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A Lesson about Beauty

I'm counting days to finally meet my little girl and this definitely puts things into a different perspective. I'm really bad at talking about my own photography and it seems to be a general problem among photographers. So as soon as I saw an initiative of #reppingfriends I knew I have something to share with you. Thus after giving it some thought I decided to write about appearances and being kind to yourself.

A creative director Brian Morrow recently wrote in Facebook: "In the age of the personal brand, where companies who used to create a "brand identity" have now turned into entrepreneurs who must distill certain parts of their lifestyle, craft, and even personality into a digestible brand, one major problem presents itself: it sucks to promote your own company much less your SELF. But what if we all decided to help each other out? I am practically allergic to self promotion, but as a business owner I do it. It sucks, but I do it. Increasingly though, I wonder what the effect of my own self promotion can really accomplish. Am I talking to my own bubble? Does it even do anything?

An apparent solution is simple. Pick someone you believe in, someone you admire, someone you love and tell your network how great they are. How talented or capable or ready or creative. Rep them."

Photography: Marje Kärner
MUA: Reelika Selirand

I've been 180 centimeters (5.11 ft) tall since my teenage years and being an introvert one wouldn't always appreciate the attention nor the inevitable side effects. Always standing first in the row in PE class, dating only taller guys or making yourself shorter in order to talk to your girlfriends. It's no big deal, but there were times I dreamed of not having a body at all and for god's sake - no boobs! Being a woman and behaving like one has always been of minor importance to me. Having a family and kids is a totally different subject.

Imagine a fox having big tits and running around in the forest. Unheard-of! I haven't looked it up but it seems to be the primates' issue to have the reproductive organs on display at all times. I'd rather be a fox.

I never disliked my appearance though. I even did some occasional modelling jobs when I was 20 something. But I was not built nor had a wish to go pro. My hips have always been a few centimetres too wide, I never fitted into size 6 or 8 and getting into the acceptable size for the industry would have meant starving. Compared to my fashion model friends I have always looked too big, too clumsy, not right.

So I decided to be something else, less vain, more serious, sophisticated and modest. This attitude made me terrible in front of camera. I subconciously sabotaged the photographers' efforts to get something out of me.

Older and wiser

Being a photographer myself has taught me so many things about beauty that I didn't know back then. I have seen so many different attitudes and body images that start interfering with the physical reality. I've heard about unbelievable issues people have with their bodies and absurd suggestions to correct them in Photoshop. Even if we're well aware of our shortcomings feeling bad about it just doesn't change anything for better neither in real life nor on a photograph.

In addition to being a photographer I really enjoy growing wiser by the year. Maybe there's a balance between being too scared and having too many wrinkles and maybe for me the time is now. One day before Christmas stepping out of the shower being 8 months pregnant I realised - it probably won't get any better. I think it's a farely realistic assumption when you're approaching 40 years of age. And yes, one might say, it's just a manifestation of a midlife crisis. But I'm going to postpone it a few years and be a young and radient mother instead. Not having to worry about belly fat is a big bonus too.

So if you're looking for an excuse to book a boudoir style maternity session consider this:

- being pregnant doesn't happen to most of us very often these days. Whether this is your first or last one, it's worth remembering. You'll not believe in a year or two you could possibly have had such a big belly.

- no-one will judge your looks when you're expecting, not even you yourself.

- it is a good idea to nuture your body and soul at least a few weeks before the baby is born. Because you'll not have time for it later on. If you've been living on a busy schedule and low maintenance like myself for a long time you simply deserve some pampering.

- it's not only about the outcome of the session, the photos. It's about how the professional photographer and make-up artist (and a wardrobe stylist if you wish) make you feel.

- it's also useful to experience yourself and your reactions in front of the camera. Wisdom and self confidence grows inside out. You need to experience certain things to know how it feels.

- it's interesting to find out how the photographer sees you even if it's not a 100% match with your self image. It rarely is. Try to find out why.

How to choose THE photographer

It was very educating for me to put myself into the client's shoes and inspect how the decision to book someone was made.

To be honest it was a very impulsive decision. I saw some Marje's maternity photos in Facebook and bam! I messaged her to book a date. I knew that if I didn't tell her at once I'll be having second thoughts. Not about her but about the whole thing. As a photographer I realised how important it is to keep posting your work. There is always someone who needs what you offer. It's a well known fact that you'll get the kind of work you show.

1. For a client it's important to understand that there is specialization in photography - your Uncle Bob might not be best for all kinds of photography. Choose the one who has a lot of experience (many blog posts) in this narrow field. He/she won't fail you no matter what.

2. With a boudoir shoot there are issues related to a) taste/style, b) posing/directing c) post production. Look at the portfolio and try to brake it apart. You need to have a similar sense of beauty. If you happen to like a sensitive minimal style, try to avoid someone who presents lush and glamour. Do you generally like the way people are posed on his/her photos? Do they look natural and appealing? Or are they somewhat vulgar to your taste? Good posing skills as well as retouching remain invisible.

I was really pleased to receive a link from Marje after I booked her to a Pinterest board of boudoir photography ideas she had collected. It further convinced me that I made a right choice when I saw images there that I liked. I was so glad to sense that we were mutually excited about the photoshoot. I guess it is important for every client to sense the willingness of the professional to provide the service. A note to myself: if you can't be honestly happy about a booking, there must be something wrong with it and you shouldn't be doing this job.

3. It won't work if you feel uneasy with the photographer. Most people don't like being in front of a camera. Actually there are insecurities on both sides. Important is how you reflect each other and whether you're able to work together. You need to be able to trust the photographer and leave for him/her to decide what's best for you. Your bathroom mirror duckface won't help you and will definitely look stupid.

I had had a very brief portrait shoot with Marje a long time ago and I really liked her style of fine tuning the pose. It was rather opposite to how I work. I try to make my subjects forget about posing and concentrate on something else - doing something, thinking about something, feeling a certain way and hoping the right thing will happen naturally. Marje was rather precise with directing and I think in boudoir genre it is necessary in most cases. There are so many tiny details that can go wrong if you let people jump around or toss and turn on the bed in their underwear. Things that you can't correct in post. Thus you need to have practice to sharpen your eye for details like shoulder straps, double chins, nipples, body fat, wild hair, wrinkles on skin and clothes e.t.c.

4. In some cases there are also technical issues worth considering, but normally a professional would tell you what can or cannot be done. If you're planning to shoot in very low light conditions and use only available light, better be prepared to push the camera to the limits. In our case it happened to be a winter solstice with only a few hours of light through the clouds and a dark background. Being both photographers we measured the light on previous days before we decided to go for it. Never the less I admire Marje's calmness with shooting in such low light. (I freaked out a day before and and almost bought a large octa box just in case.)

5. Don't fall for budget options. If you want to go for it, go for it and don't be stingy. Don't limit your time to 30 minutes, because it's cheaper. You'll need more time to come out of your protective shell and the photographer needs time to get to know you.

Don't ask for a discount. Other person's time is the most valuable thing he/she has. It cannot be multiplied like manufactured consumer goods.

There are other magicians I admire worth considering for your maternity/boudoir session:

Riina Vaikmaa

Kätri Beljajeva

The preparations

Don't leave the photoshoot to the very last weeks of your pregnancy unless you have a tiny belly and you're very fit. Even then consider the possibility of your baby being born ahead of time. (My first child was born on week 37 so I nearly missed the maternity shoot. This time the shoot was scheduled around week 34.) You'll have less energy for the prep as well as posing towards the end.

Have as much fun with the preparations as possible. It's like planning a trip is sometimes more fun than travelling. Gather ideas for the shoot, Google, pin, go through blogs e.t.c. Then narrow your ideas down to a single concept. Decide what's most you and discuss it with your photographer. Don't plan too many locations, outfits, props - it'll distract you from being you and the of the photoshoot will fly.

I knew I wanted the photographer to come to my house, to my actual bedroom and to shoot with a (feel of) natural light. Nothing else.

After you make the booking start taking extra care of your skin if this wasn't part of your daily routine. It just feels good and boosts your inner confidence.

Book a hair appointment if necessary, but keep in mind that dying your hair can be tricky when pregnant. It's not harmful for the baby, but colours can react differently and you may not get the desired shade.

Go shopping. It's rather predictable that you've switched to a few comfortable pieces of underwear by the time being and these are not the items you want anyone to see. You'll need something that fits you perfectly, makes you feel comfortable, has the right colour and suits the occasion. Be prepared to buy something extra just in case you can't decide on spot. Be aware that the changing room light can completely ruin your mood.

Book a make-up artist that you trust and like. It's a big relief if she can come to the shooting location. If you're planning to photograph any nudity, don't wear tight clothes that can leave marks on your skin for the time of the photoshoot.

Enjoy your special time!