Not Every Good Deed Needs Done // WV Boudoir Photographer

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WARNING: If you don’t know me that well, this post is going to seem like a humble brag. If you know me, then you know that it’s just an upfront brag. I’M KIDDING.


Anyway, last week I did a last minute session for a friend who was due to have a baby ANY MINUTE. (This is not a photo of her.) We happened to run into each other after not seeing one another for a while, and she mentioned that she had wanted to do a session but time got away from her. So I asked if she had any time that week (the week the baby was due!), and she did! I was SO THRILLED that we were able to make it happen.


The session was magical. I knew it would be. That’s part of the reason I did it. Since I’ve known this woman, I’ve known her to be kind, warm, and full of a really wonderful innate joy. She is a woman who is in touch with her body and soul, and I knew this session would mean a lot to her and her husband. It just felt so right to do it. The universe gently dropped this session into my arms, much like you’d hand off a newborn baby.

My hour or so with her was lovely. She was not only so genuinely grateful, but she was so tightly embracing of the experience. She allowed herself to get a little lost in it. She immersed herself. That was such a joy to witness and photograph. It truly did my heart so much good to photograph her and her baby. It meant a lot to me to be able to document her body with child. I was so happy she’d have these photos forever.

Photography is an incredible gift to give someone. I obviously can’t do every kind thing I want to with my photography. But I think it’s important to listen to yourself and learn when it’s right to give the gift. It doesn’t just have to do with the recipient. It has to do with what this gift will do for your soul as well. I know that sounds selfish. But if it doesn’t sit right in your heart, then what kind of a gift is it anyway?

This is an important distinction for everyone to make, not just photographers. Unpopular opinion alert: Not every good deed needs done. It is only when the good deed feeds both souls: the giver AND the recipient that it does the world the most good. And in order for it to feed your soul, it’s gotta feel right to you. It’s gotta light you up a little. It’s gotta be an honor. It’s gotta make you sparkle, too.

Protect your gifts. They’ll mean even more when you give them if you do.



Low Rise Jeans on a High Rise Body // WV Boudoir Photographer

Between the ages of 13 and 17, I must have spent what added up to hours pulling my shirts down and my jeans up. All of my shirts had little spots of stretched, puckered material at the bottoms where I'd compulsively pull them down to meet my low rise jeans.

I still cringe at the thought of that feeling--sitting down, feeling the cool air on what may or may not be your ass crack. You could never tell for sure, so you always assumed it was out. I walked through the hallways slumped over, even though I was a tiny 5'2". If I scrunched my body, you couldn't see my hips busting out of the top of my jeans. I can still remember the tightness of the "waist" band sinking down my hips as I sat on hard classroom chairs. And sitting on the ground was simply out of the question. So I'd stand and watch the game while my narrower-hipped friends sat criss cross apple sauce in the grass.

Shopping wasn't any fun. Shirts were too short, pants were too long. I remember wishing I could cut off the extra material at the bottoms of my jeans and put it on the top. Every pair of jeans I tried on stopped short of slipping over what I called my muffin top. I'd run the tests: sitting, squatting, bending over to see just how much of my ass crack you could see with each movement. We'd scour the mall searching for a different style in my size while my mother tried to help by saying things like, "honey, you're so thin!"

And I was. I was a size 4 until you got to my hips and ass. I had what all the women in my family referred to as "The Daugherty ASSet." All of the women in my family were curvy, especially in the tush area. Growing up, I'd always assumed that when I hit puberty, I'd start to look like them. At 13, my butt grew, but my stomach didn't. I'd never seen a shape like mine. Shopping trips only reinforced the idea that my body was weird, wrong with every pair of jeans that squeezed into my soft hips.

My whole life people told me I was pretty, but between 13 and 17 I hid behind scraggly hair and wrong-sized clothing because I felt abnormal. 


Fast forward a few years, 2005. I'm shopping in an Old Navy in Pittsburgh, and I see a sign I'd never seen before. Above the wall of denim were signs describing what style of jean was under it. 

boyfriend    cropped    skinny   CURVY

Curvy? Could this be me? Could these pants have been built for people shaped like me? Were there other people shaped like me?

 I snagged every wash, every color they had in my size and ran to the fitting room.

I remember closing my eyes as I pulled them OVER my hips, and fastening the button that hit at my belly button. I ran the tests: sitting, no ass crack. Squatting, NO ass crack! Bending over, NO ASS CRACK. I got brave and tried sitting criss cross apple sauce on the floor--no skin showing at all. 

Sitting on that fitting room floor, I had so many questions.

Where have these jeans been all my life?

Did they exist when I was in high school?

Am I shaped funny, or did low rise jeans lie to me?

My curvy jeans gave me glasses. I started to see that there are as many body shapes as there are women in this world. I felt a sense of relief. No one is weird when everyone is different.

I wore those jeans til my knees tore through. They weren't perfect, but for the first time in my life, I didn't have to reach back to make sure my ass crack wasn't out when I sat down, and that felt good.


I reclaimed my self esteem around age 20, but I was still dressing to downplay my "Daugherty ASSet" until a year or so ago. I was still following rules like

don't wear horizontal stripes on bottom

no skinny jeans

only a line dresses and definitely not pencil dresses

wear loud patterns and bright colors on top to distract the eye

Distract the eye?! From what? The horror that is my backside?!

Then I heard of a brand called Madewell that friends and bloggers said understands women. I looked them up online. I noticed that they have a fit called "high rise skinny." Skinny AND high waisted? This was unprecedented in my world.

The next time we were in Pittsburgh, Madewell was on my to do list. I told Ricky to go to the Apple Store, this might take a while.

I bared my soul to the kind young girl who asked I needed help. She chuckled at the TMI I served her, but loaded a fitting room with more options than I knew I had. 

I blew through them, giggling and doing happy dances behind my fitting room curtain.

"How's it going in there?"

"Oh my god. Oh my god!"

She laughed. "Okay, well let me know if you need another size or anything."


I wear my Madewells multiple times a week, and I just ordered my second pair. 

A well-fitting jean taught me that there are infinite body shapes. A perfect fitting jean taught me how to love mine. So much, that when I'm wearing them, I often tuck my shirts in, just so you can see my tush as I strut across a room.

More importantly, loving my own shape helps me love all the other shapes. Wearing these jeans helps me celebrate ALL the shapes. 

I never want you to feel wrong, weird or abnormal because of the clothes that are available to you. I only want you to feel beautiful and celebrated. Wear what you want; wear what feels good. Wear what makes you want to strut across a room. 

You are beautiful, just as you are my friend.

 

 

 

 

I See You // WV Boudoir Photographer

I can't remember the last time I woke up without pain.

It's rarely physically incapacitating pain, but when it's the first sensation you feel in a day, it incapacitates you mentally and emotionally. 

I'm not very good at sleep anyway, so when I open my eyes and become cognizant of the twinge in my neck or the ache in my hip, the last thing I want to do is get out of bed. I'm an optimist, so I stay in bed, hoping for a few more minutes of rest or respite. 

It's a terrible little fight I have with myself every morning. I know that if I get up, the pain will eventually subside slightly, or at the very least I'll distract myself from it. At that first pinch, though, I close my eyes tight and try to sink into a space where I can't feel it.


I have a really good life. Not only do I have the obvious American Dreamy type stuff like a husband I adore, a cool place to live and a family that still loves me. But my life is FUN and FULL. I get to experience awesome shit all the time. I've met hundreds of amazing humans. I can see, hear, taste and feel. 

So I don't talk about being in pain much. It seems ungrateful or unfair. 

What is more unfair, though, is that people with invisible pain aren't allowed to talk about it. If there isn't an obvious gaping wound, you are met with skepticism or simply a glazed lack of understanding.

People with invisible pain often live with that pain every day. And when I say live with, I mean LIVE their lives with. Everything is harder. Going to the post office, brushing your teeth, making a phone call, driving in the car, waiting in line, grocery shopping, sitting at your work computer, having breakfast, doing laundry, picking up your baby, receiving a hug, watching a movie...It's all harder.

That difficulty becomes exhausting. But we can't sleep because lying down hurts, too. 


As I write this, I'm still not sure I will post it, because I fear being seen as complaining or ungrateful for what I do have. But if I don't talk about it here, I'm perpetuating the invisibility of invisible pain. If I DO talk about it, though, maybe someone else will feel okay to talk about it, too. I don't know about you, but it's really cathartic when I'm "allowed" to cry about my pain. 


A few weeks ago, Ricky and I walked downtown to have drinks with a friend. We were out pretty late, and it had already been a pretty rough pain day. We walked in the door of our apartment, and I just laid down on our hardwood living room floor. Bourbon fueled tears sprung from my eyes as I told Ricky how much I was hurting. My eyes were closed, but I could hear Ricky getting me an ice water (that usually helps me calm down). When I opened my eyes, Ricky's face was right in front of mine. He'd laid down next to me and was just lightly brushing my hair out of my eyes, looking straight at me. 

I'd never felt so seen, so understood as someone with chronic pain. In that moment, Ricky just existed with me. He knew he couldn't fix anything, so he did what he could. He just listened and existed with me. He knows that I am not defined by my pain, but that it is absolutely part of my every day experience. 


So here I am, lying on the floor with you, looking you in your eyes, existing with you. You're allowed to feel your pain, and you're allowed to talk about it. You are more than your pain, but your pain is part of you, and that's okay. I see you.

 

350 Sets Of Stories // WV Boudoir Photographer

I have made boudoir photos for over 350 people.

350 bodies.

350 souls.

350 histories.


As you can imagine, the boudoir experience is a very revealing one. Not just skin, of course. It's a brand new experience for most, and new experiences tend to strip us down to our most vulnerable bones. We are childlike in these moments, hearts open to the newness, minds slightly hesitant of it. 

With every client I book, I am taken aback by the trust my clients place in me from the very start. Before I have written or spoken a word to them, they reveal a little bit about why they want to do a session. Some of them haven't felt beautiful in years. Some are on a wellness journey. Others have stories of abuse, medical issues, bad relationships, suppressive childhoods, struggles with motherhood. 350 unique stories to tell. 

I worked hard to curate the booking process so that my clients can get to know me, and hopefully trust me very early on. I want them to feel welcome, safe, and eventually excited for the experience they're about to have. 9 times out of 10, during the first phone call I can hear the nervousness in their voices fall away. Their language goes from, "I'm nervous," to "I'm excited" in just around 20 minutes. It's really beautiful, and I am honored and flattered every time it happens. 

Every so often I will receive an additional text or email after that first phone call. Having established a relationship, my clients seem to feel urged to share more with me after we speak. This is when I hear the real reasons they want to do a session. 

It's never just about looking and feeling sexy. 

It's about finding yourself again.

It's about healing.

It's about reclaiming something that was taken from you.

It's about celebration.

It's about acceptance.

It's about reconnecting with a part of yourself you thought might be gone.

It's about feeling desired.

It's about a new perspective.

It's about believing you are enough, dare I say, as you are.

I will never take for granted the honor it is to be invited on these journeys. 

To those of you who have shared your story with me, thank you. You fill my heart with love and purpose when you do.


What is your story? What is behind your boudoir session? What would this experience mean to you?

 

Venti Nonfat Extra Ice Double Blended 3 Pump White Mocha, 5 Pump Mocha Frappuccino for Thought

I saw you at Starbucks the other day. You were still the same, but I'm different.

Last time you saw me, I was on the other side of the counter, obligated to satisfy your every outrageous desire. This time, I'm working FROM Starbucks, hustling for myself.

I'm happier. Are you?

Did it make you happy to order that obnoxious drink? Did it fill your soul with joy when you sent it back because it was darker in color than usual? How about when you walked in, pointed at me and announced to the entire café that I'm never "allowed" to make your drink?

Because you don't seem any happier now than you were then. I heard you order. I heard the way you spoke to the people behind the counter. And your eyes are darker. And the wrinkles around your downturned mouth are deeper.

So maybe it's not the drink.

Maybe it's you.

Maybe being demanding and rude to people behind the counter isn't the answer. Maybe it's not about them. Maybe it's about you taking responsibility for your own happiness. Maybe it's time to stop blaming everyone around you for your unhappiness. Maybe, instead of pointing your bitterness outward, you should look inward. Take stock. What's wrong? What's hurting you? What is it that makes you so unhappy that you feel entitled to punish strangers for your misery?

That's how I got here, out from behind the counter that gave people permission to be rude to me. I looked inside, and I reevaluated. I acknowledged that I'm the only person who can make me happier. So I did the work. Now I'm here, doing work I love. Work that promotes love and joy. 

Do the work, Venti Nonfat Extra Ice Double Blended 3 Pump White Mocha, 5 Pump Mocha Frappuccino. Find what's causing your sadness. Because it's probably not anybody behind a counter.

To West Virginia, With Love, From Paris | WV Boudoir Photographer

This is where everything changed. At sunset, on a rooftop bar in Paris, the first night of our honeymoon. We were the only people in the place drinking whiskey; everyone else held drinks that matched the sky that night--an aperitif called the Aperol spritz. It sounded more like a dance than a drink. Later in the week, I developed quite an affinity for the bright orange libation. 

We were surprised at how quickly we felt homesick in Paris. As a first time international traveler, I hadn't anticipated the loneliness that came with not speaking the language by which you're surrounded. 

This loneliness prompted the choice of whiskey which prompted the conversation which changed everything.


A few blogs back I spoke about our decision to have a year of fun in a bigger city. Specific plans were put on hold to focus on the wedding, but other than that, we were full speed ahead to make the move this fall. We were excited to see where Ricky could go professionally, if I could successfully move my business to a larger city, and to meet new people we hoped would remain lifelong friends. 

Then we saw a group of jovial people on our hotel rooftop in Paris. They seemed to be celebrating something. The gregarious gentleman in the straw fedora had command of the crowd, perhaps he accomplished something. Or maybe this was a welcome home party. He moved through his crew with confidence and ease, readily doling out hugs, laughs and kisses. 

"They look like they're having a good time," I said, a bit wistfully.

"I bet people look at us with our friends at home like we're looking at them," Ricky observed.

We both got quiet for a bit, taking in the sun setting over our home for a week. We could see Sacre Coeur and got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower from where we sat. The heft of the moment brought tears to my eyes.

"What if we didn't move?" I pierced our silence with my broken voice.

"I'm not sure that's a decision we should make on the first night of our honeymoon on a rooftop in Paris," my continually left-brained husband tightened the reins on the conversation.

Then he added, "I wonder if we're so determined to leave because we're afraid to stay, because we think we're supposed to leave."

We got quiet again. A burst of collective laughter drew my attention to the group of celebrating friends. 

"I love our life in Morgantown. I kind of want to watch it grow, see what it can become, see what WE can build there," I touched Ricky's knee as I presented my case.

"I love it, too." Ricky swings from being a man of too many words to a man of too few, but I let it slide this time. We had a honeymoon to enjoy.


We didn't talk much more about the move while we were in Paris. In fact, we didn't talk much more about it at all until we were having dinner out weeks later at one of our favorite restaurants in Morgantown. 

"We should probably make a decision," one of us, I can't remember who, said. 

I cut to the chase and said, "We aren't moving, are we?" 

"No, I don't believe we are," Ricky simply concurred. 


And that was that. Our decision to stay. It took looking at our beautiful life in West Virginia from a rooftop in Paris to realize we already have everything we're searching for.

When she moved to West Virginia, a friend's mother told her, "bloom where you're planted, darling."

That's what we're doing. Ricky and I have big, beautiful dreams for ourselves, our family and our state, and we want to make them real HERE, where we are proud to say we were born and raised. We have skills and talents that we think West Virginia deserves to have here. We love our home state, and want to be small part of its bright future. 

Happy West Virginia Day! We are so happy to be--and remain--West Virginians. 


An Apology // WV Boudoir Photographer

Dear As You Are Friends & Followers,

I owe you an apology. 

The entire time I’ve been championing body positivity and self love and acceptance, it never once occurred to me that you might not be ready to be positive about your body yet, and I’m sorry.

It isn’t my place to rush you or convince you that you’re perfect as you are. Because I don’t get to decide that. It isn’t my job to define beauty or perfection for you. Only you can do that. 

I listened to a podcast yesterday that flipped my world around a little bit. It was an episode of Dear Sugars (highly recommend it) called Trust Your Body, and it completely rearranged the body positive dictionary in my brain. 

First of all, I truly do believe that all bodies are beautiful, including my own. And that’s where I get blinded. It’s easy for me to love bodies and think they’re beautiful, because it’s the only emotion I’ve ever felt towards a body as an adult. I started loving my body early in my life, and when I started discovering & experiencing other bodies, that love only grew. Which is a gift, and I want you to know that I never ever take it for granted. 

But my body love isn’t really fair to you. Because you might not be there yet. Or maybe you were once in a place of self love, but got away from it. 

While listening to this podcast, I remembered that we have been force fed a definition of beauty that is not only unfair to women (and men, but sit down boys, I’m talking to the girls right now), but it’s just totally fucking false. 

From the time we are CHILDREN, society/media/adults in our lives start teaching us that beauty is this one thing, and they sell it and sell it until we believe it, and we don’t even realize we’ve bought into it. They teach us that a woman’s body needs controlling to fit into the mold that was invented without our consent. And we believe it, because what other message do we have? I’m guilty of it, too. I’m buying into it when I over Photoshop a client. I’m buying into it when I don’t wear a top I love because it makes me look “bigger.” 

It’s this archaic, patriarchal definition that unfairly distorts my message when I say things like, “you are beautiful, as you are,” I need to remember that it gets filtered through what beautiful means to you. 

There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of beauty. I’ve built an entire business around it. But I’d love for you to ask yourself, whose definition of beauty are you pursuing? 

I love it when my clients tell me that they felt beautiful during their session and in their photos, but I love it even more when they tell me that they felt sexy, powerful, and strong in them. 

You are a wonderful being full of magic and passion, interesting thoughts and ideas, who has lived and will endure incredible experiences. THIS is what makes your photos beautiful. Not your body. Not the makeup. Not even the lighting or lingerie. It’s your human experience and existence that makes your pictures beautiful. 

It is important to me to tell you all of this, because I am adjusting the way I move through my process. From my language on social media, to the way I photograph my clients, I will work harder to dig a bit deeper and help you really SEE yourself. Not help you see yourself as beautiful necessarily, but just truly SEE yourself. If even for the couple of hours you are with me, I want us both to be so fully connected to who you are that you can’t HELP but love your photos, because while we made them, you were purely YOU.

You ARE beautiful as you are, and I will never stop believing that or trying to show you that.

But it is more important to me that we honor who you are, and that you walk away from your session feeling important and necessary in this world, even as you change and grow in it.

I'm sorry that I hadn't considered your journey before, but I promise to respect and honor it from here on out. 

Love the shit out of you,

Jodi

Jodi FINALLY Answers: What to Wear For Your Boudoir Session! // WV Boudoir Photography

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NOTHING! Just kidding. You should bring something to wear to your session for sure. 

OKAY COOL JODI BUT WHAT THE HECK DO I BRING?!?!?!

Relax! I'm here to help. I get that wardrobe is one of the most stressful parts of a session. That and hoping I'm not a creeper (I'm not.)

I have been shooting boudoir for five years now, and I have collected a list of stores and pieces that rock any body. 

Before you start shopping, ask yourself, "what makes me feel sexy? when do I feel sexiest? what clothes do I already have that make me feel like a goddess?" Use your answers as a jumping off point, and HAVE FUN!

As you look over this list, keep in mind that your boudoir session is WAY MORE about

YOU

YOUR BODY

YOUR SENSUALITY 

YOUR CONFIDENCE

YOUR JOURNEY

YOUR EXPERIENCES

YOUR RELATIONSHIP W. YOUR PARTNER

than it is about what you wear. If you only brought worn out Hanes and a tank top, we'd still make gorgeous photos together. 

But, if you're interested in stepping outside of your comfort zone and purchasing some fun new pieces for your session, here's my list of Go To places and pieces!


 

PLACES & PIECES

1. ASOS.COM         

I love ASOS for their wide range of sizes and prices. Free shipping and free returns are icing on the retail cake. Here you can find beautiful bodysuits like these:

You can also find  matching sets, silky cami/short sets, adorable pajamas we can layer over your matching bra & panty set, and cute t shirts we can put with no bra and pretty undies.

2. rue21       

Rue21 is your go-to spot for SUPER affordable bras and bralettes. They usually have matching undies, too. We're talking $5 lacy, strappy bralettes! They may not be of the highest quality, but this is a great place to come for new lingerie for your shoot without breaking the bank.

3. Gabes & TJ Maxx

Because you never know!

4. Amazon.com    

There are 3 pieces I highly recommend shopping for at Amazon for selection and price.

First, kimono style robes. SO MUCH SELECTION. If you can dream up a print, it's probably on amazon. Check it:

Amazon is also a fantastic spot for garter belt sets. Many of them come with underwear and tights, but you'll probably want to get those elsewhere, as fit is tricky on Amazon. Basic black undies and thigh high hose can be found at Target. 

The third thing Amazon is great for is retro styles for a vintage pin up look! 

5. Charlotte Russe  

One word: HEELS! CR is great for hella high, hella sexy CHEAP heels. Because let's be honest, you're probably not wearing those things again, so they might as well be inexpensive. 

6. Your Closet!

I know, you're like, "Jodi, wuuuuuuut are you talking about?" But bear with me! You already have tons of pieces that are SO FUN to use for your boudoir session. Cardigans & sweaters, t-shirts & jerseys, button ups, jeans, your favorite sneakers and more! Get creative, bring it all! Here's some inspiration for you:


A boudoir session is a gift to your self. Treat it that way by scheduling time right after you book your session to do a little perusing and inspiration-gathering. Check out Pinterest, my Facebook page, and my Instagram feed for tons of images that will help you figure out your boudoir style.

And HAVE FUN! I promise you that what ever you bring will be perfect. I'm looking forward to making gorgeous photos with you! 


Did this post get you feeling ready & excited to book your session?!

HECK YEAH! Email me!