Scars and All: My First Boudoir Photoshoot
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Scars and All: My First Boudoir Photoshoot

©Katrinka's Secret

Here's what I know for sure: lingerie is more than just bras and panties.

For the longest time, I thought I was writing "just" a lingerie blog, or "just" a fashion blog, or "just" a shopping blog. But in the past year, and especially in the last few months, I've realized that lingerie isn't "just" about what we wear beneath our clothes or in the bedroom. It includes parts of our self esteem, our self image, and our own sense of self worth.

©Katrinka's Secret

©Katrinka's Secret

One of the reasons I'm so passionate about body positivity (and so intensely against body snark) is because I understand what it's like to feel like your looks can never and will never measure up. It's not just about the dozens of airbrushed photos every woman sees everyday, it's also about living in a culture where it's acceptable for the scientific community to publish articles asking "Why are Black Women So Unattractive?", a sentiment that's been reflected in some of my own conversations about women of color within the lingerie industry.

©Katrinka's Secret

©Katrinka's Secret

Like so many women, I grew up feeling unattractive. From the guys in grade school who teased me for my dark skin, to the high school friends who told me how much prettier I was with straight hair, to my own personal struggles with depression in young adulthood, I was convinced for the longest time that beauty was this thing that would always be out of reach for me. And though that may sound shallow, the honest reality is physical attractiveness (or people's perception of it) not only influences the way we feel about ourselves, it also influences how much others respect us, and how much we earn... among other things.

©Katrinka's Secret

©Katrinka's Secret

Though I grew into my body and became more confident in my own skin in my early 20s (martial arts helped with that... a LOT), I still felt a little out of place, especially in such a feminine space as lingerie. I have a muscular build. I have scars. I have a wild and glorious afro. I'm curvier than I've ever been before. And though these of are parts of myself I value and treasure, I was worried the rest of the world might not be so welcoming. So I asked photographers to smooth out my muscles and airbrush away my scars, and I asked makeup artists to pin up my hair and obscure its natural texture. Though it makes me a little ashamed, I was still worried about what others would think.

©Katrinka's Secret

©Katrinka's Secret

About a month ago, I had my very first boudoir photoshoot with Katrinka's Secret. At first I was just going to write about my experience (she's amazing, and I highly recommend her), but then I realized there was more happening here... at least for me. This is the first photoshoot where the pictures I've gotten back really and truly look like me, scars and all.

©Katrinka's Secret

©Katrinka's Secret

Often, we as women are our own worst critics. It's like we have to beat society to the punch, and say what we don't like about ourselves before they do. Boudoir photography, on the other hand, is a way of capturing those parts of yourself you love and reflecting them back to you. The camera doesn't lie. It just shows what's there. And what's there is beautiful no matter what the rest of the world says. After my own experience, I believe every woman should gift herself with a boudoir shoot at least once... if not with Katrinka herself, than at least with someone like her.

Have you had a boudoir photoshoot before? How did it make you feel afterwards? I'd love for you to share your personal experiences in the comments.

Article Tags :
Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. Author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that everyone who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

77 Comments on this post

  1. Josie says:

    This is incredible and inspirational, I have so many scars from a life of self-harm and find it difficult feel beautiful with my scars.

    Seeing you looking so incredible, scars and all gives me hope for regaining my self-confidence one day.

    As for your skin tone, as a nearly translucently pale girl, I’ve always craved dark skin. I love the way colours stand out so intensely on darker toned people. You are lucky you can wear tangello, and lime, and all those other citrus colours.

    Thank you for sharing your boudoir photos, I think it something I would like to do one day.

  2. Tara says:

    Beautiful woman, beautiful post. Even your scars are beautiful; they are real, and they are part of you.

    I completely agree with everything you said about lingerie. It has little to do with what’s on the surface of our bodies, and much more to do with our self-confidence, esteem, self-acceptance, and all the beauty that shines from within.

    I thought that my boudoir session would be all about looking as sexy and seductive as possible, but Carole at Just Hers Boudoir quickly corrected me. Through her lens, she focuses in on every beautiful detail and captures a part of the woman she’s working with in the process. I would highly recommend her to anyone in the Dallas area. :-)

    Every woman is beautiful in her very own natural state of being, and every woman deserves to feel great about themselves.

    I was truly inspired by your words. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Larry Clark says:

    Congrats on your first boudoir shoot. Awesome images and fine use of the retro style stuff. It is said that boudoir shoots can often be therapeutic for the model. whether it was for you or not looks like you walked through to the other side with flying colors. Bravo!

  4. SM says:

    These pictures are a wonderful way of capturing yourself at this age, this frame of mind, this stage of life. I too have scars, and I admire your attitude towards yours.

    “They’re as much as part of me now as anything else, and when people ask about them, they’re a sign I went through a rough time and survived. And there isn’t anything to be ashamed of about that.”

    They contribute to your character, which helps make your beauty as a woman.

  5. Cordelia says:

    Love your shoot!

    I am a friend/fan of Katrina’s Secret and when I first looked at the images of you on her Pinterest boards, I thought she had shot a model for your blog. I had to read the text to know that it was YOU!


  6. You are so so so so so beautiful. And your words brought tears to my eyes and gave me the chills. Thank you for inspiring me today.

  7. Sundal says:

    Your candidness is truly inspiring, treacle.

    I’m appalled by that article, it saddens me to realise that racism still exists in its now, often subtle guises but it is still very prevalent. When I was at school, all the boys liked the little blonde girls, or the white girls at the very least, which always left me feeling like I’d never be attractive enough, being Asian. I am now a full time model so I guess they and I were wrong but I still feel like that, especially with Asian models being far less in demand. Well-meaning ‘friends’ will tell me I ‘don’t look Asian at all’ that I ‘could totally pass for Mediterranean, Brazilian, etc’ like I should be really pleased, and I’m ashamed to admit, I often am.

    One thing I will say, however, treacle, is that the highest earning models at my agency are mostly black and mixed-race commercial, lingerie models. Asian models are the least in demand, unfortunately, but I’m hoping that will change.

    I also have scars left over from hard times but I never let this hold me back from modelling lingerie, retouching them out is easy enough. I understand how you feel about wanting to show your true self though, I remember being quite upset when my boyfriend pointed out that a magazine had retouched my nose slightly, as I’d now been given yet another thing to feel insecure about.

    As far as boudoir photography is concerned, you need to work with a team you feel comfortable with, that you are happy with the hair and makeup and the pieces you’ll be wearing, that you like the photographers work and trust they will make you look your best, and that you get on with them and feel comfortable with them. When you are comfortable and feel sexy, you will look your best. When I’ve not felt comfortable, it’s shown on my face and often in my body language too and I’ve come out looking awful. When I’ve felt comfortable, the pictures have turned out fantastic, and I haven’t changed the way I look, so it just goes to show. If you’re comfortable, your confidence will shine through.


    P.s. treacle, you look beautiful in your photos. Well done.

  8. Wow – beautiful pictures Treacle! Totally agree with you – boudoir shoots are an amazing way to see yourself as you really are. We’ve been photographing boudoir for a number of years now and for us the important thing is showing clients how great they look without all the airbrushing and retouching that seems to be so common these days. Our clients get to see all their images “in the raw” and then we show them the various retouching techniques we can do and they decide how much or how little airbrushing they want. Women are so amazed at how good they can look without all the body reshaping and remodelling that goes on in magazines that it gives them a real confidence boost. Great to see you getting such a buzz out of your boudoir photography experience :o) xx

  9. Treacle,
    I just wanted to say how absolutely amazing you look. I think that it is fabulous that you were able to share such a great story about your experience. Very inspirational.

  10. Aline says:

    Beautiful pictures Treacle! Kudos to you for such an inspiring story! :-) {So nice to know you did Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, my brother was a black belt and still enjoys it as a sport}.

  11. Sarah says:

    Gorgeous photos, Treacle! Thanks for sharing. I too felt incredibly nervous and self-conscious at my first boudoir shoot. I did it last year as a Valentine’s Day gift to my husband, and needless to say, he loved the results. I think it can be a very empowering experience for women to go through, and I highly recommend it, especially if the photographer puts you at ease. (My personal favorite is Lisa Warninger.)

  12. MerelyMarie says:


    I appreciate you sharing this experience; the gorgeous photos & what it truly means to you. I love the idea of doing a boudoir shoot!

  13. Frank says:

    Beautiful pictures and post, Treacle!

    ‘I’ve realized that lingerie isn’t “just” about what we wear beneath our clothes or in the bedroom. It includes parts of our self esteem, our self image, and our own sense of self worth.’

    And another choice of self expression, one that’s truly intimate. You can take it to an art form, as you have – as my girlfriend’s been working on doing – or be simpler about it, but it’s still all you described.
    We both enjoyed the photos, though now she feels she really has to ‘step it up’ with her collection : )

    Amazing you have the courage to publish the photos, not because they’re not wonderful, but because they are so personal. We all – men included – have issues with how we look, no matter how we look. She’s got a phobia about any day-to-day photo of her being on-line; anything of this nature, even private and off-line would be too worrying for her.

    Then again, being THE Lingerie Addict can give you unique ‘permission’ ; )

    I obviously can’t have a personal understanding as far as what could possibly be wrong with your hair , but what stuck both of us was the part about concern over being toned due to martial arts. We should all be so active, and we’re not.

    We also liked this particular point of the post: That doing the photo shoot is a gift to one’s self – not anyone else. Just as what lingerie you choose to wear.

  14. Julie Wray says:

    Beautiful photos and beautiful article! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I did a photo shoot with Christina Mallet (LOVE her!) when I was 7 months pregnant, it was an experience I will never forget.

    • Treacle says:

      Oh wow…that sounds amazing. I’ve been seeing Christina Mallet’s work a LOT lately, and I love it. Since she’s in Seattle, maybe I should schedule shoot with her…

  15. Alicia says:

    Treacle, everything about this post is beautiful. You are a very inspiring woman. Congratulations!

  16. michael says:

    You are a very beautiful woman. You should be proud.

  17. Sia says:

    What a wonderfully brave post Treacle, much respect and yes lingerie isn’t just about pretty bras and panties it reveals a whole lot more about oursleves and has a lot to do with self respect and self-esteem. Gorgeous photos too :)

  18. KathTea says:

    A very inspiring article, Treacle.

    I used to be so negative about my looks: A-cups, a banana-shaped body, my ab flab due to laziness.

    I was so upset about being the girl with the less than stellar looks. I wasn’t fair. I didn’t get much attention from boys. I hated it. I thought everyone thinks I look like a boy even though those comments were just from a select few.

    In fact, even in my first boudoir shoot, I was not completely comfortable in my own skin yet. I tried to look like a model. I made sure I had my corset on the entire time. I didn’t want to bare my true body.

    More recently however I had done a boudoir style shoot with a spice of nudity and looking at those pictures, I could suddenly see how far I have come. When the photographer (who was a true gentleman) asked if I could take my clothes and lingerie off bit by bit, surprisingly I was no longer concerned about the imperfections of my body.

    Then finally, he asked “Are you ready to take your corset off?”. I could have said no. In fact, days before the shoot I kept reminding myself that I MUST have my corset on at all times. But I took it off and I felt like I finally, honestly accepted myself.

    It’s not to say that I won’t be keeping up with my waist training regime… but wow. One simple removal of a single article of clothing has changed me and made me more confident than ever.

    Who cares if I have a bit of belly pooch? Who cares if I am not naturally an hourglass?

    Heck, even my make-up was amazingly minimal that day.

    That shoot reminded me that I am who I am and I am gorgeous.

    Body snark is evil. There’s health concern and then there’s crushing one’s self-esteem. None of us should ever EVER do the latter, there is just NO excuse for it.

    We are all beautiful in our own ways. Short, tall, dark, olive, fair, pale, plus size, skinny, athletic, built. It doesn’t matter.

    Thank you for sharing this with us Treacle. Not just the lovely bare pictures but the article that truly bared it all.

    • Treacle says:

      “Body snark is evil.”

      That’s about the best and most simplest (I know that’s bad grammar) way to say it. There is nothing good that comes from putting other people down simply because of their bodies. It isn’t as if most of can exactly choose the body we’re born into after all. Always good to see your name in the comments. :)

  19. Nikki says:

    You, my dear, are an amazing woman.

    And you’ve convinced me that boudoir photography is what I want to do. I’d much rather give this great gift to everyday women than play around with models. My discovery of boudoir photography is entirely because of you and your posts about it, so thank you <3

  20. Gaby says:

    Oh my goodness the white suspender with the lilac stockings is my favourite!!!!

    That out of the way I wanted to wholeheartedly applaud you for such a beautiful article, pictures and words. Thank you for being so brave, and sharing such personal things – you truly are an inspiration xoxo

    • Treacle says:

      That’s a Kiss Me Deadly suspender. Doesn’t she make the best stuff? ;-)

      Thank you for commenting, Gaby. I’m so glad I was able to wear one of your pieces for the shoot.

  21. Thursday says:

    Love the photos, Treacle, but love your honesty even more. Thank you for sharing your journey and being so inspiring.

  22. Christine says:

    Treacle, thanks for again reinforcing a positiveness about body image, and reaffirming my desire to do a photoshoot this year.

    I’ve been in contact with a photographer here in the east coast and the photos I’ve seen on her site and the statements she’s made on how things happen during a shoot with her have really driven me to seriously look into this. She even has a pre-shoot consult where you get to decide what gets treated and what doesn’t. She won’t photoshop you into a different body shape… she just blurs things a bit, but only if YOU want it done.

    I asked my daughter what she thought about the idea of doing a photoshoot. Her response was very negative. She concentrated more on the cost, not what it would do for me personally. I’ve chosen not to buy into her negativity. Apparently women who are approaching 50 shouldn’t be worrying about looking sexy or doing something so… um… revealing. My father used to get on me about my weight and that being 5’6″ I should weigh 120 lbs. Now I’m more than twice that and I realize that I could shed some pounds. I’ve come to accept my body the way it is, stretch marks, scars and all. It proves I’ve lived and born 5 very precious human beings.

    Women of color are some of the most gorgeous women I’ve run across!! I will admit that sometimes I’m jealous!!

    • Treacle says:

      As your official lingerie enabler, I think you need to do the photoshoot. Women of every age deserve to feel gorgeous and confident and sexy, and if boudoir photography is the means you’ve chosen to do that, then more power to you. And don’t forget to send me a photo if you like; I’d love to see! :)

  23. Asenath says:

    You know what I love about your blog, Treacle? It’s not just pretty pictures. It’s not just reviews or shopping guides. It’s all those brutally honest words of wisdom regarding our self-image in between we need to hear every now and then. Thank you.

    … still, very pretty pictures. And your hair is awesome, don’t you ever get any ideas of straightening that mane… I would be very cross with you! ;-)

    • Treacle says:

      I certainly don’t want you cross with me! :)

      Thanks for commenting, Asenath. it’s hard writing personal posts like this because you’re really opening yourself up to be vulnerable, so thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  24. Jessica says:

    The pictures turned out amazing! You are beautiful!!! And by the way, your hair is gorgeous, and so are your muscles, and probably your scars. As an artist, I consider those assets, not flaws!!! Lucky!

  25. Brenda says:

    Wow! A great post on your experience! Kudos to embracing your self-confidence and being you! These photos are beautiful…Just so real and stunning!

  26. Miss Vidal says:

    Thank you for being so honest about yourself! I know it could be terrifying, but when we are honest we are freed from the limitations we impose on ourselves.

    I love these images of unadulterated beauty and I love the way they made you feel. Following you I’ve learned that you are a very beautiful person inside and out and you deserve to feel gorgeous everyday!

  27. Amaryllis says:

    They’re lovely photographs, thank you for sharing them with us, and the story.

    I recall when I was younger and doing a lot of martial art training (Muay Thai in my case), I developed some lovely muscles and tended to walk around with a lot of bruises from training, especially on my shins… people were so quick to strip me of any ‘pretentions’ towards femininity. I could be ‘one of the boys’ and I could be agressively laddish, but to be soft and feminine and interested in pretty things at the same time? Oh no, it totally didn’t mesh with people’s idea of who I was.

    People are so very quick to tell us who we are, what demographic and what that means we like and is appropriate for us. It’s all bullshit, but it’s given power by the number of people still caught within it, believing it. It’s people like you, going out there and breaking down the barriers and talking about body self image in a postiive open way, that change things. Everyone should be free to be beautiful in their own way, and not made to feel that beauty is something that is unobtainable for them.

    Lingerie is so much more than just the first clothing that we put on, and because it’s secret and personal we can express sides of ourselves that the main body of people don’t get to see… the wild cheeta-print side under a work suit, the soft florals and lace under practical diy clothes… I like to think that expressing myself and giving myself the freedom to be who I want to be starts with my smalls, and builds up from that.

    • Treacle says:

      Hi Amaryllis!

      I used to do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and was actually the state and regional Heavyweight Women’s Champion in my area for a couple of years in a row. Martial arts completely changed the way I thought about my body. I felt strong and capable and confident, and all that translated into a kind of attractiveness I’d never known before. Though I’m not in that kind of shape anymore, I still remember those feelings, and I’m a better person for having had them.

      But yes…you’re right. When I tell people, especially people who’ve only met me in the last few years, that I used to practice (and be good at!) a very aggressive martial art, they’re often taken aback because that doesn’t fit with society’s traditional notions of femininity. But there are thousands of ways to be a woman, and absolutely no reason to limit yourself.

  28. Cosette says:

    Thank you for sharing. It’s a wonderful post and you’re gorgeous. :-)

  29. nadia says:

    I feel so happy for you :), I have a similar story, and I want to do a photoshoot too ♥
    This is really inspiring

  30. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the gorgeous pictures you have taken! I really needed to hear this today- I have struggling with body image for years and posts like these I want to read over and over. I think you are really brave, incredibly beautiful, and I ADORE your blog. Its one I check daily :D

    • Treacle says:

      Thanks for commenting, Meghan! I’m so happy to hear my blog is one of your faves. And yes, I agree…I’m learning that loving your body is really one of the hardest things we women can do.

  31. Kathleen says:

    Great photos Treacle. You look relaxed & natural which s a testament to the photographer( for making you feel comfortable) & to yourself (for what you say in your post). Just gorgeous. xx

  32. Malayka says:

    What a beautiful, honest post and gorgeous photos! I personally think that scars can be very attractive on people. They always tell a story. The best thing about growing older is definitely learning to love your body for all its little flaws and faults. I am half black and half white and never really felt like I truly belonged to either side, and then puberty hit and I shot up to 5’10”, was as skinny as a bean pole, my hair went frizzy, I got braces and was teased mercilessly … it was hell! Ha ha and now funnily enough these are all the things that I love most about myself.

    • Treacle says:

      Good to see you, Maylaka! I agree with what you’re saying about how scars tell a story. They’re a part of everyone’s journey, and that journey is what makes you unique. And so happy to hear you’re confident in your own skin now.

  33. Emily says:

    Treacle ~ such a powerful post. Thank you so much for sharing such a deep part of yourself with us, in this post and others. You are a beautiful, brave soul & these photos capture exactly that. Your presence in the lingerie community is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Thank you for being here! xo, Emily

  34. Cat says:

    I really enjoy checking up on your blog, because as a young woman struggling with her own self-image, it really does fill me with confidence that one day I can feel and look as beautiful as you are!

    &as always, I’m lovin the lingerie. <3

  35. ginette says:

    “BEUTIFUL”. Every thing about this article & photographs is beautiful. It relates to all women, but as a black woman , I so feel you on all the little nuances in society regarding beauty. I so admire and LOVE that , YOU, yes YOU have a blog regarding lengerie !!! WHY??, because it just validating in so many ways, that we as WOMEN can express on insecurities and be strong, confident and beautiful. My bestie use to call me a “closeted” addict,; would actually worry if folks found out, that they may label me a “freak” {yes, conservative circles}; Go figure. I found that lengerie, the pieces you choose to wear that day can help with your whole mood and how you taclke the day & people.. so I ALWAYS look forward to your posts on FB, your Blog , and what ever random thoughts you may share.. THANK YOU FOR SHARING & BEING YOU !!

    • Treacle says:

      Thank you so much for being a fan and supporter, Ginette. I totally feel what you’re saying. There’s a lot of stigma attached to lingerie in some circles, and I want this blog to be a place that’s free of that…so I’m glad you feel welcome here. :)

  36. Laurie says:

    This was such a moving post. All of us have hang ups about our appearance, which is so sad. How often do we give or receive compliments? Especially from other women? Not often enough. Your blog is a wonderful reminder to celebrate who we are from the inside out. Thank you for taking your blog one more layer beneath the lingerie.

  37. Alison says:

    I really enjoyed reading this…VERY well expressed. Women in particular have so many hang-ups about their appearance, so it’s good to see someone like yourself “walking the talk”. Such lovely photos too…who did the floral lingerie in the first set (looks familiar…)?
    xoxox alison

    • Treacle says:

      Thanks for commenting, Alison! You know I admire your blog and your boutique, so it’s always a special treat to get a visit from you. :)

      The floral lingerie set is by Hopeless. I’ve turned into a massive fan of her work this last year.

  38. Jim Dougher says:

    Lokkin good hun! As hot as a pistol

  39. Luna says:

    Bravo! I love that you allowed yourself this gift and hope it inspires other women to do the same. Thank you for sharing this, it is really very important.

  40. Beautiful– both the photos and the sentiment.

  41. denocte says:

    Wow, amazing text.

    You are adorable, your work is so great and you are really pretty *blush*

    The pictures are amazing, the both of you did a great job!
    I see an amazing woman in the pics, standing her ground. In beautiful lingerie ;)

    As for the text:
    I really see myself ther – well, maybe I’m not as far as you are yet – but I plan on being there soon ;)

    The only photoshoot I ever did was a huge disaster. Due to some misunderstanding (or whatever) the photographer put my pics through a lot of photoshopping, although I didn’t want her to. Suffering from an eating disorder and having your natural waist reduced about 15cm really hits you hard.
    She altered my face, my eyes, my nose, my mouth, slimmed my neck…
    It was then when I chose to never attend a “shooting” again. Clearly I wasn’t made for this, it was a rather big set back for my whole progress of accepting who I am.

    So I’m really really happy for you, that you found a photographer who you can trust and who’s really talented!

    I hope to see more of your work here?

    And my two cents to the scars:
    I always wanted to get rid of them. Over the yrs I came to accept them, they are a part of me and they also remind me, how far I’ve come. Yes, they show that I had some really bad times in my life. But seeing them healed and dim away also shows, that I kind of made it, life and everything.
    I found people in my life who love me, and yes, it’s hard to do job interviews and stuff – but we’ll get through it. We’ve come a long way, we can do this ;)

    Wow, I hope this wasn’t way too emo *blush*


    • Treacle says:

      Hi denocte! I love this comment…thank you for being so personal on my blog. :)

      First of all, I am so sorry you had such a terrible experience with that first photographer. Letting someone take pictures of you is hard. I know I feel vulnerable during photoshoots…especially with a new photographer. I’m having to trust and hope that they’ll take pictures of me I like, and that the final result won’t be far from how I see myself. I would be shocked and hurt if a photographer abused my trust like that.

      Re: the scars, yes you’re so right. The honest truth is that I hardly think of them anymore. They’re as much as part of me now as anything else, and when people ask about them, they’re a sign I went through a rough time and survived. And there isn’t anything to be ashamed of about that.

    • Dave Quinn says:

      First off, congratulations Treacle on such a personal and positive post; I thought it was really inspiring. Though I might not have posted a response were it not for Denocte’s reply…

      As a photographer I was horrified to hear about her experience. I am pretty anti the level of photoshopping found in the advertising industry, but to find it in something as personal as a boudoir photoshoot *without specific instruction* is jaw dropping.

      The job of the photographer in this situation is to capture the subject, not morph them into something entirely different. Sure, a little bit of retouching can add to the glamourous feel of the image, but what you are describing is abuse!

      Please don’t judge all photographers by this standard, and dont be put off from having another go.


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