How to Prepare for Boudoir, Part 2: Details

These boudoir preparation posts appear as a series for clarity and brevity. If you missed it, check out the first post, How To Prepare for Boudoir, Part 1: Intention.

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Part 2: Details

I’ll be focusing the camera lens on your unique, beautiful details. Whether you choose to get a manicure, wax your bikini line, or get a professional blow-out is really a personal preference. The important consideration is, if you get a beautiful, close-up picture of your hand resting on your leg, will it be ruined, for you, by chipped nail polish or leg stubble? The answer likely resides in whether or not you were intentional about that detail of your presentation.


That is, if chipped black nail polish is your homage to 90s punk aesthetic, you’ll love it. If it’s just a case of overlooking getting that polish refreshed, it could take away from your enjoyment of the photograph.



A related area of consideration is make-up. A common concern is whether, or not, to have professional make-up done before your session. If you’re a regular user of a certain professional make-up artist, then of course, go ahead! However, I would strongly advise against having your make-up done by a professional for the first time before your session. We want you to look, above all other things, like yourself in your photographs, not a lovely stranger.

If you’d like to take your make-up to the next level for your session, consider booking a trial session with the artist, or even a class to learn how to do it yourself.

Finally, examine your reasons for seeking a professional make-up application. If it’s the calming preparatory experience you’re after, consider a facial instead.

Irrespective of what you decide, before you apply any make-up, remember to gently exfoliate, and completely moisturize your skin. Aim for timelessness by making subtle color choices, like brown and black around the eyes and a warm blush, the same tone as your natural flush.

Film, the fabric of my photography, is naturally a luminous, soft medium without the exacting, sometimes harsh detail of digital photographs. To that end, slathering on thick layers of foundation, powder and concealer simply isn’t necessary. Instead of thick foundation, I suggest a combination of tinted moisturizer, spot correction with a concealer, and a cream blush.


Exercise: the week before your session, preview the look you’re planning for your session, whether it’s a messy top knot or an elegant cat eye.


This post is a part of a series. Subscribe below for the next post, How to prepare for your Boudoir Session: Part 3.

How to Prepare for Boudoir, Part 1: Intention


Boudoir doesn’t necessarily require any preparation. That said, as with most things in life, you will have a more rewarding experience if prepare. These preparation posts will appear as a series for clarity and brevity.


Part 1: Mental Preparation & Intention Setting

The first, and most important way to prepare for your boudoir session, is mentally. Try to get very clear, and honest, about what is motivating you to book a session, and what you intend to get out of it.

boudoir reading

Like so many women before me, when I posed for my first boudoir session my “reason” was to create a gift, a boudoir album, for my husband on the day of our wedding. In truth, the boudoir session became a gift to myself, a reason to purchase expensive French lingerie (that my husband couldn’t care less about), to enjoy and celebrate myself, and to capture the time before I stepped into my new role as a wife.


Ultimately, I had more fun sharing my album with my bridesmaids than with my husband. The audience of my closest girlfriends, exclaiming their approval of my nearly naked photographs, evoked that uniquely feminine variety of exhilarative intimacy that underpins all of my closest, most important female relationships. It is that same process of being seen, and validated, for who we are at our most vulnerable and raw, that reveals the substance of any relationship.

As Zing Tseng wrote in her forward of Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze, “When we finally aside ideas of what female bodies should be- hidden or exposed, sources of embarrassment or census- we can actually being the task of looking.” And also, I would add, of being seen.

I aim to create the same spirit of feminine camaraderie I felt sharing my album with my bridesmaids in every boudoir session I photograph.


Exercise: Sit down and write a handwritten letter to yourself, or to your partner, your photographer, your future self, even the little girl you once were. Write to whatever is motivating you, personified.

Finally, bring the letter to your session, and I will photograph it.


This post is a part of a series. Subscribe below for the next post, How to prepare for your Boudoir Session: Part 2.

Our Dream Girl Turned Two: Pastels, Lambs and Babies

All my life now appears to be one happy moment,” Gagarin (the world’s first cosmonaut) said mere minutes before entering his spaceship. “Everything that was lived and done before was achieved for this moment alone.”

Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California

We call her Delphine, mostly, but also Delphini, stinker pink, dream bread, chòudòufu, plinker, angel, bam bam, the list goes on.

Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California
Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California
Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California
Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California
Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California

She’s sensitive, just like her parents. She’s fundamentally extroverted but takes her time in social situations. She’s loving, cuddly and completely hilarious. Her first, and favorite word, is “no.” She was an “easy baby” but now that she’s a toddler she’s very clear about her agenda, interests, and preferences.

Dreamy second birthday with animals in northern California

She’s been the brightest, shiniest light in our lives for two whole years! We’re astonished, and delighted, by her every single day.

Go Big *and* Go Home: How to Print and Display Your Photographs

You did it! You had professional photographs taken. You shopped photographers, organized a date, paid a session fee, planned outfits, hairstyles, accessories, got everyone to the location on time, looking great, posed and laughed. Now all you have left to do is post those photos on Facebook, kick back and let like the likes come rolling in, right? Almost.

The typical Facebook scroller is going to spend, literally, second [sic] on your carefully crafted family portrait, before moving on. Why not get more for your investment? For example, a sweeping, deeply personal piece of art that will inspire and delight you thousands of times a day.


I give you this example from my own life. This huge photograph is hung up on our bedroom wall. I look at it every morning when I wake up. I discover, and rediscover, the things I like about it every time I see it. Each time, I swoon anew at my daughter’s teeny, toast colored toes and my husband’s loving gaze. It gives me a “how lucky am I?!” wave of gratitude to start, and end, every day. Let’s call it my daily gratitude practice, except I don’t even have to write in a journal or sit on a pillow. I just have to open my eyes and I’m there.


It might not be necessary to go as big as I did. The crucial factor is your space. An 8 X 10 print might be perfect for an unusual corner in your bathroom, but won’t make sense centered on your living room wall. You’ll also want to consider how you use the spaces in your home, and where your eye naturally rests in your most inhabited spaces. If you’re not sure what to do with photographs from our session, reach out to me! Not only would I be happy to discuss with you, I would absolutely come to your house and help you think it through in person!


A Holiday Photo Challenge for You

Ah, the holidays: twinkling string lights, deckled halls, sequin dresses, roasted meat, that one drunk, combative relative, and maybe even chestnuts roasting on an open fire. This winter I challenge you to improve the quality of your holiday captures, even if you’re only using the camera in your iPhone.

Toddler reading menu in San Francisco

1. Get comfortable with your camera

Even if you’re shooting with an iPhone, invest 20 minutes googling tips and tricks to harness the full capabilities of your iPhone camera. Understanding some of the technical features of your camera will make a huge difference in the quality of photograph you are able to achieve.

2. Aim for a Single Ideal Photograph

Yes, you read that right- one perfect photograph. Realistically, you aren’t going to want an entire album worth of snapshots from Christmas. Why not try to capture the perfect picture that sums it all up? Instead of holding a camera to your face the entire evening, consider planning a single, well executed photograph, and then set your camera down so you’ll have two hands for pie and coffee.

2. Compose Thoughtfully

When you walk into the family Christmas Party, cast your eye across all the different locations in the room. What’s the prettiest area? What’s the best lit? What spaces give the most information about the nature of the event? What areas could comfortably fit multiple people on different levels (i.e. the couch, on the plush rug, near the tree and a window.) The setting is as important to the photograph as the subject so don’t try to make that gorgeous holiday photo with a bag of trash resting against a door in the background.

3. Try a “Documentary” Photograph

“Documentary” means creating a photograph without intervening yourself. Consider which naturally occurring scene unfolding before you best exemplifies the event (your grandmother in a recliner, lovingly reading to your son? your mother screaming directives at your father from the center of a ravaged kitchen?) Assume a “fly on the wall” position and take a capture of the day exactly as it occurred.

toddler in cafe in San Francisco

4. Try a Lifestyle Photograph

Lifestyle photography involves gentle guidance, (such as suggesting the family gather by the Christmas Tree) followed by documenting natural interactions. Yan Palmer has a technique called the “Fall Apart Pose” where she essentially squishes her subjects together in a good location and then captures as they “fall apart” with wonderful results.

Toddler walking in cafe with crayons by Rachel Sima Photography

5. Skip the “camera aware” pictures this year

You know the ones- everyone clustered together, shoulder to shoulder, and smiling directly at the camera. Those photographs are boring, rarely well staged or executed, and tell the viewer nothing about the experience of the day. SKIP IT.

Fine Art Photography Versus The Real

I’m a fine art photographer at heart. I document real situations but I also pose my subjects, drag them into pools of light, direct their behavior, and move their furniture. I create photographs that adhere at least as much to my artistic interpretation of the moment as they do to the reality.


My husband often suggests I use the camera I have perpetually glued to my face to capture Real Moments. For example, when our daughter was born prematurely, I took careful photographs of her that hid the feeding tubes and monitors. She looked swaddled and sweet. What the photographs didn’t show was the cacophony of interventions that occur to a newborn in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I remember thinking that because I wanted so intensely to get past those difficult days, I wouldn’t want photographs of that time. We return to those NICU memories often and I’m glad I ultimately took photographs that show a fuller scope of our experience.


The photograph above is from the Camp Fire Hazardous Air Quality Days in Sacramento.