FLASHBACK: I studied photography at Indiana University, but after college, I took a job with a bank. I rose to manager, but it's not what I wanted to be. Thankfully, in 1982, someone offered me a partnership in a photography studio on Columbia Pike. Six months later I started my own studio. I did a lot of weddings at first, then gave that up to do portraits. One day, a client said, "I really want to do a boudoir." Then her friends came, and friends of those friends came. I began entering competitions, and my work started to win. Now, I'm known on the East Coast for doing tasteful boudoir portraits.
BODY BEAUTIFUL: Most women do get self-conscious. I used to serve people wine, but clients need to be alert as well as relaxed -- so I don't do that anymore. Taking a good boudoir shot is largely about angles: Most of us want to elongate as much as possible, and if you sit a certain way, it actually makes the leg look shorter. If there's loose skin around the thighs when a woman sits, I put books or furniture in front that look natural. Lighting -- and airbrushing later -- does the rest.
EASING IN: I always have a full consultation first: We talk, I show them samples, hear background. I ask clients to bring their own lingerie and makeup, and before the session, I retouch makeup and hair. I want people to be themselves, not someone else -- although I do have drapes, boas, bits of lace. To get clients in the mood, I ask them to think about the husband or boyfriend they love. Then, we start with head shots and move into head and shoulders, lingerie, etc. Boudoir sessions take two to three hours -- longer than usual portraits. To work with the body and sculpt the lighting takes time.
NUDE VS. NASTY: I won't do anything sleazy: I tell clients, "Your husband could take that picture." I prefer to do refined, seductive, sensitive, tasteful, playful. I think women photographers are a little more into depth as opposed to just the visual; we create emotion. I've seen husbands actually get teary at the results, which gives me joy that I do what I do.
HEALING POWERS: Once, a middle-aged woman came in; she had survived cancer and had a rocky relationship with her husband. He gave her a gift certificate for boudoir. She came reluctantly, but afterward, they wrote a nice note: "You brought romance back to our marriage. . . . My husband told me I was beautiful [before], but I never believed him. . . . Thank you."
As told to Ellen Ryan