Anna Smart, Author at Smart Photography

All Posts by Anna Smart

The Perfect Boudoir Shoot

OK, 'the perfect boudoir shoot' is a bold claim. I'd like to say that lockdown has given us a lot of thinking time, and we have put this to good use.
However, like many fabulous things, I think we may have actually stumbled across the perfect boudoir shoot, by accident.

It goes like this.
We've had a single burlesque feather fan for years. it's a useful prop. But the ones we've had weren't the real thing, that burlesque performers use. So, they weren't 'quite' as big, weren't 'quite' as fancy, but they did look really good on camera.
Our original one came from Ann Summers, and honestly, I couldn't fault it:

perfect boudoir shoot

We do have a tendency to wear them out, over time. Ann Summers no longer do them, real ones are expensive, so we made do with substitutes. But I have long had a hankering for the real thing, so I found some.

And then lockdown happened

This slowed things down a little bit, but, to their credit the supplier still cracked on, they arrived...and went into quarantine.
But we couldn't shoot anyone with them, because, of course, we are closed. 
Our usual thing would be to invite clients in to model. I'm not patient enough to wait for lockdown to end though!

Was I expecting the perfect boudoir shoot?

No! It took me a long time to get around to having a shoot previously, and when I did, I sabotaged it. To say I was nervous about having another one would be a huge understatement.

I also have no nice lingerie (it must be over 4 years since I went to buy any in an actual shop and hated the experience so much that I haven't been back).

I was excited about using the fans, but not about being photographed.

The shoot was amazing!

I'd cobbled together lingerie that was probably over 7 years old (note to you - don't be me!) that I thought may work.
In the event, I didn't need it at all. All I needed was knickers (incidentally, I didn't have any of the 'right' knickers myself, which anyone who follows us will know are brazilian cut - I got to take advantage of the stocks we buy for the studio, so that we always have a pair on hand for you).
I really needn't have worried about lingerie at all - I was vastly underestimating how huge the fans are. I could stand behind one of them (anyone could) - there are two!

Here's what makes this the perfect boudoir shoot

I thought this was going to be all about the burlesque. It wasn't. I have never felt so confident in front of a camera, and for a lot of the time, I had absolutely nothing on! In terms of body confidence, this ticks all of the boxes.
Over the years, we have learned our clients fears well (not least because I share many of them!)Here's what a shoot with the fans addresses.

  • No lingerie required. OK, you need some knickers, that really is it. I hate lingerie shopping and I know many of you do too.
  • Hate looking at the camera? Me too. There are so many options to looking away with these!
  • No need to love your face/hair/anything else. There are many options for anonymous shots that will be gorgeous, and 'hiding' shots, where you're just peeking out.
  • No need to feel self conscious at the shoot because - see above. You won't feel like anything's on show.
  • No pressure to be 'sexy'. I am always minded of the line from Rocky Horror - "I'm as sensual as a pencil". With a lingerie shoot, I felt ridiculous, in advance, with the whole notion of trying to be sexy. No such pressure here.
  • This is the big one - No body confidence required - you can completely hide behind them if you want to!
perfect boudoir shoot 1

Ready for the perfect boudoir shoot?
You can register your interest NOW!

The fan sessions will be available as soon as we reopen. The fans will not be available as part of our regular boudoir sessions, so right now, the only way to book one, will be to have registered in advance.

The session fee NOW is £99* (our usual session fee is £199, so they will revert to that, or possibly a little bit more for these).

Fill in the form below and get on the list.

Much love, stay safe,
Anna
xx
(*There is no payment due until we are open, we've chatted it through and you are ready to book xx)

2 Toxic Memes

I need to start this off by stating that I LOVE memes. We create loads of them for Instagram and Facebook.  I share them, like them, tweet them.

However, I am also acutely aware that a widely shared meme demonstrates 'this view is popular'. If that view makes someone feel negative emotions such as guilt or shame, the meme may be toxic to their mental health.

People are extra-sensitive right now, as we're all coping with our own, unique situations. Consequently, the opportunities to make people feel 'less than' are abundant.

<Waits patiently whilst someone bleats on about snowflakes>.

When brands create memes, they've usually got a very defined audience in mind (and I am including us as a brand here - 15 years in business, we've got a logo and everything, if I want to say we're a brand, let me have it).
You think pretty carefully about who you want to 'speak' to, as a brand. You're not intending to actively alienate every one else (most of the time), but you're not really trying to speak to the majority, as much as you're attempting to really reach the people who share your core brand values.
I tend to try to play it safe - to me this means 'don't make anyone else feel bad, in trying to make someone feel good'.

When individuals create memes, they've just thought 'sounds good to me' and go for it.

Toxic memes are falling into a variety of categories.

Toxic Motivation

toxic motivation meme

I first came across this in various business groups on Facebook.
Now, businesses are getting hammered by the lockdown. Many business owners aren't working, aren't earning and don't know whether they'll ever re-open, such is the current economic reality.
Needless to say, therefore, seeing these posted, does not necessarily buoy your spirits, when you're wondering 'am I going to lose my house in all this?'.

Worse, the sentiment got shared much more widely. As if everyone was now on some kind of extended holiday, and should be 'making the most' of their sudden, clearly abundant, free time.

Sure, you may be trying to home school your children, make £2.50 last for 4 weeks and stop your dog going crazy, but if you really wanted to learn to play the cello, you would be making it happen.

Meanwhile, you could be doing none of these things, and spending all day in your pyjamas, watching Netflix, and finding even that a struggle. You got through another day. You are doing enough, right there. Don't be guilted into thinking you aren't.

Finally, you might be like me - essentially, kind of fine with lockdown and a bit lazy. Still. Leave me be. I usually work flat out, so excuse me if I don't want to make now the moment I write a book.

Fat Shaming Memes

These have built in popularity, the longer the lockdown goes on. I'm not sharing one. You've seen them, probably given them a like, possibly shared them.
They're essentially variations on the theme of how fat you're going to be, by the time lockdown ends.

I do not think you're fatphobic for sharing these. There's some kind of weird validity that comes from something being a widely shared meme - just a general 'it must be ok'. And, it made you laugh, at first glance. Quite possibly, your intentions lean towards being self-deprecating. I understand all of this, and I just ask you to think about who these ultimately refer to. This article explains it brilliantly.

(Incidentally, the very first one of these I saw had a picture of a toddler, on a beach, in a bikini. So, yay, we're somehow - what? - fat-shaming children now? I don't get it).

Anti-Ageing Memes

See above - I'm not sharing any.  These are similar to fat-shaming memes, just replace being overweight with 
1. having grey hair
2. having wrinkles

Because, of course these are the worst things that can happen to us.

Anti-Feminist Feminist Memes

Not lockdown specific, these. They'll say things like:
"You can always tell who the strong women are. They are the ones you see building each other up, instead of tearing each other down."

Implicit it in these is that there's lots of women behaving terribly towards each other, and a few, strong ones not. 

Essentially, this is something all of the toxic memes have in common - putting a group of people down - either obviously, or subtly. And it is often subtle, which is what sucks us all in to sharing them.

ps...

You may, from reading this, consider me a completely joyless shrew. Just to let you know, I am fine with that.

Much love,
Anna
xx 

Admitting Failure

<deep breath> 
I've failed, and that's a tough thing to admit. Not necessarily to you (I probably don't know you). But to myself. No one wants to fail, do they? Especially when you have something you feel passionately about.

I've been putting it off. This admission, to myself. Waiting for inspiration, or a miracle to strike. It hasn't. It's not going to. I have an idea that's dead in the water.

The absolute frustration of not being able to achieve what I want is tiring. The only way I can possibly move forward, is to accept that I can't move my idea forward.

Here's What I Wanted To Do

To bring visibility to women who are under-represented in the media. Those of us who don't fit the 'fresh out of Love Island' stereotype. The ones who aren't seen, aren't marketed to, aren't visible.

My idea was to match our photography business, with a clothing line. Putting these women directly in view. We decided to start with t-shirts, because we knew that these are readily available, and we could print beautiful artwork onto them, easily.
Each item in our range would have a name - of the person featured in the image. Their stories would be on our website, our Facebook page and included with each t-shirt. No nameless models here. Real women, being visible.

I Started With Confidence

Confidence, it turns out, is not always well-placed.

I absolutely knew that this was an achievable aim. At it's core, it's just 'putting images on t-shirts', right? Which is incredibly straightfoward.

1. You buy t-shirts
2. You print on them.

Sure, there's some refining with labels, you need to think about packaging etc. But business large and small do this stuff all of the time, so it definitely couldn't be beyond us.

Here's Where It All Went Wrong

As a brand that was always going to be about inclusivity and visibility, we didn't want our range to stop at a size 18/20. We wanted to offer t-shirts, styled for women, up to (at least) a size 28.

And that's where we ran into trouble.  

There are many stock t-shirts you can buy. You'd probably recognise the names of the brands, if you've ever bought a t-shirt featuring your favourite band or tv show.
There are plenty of t-shirts styled for women. Lots of choice, Mind boggling array.
I could find no t-shirts styled for women, above a size 18/20.

Over and over I got told "there's no demand". I firmly believe that there is demand. I think demand for unisex tops is being artificially created, due to a lack of other options.

So The Idea Got Bigger

I'm not a quitter and now, I was also quite annoyed on behalf of plus size women. Because our choice became either:

go unisex (make no mistake, this just means 'men's'
or
offer one style for women up to a size 20, and then offer 'unisex' items to anyone over that.

This felt wrong, I wanted all women to have the same option.

The obvious answer was to get them manufactured.

I Thought I'd Nailed It

I really did!
We found a manufacturer who had minimum order quantities that weren't too eye-watering.
They could also make the patterns (for a cost) and get everything ready that we needed (for a cost).

All of my costings were based on what they told us, and it started to sound viable to go ahead, when we had the money.

By the time we did have the money, a few months later, our manufacturer told us a completely different price. Considerably more.  This meant that, not only did we need more money to place an order, but made the end price we could sell at too high to be a marketable product.

I Didn't Want to Give Up

So I approached other manufacturers. Not one got back to me, I suspect because the quantities we wanted to make were just too small.
One suggested we crowdfunded, which I really did start to think about.

But we have an existing business to run, and we'd gone from 'getting t-shirts printed' to 'getting t-shirts designed and manufactured, probably via crowdfunding' - and, to be clear, I know nothing about the fashion industry. 
The time involved in trying to achieve this would be huge. The time I have available, outside of our photography business, is tiny.

And so it has been there, rolling around in my head, as I try to magic a solution into being, for months.

I need my headspace back. I have other problems to solve, because there are always other problems.

So this idea, I have to let go, for the sake of my sanity. 

The New Idea

So, ok, we can't make clothing. In that, I have surely failed.

But at the heart of my idea, the point wasn't to make clothes, or even to make money. The point was to give visibility to women who feel they don't have it.

Here's the interview that kicked it all off - Charlie was going to be first to feature on a t-shirt. I owe it to her and to anyone else I've talked to about taking part in this project to use our existing channels and ability to at least attempt to give visibility to women who do not feel seen.

Watch this space.

Much love,
Anna
xx

Embrace Your Body Project – Caroline

When Caroline first got in touch, she told us "My partner always tells me I look sexy and beautiful, I’d love to see myself through his eyes."

This so perfectly encapsulates exactly what we're trying to do, we couldn't wait to meet her, and show her that different perspective on herself. This is what the Embrace Your Body project is all about!

How to properly personalise a portrait session

In our first conversation, Caroline mentioned that her partner had a motorbike - probably not expecting me to say 'Bring it!'.

This was all quite weather dependant (remember the relentless rain last December?), so we crossed our fingers and hoped. 

The immediate high

Caroline's session went really well. Of course it is nerve-wracking, taking that initial step to come to us, but if you can do it, well, here's what Caroline had to say, in a message to her daughters, afterwards:

" I want to let you know about Saturday, the photo shoot, I didn’t want to say too much before - I was nervous when I got there, although I’d been more nervous at home when I was trying on what I’d ordered to wear lol. The people were lovely and I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable, we had a laugh there was me, the photographer and the lady who did my hair and makeup . I felt really great when I was there. I even did 2 poses completely nude (you don’t actually see anything in the photo though) and I was on such a high and buzzing when it was over..."

The immediate low

Now, we would love it if that buzz lasted - and for most people it does, until they switch their focus to seeing their photos. So, usually a few days after the session itself.
Caroline though, started to think about seeing them straight away.
The rest of her message wasn't quite so upbeat...

"...and just as we were leaving we arranged when to go back and view.Then when we got outside it hit me and I started crying and have done several times since..... I just keep thinking how stupid am I to think I could look as fabulous as those other ladies, what the hell was I thinking and I have to go back and look at these photos on Saturday and I’m old and fat and what on earth was I thinking of"

All of the doubts came flooding back

I would love to be able to say that everyone comes back to see their photos feeling excited. It's not true. Caroline's emotions surrounding the shoot are entirely usual. If you think the hardest part is in coming for the portrait session itself, time and again our clients tell us it's scarier to come back and see the pictures.

We never underestimate the bravery that is involved in viewing your photos, because we know that is the moment you most fear your doubts becoming reality.  

There are often tears

Viewing your images can be a very emotional experience. You are challenging your perception of yourself - that's deep! To see yourself in a different way - to finally understand what others already see - it is absolutely an overload of emotions.

So, how was Caroline feeling after seeing hers?

"I'm amazing. <Starts crying> Robin did such a good job in the shoot and the photos look amazing. And I feel like a million dollars"

Caroline's message to anyone who's feeling apprehensive about coming along to us:

"Just do it. Take somebody along with you. Especially have somebody who knows you're going to do it, and somebody who can come back with you to look at the photos.
You need someone to come back with you, someone who's going to make sure you come back and help
you choose the best photos because it's amazing.
Absolutely fabulous. Thank you."

The Embrace Your Body Project is all about empowering women to love themselves and their bodies, as they are, right now.

It's about embracing our bodies, whatever flaws we may think we have, and accepting ourselves.

It's about showing that nobody is perfect, but that we are all beautiful in our imperfections.

And it's about sharing that experience with other women, to help them on their journey to body confidence.

Radical Inaction

I'm inadvertently taking part in radical inaction

radical
adjective
(especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.
"a radical overhaul of the existing regulatory framework"

inaction
noun
lack of action where some is expected or appropriate

You may not think of yourself as radical - I certainly don't - but there are things I don't do that seem to be radical - to the point where I sometimes do them, just to not be making a statement.
I am inadvertently taking part in radical inaction, just by thinking 'I don't see the point in doing that'.

Take shaving your body hair

No, really take it! Or waxing, sugaring (I don't know what that is, but I'll bet it hurts), lasering, whatever.

I used to shave my legs and armpits - of course I did. I didn't grow up as some kind of monster. I just became one.

In the same way I don't really get the sitcom 'Miranda', I don't get removing body hair. I just know that it's very popular and you're a bit odd if you don't like it.

My radical inaction on this is not radical on my part. It's just a 'but I don't understand the point?'
However, nor do I want my inaction (radical or otherwise) to be seized upon as some kind of statement. So sometimes I will shave my legs (literally, as far up as I think they might be seen. 3/4 length trousers = only a third of leg needs to be done).
I am doing this solely to fit in and not be commented on - not because I buy into any real reason for it. Effectively, I am being an (oddly sheared) sheep.

Or take anything to do with looking younger

Again, I just don't get it.
What real effect will wrinkles have on my life? That other people think I'm old? And this is bothersome to me how? Maybe I just am, you know, old. (You're always old to someone!).

radical inaction

Are you taking part in radical inaction?

You may be taking part in radical inaction, as a woman, if you

- don't dye greying hair

- don't have long hair
(there's an article here that suggests it you don't do either of these, you're extremely radical!)

- don't have a skincare regime to stop wrinkles/other signs of ageing

- don't diet/worry about your weight (beyond health reasons)

- don't remove every bit of hair from your body, except for your head (for which you can get a shampoo to try to make sure you keep every hair) - see this article for how radical and feminist this is

- not having children, by choice

(Feel free to add your own thoughts to this list, because there will be many things I have missed out).

You may think you're just being yourself

But when 'being yourself' corresponds with stepping outside of society's norms, you may be taking part in radical inaction, simply by not fitting in.

(Fun fact - on a phone-in show discussing Greta Thunberg, one man triumphantly declared her 'not being interested in make-up' as proof that she's not a 'normal teenage girl'. Now, I don't think that GT necessarily is a normal teenage girl, I think she's extraordinary, but still!).

There is an absurdity to radical inaction

In that I feel it's quite likely that women often aren't intending to be radical, statement making feminists by taking part in it. They're just wanting to quietly go about their lives, not doing some of the stuff that's often taken for granted.

Are you taking part?

Much love,
Anna
xx

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