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Dudeoir: Straight Male Photographer’s Thoughts on Male Boudoir Photography

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Dudeoir: Straight Male Photographer's Thoughts on Male Boudoir Photography by Zorz Studios

Finally, thrilled to give you Zorz Studios’ first public male boudoir photography set, a.k.a. dudeoir. I cut no corners—spent an entire day on seven (!) sets to cover brutal, gentle, and everything in between.

My Boudoir Photography Experience

I’ve been shooting boudoir for 15 years. In 2006, the year I started, the very third photoshoot was boudoir (right). My boudoir portfolio is fairly extensive by now, but you would notice a glaring absence of males there. Let me rephrase: you won’t see guys by themselves, as I’ve done a good number of couples boudoir sessions. It was still the ladies who brought their partners to photograph with.

Valentine's Day Boudoir Photography Special Offer by Zorz Studios (6)

I worked with the professional male models for my commercial jobs, but I’m talking about everyday clients who would hire me. There was one man a few years ago. A doctor, he opted to keep it low key, so this photo is the only one I got to use (left).

Lack of Dudeoir Photography

So why don’t men do dudeoir as often as women have fun with boudoir? I read an article on HuffPost written by a man who tried it, Mike Reynolds. He shares a great first-hand experience and encouragement which I’d recommend for reading.

He also ponders on my question but blames sexism per which guys don’t do it because the “archaic” society tells them it is not their calling.

Extract from HuffPost’s “I Did A ‘Dudeoir’ Photo Shoot And This Is What I Learned“.

Not a surprising conclusion by someone with a “penchant for feminist T-shirts“. I have to respectfully disagree with that often-cited reason and offer mine instead.

Is There a Place for Male Boudoir?

First, the same archaic society has admired the male body for centuries, at times even more commonly than the female’s. Just this morning I read a curious article on the iconic 17-foot nude statue of Michelangelo’s David. Nowadays, one of model websites lists about 20,000 female and 8,000 male models in New York. Far from equal yet about a third of the models are males! Not all of them bundle up in coats on photoshoots. I do not see a third of my boudoir clients being men, so there has to be something else.

My point is that men aren’t downplaying boudoir because they are told it’s “not their thing”. No need to bring a hot topic like sexism.

Most of the younger (read, under 50) men wouldn’t shy away from a “GQ shot” of themselves for Insta. (By the way, check out these GQ covers: UK Aug ’18, UK Aug ’19, US Mar ’20, Indian May ’17, US Sep ’13, or go back to US Jun ’73, ’76, or Jun ’81.) Many, unfortunately starting from teens, don’t shy away from dropping clothes or even underwear for those selfies. They rarely do it for themselves—these photos are to be shared, solicited or not. So let’s get that out of the way: men enjoy taking photos of themselves almost as much!

Get this: I did a photoshoot for myself around 22 and showed skin. I wasn’t into photography back then yet and paid the other male photographer. We did the shoot in his photo studio on Main St. in a small suburban New York hamlet. True, I had a hint of awkwardness, but staying focused on the result dismissed it.

So, a guy reading this now may nod and recall similar intentions (“I wanted”). What stopped him from doing a dudeoir session and can it be overcome?

Dudeoir Photography Stoppers

I have three answers: frugality, discontent, and discomfort.

Frugality is the biggest one, it’s the one that would stop me now. Male boudoir photography is just not something most men would splurge on. Or rather, we’d find so many better ways! I can’t persuade here. The exceptions are: being well-off (“I can”), being on the market (“I have to”), and being a daredevil (“I gotta”).

Next is not being happy with your body. I won’t load you with body-positive statements here, there is no lack of them now. What you won’t read among those is that a professional, skilled photographer knows the practical tricks to present you in a different light, visible by the others and not just your inner self.

Last, discomfort. Few men feel comfortable looking sultry and acting sexy in front of another man. I believe more male boudoir photography is thus done by female photographers. The fact is, you don’t have to (it’s about treating the eye contact) but if you feel like looking and acting that way, a pro can easily handle it. An avid creative (say, yours truly) works his way toward the vision, so he adapts to what it takes to create a workable comfort on the set. I’d also keep you focused on the final product, wowing with technical and creative side of the process. It will work.

The Man Who Did It

I took this opportunity to share my thoughts on male boudoir photography because I won’t be able to write much else. This cool client, I’ll call him Michael, was fine with being featured, but we decided not to link with names, his background, or other identifiers. Know that his story is touching, and he was a sheer delight to work with! I’ll just share a few technical and creative aspects. Let’s go.

We shot in NYC. As pointed out, I used seven setups, which took over eight hours—the biggest selling point of my all-day sessions.

Started with a cold steel feel. A dramatic contrasty light from my studio strobes would be a natural choice. His grey outfit blended in perfectly and I stressed the metallic feel in post-production.

Next was a bathtub! I planned to use it for steamy shots, but a bummer — there was no hot water running. Oh, man, Michael shivered uncontrollably! Good thing I had my fog machine, so I used it to imitate the steam. Used three studio lights: one for his face, another as a fill, and the third to back-light the water drops. In post-production, I went noir and pictured an assassin washing down the blood after a hit.

Of course, he’s not a hitman:

Here’s a video of how it looked behind the scene:

Then comes a soft side of the man, photographed both dramatically and cheerfully with the lights rearrangement. As I warn my studio light clients, building the light takes about half of the time from the shoot. It takes patience, but the results beat limiting yourself to natural light. You become a master of light and have more strings to pull.

My dear friend Dondi Sison Jr. from California, whom I highly regard on many human, cultural, an intellectual levels, described the images above after reading the blog:

The contrast of “battle hardened” male body and the tenderness of the petals, that if one was not careful would crush it all. Instead, the flowers embrace your model, into an ethereal embrace.

Dondi Sison, Jr.

Back to Nature(al)

Not to undermine the beauty and value of the natural light, I turned off my strobes for a while and went with the ambience. Started with playful and developed into pensive, from light to dark.

Wooo, wait for this one…. Let’s get lyrical, shall we? All natural light from wall-to-wall windows.

And to the Dungeon Again…

On to the next set and studio light. I want more drama! And a bit of historic feel.

Another setup, another creative opportunity, another shade of male boudoir photography! I used these hanging lightbulbs on any given occasion, including boudoir. The body scape, especially of well-toned muscles, comes to life in such light.

Caution: NSFW

The time was fleeing, but I wanted to make use of my light modifier set which I used with a bang in one of past boudoir marathons. Alas, just one modifier complimenting the backdrop, and one pose. Ah yes, Michael went nude briefly to make it 100% dudeoir. Here’s a shot I could share from that series:

For a conclusion, a few quiet, resting images seemed appropriate and well deserved. Speaking of the male body depiction in Renaissance art, the first portrait was inspired by the Old Masters paintings. I posed and draped Michael accordingly, later giving a touch of oil painting in post-production, completed with a frame. The last shot gave me that raw rustic feel of a handsome man chilling in a log cabin with a blizzard behind the window (there was a snowstorm indeed).

Final Thoughts

I had another male boudoir photoshoot just yesterday, although not as long and diverse. I will solicit the recent guys’ feedback on how comfortable it was to work with a male photographer, and post here.

UPDATE: Here’s from this blog’s client:

I had a great time working with you – you were great at making me feel comfortable throughout the entire shoot.  I was definitely looking for something a bit different and daring than the ordinary/simple and I think you added an artistic element that made every set come to life with a theme in mind.

Michael

My goal of this dudeoir photoshoot was to show the diversity potential in the male boudoir photography. Art is art, and when I think photography, I’m an artist. Whether you are straight or gay, well worked-out like Michael, still working on it like Mike, or just a man wondering how you can be represented naturally yet artistically, or transformed professionally using the magic art of photography, male boudoir photography is worth a shot. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s not that expensive. You’ll agree when you’re old and be late. Be bold now. Don’t be shy to show your rough, soft and every side in between. Chaaarge!

Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov
Ed Hafizov is a creative director and lead photographer of Zorz Studios, Manhattan-based boutique photography studio, offering arousing and daring fashion, commercial, beauty, and wedding photography. Multiple Fearless Photographer™ award winner, named among the top 50 US wedding photographers, top 10 NY wedding photographers, winner of Adobe contests, featured by Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Elle et al, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week photographer, and a distinguished member of Grace Ormonde Wedding Style‘s Platinum List, he is eager to step out of his and willing clients' comfort zone to pursue original artwork with a lasting impression.

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