This boudoir photography studio transforms their clients from the outside in.
The house, nestled in the residential hills of Armdale, NS, looks like the others on the street. Jenn Gregory opens the door with mascots Yoda and Darth Vader—two Chihuahua-mix rescue dogs with a penchant for photobombing. You wouldn’t think you were about to step into Halifax Boudoir Photography Studio, a haven of femininity.
Boudoir photography has evolved from illegal Grecian-style images of nude women in 1920s France to pinup girls in the 40s to widely accepted artistic nudes in the 80s onward. Now its become a service available to the masses. More than that, it is a tool for self-empowerment.
Gregory found her passion for boudoir photography in 2012 after shooting a sexy calendar for a modeling client. She hasn’t looked back since. Nearly her whole house is a dedicated photography studio. A luscious bed is nestled under a showy chandelier next to a gold-framed mirror. The windows are frosted for privacy and a clothing rack hung with a sequined scarf, backup corsets and a few vintage furs stands off to the side. A tray of costume jewelry rests on a side table.
“This is my side-hustle,” says Gregory, who daylights as an IT specialist.
The power of boudoir photography lies in its ability to change how a woman views herself. “People get more of an appreciation and acceptance for their body,” Gregory says. It’s why she loves her job.
“You can see the progression as the shoot goes on,” says Megan Andrus, Gregory’s assistant. The first few images are always tense, but as soon as Gregory shows her client a great photo, she relaxes and starts to play and enjoy the shoot. “Seeing that transformation over just a couple of photos throughout the evening, that’s amazing,” Andrus says.
Before she joined the Halifax Boudoir team, Andrus was a client herself. Today she’s the one plumping pillows, fixing strands of hair and demonstrating poses during the shoot while Gregory focuses on the technical work. Andrus is also there to calm nerves—no alcohol allowed at the studio. No men and no kids either. It’s a sacred space the pair work hard to keep judgement free, safe and supportive.
“It’s not just, come in, take your clothes off, we’ll shoot you and then you’re out the door,” Gregory says. “We want people to look at it as an experience.” Included in every photography package is a lingerie guide, a one-on-one shopping trip with Gregory, professional hair and makeup and pose coaching.
Clients are typically in their 30 and 40s, though Gregory has worked with at least one woman in her 60s. Everyone arrives with their guard up and reservations about their looks; the usual desires to be younger, skinnier or prettier.
Despite the visual nature of boudoir photography, it isn’t all about looks.
“It’s just tapping in to a different side of you that maybe hasn’t been touched in a while,” says Andrus. It’s Halifax Boudoir’s job to help their client let those barriers down to allow the transformation to happen. There are no restrictions; if you have a body, you can do boudoir, says Andrus.
“I can make you look like you’ve lost weight with proper posing, proper lingerie and lighting,” Gregory says. As a curvy woman herself, she knows how to shoot a full-figured woman. “I guess I have that as an advantage over others.”
“Watch this!” Gregory jumps up out of her chair to demonstrate the power of the perfect pose. “Normally we stand like this, right? Look at how humongous I look,” she says, standing casually with her arms by her sides. “Now if we do this,” she places her hands on her hips and turns them to one side, giving herself an hourglass silhouette. “It’s all about posing.”
Gregory is also a stickler for the fit and style of lingerie, which she says can make or break a shoot. It’s why she provides a complimentary shopping service and will take you all over town to find the right pieces for your body shape. Lingerie that’s too big and baggy will make you look larger than you are; lingerie that’s too small will do the same by creating a dent in your flesh.
According to Gregory, about 60% of her clients end up asking to have a few topless or nude photos done. Gregory does light retouching on regrettable tattoos and indents from bra straps, but that’s about it.
From an illegal act to a tool for self-empowerment, boudoir has seen a powerful 100-year evolution. Today women can use boudoir to rediscover an intimate part of themselves, something that may have been buried or lost during motherhood, break-ups or just the daily grind of life. At the end of a four or five hour girl-party, clients leave Halifax Boudoir with a reignited love for their body and a fistful of glamour shots to prove it.