November 01, 2011 — Jennifer Rozenbaum embodies the very elements that make up her boudoir photography portfolio: edgy and sexy contrasted by sweet and playful.
The 36-year-old has always been about pushing the boundaries. As a budding teen artist she didn't let age restrictions stop her from attending art sessions with nude models (she had her mother sign a permission slip), nor did she settle for one of the "ugly desk jobs" she'd previously worked. Instead, she made a profession out of her photography hobby.
It comes as little surprise, then, that when she decided to open her Jenerations photography studio three years ago in Queens, NY, she would rise right to the top.
The World's Oldest Portrait
The word "Boudoir" is French for a woman's dressing room, bedroom or sitting room and has increasingly become a modern photography style of popularity and respect.
"Some people ask, 'How is it different from porn' and 'Why would someone want to do this?'" Rozenbaum explains. "I tell them that boudoir is classy, sexy and tasteful portraits of women either in lingerie or nude, but always artistically done. It shows more than your skin; it shows who you are and represents your beauty."
Boudoir photography requires the perfect play of lighting, posing and clothing (or lack thereof) to create artful seduction.
"Boudoir is not a new concept," says Rozenbaum. "For hundreds of years we have commissioned artists to paint or draw fine art portraits. Boudoir photography is just a modern day version of that."
The Art of Boudoir
Jenerations clients are typically girlfriends, fiancés and wives who want to give their partners a unique and intimate gift. Rozenbaum says sometimes the women simply want to capture their youth in timeless photos. As carefree as the subjects in her galleries appear, Rozenbaum says her clients are usually nervous at first. To ease their angst, she holds pre-shoot consultations allowing the client to get to know her. During the conversations, she learns the woman's favorite candy, music and other personal favorites, and then provides them the day of the studio session.
Her objective is to make the client feel welcome and comfortable, so she’ll often makes jokes with her clients to make herself feel vulnerable as well. "Other than that it's about instruction and communication with posing," she says.
Rozenbaum makes a point to learn what her client feels are their best physical assets. During the shoot, only the perfect poses and camera angles are used to accent those favorable areas. Any discussions about the client's self-consciousness are forbidden.
"My goal is to get the perfect picture out of the camera," she says. "I try to crop in-camera because I want them to be able to look on the back of the camera [during the shoot] and say, 'Wow, I love that!' If you do that it builds their confidence and makes the shoot better for the both of you."
Rozenbaum credits her background in fine arts for her knowledge of posing. But the equipment she uses to create the ideal photo are a Nikon D3S and Nikon D700 with various lenses, including the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, Nikkor 85mm f/1.4, Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, Nikkor 105mm Macro and a Lensbaby Composer Pro.
As she is editing, Rozenbaum refrains from altering the shape of a body or making any other drastic changes. She says her own rule is to remove temporary blemishes, but she always asks if a person wants to keep in birthmarks, scars and even stretch marks. "Anything that is permanent, I will ask about. I don't remove wrinkles or pores, but just make them look a little softer."
Another important rule at Jenerations: No Men Allowed!
Rozenbaum has found that even if a couple has been married numerous years, the presence of a man at the shoot adds a level of discomfort for her clients. However, men are permitted to attend the post-shoot session to choose their favorite photos for the album, if the female client desires. And Rozenbaum will soon open her studio for couple shoots.
He Says, She Says
No matter the purpose or the motivation for a boudoir session, the outcome is the same—pleased women and men. Rozenbaum says the best feedback she has received from women is testimonials of increased self-esteem. "I get letters from women afterwards saying, 'You changed my self esteem, my marriage, my confidence!' It's helping women see themselves the way other people see them," she says.
But she admits that she also loves when she receives a call or e-mail from the male counterparts thanking her for taking their partner's photos. She recalls a particularly memorable encounter with a male worker who was at her home studio to read the gas meter.
"I told him he could let himself out after he read the meter, but afterwards he poked his head around the corner and asked me, 'Do you by any chance know So-and-So?' I said, "Yes, I do know her, she was one of our clients.' He said, 'Yeah, I'm her boyfriend. I just want to say thank you for the best birthday present I've ever got!'”
Rozenbaum doesn’t mind the praise, no matter where it comes up. "I will be in a restaurant and a free piece of dessert shows up and the manager comes over and says, 'You shot my wife.' It's hysterical!"
Boyfriends and husbands haven't been the only source of feedback that drives Rozenbaum. Her own husband, Micha (who is not allowed to look at a client's photographs for privacy reasons), gave her the encouragement she needed to step away from traditional photography.
"Micha is my sounding board," she says. "We look through Victoria's Secret catalogs and I ask him, 'What do you think of this? Is this hot? What do you think of this pose?' It's always good to get a guy's point-of-view."
Come Hither: Up Close and Personal
Browsing through catalogs for inspiration is a perk of Rozenbaums's job, as are the shopping trips. Clients sometimes ask Rozenbaum to assist them with finding outfits that will be most flattering to their body.
"Hello! Can you get a better job than this?" she laughs.
Clients of Jenerations have compared their experience at the studio to spending time with best friends. It's more so true for Diana Cappolla, who was just a friend before she was convinced to quit her former job, pursue make-up artistry as a career and work full time as Rozenbaum's assistant.
Rozenbaum says that an unexpected way she has achieved a connection with clients is through social media outlets. Last spring, Jenerations launched its first YouTube video introducing new products and packages to potential clients. Rozenbaum has found that many new clients feel they already know her due to seeing her on the videos.
On www.JenerationsBlog.com the public can view new photos and special interviews from past clients who speak about their personal experiences with the studio. Through Twitter (@BoudoirJen) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Jenerations), Rozenbaum stays current and in direct contact with the public by posting information on studio specials and posting trivia for giveaway prizes. "As a boudoir photographer you have huge challenges," she explains. "We can't always post the photos, because not all clients want their pictures posted online. And I have to keep it really modest." But making the most use out of these avenues have proven to be effective. "Anything to make them not forget about me," she says.
Finding Her Way to the Top
Rozenbaum has learned a lot along the way through experience, but says before becoming actively involved with others in the photography industry she was floundering. Networking and befriending her peers has opened her mind and led her to join WPPI earlier this year.
In October Rozenbaum attended four seminars hosted by Jasmine Star, Jerry Ghionis, Lindsay Adler and Bambi Cantrell. "You need to soak up any bit of information that any photographer has to give you whether they're new or a master," Rozenbaum advises. "You never know when you'll have a need for it.
"It's great to learn from wedding and fashion photographers even though I'm boudoir. The inspiration is everywhere and there are geniuses out there to learn from."
She has been inspired to attend her first WPPI convention in Las Vegas in 2012 and is excitedly preparing to compete. "I'm really excited about boudoir photography specifically because I think it has a humungous future in the world of photography," she says. "It's just starting to really catch on, but don't be afraid to try it. It's awesome!"
View more of Jennifer Rozenbaum's boudoir work at www.jenerations.com
Tiana Kennell is a freelance journalist based in Michigan. She can be contacted through LinkedIn.