Recently, I had the pleasure of having a photo shoot with Elise Kutt, Photographer and Owner of Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique—something I'd been wanting to do for years. I'd marveled at the many gorgeous images shared by my friends and acquaintances over the years from their own sessions (ranging from personal branding to boudoir and everything in between) and had always thought, "Wow. How beautiful! One day, I'll do that, too."
I'm not entirely sure what held me back from booking the shoot sooner (I was no stranger to the camera in my early 20s), but it almost felt like I needed a reason or "excuse" to make it happen—which is so not true. Something came over me one day and I finally decided: Now is the time! And it was everything I'd hoped it would be.
"Book with a photographer that you can trust to handle all the details so you can focus only on showing up. Actually booking the shoot is hard enough for so many women; the planning process leading up to shoot day shouldn't be," Kutt said. "A series of coaching emails leading up to the shoot, a huge wardrobe closet to choose from, hair and makeup on site and professional pose coaching would be the top services to look for when selecting your empowerment photographer."
Here are a few reasons I found the experience to be empowering and would do it again in a heartbeat (and would encourage you to consider something similar, too)!
IT'S A CHANCE TO FEEL PAMPERED.
The theme of the shoot was "Versaille," so I truly felt like royalty through the whole experience. I arrived with a full face of glam (though hair and makeup services are available), ready to dust off the cobwebs in the part of my brain that used to remember how to pose. I was able to browse through an unbelievable closet of extravagant robes and dresses to choose exactly which one felt like "me." I landed on a long dusty blue dress and robe with frills to the gills—peak rich aunt vibes. Though I did an individual shoot, the experience is also one that can be easily shared among friends (and a bottle of champagne).
YOU CAN COME AS YOU ARE.
While you can get glammed up in any way you choose for your photos, it's also a chance to embrace any perceived imperfections you may have about yourself. From dimples and wrinkles to scars and stretch marks, they're all a reminder that aging is a privilege—one we get to experience, if we're lucky. Showing them off while feeling like a movie star truly feels like an act of rebellion and radical self-love. I asked Elise her thoughts on this.
"The self-acceptance journey is just that, a practice. If we get more comfortable seeing ourselves on camera, we can start to connect our thoughts about the way we feel in our body and take a step toward accepting the parts we sometimes don't love," Kutt said. "Mod Bettie takes more of an art therapy approach to our sessions, using the camera as a form of art therapy. The idea is that if we document our bodies more frequently, especially in images we love, we are doing deep, sometimes uncomfortable, work to connect to it."
YOU LEAVE FEELING FABULOUS.
During the shoot, Elise's direction and feedback made me feel like I was a total pro—there was no intimidation factor. I left the studio feeling confident, accomplished and like a certified goddess with no regrets. My session was in the morning on a Saturday, so I had the rest of the day to revel in the good vibes and take my hair and makeup out on the town (even if just to grocery shop).
YOU'RE LEFT WITH AMAZING IMAGES.
I felt plenty of anticipation while waiting to see my final images, and I even had moments of self-doubt, wondering if they'd match the feeling of how awesome I felt at the time. Spoiler: They did! I even decided to purchase some extra images. And a bonus, if you chose the boudoir route, is that it can also make for a spicy gift for your significant other!
"The images are really a bi-product of the empowerment experience, but having portraits of yourself that you love is a great way to reflect back on your growth journey and remember the invincible power you felt on shoot day," Kutt said.
While it's important we remember to care for the relationships we have with others, it's also paramount we nurture the one we have with ourselves. Sometimes, that means doing things "for no reason," like a just-for-fun photoshoot. We shouldn't have to feel afraid or ashamed of our beauty, sexuality and multifaceted layers. Capturing the beauty of who you are in photos is something beautiful in itself; a lasting image of a moment in time that gets to live on for generations to come.
If you're still thinking about it, just take my word for it: Book the shoot.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.
Photo Courtesy of Elise Kutt, Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique.