Boudoir has a reputation.
Sometimes it’s met with enthusiasm, or eyerolls, or reluctance and borderline trepidation. And I get it - because I used to kind of roll my eyes at it too. I’d see random boudoir photos pop up on Pinterest .. super kitschy, usually poor quality photography and editing (how these images always show up first I’ll never understand). And honestly I compared it to glorified glamour shots at the mall back in the day, and how are you supposed to find any “self-love” in that?? Just sounded like a cheesy pitch to me.


About 5 years ago now, I ran into Cody on my lunch break and worked up the nerve to introduce myself. In the small communities we are from, she was one of two photographers at the time that I was familiar with and whose work I intensely followed. (This was right around the time I got social media savvy and the Nashville photo community opened up my world a little). In years since, we’ve become super close besties and work buddies, and joke about having #samebrain because we think so similarly but obvs have our differences in styles. ANYWAY - we ended up hitting it off, and she shot a lot of boudoir photography and I always admired her style because it was ACTUALLY. SO. FREAKING. PRETTY. One day she asked me to come sit for her for a boudoir session - I was like LOL, but she was like “No, seriously.” A lot of clients don’t let us share images, so she was looking to try some new thangs + be able to share the images + knew i’d be chill in front of a camera but also I’m not a model and #relatable.


Soooooo the day rolled around and I got to the studio, started hair and makeup annnnnnd popped a bottle of rosé. I was nervous and honestly went in with the mentality that I wouldn’t like the finished product so I would at least have a good time during the shoot and just mess around. At this time, my little boy was almost 4, I had just graduated from college less than a year before, had recently gotten out of a relationship and honestly just hadn’t really felt good about myself in a long time but was tryin to get my life together (had just started working out regularly, had been eating a little better....u know. the works). I did get my hair done before the shoot, but otherwise didn’t really have time get “ready,” to “lose 10 pounds real quick” or even go get a spray tan. My expectations were v, v low

Cody and I were already pals (albeit new pals) so that helped my comfort level to a degree, and being a photographer helped because I know that when clients show up and show out with confidence (even if they’re nervous on the inside), it always results in better images. I also wasn’t doing this for anyone (other than Cody), so I didn’t care about meeting a partner’s expectations, I wore what I wanted to wear and what made me feel good. (PS - the I’m wearing in these images is Fortnight Label, and I’ll link their website at the bottom as well as where I purchased from because I did not purchased straight from their website). Cody of course is a freakin pro and with her directions and praise my nerves were on their way out.

I would also confirm that drinking almost an entire bottle of wine at 10am (can’t fully recommend this tactic unless you have a safe ride home but I meeeean) amped up my confidence, definitely let me get in the ZONE in a major way.


Before I ever left the studio, I was feeeeeelin thangz about myself that I hadn’t felt in years and honestly in a way, not sure if I’d ever really felt. Cody was showing me images from the back of the camera and I was like “OMGGGGG WHAT THE ACTUAL IS THAT ME?!?!” and it only gave me more courage. Like, I could have not gotten pictures back at all, and I felt transformed. You know how sometimes when you feel down about yourself, ya go shopping or get your nails or hair done?? That’s how I compare a boudoir session, except on steroids.


In a small way, it was kind of life-changing for me. Growing up, I identified as “cute.” Late bloomer, short, awkward, shy. And post-becoming a mom, even cute felt like a distant memory, trying to figure out how to navigate the same-but-different body. But this gave me a zap of personal energy, and I was like NAH GIRL TURNS OUT YOU 100% FOIIIINNNEEEEE. I started taking care of myself, started paying attention on how to dress so that I felt better in my skin, learned how to do my makeup for nights out (and in truth, some of this also came along with simply my career path + being very visual and around fashion-conscious friends).

When I got the photos back, I loved them. Don’t get me wrong - there were plenty that I laugh at because I know my drunk face, but I still look so beautiful, happy, and confident that scrolling through the whole gallery makes me have butterflies. Ya know? Feeling that way about yourself is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t always happen every day, but self-care and having compassion for yourself makes it happen more n more, and for that I’m grateful.


^^ highly recommend Journelle, love the variety in style and price they offer on their website

Rachel Tenpenny