Capturing Confidence: The Art of Boudoir Photography

Where some see only sensuality, photographer Amy May has found another reason for women to try boudoir photography. Borrowing from her own journey, she finds it’s also about confidence and self-reflection.

Boudoir photography is often sensual in nature, but it doesn’t have to be. Photographer Amy May finds it’s also a way to capture confidence in one’s own image.

Amy May emerged from her first boudoir photography session with more than just pictures. She walked away with renewed confidence and self-esteem. The experience transformed her mindset so profoundly that a decade later, she’s on the other side of the camera, capturing artful images that empower others.

Since 2015, May has been shooting weddings, portraits and senior photos. But boudoir photography – a photo style that captures its subjects with an intimate, sensual style – has been a passion, too, and her new studio, located in Galena, Ill., is dedicated to precisely that purpose.

“For me, it’s about making someone feel better about themselves,” says May. “It’s not about the pictures. It’s about the empowerment I’m giving them.”

A Certified Professional Photographer and member of the Association of International Boudoir Photographers, May says she grew up feeling insecure and uncomfortable with her body.

“I know this is a common experience for many people,” she says.

May only agreed to pose for that first boudoir session because a friend, who happened to be a professional photographer, was looking for models to build her portfolio.

“I thought this would be a good idea to see what someone else sees in me,” May says. “I was apprehensive. I didn’t know what I was going to wear. She guided me through the process and made me feel beautiful. I got out of my head and just let her create.”

Now on the other side of the camera, May approaches boudoir as a form of art. She wants to change the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the genre.

“Having a boudoir experience doesn’t have to mean taking your clothes off or wearing lingerie,” she explains. “You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. And really, the word ‘boudoir’ just means a woman’s private room where she can sit and reflect; it doesn’t have to be a bedroom.”

May says another misconception about boudoir shoots is that they’re something women do just for their partners. On the contrary, she says the real reward is for the client herself.

“I know from the reactions I’ve had from women when they see their images after the session that they have an ‘aha’ moment,” she says. “It changes their outlook on how the rest of the world sees them.”

May also remembers how it felt to see her photos for the first time. “In my personal experience, the shoot allowed me to become a more confident businessperson. My relationships are stronger. I connect with people on a deeper level because I’m not afraid of what people see in me anymore.”

May says one of the biggest myths is that you should put off booking a boudoir session until you’ve lost weight.

“It defeats the purpose,” she says. “It’s not the weight that’s important; it’s about how my mind sees and makes me feel so that I can project my right intention to the world. It’s the mindset change that makes the difference. It’s how high you hold your head up.”

May has been sharing some of her work on her Instagram page, @reflectionsboudoirstudio, and her website, “I chose the name Reflections Boudoir because, after a boudoir session, you can reflect a better sense of who you are. You can reflect on who you were and who you want to be,” she says.

May loves capturing people in every stage of life, especially brides and women in their 40s and beyond. Her new studio in Galena will allow her to focus on boudoir and fashion shoots for weekend tourists and bridal parties.

“I love working with brides because they’re at a turning point in their lives,” May says. “When you start your marriage feeling confident, you radiate that feeling into your relationship and become less critical of yourself.”

Having lived in more than 20 places, May embraces the things that make everyone special.

“I see people from the inside out instead of the outside in,” she says. “Every body is beautiful. I feel privileged to blend my passion for photography with the joy of empowering people through imagery, celebrating their unique style and capturing their personality.”