skin since having my babies. It took some guts to strip down into so little, but I knew I could do it. As much as I would like to be skinner and more fit, I know that my body created two little humans, at the same time! And that, is pretty amazing."

What was your favorite part of the experience?

 "I think I would have to go just the interaction with Mandy. She really made it feel like I was just hanging around with a girlfriend and taking photos."

"I was able to see that I still got it! Under all the spit up, sweat and whatever else there is, I am still that sexy woman that my husband says I always was."

Mrs K, thank you so much for sharing your photos and experience with us! You absolutely, without a doubt, definitely still GOT IT. You're a goddess, and your husband...he's one lucky man. 

And to those of you reading, wondering if you still have "it"...you do! I promise. If you need me to show you, get in touch and I can answer all your questions. 

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