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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She hadn't felt sexy in years | Mother's Day Boudoir Celebration

It's May! A month full of holidays & celebrations - Star Wars Day, Cinco de Mayo, Kentucky Derby, National Burger Day, Memorial Day...but the most important one, is Mother's Day! I dunno, maybe it's the whole baby-in-my-uterus thing, but I've got moms on the brain in a big way this year and feel like celebrating motherhood ALL month long. 

I love photographing all women and making them feel beautiful, but I'll admit it - I have a special place in my heart for my mama clients. Probably because I am one and it was my rocky start at motherhood that actually lead me to the empowering world of boudoir photography. So, I decided to focus my blog on MOMS all month long. Each week I'll be featuring a different beautiful mama and her unique story. 

First up, we have Miss S. This lady here captured my heart in one single sentence in her very first email to me, "Honestly, I haven't felt sexy in....the PC answer is years....but the true answer is decades." UGH. That right there breaks my heart, and is why I do this. I'm positively certain that she's not alone with these feelings, and it's my mission to change the way so many women see themselves. To show them that they ARE beautiful and sexy. 

Sometimes we like to sneak a few headshots in too...you know, since you're all glammed up. 

What made you want to do a boudoir session? 

"I had been feeling for a while like it was time to break out of the norm, but I couldn’t quite figure out what that next step needed to be. I was a 50 year old, divorced, single mom - so much of my life was defined for me that I was feeling like I just wanted something that was me. 

I saw your post looking for women for a boudoir shoot and I thought - that’s it!  I had never considered a boudoir shoot before. I literally submitted an application before I had a chance to think about it. Once I hit send….I panicked.  I thought, who are you kidding Sandy? You are definitely not a boudoir model."

(You see, most of my clients don't walk in feeling like "models" who are ready to take it all off and have their photos taken. They're doing this because they don't, and they need a little pick-me-up.)

[On the day of the shoot, when I left the studio I felt...] 

"Liberated, like nothing was off limits now.

I was always that kid who followed the rules, colored inside the lines, raised my hand, finished my homework before playing. 

I did the same in adult life - married my college BF, had 3 kids, made my family my top priority. But then divorce, going back to work full time, and raising 3 boys alone - it felt like there was simply nothing left of me. And I had completely lost what it was like to be and feel desirable."

After seeing your photos and getting your heirloom box, how did it make you feel? Did it change the way you see yourself and your confidence? 

"Without a doubt, yes! Desire is in the mind. The photo shoot opened that door back up. 
Free the mind, the body will follow where ever you want it to go."

(Rawr! Yea, girl!)

What would you tell other women who are considering this experience for themselves? 

"Do it!  Do it now, Do it today, Do it for yourself. If you want to become the best version of you, you have to be willing to step outside of your box and go where it is uncomfortable.

There’s an old fable about the lobster.  The lobster stays in his “home” until he starts to outgrow it. He knows it’s time to shed it and build a new home when the old one becomes uncomfortable. Everything he tries to do becomes harder and harder with the old home. So, when he’s finally had enough, he sheds the old, crawls under a rock to retool a new one, and then emerges when it’s ready. He would never know he needed a new one without that discomfort."

"Doing the boudoir shoot with Mandy was my discomfort. But the funny thing was - the only discomfort I had was in making the decision. Because from there - Mandy made it so incredibly comfortable, I literally left her studio laughing at myself for making such a big deal out of it in my head."

Thank YOU, Miss S for sharing your story and photos with us. Helping you reclaim a portion of yourself that had been lost, gives me the warm and fuzzies. 

To all the mama's out there, I see you. I know how much this joyous life can give, and take of you. If you're in need of a day all to yourself, to reconnect with the WOMAN who is there at your core, lost in the daily grind of #momlife...get in touch. Mandy Merino Photography is a boudoir portrait studio located in Orange County, CA (with a trip to Central Kentucky on the books in June). We're dedicated to empowering women via intimate portraiture in a loving, empowering and judgement free space. It's way more than just sexy photos - it can be a life changing experience. Each session is planned unique to you, and your comfort zone. 

Trust Miss S - reaching out truly is the hardest part. After you send that initial email, I'll take care of you every step of the way. 

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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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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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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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