When Photography and Art Collide… Elizabeth Messina

Elizabeth Messina

Typically, we avoid featuring boudoir shoots, but Elizabeth Messina’s tantalizing photographs are too gorgeous to pass up!  Let’s face it, there is something naturally captivating about the way the light cascades over the human figure, the elegance of the pose, the sumptuous decor… something both seductive and pure.  Something both decadent and simple.  Something otherworldly, yet beautifully human.

Brides, here is what we want you to know: it is perfectly all right to channel your inner sexy and use your tastefully-styled boudoir images to create a beautifully composed photobook from your session!  This sophisticated- and sexy- gift will be unparalleled in the eyes of your new fiancé or spouse.

I must admit that secretly I dream of someday building up enough confidence to have my own glamorous boudoir shoot!  If ever I were to do a boudoir session, without a doubt I would entrust the illustrious Elizabeth Messina to envision and capture the moment on film.  Elizabeth has an eye for framing decadent shots, for utilizing natural light and orchestrating color.  With each snap of her camera, Elizabeth captures a piece of my heart!  Her images are magical, clear- luminous.

Elizabeth Messina

Even beyond these more technical aspects of photography, we love that what Elizabeth does is an art.  It’s her ability to capture the essence of love with the click of a button, her flair for transforming a woman in her most raw state into beauty personified, how she finds life and grace in the mundane, and has a masterful ability to focus her viewer on the tiniest of details, that makes all the difference.

We wanted to know the secret behind Elizabeth Messina’s phenomenal artistic repertoire, and help you get to know the genius behind the lens.  Below you will find all the answers to why you should consider doing a boudoir photoshoot session, what types of items you would need to bring, how to prepare, and some tips for being a natural when you step in front of the camera!

TBC: Now we’re totally curious.  Can you give us a quick lesson on the history of boudoir images, Elizabeth?

EM: Boudoir photography is the art of creating sensual photographs.  The art form is as old as the earliest photographic processes.  Boudoir is distinct from overtly sexual photography in that its emphasis is on the artfulness and aesthetic qualities of the subject, in addition to the craftsmanship of the resulting images.

TBC: Why would you encourage brides to consider doing a boudoir photoshoot?

EM: All women struggle with not only accepting their bodies, but also with truly honoring them.  I think boudoir is at the core of honoring a woman’s body.  Although it may not be for every bride, if can be a beautiful part of the collection of your wedding photographs!  It can also make an artistic and intimate gift for your partner.

TBC: Boudoir images have certainly become a more prevalent trend over the last few years.  What do you find to be the fascination with boudoir?

EM: I cannot speak for others, but I think that the sheer beauty of women is captivating to many.  I believe that the world is divided into two groups of women: those who will disrobe and allow themselves to be photographed in an intimate way, and those who will not.

Boudoir suggests intimacy, desire, longing; these are human emotions that we all experience.  To see such emotions expressed and captured in an image is fascinating

TBC: Tell us how you got your start as a professional photographer.  What made you begin to shoot boudoir and why were you drawn to these intimate sessions?

EM: I received my first camera at the tender age of twelve.  It was a gift from my mother.  I loved it and photographed my friends and surroundings constantly, although I had no real understanding that I could become a ‘photographer!’  It wasn’t until many years later that I truly embraced my dream and began to create images with purpose.

I began photographing boudoir rather naturally.  I have always been drawn to the moments ‘in between’ – right before or just after something has happened.  Photographing the bride as she dresses and prepares for the marriage ceremony is really the most simple, and accepted, form of boudoir.

TBC: How do you approach a boudoir session?

EM: I approach boudoir with the thoughtfulness of a woman and the skillfulness of a professional photographer.

TBC: What differentiates an Elizabeth Messina boudoir session from those of other photographers?

EM: The secret to boudoir is that it is most alluring when you don’t really see anything too revealing.  Less is always more!  I prefer to capture the suggestion of seduction, what I like to call ‘the sweet underneath.’  For instance, a curve of the shoulder can be more sexy than, say, a more obvious curve.  I like to create boudoir images that feel like secrets.  Having a really private space to shoot in helps.  Soft, natural light is especially flattering.  All of my boudoir images are created with natural light and film.

TBC: What is it about the female form that inspires your artistic nature?

EM: I think that as a woman I really relate to both the vulnerability and innate softness most women possess.  I am often touched by how even the most beautiful women feel uncomfortable about some part of their bodies.  Perhaps it is simply the human experience, to feel vulnerable in our own skins.  I feel that I understand all the curves as well as all the insecurities that linger in a woman’s body.  It is the challenge of creating both peaceful and flattering images that continues to intrigue me.

TBC: What do you do to make your brides feel comfortable with the idea of boudoir photoshoot?

EM: It’s not at all uncommon for a woman to feel a little vulnerable when she disrobes.  As a photographer, I try to be sensitive to a bride’s comfort level.  Each shoot, each woman, is unique, and my approach varies from situation to situation.  I like to start off slow- maybe just an image of her shoulder, or her shoes.  I may even put my camera down and just talk with her.

Boudoir should never be rushed or forced.  Comfort comes from trust.  The most important part of any shoot (aside from lighting!) is a genuine feeling of trust.

TBC: What do you tell your brides to do in order to be prepared for a boudoir photoshoot with you?

EM: It is extremely important for a bride considering boudoir to be completely comfortable with the photographer that she selects.  The bride must feel safe and that she can trust the person behind the camera.  Second, it really helps to have a private space.  It’s hard to fully relax if the bride’s fiancé, mother or bridesmaids are nearby.

If she’s not into lingerie, I always tell a bride not to force it.  A simple robe can do the trick!  The more comfortable and authentic she feels, the more the images will reflect her natural beauty.  Remember!  Less is more.

TBC: How far in advance do you recommend that a bride schedule her boudoir photoshoot with you?

EM: It really depends! If I am available, I can book a shoot for the following week.  Sometimes it can be harder to find the time, so a few months in advance may be necessary.  If a bride really wants a beautiful boudoir session, it is best to do it on a day other than her wedding day, although I can do some boudoir while a bride dresses for the ceremony.  Timing can be a bit tricky for a full-blown shoot, though!

TBC: Where do you draw your inspiration from as an artist?

EM: I am inspired by life.  By tenderness and vulnerability.  By beautiful light coming through a bedroom window.  By lace, laughter and truth.  I think as an artist.  The more open I am to the world around me, the more my work will be a genuine reflection of my subject and myself.

TBC: Your images tell a story.  Do you know what that story will be before you begin shooting, or does it unfold organically?

EM: I think it varies.  Most of what I do is a collaboration that unfolds during the shoot.  I think about creating beautiful spaces and capturing beautiful moments.  I can wander and get lost in an antique store for hours.  This brings me lots of inspiration.  I am drawn to quiet spaces full of beautiful light.  I am inspired by so many things.  A great film, handmade lace, love.  Boudoir is at its best when it unfolds naturally.

TBC: What do you think is one of the most important skills or talents needed to successfully shoot boudoir images?

EM: There are a few really important skills needed to create beautiful and successful boudoir images.  First, you need to create a ‘safe space’ where your subject will feel at ease and is comfortable.  Being sensitive and aware of a bride’s comfort level is so vital to making flattering and artful images.

Second, light is absolutely one of the most important aspects of any shoot.  In boudoir is is perhaps of even greater importance.  Beautiful, soft light will be gentle and create more opportunities for you to capture flattering images.  Even the most beautiful and comfortable woman will not be happy with harsh or poorly-lit images.

Third, be sure that while you are shooting you are ‘seeing’ what is in front of you.  It is sometimes easy to get distracted by beauty.  Just because your subject is comfortable, the light is soft and flattering, and the lace robe your subject has on is lovely, it does not mean that you do not have to work to create good photos.  You must always be aware of composition and framing.  Is your subject posing in a way that flatters her figure?  I strive to always be connected during a shoot.  I am actively aware of the mood of my subject, the light hitting her figure, and my overall composition.

TBC: Recently, Pinterest pulled some of your boudoir photos off their website, claiming they were ‘porn.’  Is this a common reaction to boudoir?

EM: That was so sad to me.  Art is so completely different from ‘porn,’ both in look and feel, as well as in intent.  What was most moving for me throughout the incident with Pinterest was the community of people that rallied to my defense!  Many emailed Pinterest directly, very upset that my images had been pulled from their boards and labelled as ‘inappropriate.’

Surprisingly, many of those who wrote to Pinterest received apology letters, stating that Pinterest had made a mistake and that my images were indeed ‘art.’

I am so grateful to the community that supported me.  It was overwhelming!  I hope that Pinterest will be more thoughtful in the future in what they decide to deem ‘inappropriate.’I am aware that boudoir photography is not for everyone.  The intimate nature of my work may not suit everyone’s tastes.

TBC: What do you want your subjects to feel or experience when they finally see their boudoir images?

EM: I hope my subjects see their unique and exquisite beauty, that they feel honored and perhaps a little surprised by how lovely and beautiful they are.  No two women are alike.  Successful boudoir captures something personal and special about a particular woman, at a particular moment in time.  I want women to feel and see how special and lovely they actually are.

To stay up to date with Elizabeth and for more gorgeous photos, follow her on Instagram at @elizabethmessina and on Twitter @KissTheGroom

Elizabeth Messina
Elizabeth Messina