This article might ruffle some feathers… I realize that… but I also think it will help a lot of boudoir photographers define the kind of images they want to create, as well as, steer clients into the kind of images they’ll be happy with for years to come.
This topic is also probably not something many of you have given a whole lot of thought to either.
I certainly didn’t, not until a client texted me asking if she should bring heels to her shoot.
She caught me at a good time because I wasn’t doing anything at that moment, and I had time to ponder her question.
And ponder it I did… because I’m someone who never shoots clients with heels on… except once.
The question stopped me and got me thinking, “Why didn’t I like shooting women with heels on?”
I always knew I didn’t… but why? What was the reasoning behind it?
Other than the fact that I just didn’t care for it… why didn’t I care for it?
I sat there and thought about it for a while and suddenly had a number of revelations.
And that’s what this article is about, and what I’m going to share with you now.
Please note, this is coming from the perspective of a male boudoir photographer who happens to be heterosexual, just so you have some context.
I thought you should know that because that’s important… context, that is. And you’ll be seeing that word a lot in this article because it’s all about context and the proper context.
I’m also going to be very honest with you.
So honest, in fact, that some of you may take offense… but I’m someone who believes strongly in being honest with oneself, as well as, with others, so I’m not going to pull any punches here.
I will warn you though…
Once you read this article, you can’t un-read it and it may change how you think about heels altogether with regard to your own boudoir shoots.
After considering what I discovered for myself, I texted my client back with…
“That’s not really my style, so I would say no.”
The Dominatrix Effect
Whenever I see a boudoir image where the woman is wearing heels, it hints at her being a dominatrix.
Subtle to overt, depending on the pose, that’s the vibe I get.
And it can be the subtlest of things, but if you think about it, heels really don’t belong in a boudoir setting.
They’re out of place.
So, where are they not out of place in a “boudoir” setting?
They’re not out of place if you’re borrowing elements from the dominatrix. In that world, they fit right in. So, wearing heels in a boudoir shoot is a slight nod to that arena.
A dominatrix without her heels, whether in the form of high heels, platform shoes, or black lace-up boots, is like a soldier without their uniform … in fact, it’s part of the uniform.
All her power emanates from that solid foundation of footwear. It tells you she’s serious and comes with it a sense of formality, respect, and authority.
Imagine a dominatrix walking around in bare feet. It softens her considerably and doesn’t have the same impact.
It’s also very masculine.
Heels Are Not Feminine
In the context of a boudoir shoot, heels are not feminine, especially if posing on a bed where they are completely out of place.
I find heels to be a big turn off when worn in this scenario.
They say, Boss Babe in the Bedroom, and I don’t find that appealing at all.
Women say they want a “strong” man. Someone who is taller than them, physically stronger than them, of higher status than them, basically dominant over them, because women, by nature, are hypergamous. So, it makes perfect sense they would want these qualities in a man.
If that’s the case, then by default, that makes women submissive, and wearing heels to bed or with lingerie in general is saying just the opposite of that. It’s saying, she wants to be in control, she wants to be the boss, she wants to be dominant.
If that’s the vibe you’re going for, then have at it. If not, then be aware what is being “said” when your client wears heels.
As a heterosexual man, I don’t find women with those masculine qualities appealing.
As I mentioned in my article, “My 5 Guiding Principles For Boudoir Posing”…
“Your style of boudoir should be a reflection of who you are as a person and sexual being.”
It should represent your view of femininity and of women. It’s what makes your boudoir business different from everyone else’s because it’s a refection of your sensibilities and preferences.
The Innocence Factor
Bare feet are innocent and feminine.
Women in bare feet are exposing themselves to being vulnerable in a sexual context.
They don’t keep their shoes on like they’re going to run out the door at any minute.
Bare feet represent an innocence, a willingness to be vulnerable, and to be trusting of another person in an intimate situation.
It’s a sign of submission and contributes to a woman being feminine.
Heels As Armor
Heels, being part of shoes, are a form of protection for your feet, but they also represent a form of psychological protection as well.
A woman who wears heels in the bedroom is not allowing herself to be vulnerable.
To me, heels in the bedroom is a form of protection against all the damage that’s been done to her, from all that she’s endured from bad relationships, perhaps violent crime, possible incest or sexual assault.
Not pleasant stuff, and tragic in most cases.
Heels to me represent a woman who is afraid to make herself vulnerable because she doesn’t want to get hurt again. She’s not giving all of herself… she’s holding back.
Just my theory, but one I feel has some merit to it — much like how a woman wears her jewelry can tell you a lot about her.
Heels As A Weapon
The heel of a woman’s shoe can be used as a weapon, quite literally.
They’re spiky and can cause a lot of damage if one has the intent to do so. They’re like the claws of a cat, innocuous when retracted, but always a threat.
In boudoir shoots they’re not retracted at all but prominently displayed — two protruding spikes that, like a cat, can be used to inflict harm in a flash.
Not inviting at all and acts as a barrier to intimacy between the subject in your image and its viewer.
One thrust of her leg and the damage is done.
Not a symbol of femininity in my book.
You Look Like A Sex Worker
Heels on women in boudoir shoots can make them look like sex workers, hookers, prostitutes, whatever word you want to use here.
Think of your stereotypical “hooker on the street” character from any cop show and they all wear lingerie-type clothing (usually fishnet stockings), some kind of bustier, or exposed bra, etc,… and of course, heels. Whether true or not, that is one’s perception of a lady of the night.
(Am I being honest enough yet? Stay with me here and I’ll explain why women don’t see it this way further down.)
Heels were also part of the uniform for the Playboy Bunny Waitresses back in the day when the Playboy nightclubs were operating.
Wearing heels represents many things, fashion, dressing up for a special occasion, and work.
A woman wearing lingerie and heels suggests sex + work. It’s subtle, but there none the less.
Take the heels off and you eliminate that reference.
The Stripper Effect
Dress heels are but one category away from platform shoes.
Now, if you wear platform shoes you’re definitely going to look like a stripper. There’s just no two ways about it.
Platform shoes are so closely associated with strippers that they’re practically synonymous with one another.
Personally, that’s not a look I’m going for.
When you take an everyday average woman (your typical boudoir client) and put heels on her, you’re borrowing from the well-established look of a street worker, thus, denying her of her natural feminine beauty.
You’re subconsciously saying that in order for her to look “sexy” she needs to take on the persona of a sex worker or stripper.
I don’t know about you but I find that insulting to women… and all those boudoir photographers who proclaim they’re going to “celebrate a woman’s natural beauty” and then photograph them in heels is doing them a disservice.
Now, I’m sure they’re not doing this consciously, but there’s a message being sent with every article of clothing your client wears.
What is the message wearing heels sends? Have you thought about it? I have.
Why Women Think Differently About Heels
I get why a woman might not associate any of the above attributes with wearing heels in a boudoir shoot.
Women have a different relationship with shoes than men do. In fact, I’m sure it’s no surprise that many women are obsessed with shoes.
For many, shoes represent fashion, a desire to dress up and to look and feel glamorous and sexy… and that’s all well and good.
So, the desire to take those same feelings into a boudoir shoot seems appropriate to them, unaware or perhaps naive about what they represent to others by doing so in this different scenario.
So, there you have it.
My reasons why I don’t like to shoot women in heels in my boudoir sessions.
For some of you I’m sure you never thought about it quite like this or even associated those things discussed earlier… and that’s understandable.
Me, being a male boudoir photographer, is coming at this genre from a very different perspective from most women who do this.
Women have a totally different relationship when it comes to shoes than men do… but they do represent something quite different to men when used in this context.
They may not say it out loud, or it may suggest to them “street worker” or dominatrix without knowing why. That was me for a long time, until I really stopped to give it some thought.
It’s something to consider the next time a client wants to wear heels in your session.
Just what kind of message are you sending?
I’ve already made up my mind, but use this article to help make up yours.
Thanks for your time,
My 5 Guiding Principles For Boudoir Posing
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