Beauty and the Beast: Keeping You Safe from COVID-19

COVID-19 CDC RecommendationsUPDATED 6/22/2020: We have resumed full operation, shooting both in our studios and other indoor locations as well as outdoor locations. We are following CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of germs.

How to Keep Your Private Images Private – Part 1: PCs & Macs

How to Keep Your Private Images Private - Part 1: PCs & MacsYou’ve just downloaded your final edited boudoir images and realize that these are images that only you (and perhaps your significant other) should ever see. Today more than ever, strong security measures are essential to keep anything — including your private photos — from being seen by others, either accidentally or deliberately.

At every step in working with your images we employ the latest encryption technology to ensure that your images always remain private. But once you receive the final images, it’s up to you to keep them safe and private. Here are some recommendations based on techniques and software we use to keep your data private and secure on our side:

  • Whole Disk Encryption: Whole disk encryption is one of the best and most convenient ways to protect sensitive information. On Windows we use Bitlocker, a proprietary service of Microsoft, which encrypts the entire disk, making it impossible to read without a password. Bitlocker is not available as a stand-alone product but is bundled with Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise. If you have Windows 10 Home you can upgrade to Pro to get Bitlocker. We don’t use Mac computers in our shop, but modern Macs that have the Apple T2 chip integrate security into both software and hardware to provide encrypted-storage capabilities. Data on the built-in, solid-state drive (SSD) is encrypted using a hardware-accelerated AES engine built into the Apple T2 chip. This encryption is performed with 256-bit keys tied to a unique identifier within the chip.
  • Veracrypt: We rely heavily on VeraCrypt which is free open-source disk encryption software for Windows, Mac OS X. (Open source means that the source code is publicly available and therefore enjoys the scrutiny of many technical experts to be sure it is truly secure.) Veracrypt can provide whole disk encryption or can be used to set up virtual encrypted partitions on an existing unencrypted hard drive. You can also use Veracrypt to fully encrypt external hard drives, USB keys, etc., so if one gets lost, no one could read the data without a password. Veracrypt has a steeper learning curve than other encryption software but in the end is quite powerful and convenient. See:
  • Encrypto: We occasionally encourage our less technically-included clients to use Encrypto which provides a very simple drag-and-drop interface to encrypt a group of files. The resulting file can then be sent securely. Encrypto also can be used to fully encrypt a USB key. (We’ve used Encrypto to send USB keys through the mail to our clients who do not need to install any software to view the contents.) See:
  • Cloud Storage: We chose Dropbox to deliver imagery to our clients because we found it to be both the most secure choice and the most convenient. Data in Dropbox is encrypted both in place (i.e., while stored on the Dropbox servers) and in transit. Dropbox works well on mobile devices and is a secure way to view images on your mobile device. See:
  • Cleaning Up Temporary Files: If you’re viewing images in your browser or other software that creates a cache, be sure to delete your browser’s cache to be sure the images aren’t temporarily stored on your hard drive. Every browser has this capability but the process varies from browser to browser. We use CCleaner which automatically cleans up all temporary browser cache files along with many other temporary files on your hard drive. We use the pro version but a free version is also available. See:
  • Fully Cleaning Your Hard Drive: If you decide to get rid of your hard drive or computer, you should first wipe the hard drive thoroughly. This is because files that are deleted are merely marked as deleted by the operating system and can often be recovered by various software tools. There are many options for software to wipe your hard drive by making several passes and replacing each bit of data with random data. Again, we use CCleaner, which includes a utility called Drive Wiper, which lets you wipe either your free space or the entire disk. You can also specify how many passes the software should make to ensure no data remains behind. Again, see:
  • Email: As you may have noticed, we never send images as attachments in email as email is inherently insecure. If you need to send images by email, you can use Encrypto and send the resulting file as an attachment or send a link to your Dropbox account. We strongly recommend using a strong password for that.
  • Passwords: There has been much written on passwords so we won’t repeat all of it here. Most important, use long, random, unguessable passwords and do not reuse the same password for multiple sites. One of the most common ways to hack a password is to use a “brute force dictionary attack” where attacking software, using a dictionary of words, uses many combinations to try to crack your password. Using random passwords instead of actual words prevents such brute force dictionary attacks. The downside is that is becomes impossible to remember your passwords. For that we strongly recommend a password manager. We use LastPass which contains a secure password vault and can generate secure passwords for you automatically. It can also sync with your mobile devices. (Since iOS 12, LastPass can automatically fill your password on both web sites and within apps on iPhones and iPads.) See:
  • Back Up Your Data: Finally, we strongly encourage you to back up your imagery after you encrypt it to be sure you have multiple – but encrypted – versions available. Also, after you encrypt your files, be sure to run a test to be absolutely sure you can recover your files. Don’t delete the original files until you’re confident that the encryption process has worked.

What about mobile devices? We’ll cover that in Part 2 of this article.

The Simple Secret of the Best Boudoir Photography

Our Aspiring Model, Julia Annette, lets her personality shine through in this shot, featuring her authentic, infectious smile and the jeans jacket she wore to the studio

Our Aspiring Model, Julia Annette, lets her personality shine through in this shot, featuring her authentic, infectious smile and the jeans jacket she wore to the studio

It’s not the fancy camera. It’s not the high-tech lights. It’s not the makeup, jewelry or wardrobe. It’s not the set. It’s not even the photographer’s skill and technique. While each of these elements is certainly important, the most important element that makes a boudoir photograph truly special is less obvious but, fortunately, one of the easiest to incorporate.

When considering boudoir photography, most of my clients are initially nervous, intimidated by the images they may have seen on TV of a fast-paced commercial photo shoot where the photographer barks commands and the model dutifully complies. My clients are immediately apologetic, explaining that they’ve never done a photo shoot before, let alone a boudoir shoot, and many express their concern about getting the poses “right.”

I comfort them by explaining that boudoir is something entirely different, for it is the client, not the photographer, who ultimately controls the process and each shoot is built around what they want to create and what they want to share of themselves. Most important, we capture a different side of you while not forcing you to be someone else in the process. Successful boudoir photography creates a unique reflection of your own distinctiveness, and the result should appear natural, organic and true to whom you are, though you may be crossing boundaries you haven’t explored before.

We love this over-the-shoulder look of Bleuwolfe, a member of our Aspiring Models Program. Her expression is effortless and captures her true intensity and beauty.

We love this over-the-shoulder look of Bleuwolfe, a member of our Aspiring Models Program. Her expression is effortless and captures her true intensity and beauty.

You can easily spot boudoir photographs that don’t possess the effortless authenticity that comes from a photographer understanding who their client is and working with her to create something that she truly feels represents her essence. The camera can easily see a subject’s discomfort and where she has been directed through a standard series of rote, cookie-cutter and uncreative poses, resulting in imagery that can look staged, over-posed, less natural and uninspired.

We work with our clients before the photo shoot and encourage them to submit “inspiration shots” to give us an idea of what they’re seeking in their shoot. During the shoot itself, we work together as creative partners, building on the inspiration shots, but not bound by them, ultimately finding what truly expresses who they are, bringing out their best qualities. When done this way, the art of boudoir helps women naturally explore the sensual side of themselves, to feel beautiful, glamorous and confident.

So what’s the secret element? What makes boudoir so unique — and the simple secret of its success — is you. Boudoir photography is ultimately about celebrating you and it’s therefore important to be true to whom you are during the photo shoot. I coach my clients gently. I’ll suggest poses but encourage each client to “make it her own,” to let poses evolve until they feel authentic and natural. I also remind them not to forget to express themselves and let their personality shine through. One of my favorite shots was for a recent client where, for the very last shot of the evening, she stood up on her knees, placed her hands in her hair, crossed her eyes and defiantly stuck out her tongue. It turned out to be one of the best shots of the evening — sexy and silly at the same time– and magic because it brought out her true personality.

One of the most gratifying and meaningful compliments I receive from clients in our reviews is that they not only ended up loving the experience of the photo shoot, but that they left the studio feeling empowered. That’s the ultimate measure of a successful collaboration that honors a client’s individuality. One of our prospective clients said it best: “I want to show another side of myself. I want to get out of my comfort zone but still be me.”

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