A Sexy photo-shoot is about more than pictures. It’s radical self-love.

A few months ago, I got an idea in my head. The thing about me is that whenever I get an idea in my head, I have to do whatever the thing is. Otherwise, I’ll be stuck with the thought. Maybe forever. Or, I suppose, that’s the fear.

Not being able to let things go is a blessing and a curse, because sometimes it looks like sheer determination. Other times, as just about any of my friends would tell you, it looks like really bad decisions. Luckily, this time my idea wasn’t all that bad. It was just out of character.

My idea? To hire a photographer to have a sexy, half-naked photo shoot.

Here’s how it went down. I’d been following photographer, Jill Mills for a while on Instagram and I was truly amazed by her work. Jill is both a family photographer and a boudoir photographer. Something about the boudoir shots really spoke to me in a way images don’t often do. I mean, I’m more of a words girl, ya know? What I loved was that the pictures felt really authentic. And, as a single mom who was doing a lot of self-discovery in a brand new phase of life, I was really drawn to that intense honesty. I also felt like it would be fun to do something uniquely for me. So, I contacted Jill and we set up a session.

A few weeks later, I used a borrowed apartment for the shoot. My house was too covered in dog hair and kid toys, I decided. That morning, I was ridiculously nervous. I paced the apartment in my gold bodysuit and cut-off overalls, which I had text to Jill the night before to make sure was #boudoir approps. But when she arrived, we hugged like old friends, and instantly, I felt more at ease. Still, I was concerned with was how awkward this might be. (Like, what would I do with my arms?) What if I was so strained and silly she couldn’t get a single good photograph?

First, Jill told me exactly what to do. She told me how to move my awkward arms so they weren’t so awkward. She told me where to look and gave me cues like “breathe through your mouth.” I started to let my guard down, too. By the end of the shoot I felt really comfortable in front of the camera while she clicked away. Having a confident, down-to-earth person conducting your shoot is everything, I learned.

I had imagined the shoot itself would be just a means to an end — the thing I had to do to get the thing I wanted — one nice picture of myself from a good angle, with decent lighting, maybe looking a little bit fierce. What I found was that the experience itself was pretty invigorating. And, I had fun. It had also been a lesson in being open, vulnerable and letting go of the results. And that just felt good, no matter what the pictures might look like, I decided.

After a few weeks, I got an email from Jill with a link to check out my images. I was blown away at how many good shots there were. I kept messaging Jill to let her know what an amazing job I thought she did. They didn’t look a thing like I imagined. They were beautiful and tasteful and the lighting was lovely. If I had tried to imagine the best case scenario, it probably would’ve looked exactly like what she produced. But truthfully, I never imagined I’d like them quite as much as I did. That is not thanks to my subpar model skills, mind you. That’s thanks to having an amazing photographer who knows how to make anyone feel at ease.

The most unexpected gift of the shoot was getting to see myself in a whole different light, one where I feel uniquely in touch with myself. The joy of having that captured in these pictures is a feeling that will last forever. That authenticity was the thing I fell in love with about Jill’s pictures to begin with. I had no idea if she’d be able to bring out the same thing in me.

I think I was ready for some radical self-love, too, though. Of all my crazy ideas that I just can’t let go, this one turned out not so crazy. And I have the pictures to prove it. #noregrets

About Sarah Bregel

Sarah Bregel is a writer, mother, feminist and deep breather. She has contributed to Vice, Vox, Slate, Longreads, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Parents, and has been featured in multiple anthologies. She lives in Mount Washington with her two children, who are 9 and 5, and is working on her first manuscript.

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