Nude western hayloft female portrait photography session

Back – way, way back – when I was an enthusiast in photographing nudes and boudoir, I had a pivotal experience that shaped three foundations of Inner Spirit Photography.

These were quite by accident and I was lucky that I was paying enough attention at the time to notice the impact they had on my subjects, even more so the impact on the success of the session itself.

Let me set the stage for you first. It was in the dying years of the ’70s. I was a Realtor with a past as Recreation Director for small towns. Barely married a scattering of years. I had borrowed Jan’s (my wife) camera to do photography. It was a screw-in lens mount Pentax 35 mm film camera, circa 1955. Essentially photography was my recreational break from real estate, which was a 24/7 job back then.

Our mostly unfinished basement had evolved into the space I photographed in. Mostly, it was the home of a delightful mannequin I used to learn lighting with.

A beautiful blonde secretary to my company’s mortgage broker got excited about my offer to photograph her with a western theme. We planned it out, I brought in tables, found a gunfighter’s quick draw gun, she found outfits. We built the sets and played, changing lights. It went for hours, was so much fun, and created some really good images. It just flowed.

For my next concept I found a willing model but we had a hard time matching schedules to plan the session. Then one day she called with an hour free for the photo shoot later that afternoon. I had no sets or props, we had not planned anything, and there was this short window of time to create something.

It was challenging, oddly exhausting, and totally unsatisfying. Yet she was wonderful.

Jan asked the obvious. “Why?”

With the two sessions so close together, so fresh in my memory, the differences were readily apparent.

It was not the girls; they were both great and good-looking.

The first difference was time planning the session, time learning about my subject, time discussing what we were going to do. So the first session flowed. The second session had no depth because of that missing step.

The second difference was time again: the time in the session, time to create sets, evolve ideas, even to change the lighting. Time not to be rushed or for her to feel rushed or pressured to pose.

The last and biggest difference was the setup. In the first I had created an environment with things my subject could interact with, sit on, become part of the story. It set the mood, the tone, even the style. She could look around and feel the place. She engaged with the environment.

Today those foundations have been refined. The sets are more developed, sometimes more elaborate sometimes simpler, but always relevant to my client and her experience.

So that was the setup, and in the summer of 1980 they became some of the foundations that anchored the birth of Inner Spirit Photography.

Posted by: Mark Laurie

World-renown photoartist Mark Laurie of Inner Spirit Photography specializes in Female Portraiture: nudes, boudoir, prenatal & fine art. His empowering images of women reveal their heart & soul.