Natalie Kita, a high-end boudoir photographer based in Delaware, prefers simplicity. Putting aside conceptual projects where ideas become more important than people, Kita has carved out a sizable following for her intimate, in-the-moment shoots that emphasize the unique beauty of everyday women.
Believing that a boudoir shoot can be a “life-changing experience,” Kita goes into every shoot with a practiced understanding of how to make a client comfortable with the camera and, most importantly, with the client’s own body. In this interview, we wanted to learn a little more about Kita and find out how she got started, while also trying to uncover a few practical lessons on shooting one of the most demanding genres of photography.
How did you get your start in photography? What led you to boudoir, exactly?
The short version: I started in photography just like I’ve started everything in my life: I decided to do it, and I did it. The long version: I had another business, which made me great money. I even enjoyed my work. But at the end of the day, it left me feeling like someone other than the real me. I decided that I did not want to live my life feeling like a phony, so I reached into my heart and mind for an answer…and found an idea that had been rolling around in the back of my brain for almost 2 decades (since I had posed for my own boudoir shoot at age 18). Of all the things I could think of to do, boudoir photography clicked as the one thing I could do that would feel 100% authentically ME… So I made a snap decision (as I often do). I turned half my basement into a makeshift studio, put $5K on a credit card for cheap lights, a Canon Rebel, a couple of backdrops, and every book I could find on boudoir and glamour photography. Then I signed up for a $99 online photography course. For my first and second assignments, I took a few timer-tripod selfies and some sexy photos of a friend who agreed to sign a release. I put those photos on the new website I put up, and had my first paying client less than 2 weeks later.
It then took me 2 years to gradually phase out my other business (it was a good deal of income to replace!) and go full-time with photography, and the rest is happy history.
As for what led me to boudoir… The things in life that I have always been committed to, and passionate about, are feminism, sexuality, female friendship and empowerment, beauty, art, and transformation. Boudoir photography combines all of those things into a career that is satisfying on every level for me — emotionally, creatively, intellectually, spiritually, and financially.
Have you ever doubted your talents? Ever felt like giving up?
Actually, no, not really. While I may have moments when I look back at my older work and think “man, I sucked,” I never feel that way in the moment. When I’m creating, I’m always in the zone and in love with what I’m doing. As for feeling like giving up, that’s just not in my DNA. I have been gifted with this mindset that may seem odd to a lot of people – it honestly just never occurs to that I could fail. I can thank my parents for that. They raised me to be independent and confident in my ability to always accomplish what I set out to do. The only way I would give up is if I no longer loved what I do… and I don’t see that happening.
Boudoir requires a lot trust between you and the person photographed. How do you establish this trust? What do you talk about in your consultation sessions?
I first establish trust by showing good work, by having a thorough website that answers their questions and allays their concerns, and by sharing a lot about myself in my marketing, so they get to know who I am and what I’m about. Once a potential client has made contact, I then talk to them like a human being, acknowledge and address any anxiety they may have. During a consultation, we talk about exactly how the shoot is going to work, what to expect from their images and their experience. We talk about the logistics of wardrobe, hair, makeup, sets, etc. But we also have “girl talk.” Getting to know each other a bit on a personal level is important, because boudoir photography is just that — personal.
Boudoir is a performance-based genre. You’re a directing a shoot to evoke story, or feeling, from the images. Is storytelling something you plan consciously? What’s your method of studying erotic imagery?
I don’t have a method or a conscious plan most of the time. The process is fluid, organic, instinctual. Occasionally, I do more conceptual shoots, but most of my work is not about concepts, wardrobe, or even story telling. It’s about the essence of the woman before me. Therefore, I largely prefer simplicity in my shoots. Simplicity lets HER shine through, without distractions.
What has the genre taught you about the depiction of sexuality in photography? Would you say the genre has given you a body-positive view of sexuality?
To answer this question, let me just say, I am not who I am because I shoot boudoir. I shoot boudoir because of who I am. I got into boudoir because of how I feel about sexuality, art, body image, and women’s issues. I have brought those convictions into my work, not the other way around.
What are the biggest directing mistakes any boudoir photographer should avoid?
Biggest direction mistakes in boudoir: NOT directing your client. This does not work for non-models. Vague direction like “be seductive” or “work it” or “give me a sexy face” or “move your hips” will not get a pleasing result 9.9 times out of 10. Not being open to your client’s own body language. It’s important to keep an eye out for little moves that she does that you might not have thought of, and capturing those. It’s also important to note by her body language when something you’ve coached is making her very uncomfortable and adjust your direction accordingly. Ever telling a client to “suck it in” or anything like that. If you’re not careful with language, we can make a client feel even more self-conscious and totally kill the vibe of the shoot.
Which photographers do you find inspiring? What about their work do you enjoy?
Well, this is a weird question, because the photographers that spring to mind do work that is nothing like mine at all, with my simple aesthetic… I am wracking my brain to think of a photographer who shoots anything like I do whose work truly inspires me, but I’m drawing a blank…. So I will go with the two who immediately sprung to mind:
Nikki Harrison – I love the fantasy component of her work and how everything is so ultra-feminine and ethereal.
Scott Detweiler – His work is so avant-garde and badass and his composites are crazy-good.
Ooooh, here’s one whose work is simpler, and more aligned with my personal aesthetic: Vincent Pierce – His glamour work is just sexy and simple and unapologetic.
See more of Kita’s work here.