Boudoir photography creates sexy, elegant portraits of any woman

SNOHOMISH — Michelle Jones grew up reading the thick, glossy pages of Vogue magazine in the salons where her mother worked as a hairstylist.

She liked how the photos used sets to create stories with lace and roses, colors and textures.

At her downtown Snohomish photography studio, Jones also has sets. One is an antique iron bed, painted white. Another is a tufted chaise lounge against a backdrop of draped purple satin.

On the bathroom mirror, hot-pink script greets guests with the message: “Embrace your beauty.”

Jones, 32, specializes in boudoir photography. That’s sexy but elegant portraits of women, often created as gifts for boyfriends and husbands. Jones, a wife, mother and Mariner High School grad, has been in the business about a decade.

Gauze curtains shield from Avenue A the studio at Boudoir Betty’s on the second floor of the 1890s-vintage Katlin Building. The business, named for Betty Page, moved from Mill Creek to Snohomish in November.

Jones’ mother, Debra Korsborn, helped decorate and paint.

“I wanted it to be very soft and romantic, like a step back in time,” Jones said.

Sessions start at $210, plus optional hair and makeup. Jones is a licensed cosmetologist. Korsborn, 64, helps with hairstyling. Recent photos of Korsborn are among the work framed on the walls.

For a time when Jones was growing up, Korsborn was a single mom. She taught her three daughters to overcome hard times and never give up.

Jones’ grandmother, Doris McIntosh, 88, also inspires her work. A black lace garter owned by McIntosh is displayed in the hallway. So are her 1940s boudoir photos, taken by her late husband, who was an artist. Back then, women sent sexy photos to men overseas at war, and that’s often still the case.

Boudoir is about every woman being beautiful, to “open their eyes to really see they’re pretty how they are,” Jones said.

French pop music played throughout a Jan. 22 photoshoot. Jones helped client Alyssa Wooldridge, 24, of Everett, select jewelry and heels from the studio’s collection. Jones keeps lingerie on site in women’s sizes small through 3X — peaches, blacks, reds, sapphires.

Wooldridge and Jones became friends after an earlier boudoir session, also a gift for Wooldridge’s boyfriend.

“He’s going to be so excited to see these,” Jones said.

“He always is,” Wooldridge said and smiled.

Korsborn teased out the crown of Wooldridge’s caramel-colored highlights, mussing the curls. Fighting laughter, Wooldridge tried not to blink while Jones applied feathery false eyelashes.

Later, Jones stretched on the hardwood floor, demonstrating the details of each pose: crossed ankles, fingers lightly touching the face, the chin lifted just so.

Gentle instructions, like “boudoir yoga,” she joked.

“You can definitely be sexy without showing all you’ve got,” she said.

As Wooldridge reclined on the chaise lounge, Jones told her to think of the funniest thing her boyfriend has ever said.

“Close your eyes and laugh,” she said.

She showed Wooldridge a preview from the back of the camera.

“I love it,” Wooldridge said. “This light is so flattering.”

Most of Jones’ clients are in their 30s to 60s. That includes new mothers, brides-to-be, divorcees, a cancer patient and a cancer survivor.

The survivor, who was in her early 60s, had a new boyfriend, Jones said. She had undergone surgery and wanted to feel comfortable again in her own skin.

Clients come in groups sometimes, and not just bridal parties. They bring mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Jones does about 250 sessions a year.

Some women bring their own outfits and accessories. One client brought a “Star Wars” lightsaber — red for the dark side. Another posed among antique books.

Jones started as a Disneyland photographer at 19. She took head shots for an actress friend. Requests came from other aspiring actresses.

“Then they wanted some for their boyfriends that weren’t head shots,” she said.

She and husband Chris moved back from California after son Hudson was born in 2011. It took about a year for business to take off again in Washington. At first, she did heavy airbrushing if clients asked. It made extra money, but it didn’t feel right, so she stopped.

About a year ago, Jones began offering clients their albums in the form of a password-protected mobile application.

Sometimes women cry tears of joy when they look through the images, and sometimes boyfriends and husbands cry, too.

“I always tell my clients, ‘It’s about embracing who you are and where you are. It doesn’t matter your size or your age,’ ” Jones said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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