Walking up to the glossy door of Montpellier House in the always chic and stylish, Regency area of Cheltenham I can feel my heart pounding away just a little bit.
Today I am going to get naked in front of someone I’ve never met before.
In my bag I have some fancy new underwear I bought especially for the occasion, which I hope is going to look sexy but classy at the same time and – most importantly – that I will feel confident and great wearing it.
No this isn’t the story about some illicit liaison – today I’m having a professional photo shoot…. and I’m taking all my clothes off.
I know I’m in safe hands as my photographer, Susie Mackie, works with women of all ages, shapes and sizes and she has been nothing but extremely warm and encouraging in all of our conversations leading up to today.
However, as the date of my boudoir shoot got nearer, I did start to feel a little apprehensive.
Pulling up to the lovely Georgian building my nerves are kicking in somewhat, but I am greeted by Susie who is so bubbly, warm and carefree, that she puts me at ease instantly.
After a hug outside, we go in and sit in a stunning lounge to have a pre-photo shoot chat which eases the slight butterflies …
… and before I know it I am walking up the bright and airy stairs to a sumptuous suite.
Furnished with a canopied fourposter bed and some beautiful pieces of Regency furniture, the suite has 3 huge, sash windows overlooking the park which let in tons of natural light.
As Susie sets her equipment up I get changed and am then directed to stand at the foot of the bed looking out at the park opposite – I feel a little awkward, but at least I don’t have to actually face the camera to begin with haha!
I then move up onto the bed, which is so high you have to use steps to climb up onto it!
I can feel how luxurious and comfy it is, with it’s thick mattress topper and silky sheets and I pause to think how lucky I am – that there is definitely something about having your own private photo shoot which feels a real indulgence… but at the same time neither flashy nor selfish as its purpose is to capture, recognise and appreciate the positives of you and your body.
The beginning of the shoot is then a bit of a blur, I’m not aware what pictures we start shooting first because Susie is so chatty and fun, it doesn’t feel like I’m being told to pose and then having specific pictures taken…. it is much more fluid than that.
Susie helps me all the way through with how to position my body – not in an overtly sexy or cliche way – just gentle directions to help me relax and show my personality (in my case it was also reminding me of my posture all the time so I don’t slump!) and she is very nurturing and encouraging, but we are having a real giggle at the same time … at one point I am rolling around on the bed laughing my head off about something which she is also taking pictures of – um yes thanks for that Susie 😉
There are no big photography lights pointed at me making me feel under the spotlight so to speak, everything is done with the lovely natural light from the big windows and just a reflector on occasion, which keeps everything feeling super relaxed.
The silky white sheets on the bed are the highest thread count I’ve ever touched and I’m terrified about getting red lipstick all over them when we are in fits of laughter!
The overall atmosphere and feelings I have during the shoot are those of safety, positivity… and fun!
It really is fun – I forget about whether my boobs are pointing in the right direction, my bum is looking big or my cellulite is going to show on camera.
The whole thing feels very collaborative and empowering.
For the next hour and a half I’m in and out of 3 different outfit combinations, in different positions and locations within the suite and when Susie says we are done, I actually feel slightly disappointed!
I had done my own make up and hair for the shoot because I’m used to doing it for my blog photos (albeit I went for a more high coverage and full on ‘pin up’ look for this occasion), but the usual boudoir shoots include being pampered and made up by a professional as part of the day and I can imagine that must feel wonderful.
The only thing that could have made the experience better would have been some champagne – Susie why didn’t we think of that?!
I have lots of beautiful photos from the shoot, which was a relief because I was a bit worried there would only be a few I liked as I know I can be quite self-critical … and I was sent a lovely email with the images, both preparing me not to love every single image – which Susie said is a normal and natural reaction, so that helped me be realistic about my expectations for the photos – but also talking about what she loved about the images … so the positive experience didn’t just end when the shoot finished.
It was surprising that when I saw some of the images I wasn’t so keen on, I didn’t beat myself up about them… I just thought “oh yes, not so keen on that one” and moved on – whereas in the past I would have definitely dwelled on the things about my body I didn’t like…
…. so somehow over the course of the photo shoot, my inner talk changed to being much kinder, less judgemental and even better, that mindset has remained afterwards.
I’ve obviously chosen not to show all of the photos here because, much as I feel good about the experience and the way my body looks, it doesn’t feel appropriate for the whole of the internet to see them – but I have those images and will look back at them in years to come and think YES I did and do love my body!
I have to say that at one point I thought perhaps I wish I’d done something like this before, because I know my body has been in better shape in the past… but on the other hand, that’s not really what the experience was about – it goes back to my blog last week where I talked about body confidence and how to achieve it (here)… it’s about trying to put a stop to those negative, automatic thoughts we have about ourselves which can knock our confidence and also taking stock of reality – being both kind to ourselves and realistic about our appearance! I bet you if you asked any of your friends or family, they would describe your body in a very different way to what you would?
What we see is not necessarily what others see and our internal beliefs about ourselves matter so much!
It is also very much about acceptance of who and what we are – being grateful for what our body has done for us over the years…I know mine has had a few hard times and at one point I rhink I felt quite negative towards it, instead of being kind.
We are kind to our friends and family, even strangers sometimes, so why can’t we be as kind to ourselves?!
Susie said whereas women tend to focus on the bits of their body they like the least, she encourages them to shift their focus onto the bits they do like AND to accept their not-so-favourite bits… which is again what I talked about the other week in discussing how to find more body confidence here.
So girls, be grateful for that body of yours, irrespective of any flaws or imperfections you may believe you have.
They are part of you and your journey and that body has worked hard for you for all of your life, so please be kind to it!
Thank you to Montpellier House for a wonderful shoot location and of course to the lovely Susie for making me feel and look beautiful!
If you’re interested in celebrating your body and finding out more, here she is:
My Sensuality Instagram
Susie Mackie, Boudoir Photography
Susie Mackie, Wedding Photography