Exclusive Interview with Jessica Rae and Aroha McKaig: How Sexuality, Erotica, and Vulnerability Plays Into Their Jobs


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Join us in this week’s interview with Jessica Rae and Aroha McKaig for firsthand insight into how photographing boudoir is about telling a story and letting people know that they can embrace their sexuality without feeling ashamed of it. They have thorough conversations with their clients to get to know what they want out of these photos and always try to make clients feel comfortable in their studio space. They always push themselves in order to come up with new creative ideas for their shoots, and like to change studio spaces, travel, and see what other photographers in their industry are doing. Incorporating sexuality into their photographs requires them to understand what the clients limits are and make them feel comfortable in the shoot. When it comes to shooting erotica, they bring in someone who is comfortable doing it and find out what poses to shoot them in.

Vulnerability is a big factor in their photography because their photos are all about storytelling. They like to talk with their clients and relate to them before taking their photos. Since many of these clients are taking these pictures in order to free themselves of a trauma or negative experience, they always try to make sure that the client comes out of the photo session feeling less damaged than they came in.

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About Jenn Bruno Smith:

After leaving a successful career as a ​speech ​pathologist and clinical liaison, ​Jenn moved into pursuing her business full time. ​She has been shooting boudoir exclusively for 4 year​s​ and teaching marketing and business to the photography industry​ for the last two.

Jenn is a featured educator in the Do More Forum and AIBP. She is a guest blogger for Skip Cohen University and her work has been featured on Fstoppers. ​Jenn enjoys mentoring other photographers and teaching them her ninja business ways​. She also enjoys ​spending time with her family and ​three small children,​ as well as sleeping (when she finds the time).

You can catch up with Jenn in her group The High Rollers Club- IPS, Business and Marketing for Boudoir photographers

About Jessica Rae:

Jessica Rae is an intimate portrait / boudoir & editorial photographer. She strives to be a visionary; a story keeper, and a believer in the power of vulnerability. Her alchemic mix of photography and soul resonates deep through a personal journey of uncovering her own beauty. Check out her work here:

About Aroha McKaig:

Aroha is an intimate Portrait and Boudoir photographer based in London, ON, Canada. She is a firm believer that Boudoir Photography is for everyone. Her philosophy is a simple one, EVERYBODY deserves to feel sexy!! View her work here:

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:00:01] Hey guys! Jenn Bruno Smith here from the High Rollers Club. I am here with Jessica Rae and Aroha McKaig. I’m so happy to see you both. Thank you so much for joining me today. So we have both of you in the same place at the same time. So Aroha how did you make it? Are you with Jessica right now or is Jessica with you?

Aroha McKaig: [00:00:24] So I made it out here to Vancouver. I actually came out to celebrate his 40th birthday. We did that last weekend. And while I’m in Vancouver, we’re working on some up-and-coming things that we’ll be doing in this year and for next year in terms of education. So we thought, what better way to come celebrate with your bestie and then do some work while we’re at it.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:00:48] Of course, and you know, you guys are such like a power couple. I say power couple. You’re not actually a couple, but you’re really like together, though, you have you both have such incredible strengths. And so like when you’re putting them together, it’s really quite impressive. And I know like I’ve seen Jessica speak and I’ve seen Aroha speak. And so seeing you both in the same place, it’s probably going to be really cool. I know you guys have workshops that you’re putting on together.

Jessica Rae: [00:01:16] So, yeah, we’ve got the first one of the year we’ll be in Vegas on I believe the 22nd and 23rd of February just right before WPI starts. And then we have Captain Moore, of course, in June in Ontario.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:01:31] Yeah. Which is so fun. Camp last year almost killed me!

Jessica Rae: [00:01:38] You know, I don’t even know what kind of mosquito bit you. But that was not pretty.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:01:44] I don’t think I’m going to make it back because I, like legit almost died and I was there. I even made it to the Canadian E.R. I had the full Canada experience. While I was there, I was stopped at customs. I made it to the E.R. I made it so Niners.

Aroha McKaig: [00:02:02] I would think you did a triple right, lady.

Jessica Rae: [00:02:05] Wow.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:02:06] I had all but I didn’t have sushi, but I had everything, including the black flies. So, you know, I mean, I don’t know.

Jessica Rae: [00:02:15] Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian. They don’t bite me. I knock on wood.

Aroha McKaig: [00:02:20] I usually get picked up and carried away by mosquitos but they didn’t touch me at all. I was happy because I’m usually the one

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:02:31] That’s because I was there. So they were you know, everyone else was safe because I was there. They probably want to come back to camp for that fact alone just to be, you know. But that aside, not to scare anybody away.

Aroha McKaig: [00:02:44] Camp really is amazing.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:02:56] No one else almost died there. It was, it was really cool. And my blood being super extra and my allergy or whatever.

Jessica Rae: [00:03:06] Benadryl and off. And you’re good.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:03:10] Exactly. So let’s talk a little bit about I know that you both have really cool stories. Maybe let’s start with Aroha. Tell me a little bit about where you started and then how you ended up here. Because I feel like boudoir photographers, we all have really cool stories that kind of got us to where we are. So maybe we could talk a little bit about yours because it’s really powerful.

Aroha McKaig: [00:03:33] Awesome. Yeah, sure. For sure. So as you can tell, when I exit, I’m not from these parts. I was born in New Zealand, but spent most of my life growing up in Australia. My most of my adult life did so in Australia. I was a wedding and portrait photographer and I did that for a number of years before I moved to Canada. Now, coming to Canada was a huge learning curve. This is obviously a travel from the outside of the world and it was so that I could be with my husband who’s Canadian. So when I came here, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do and I’ve done the wedding thing for a long time. So it was kind of working through that, yeah, I think I can let that go and maybe concentrate on something else. And while I was kind of working through that and trying to figure out what that something else was, I kind of took a reflective step backwards and looked at what inspired me. When it comes, you know, when it comes to women and my personal journey into, you know, showing my sexuality as a use and having been ostracized a lot for what people considered to be promiscuous behavior. And essentially, I just was digging deep into why what was my why? Why did I feel that boudoir was something? I wanted to head towards my career, and that’s when I realized that it was about telling a story or letting woman tell a story about, you know, it’s okay to embrace your sexuality without feeling ashamed of it. And I was shamed for many, many years because I was outwardly sexual. But I was like, well, hell, you know, I like, why can’t we be? Why is there this stigma attached to it? You know, why is there such a thing as slut shaming when we’re all sexual beings at the end of the day.

Aroha McKaig: [00:05:39] So that’s what I wanted to showcase when I decided that I wanted to go into the boudoir industry and started very subtle because, of course, we all start somewhere and kind of just jump in and go shower, you know, change everything.

Aroha McKaig: [00:05:53] And that’s when I started getting educated on the boudoir industry itself. And that’s when I decided that I was going to take, you know, just stance and position that I do with my boudoir photography. So, yeah, pretty much my story.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:06:12] So whenever you’re shooting, I read that you give a lot of direction, like very specific direction and I’d imagine that would be difficult for someone that say once to shoot a little bit more and more erotica, like for someone that isn’t experiencing giving direction in a clinical manner I guess.

Aroha McKaig: [00:06:34] I mean, like with all my clients, they obviously they seek out my work because it’s what they’re looking to have for themselves. And there’s always very candid conversations, the four sessions about what it is that they want to do, how they want to express themselves, you know, what their hard limits are, the areas that they’re not sure about, but they think they might want to explore. So, you know, we have those very thorough conversations. So I know where it is. They want to go with a session and where they want to take it. And of course, there’s no judgment at all in my studio as to what that is for each person. So once we do that, I have a pretty good idea of what it is that they’re looking for. So then it’s a case of getting them comfortable in a safe space, but then also directing them in a manner that’s very like when we talk about this Jessica and I talk about our styles and the way that we approach our clients. I’m very structured in the way that I direct my clients. They don’t really have a lot of time to think or get too much into their own heads about what it is I’m asking them to do.

Aroha McKaig: [00:07:54] So if it’s a very provocative pose or, you know, it’s it’s revealing or showing or what have you, I do it in such a manner that they’re really just doing it step by step. And I’m documenting it as they go. So, you know, if it’s like, put your right hand here and raise your hand here and do this and that, it’s very hard for them to really know what it is they’re doing because it’s done in such a way that it’s just like, well, you’re getting a sexual image. There’s nothing sexual about what you do know. That is right. Kind of clinical, the end of it. There is a clinical step to it. I mean, some people like to explore it and sometimes it’s just the like, okay, we’ve done what we need to do here. Is there anything else? And they might just, you know, do their own little thing and go off on their own little journey for a minute or two and then we move on to the next thing. So that’s my approach. Yeah.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:08:53] Yeah, that’s pretty similar to what I do. Actually, I’m very clinical. I give a lot of direction, but I’m more on the glam side.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:09:01] So I think it’s so interesting to talk to photographers that go more towards, you know, exploring like what the client wants to do sexually. Because my work is, but it’s not bad. So I would like as a as another as a boudoir photographer. I actually wouldn’t even know where to start because I feel like my lines are so much deeper in the sand maybe. You know. I’ve done it before. So but for what about for you guys like it. And so it justifies you or your work as well. It’s is very sensual and very, you know, beautiful and so creative. Both of you, like I really feel like your work is so creative. Every single time you shoot like it some something different, which again, is out of the box for me because I’m a very systematic shooter. So how do you guys not burn out? How do you keep going with new creative things for every shoot and not feel like your brain is going to implode?

Jessica Rae: [00:10:11] I mean, I think we all have kind of our base poses and kind of our basic workflow that we start from. We work from home. But I would burnout and I would fizzle out if I just did the same routine every single day. I just I mean, if you followed my work at all for any amount of time, which I know you have done, you see that I’m constantly changing up the studio space, even if maybe some of the poses in my workflow with my clients are the same. I’ve changed up my space and that makes a great team when I have clients that are coming back for repeat sessions, Stewart kind of keeps it a little different from that.

Aroha McKaig: [00:10:44] Environment changes and then your creative juices flow again.

Jessica Rae: [00:10:48] I mean, I’ve been in my space now for over four years and it’s not huge. It’s slowly kind of slowly taking over my entire house. That’s what that’s how I don’t get burnt out. To just keep pushing myself and keep getting creative. On the last six months or so, I’ve really started pushing myself outside of my box. I was ninety nine percent natural light. I do live in the Pacific Northwest. So a lot of overcast, cloudy days.

Jessica Rae: [00:11:22] I started to incorporate a lot more ambient lights and lanterns and stuff like that in my space. And it wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision to like I’m going to do this. It just kind of slowly evolved. And then other times. Yeah. And I love it. I love traveling. I love going to other photographers studios and seeing what other people do, because then I’m like, oh, I’m going to bring back here and try this. And so it helps, you know, step outside of my comfort zone. I think it’s so important, especially in our industry, to go to these meetups and go to these workshops and conferences and all of these things because we are so isolated right now. This is where we start energizing ourselves and then having other creative people around and not getting burnt out.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:12:04] Absolutely. And I know like so your space, when I think about you, in addition to the work, it’s your space and how creative you are in that space. And I know like whenever I’m shopping for new props or like things to add to my studio, I stop. And I think, what would Jessica do?

Aroha McKaig: [00:12:22] I think everybody does. I don’t think people enough not people know that Aroha’s studio is almost a clone of mine. That was one thing that attracted us together when we first met. As far as industry. Part of our relationship goes is that we were similar. You could see a photo from her and be like is this Jessica’s or Aroha’s? Because I’m not quite sure who studio because we both of our plants and we both utilize light in similar ways. We have a similar sense of style. For example I’ll be like I just bought this and she’s like, oh man, I bought that six months ago. It’s been sitting, waiting for me to put it up or will buy in the same week without talking. Also the same people that will wake up in the same day and like being thrown out exactly the same. Not on purpose.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:13:07] Great minds think alike. And I’m sure you guys are dying at my fake plants behind me. Yeah, they look great!

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:13:17] But you know, right now, because we have three small children, we’re like, okay. Our goal is to keep the kids lives. So after like, they’re kind of more self-sufficient, then I’ll move on to plants. But right now, I just don’t know if I could remember to water them.

Aroha McKaig: [00:13:31] I think yours are all artificial in your debut. I’m not a Green Zone. I’ve tried multiple times and I killed every single one of them.

Jessica Rae: [00:13:39] I’m also really rough with them. Like I we both move them around and we’re jumping in them and shooting through them. And that I mean, a real plant would not survive. Not and I started incorporating some, but they’re just more like more of the core pieces in the back. The mean larger ones are all artificial.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:13:56] Well, you know, let’s backtrack just a little bit. Jessica, tell me your story. Like how you came to find boudoir and you know, where you started and then how you ended up here.

Jessica Rae: [00:14:07] I always get so tripped up when people ask me that because I don’t remember a specific moment that really attracted me to boudoir. I’ve been an artist my whole life. I’ve. I would often sit in front of the mirror and draw myself. As a teenager. And that like I’ve always been doing body scapes. I’ve always done portraits. Even I was doing sculpting, I was doing portraits and masks and faces, it’s always been the human body and the human element. It’s not landscapes. It’s not all of this stuff. So for me, I think boudoir was just a natural attraction in transition when I started doing photography. But obviously my own story in my own journey has brought me to where I am. And I think maybe more than the average photographer, I really feel my personal journey. Has really I really infused that into my work, Yes, I want to help other people to see and embrace themselves in a positive light, but I’m also helping myself because by helping others and helping myself. And so that’s something that I’ve really become aware of in the last year or two, as is how much I. It sounds kind of selfish, but I’m doing it for me. Yeah, but it really helped. I mean, I see where I started. You know, I left a toxic relationship and that really did a number on my mental health and my and what not.

Jessica Rae: [00:15:34] And yes, it was after that that I started really pursuing boudoir. And it’s just I’m like, I’ve done a 180. I think it’s funny because we often joke that, like, you know, we started on parallel pasts, but separated, you know, we started life and we met at this kind of precipice moment where we kind of had a crossover and now we’re back on parallel path. But we kind of switched sides because I feel like my work back in the day when I started my intention and my drive was more sexually charged imagery and it was about owning your sexuality. So I can very much relate. Relate with a row, huh? And if you had told me even six years ago that I’d be sitting here telling you that my entire mission and passion is about vulnerability, I would have laughed at you. I never would have thought that that was somewhere that I could get to myself. But in trying to help others to explore their vulnerability, I’ve done myself a favor and I’ve gone there myself. So it’s been a really long transformative in a wild ride for both myself and my business and my client. So so he’s over here in the park.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:16:45] So how would you separate the vulnerability from the sexuality? Because I think so often they’re intertwined. So do you separate? How do you separate those out in your work?

Jessica Rae: [00:16:58] For me personally, it’s just about I don’t think I don’t think I separate it per say in my work. I think there’s always an element to it. It really depends on my subject. My my whole brand is about a collaborative art experience. And so I really fall on my subject going. So what are your intentions with your session today? Why are you here? Why do you want to do this? What do you want to walk away from? What emotions or trauma or celebration or what have you brought you to me for this? So let’s explore that and let’s talk about that. And that’s really going to dictate the overall intention, mood and feel of the entire session. So, I mean, it’s it’s less on me and more on that.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:17:41] Yeah. So how do you so do you do that discussion before they come to your studio or do you do that like when they come in and like you have that discussion first?

Jessica Rae: [00:17:51] It’s a bit of a process. So even on my initial contact form, when they contact me, I have open ended questions like what prompts you to do a 12 hour session and why are you looking to do this? I’m already got them thinking about these things once they’ve actually booked the session. And of course, I have a three session questionnaire which again goes into these questions again, like, why are you doing this? Why do you want to do this? What are you hoping to obtain from this? So they’ve already kind of got thinking about that for letting me know. Step by step. And I’m building a rapport with them to have these very candid conversations. Once they come in during hair and makeup, I start kind of just chipping away a little bit. I’m always present for when they’re doing hair and makeup so that, again, I’m building that rapport. And I just start, oh, I noticed on your crest or in your intake form and said this one. Tell me a little bit more about that or what? This. And then so we’re already starting to build this relationship.

Jessica Rae: [00:18:42] Then makeup goes and we’re one on one. And I’m like, so I really want to know, like, what’s your intention? Like, what kind of images do you want? We can go here. We can go here. And some people are like, oh, I’m willing to explore. And so I think the main difference between a Aroha and I is that she hears that and then she’s like, okay, I’m going to do this, this this to get you there. Where is I’m more like. I allow you the safe place to explore that on your own. And I think the benefit from having taken a workshop with us like we’re doing is that you’re going to have. The tools in that tool belt to pull from how I approach it and the pull from how she approaches it, because those are our defaults. And where we where we want to go. But not every client works for either situation. So, I mean, I’ve had clients where I had to put on a row hat and start really getting regimented and respect.

Aroha McKaig: [00:19:33] And I have clients that want to go down the Jessica route. And I’m just like ok what would Jessica do? Yes, you would do this and this. We can do this, right. So it’s all very dependent on the client as well. Obviously, people are drawn to, well, what specific reasons? Because they see it and they can envisage themselves in those images. So already be kind of know that that’s why they’re doing to us. But when you break it down and you have those very candid conversations and you find out more about the client’s journey and where they’ve come from and how they want to be showcased, that’s where that’s where the gold is. Right. And then you look like Jessica. Does I sit with him in hair and makeup and we discuss things and we talk about how how they got to be at this point in their life or on their sexual journey, why they want to explore these things, you know? So we get pretty deep like we do, you know. And and providing a safe space to do this. Is so important. You know, we aren’t your large mainstream boudoir studios. We have very much chic style settings with us with our studios, so. Yeah.

Jessica Rae: [00:20:57] Be sure you find this, too, even if they’re coming in to kind of explore sexuality and stuff that. There is no one reason ever. Why do clients book sessions with you? I’m like for me in my brand and how I’ve structured things. People want to share their stories. That’s sometimes such a celebration. Maybe they’re celebrating. Getting pregnant or getting married or having a fitness journey or something like that. But I’m going to tell you. Be honest, I find in my experience my studio more often oftentimes not it’s a trauma center.

Aroha McKaig: [00:21:31] Or something that negatively impacted them and their lives. To release it, let go. Be free of it.

Jessica Rae: [00:21:40] So it’s either therapeutic or it’s a celebration. Regardless of their reason, it’s always for them.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:21:48] I hear you guys saying like you get a little bit deeper with their their why and you dig deeper. And so all of that like we talked a little bit about like a creative burnout. But do you guys feel like an empathetic burnout?

Aroha McKaig: [00:22:03] You know, we’re both empaths.

Jessica Rae: [00:22:10] So when people are like, oh, can we do a marathon or can we do a bunch of my girlfriends in one day? No, no. I don’t have the emotional capacity to handle all of your stuff. I don’t call it baggage, but you like your story and your right eye on it. Yes. No, I’m not a high volume business. So if, for example, someone books on a Monday, I usually try to scurry to block off Tuesday on my thing so that the next time I spoke to Wednesday or Thursday, I’m happy with like two clients a week. I need a recharge day between them, right?

Aroha McKaig: [00:22:44] Yes. It’s heavy. When you saw my talk in Texas in the last year and you saw my story and you you got to see firsthand like it can be pretty heady stuff that people bring in to you. And it’s like it’s great. I’m here. Listen, I’m here to guide and I’m here to help you. But you also need to be very aware of your own mental health after you’ve done the session, because otherwise it can get to the point where you just like, whoa, that was a lot. Right. And I know for a fact that Jessica’s had some amazing clients that have come in with some pretty like heavy stories. And, you know, she sometimes needed to come to me and talk to me about it. Right. And just say that’s need to like a little bit. Right. Like, that would be fine. I’m just saying. So in that respect, it’s great to have someone that understands outright to the impasse. But I think the thing that keeps me going is if I’m sitting here opposing someone else’s story, that it impacted me like that. Imagine what I’ve done for them. So let them pass that on. So that’s what keeps pushing, which gives me going on, right. You’re doing good things for these people.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:24:04] So that was my next question, how you kind of recover from, you know, working with people who have such, you know, heavy story?

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:24:13] So one is talking to a friend and like, offloading it yourself. Do you have any other?

Jessica Rae: [00:24:28] But even if you want to keep it back to back to photo related, it’s not all clients. It’s not all heavy. We are really big believers in working within our industry. And my to me, my definition of our industry doesn’t end with photographers, is working with other creative individuals. So whether you’re working with models, or make-up artists or designers and stuff like that. I love to do that because then I can just create, be free, and do whatever I want without this burden is not the best word, but this responsibility that I have with the client. Let’s get creative and have fun, right?

Aroha McKaig: [00:25:05] Yeah, I think that’s that’s pretty much how we both roll with that. And just finding those other outlets, like I’m not a huge gym person, but I know a lot of people like it active and go gyming whatever I like. So for me, it’s music. So I’ll be at a bar or whatever. Listen to my band and just like kind of get myself energized that way or creative session, stuff like that. You kind of take the heaviness that can come with it and you offset it with something really positive and something that makes you feel good. So there’s that balance, right? Yeah.

Aroha McKaig: [00:25:42] And then obviously the wine house, no matter what is going on.

Jessica Rae: [00:25:48] I mean, having a family and having kids can be great, too, because everything revolves around them. So, I mean, really, you’re all your energy and your thought and everything goes into. So it’s a good release and distraction and just have fun in and check out from our firm.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:26:08] So I do have another question. So really we’re talking about like if the client had limits. But what about you yourself?

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:26:16] Like, do you have limits with what you would shoot and what you wouldn’t?

Aroha McKaig: [00:26:26] Not really, unless I feel like my safety is in harm’s way, then I am happy to explore whatever my client wants to. Whether that is a live sex shoot or whether it’s someone who’s come in and you know, cross-dresser or transgender or whatever, they want to explore whatever they want to explore. I don’t have any major hard limits when it comes to that stuff. There are rules and guidelines in place in terms of how they conduct themselves when they’re in my studio. But other than that, like, I really want them to explore their sexuality. They are way they want to. Even though I’m very structured in the way that I do my sessions, it really is about the client experience for them at the end of the day. And I just need to make sure that the client. And I are on the same page about expectations. All right. You know, and if I get a weird, strange kind of vibe about something and my gut tells us right like this is it that all of this is perhaps someone that’s just pranking or whatever. You can usually figure those people out pretty quickly, especially with what I do. Right. Like you run around. And that kind of intimate lifestyle stuff. So, yeah, I don’t really put too much of in the way of limits in place. I just make sure safety comes first in all aspects of the sexual safety if it’s my personal space and safety. I made sure those things are taking care of for 40 things happen.

Jessica Rae: [00:28:06] And if you do have harder limits, if you do have harder lines that boundaries that you want to set, I think just making sure that you are clear about it up front. And these are hard lines like I will go to this and then that’s it. And if you want more than that, then maybe on the Tigris for you, I’m going to refer you to a robot.

Aroha McKaig: [00:28:24] Or sometimes there are clients that when you do it, when they do the intake, well, then what have you. There is a section that says, you know what, I your happiness. Where do you not want to go in all of that? And then there’s a section where it says, you know, I would do it. Oh, do you want to explore in this area or play or whatever? And this kind of like. Well, I’m not quite sure at this moment. Can we see on the day? And I always say for sure if I if it’s something that I feel like is out of my realm of understanding, for example, I don’t do any shabari or anything like that myself. If I’m if a client wants that or someone wants to have a BDSM shoot, then I’m going to seek out those professionals to be able to provide those services. So I’m not putting myself in a position where I’m right. Tieing and rigging or, that’s not what I do. I have a professional come in and do that. So we need to be very clear about what their expectations of me are and the direction they want to take you so that they get what they want. But instead of being handled safely by the right position, you want to hear something really crazy.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:29:39] Shabari is the only kink that I’ve actually shot.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:29:42] I didn’t do any of that.I actually shot a couple in Vegas and they did like circus rigging, so it was awesome. They’re in cirque de soleil display. So it was like second nature for them. So them. Yeah. I’m sure many work.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:30:00] All I had to do is, you know, direct.

Aroha McKaig: [00:30:03] I mean, that’s the thing a lot of the people that come to me there every day humans. Right, like some of them want to explore different avenues and they have no clue as to how they go about it. So a lot of my process is getting them connected to the people that can help them. You know, having meetings with DOMS and what have you prior to the shoot so that they are aware of the safety aspects and what’s required in terms of your physical abilities, you know, because there are exercises that need to be done before these things take place. So. And also knowing the safety rules, you know, green and the red one is the stop, you know? Where do we stop all the safe words for this kind of thing? So, yeah, it’s important to make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:30:54] So in addition to the photo shoot, you have this network of people, of experts around, you know, if a client will come to you and say, like they want to explore like a certain kink or something like that, then you would reach out to that expertly and bring them in.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:31:11] And do you then like contact them to come in and be present for this part of this session?

Aroha McKaig: [00:31:18] We have a group meeting before the shoot. So, for example, recently I had someone coming in and they wanted to have a session and they wanted Jabari and they they had a lot of ideas. And so I reached out to some people in my community to be out to get them together, to come in with the client. And we sat down and we discussed things in length about how it all goes back then. Obviously, they take your information away and process it. But in the actual client has access to that person to be able to ask questions. I don’t necessarily have to be involved in that part of it, but I do need to know how they want to work the scene so that I can photographing accordingly. Right. Sometimes it will be more of a voyeuristic look at the situation. Other times it’s going to be. I just want documentation of this. Jenny, I’m going on. Wantit you know, sometimes they just want to feel like they’re having actual like a BDM session, right? Right. So that’s where we work with those fine details in the consult where we come in. So it’s really important to know the people in your industry. Yeah. That kind of thing and make those connections or relationships because those are the people that fall for me. Anyway, I’m going to be there helping provide a service, but they’re also helping to provide an experience for my client and that is almost like I’m incorporating them into my brand. Right. You have to have a very trustworthy relationship with individuals that you’re bringing into your business that are going to be a part of your brand. Right. Right. Yeah.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:33:17] This is such an interesting conversation and it’s something that’s so outside of the realm of what I shoot that it’s so intriguing to me. I love hearing how other people run their businesses and like run their studios. I just I love hearing that. But, you know, I before we started recording, I shared with you guys a story about more of like an ethical dilemma, like I was having a little bit of an ethical dilemma with the situation. And, you know, I can’t really share it on the recording. But how do you guys feel whenever you have? Because I know you said no judgment. And I totally and it’s. And I try very hard, but in some situations there is some judgment. And how do you guys quit like separating? First of all, how do you deal with separating yourself from the situation? And then secondly, is there is there sometimes where you’re like, I just I can’t. Like, I don’t know what to do with this, you know, I wouldn’t in your situation either.

Jessica Rae: [00:34:16] When you heard that, that was hard no. I mean, I think that goes beyond just that that’s beyond comfort level and beyond that. That’s. Being a decent human being.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:34:32] I guess to kind of share a little bit more without sharing too.

Jessica Rae: [00:34:40] I can’t look at where I’ve had a situation like that. And I’ll hear from other photographers that are like, oh, they wanted to do all these poses like they came a printed print dress and I want all these photos, I I don’t get them. I got them. And I don’t know if it’s because of the work I share or whatnot. I really don’t know. I haven’t really had anything. I do get occasionally like a prop request or something. That is just it’s not me. I just can’t really think of anything. Usually I humor them and I’ll just kind of like it. I’ll take a photo whenever they can happen.

Aroha McKaig: [00:35:23] I mean, for me there’s been a couple of situations where there’s been people engaging in say that it’s necessarily fully disclosing it to their partners outside of their marriage or relationship or what have you. Which I’m like that information I’m usually privy to. So because they’ll say, like, this isn’t my wife, this is my husband’s and we want to shoot this and. For all intents and purposes, what they do is really none of my business. So they’re engaging me in providing them with a service. Ms. You know, at the end of the day, I’m there to photograph it. And and what they do is really out today. I feel like if all goes, it’s legal. Yeah. As long as hitting anybody, hiring anybody. I mean, like that’s that’s the relationship it really sets aside. Right. That’s the business. I’m actually not hurting myself or anybody in my space. If you are not doing anything illegal, if they are both so consenting adults, I have no problem. And it’s not to say that you know what? It would be something. I do know I would do that. Like, that’s just not how I roll. But there’s so many different types of relationships out there now that, you know, it’s hard to just say, oh, yes, I do that on I would. So I guess not.

Jessica Rae: [00:36:57] You know, I think relationship speaking, I’m not going to speak. You know what I mean? Like, that’s not my place. That’s between them and their partners and what they want to do. Like you say, as long as there’s no physical harm being done or anything illegal, in your case, it wasn’t necessarily physical harm, but it was still harmful. You know, I think that falls that does fall into. Legalities, actually, because you’ve got. For black of a better term. It’s like hate speech. Yeah. And it’s only though you can’t. Oh, yeah. So so that to me would be hard. No. In that realm.

Aroha McKaig: [00:37:34] If it’s something like that, it’s detrimental to a specific way you about it. So I’ve never ever had anybody ask to come in with a gun to my studio or anything like that that happened that I’m aware of. Yeah. That’s when I’ve known for me years and I don’t do that for me as well. That is probably when you ask the question before, I didn’t think about that. But I’m saying all was then. Well, it. But again, you need that feels I can see for myself is what makes me right. Like Thane had no guns.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:38:05] That’s actually a hard no for me too, because I don’t know how to use a gun. I know. That’s just I don’t know. I know this.

Aroha McKaig: [00:38:12] I know I’m not licensed to be giving out guns. Bring your whip, cuffs you know, a spread of whatever you want. No problem. Gun? No.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:38:22] Right. So, you know, I’m sure like I think we’re kind of assuming that a lot of the people that are listening to this could potentially be boudoir photographers are thinking about shooting boudoir, but probably not at the level of expertise that we’re at in our field.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:38:36] So what advice do you have to the people that are listening to this? And, you know, number one, they’re probably like, whoa, this is a lot like, I don’t know about all this with you, but maybe they will always have somebody shooting like more erotica or more in incorporating more like sexuality and into their shooting. What type of advice you have? Like what what’s the baby steps where they can start at this one directed?

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:39:05] Well, if we’re talking about more than the sexuality side of things. Absolutely. I think you. More to shut on that. So baby steps, I think it’s important to be able to define yourself and your level of comfort. If you’re going into the realm of very intimate lifestyle photography or erotica, like you’re obviously exploring that area in some capacity for yourself if you’re drawn to that kind of imagery. So thinking about what it is like, where your limits are. Where do you know? Where do you put the line in the sand? Is a good way to stop because then you can define how far you want to go with it and the small steps that you take to get there. So, I mean, I always had a tendency to go along with sexuality path, but it didn’t stop there. I started Broughton Airy like I would tell you then, like you can write. And then as I left the basics and I think we were talking about this yesterday, about the basics where you begin and boudoir ground level, you will slowly grow and learn and see styles that you were drawn to. And from there you can source those type of educators or those podcasts or that kind of thing. Right. To hone your skills, I think something that’s really important is to get educated. Like if you are completely green to the world of erotica, then start finding out more. What’s terminology? What do the words me? What do phrases mean? You know, connect with people in your community, go to your local sex store and talk to the staff there and, you know, just strike up conversations and related stuff, building relationships. Because before long, I mean, the king can count community in the water community in most places is quite small unless you’re in a big city. Right. So it doesn’t take long for word to get out that this is a service. That you you can buy to the sex shop club. Right. So and building those things will stop teaching you a lot more about what you need to know to get into it. So that’s like a networking way. Right.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:41:41] That’s great advice. And then for like the vulnerability part of it, like, you know, the storytelling with more of the emotion, because I kind of like see the derivation of like where yours is more like sensuality and emotion and story driven. And then I wrote, hi, you’re a little bit more. You’re still story driven, but more on like the sexuality side. So what about if you want to start doing more like storytelling and vulnerability telling? Where would you recommend that as a new photographer would start?

Jessica Rae: [00:42:21] Remember, first and foremost, and I make this very clear in my communication with my clients, I am not a therapist. I’m not a counselor. I’m not trained in any of these things. But definitely through my my journey of doing this is something that I’m looking more into. Not that I want to become a therapist, but just to make sure that the number one thing I never want to do is have a client walk away feeling more damaged or as damaged as they didn’t and they can’t claim it. Right. And so I’m very careful with that. I’m a talker. My strengths, empathy and the communicator. So. I think I just naturally tend to fall onto that spectrum, so it’s easier for me to just talk and relate and compare likes commiserate is a better word. Yeah. I don’t. My brain’s scrambling. It’s been a long week.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:43:20] It’s a Friday, the end of the week.

Jessica Rae: [00:43:22] The most thing I can say is just just keep pushing and keep going. I’m somebody that I do have a lot of anxiety. I suffer from crippling imposter syndrome at times and I have my moments. Shed a tear. I wallow, I bitch, I complain. I’m always worried, but I don’t let it stop me. I pause. But then I just keep going and I keep pushing.

Jessica Rae: [00:43:52] If I had let it stop me, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now. I refuse to let it own me and control me. And I just keep pushing through. And I think, I guess a tip I would say for somebody starting out. I know there’s a lot of photographers out there that like to sing praises that they’ve never worked with a model before. They only work with real women.

McKaig: [00:44:18] I got to tell you, when you’re first starting out, they’re amazing. You can’t be thinking about your camera settings, your lighting, your studio design.

Aroha McKaig: [00:44:32] Halo came into the studio and she would see you just birthday too. And we were like, Dane, come and play. We’ve got Jessica set up a new space in the studio. Want to try it out? All right. Give it a go. Like we didn’t have any, do we? Just on a particular day. What if you start with me?

Jessica Rae: [00:44:51] They either connect with your local industry groups. Facebook is amazing. Like we have a model photographer, makeup artists like all in one group and just create with people and collaborate with people. So then you can start experimenting. When I started, I did have some models that were they knew their body. They were comfortable with themselves. They allowed me to share images without having to like face my clients at the time.

Jessica Rae: [00:45:16] And I would I would never experiment on a client and try something new. I’m going to do that on my own time. So you’re gonna do that with someone that you could call suit. All right. So give you that right. If you’re really, really new and you’re still learning your camera. The last thing you want to do is you’re learning, posing at the same time. So just brings you to maybe already is comfortable with themselves and that you can just focus on the light or how to use your camera manual or how how your space works and where the pockets of light are. You know, I think it’s just I love it. It feeds my soul creatively. Sometimes they can help me to come up with new policies and new ideas, new things that I would never have thought of. I think I’m now at a place that I have enough experience and that behind me that my clients feel a little bit more comfortable. So I’m just like like you said, you kind of do all of the the base poses and the safe stuff. And we did this. Okay, that at such a time would you want to do like do you want to play? And now I can open that up to my client, but I’m never gonna just do that other client because odds are they’re not necessarily going to give me permission to share.

Jessica Rae: [00:46:15] And I might create some amazing art with them. And I’m like, oh, and I see this. So I’m excited. But I never I want to do that. And then once you were confident and skilled with the technical parts, with the lights and your camera and all that, then you start bringing doing. I call them casting calls rather than medical’s. I do work with models and there’s crossover there and get confusing and misleading. So start building your portfolio by bringing in just what would be your ideal client and reaching out to them and bringing them in a new start. Folio is really, really important. But just knowing. Knowing the rules so that, you know, when you’re allowed to break them, because that’s what Mark it’s all about. And I think photography is still fun medium. It’s artistic, but it’s also very technical, right. When and where can we go are those lines and where all that’s when the art starts coming in.

Jessica Rae: [00:47:13] Yeah, I manipulate these rules.

Aroha McKaig: [00:47:14] I break all the rules. So, you know. I know them, but in a good way. Not all the rules. The same rules apply technically.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:47:27] This had been such a good talk. This has been so interesting. Tell me again where people want to follow you, like where they would find you at and how they could, you know, sign up for your workshops, things like that.

Jessica Rae: [00:47:41] We are in the process of creating a workshop website, so it’s not here yet, but we are next level boudoir workshops. Right now, everything’s kind of listed on my website, which is

Jessica Rae: [00:47:55] And then we also have a Facebook group. It’s not quite like the educational group that you have, but we definitely share and commiserate and host some workshops and stuff in there, which is called The Dark Room.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:48:09] That’s a great name, I love it!

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:48:12] So we the people can catch you in Vegas and then they can catch you at camp in June, which is like, what, the second, no first week?

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:48:22] Second! And there are some other ones coming up, but they’re not with me. We have to wait for those when. Follow us. She’s the boudoir lounge at Harbor Street. On Instagram. On Instagram. It’s a terribly long name. What is it again? The Boudoir Lounge by Hartistree Street. So that’s my handle. And hers is Jessica Rae.

Jessica Rae: [00:48:47] We’ve got lots going on. We’re going to jump on there and be alive to an open Q&A tonight. So if anybody has questions about the workshop, they can.

Aroha McKaig: [00:49:01] So, yeah. And I mean, just so our workshop, we want to tell them a little bit about what it is that our attendees, if they just decide they want to join us, give you a little bit of rundown of what it is that we’re going to be teaching. And if it interests you or the rules you would like to see you invite.

Jessica Rae: [00:49:19] So in Vegas, we have two classes that are happening on Saturday and the same two classes are happening Sunday. So you can take one of the two classes or you can stay with us the whole day. Basically, what you can expect from our Vegas workshop is to uncover and evaluate your own self-talk and become more vulnerable clients. To understand there is no one path to creating great art, to experience different creative methods and identify which resonate more with you, your personal brand and your goals. So you will possess new tools to drive both artistic results and collaborative experience through directing, posing and coaching to develop skills for communicating better with your clients and to diversify your portfolio while learning from two educators.

Jessica Rae: [00:50:03] We’re going to have Vegas for sure is going to have a lot of portfolio building, offering opportunity to really what we’re taught.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:50:11] Yeah, that’s great. That’s the best way to learn is to hear it and see it and then be able to do it, right?

Aroha McKaig: [00:50:16] Yeah. We’ll be the same two classes, but we’re combining into one three hour class at camp and there will be some portfolio building opportunities there as well. But far more in that. This will be yeah we’ll be available. That’s going to be kickoff.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:50:31] I can’t wait to see you guys there. I’m so excited that we were able to connect and I got you two in the same. I know. I’ll play the lottery now.

Jenn Bruno Smith: [00:50:44] It’s so good seeing your faces.

Jessica Rae: [00:50:46] Bye!

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