Boon Ong’s Boudoir Photography Approach: Embrace Who You Are

June 8, 2017

By Jacqueline Tobin

All Photos © Boon Ong

This image was actually shot in an Airstream within a warehouse. “This was a nighttime shoot,” Ong says, “but the yellow light coming through the window from the warehouse gave a warmer, brighter feel.”

UPDATED 7/6/22: Boon Ong’s work is all about self-love, and embracing who you are without pressure to fit in. “I believe every person is unique, with their own story, intention, natural movement and personal expression—which is the constant source of new inspiration in my photography.”

Rangefinder: How did you get started?

Boon Ong: I first started shooting figurative art in 2013, mainly as personal work and using various technical experimentation. Born and raised in Malaysia from a conservative Asian family, it was the sense of rebellion and contradiction to my upbringing that kept me exploring this genre more and more.

In 2014, I came across a presentation from boudoir masters Ewan and Brianna Phelan at a conference. Their work has brought me a complete “a-ha” moment and has been a major turning point in my photography career. I started thinking of how I could incorporate figurative art and boudoir into my brand (which at the time was mainly wedding and family portraits). It took me a while to learn and come up with a business model that worked for me while maintaining a unique storytelling style.

In 2015, I started Figuratif by Boon Ong, a separate line of business that offers figurative art and intimate lifestyle photography to clients of all age, gender, body shape and sexuality.

“I used to worry about my work not having consistency, but now people see the images and can see they are mine from the feel, light and tone throughout.”

Rf: Where are you based and how many boudoir clients do you have?

BO: I’m based in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada, but I do offer my services in other cities based upon request. I photograph approximately 10 to 15 boudoir sessions a year.

Rf: What’s your boudoir aesthetic and why do you think it draws clients in?

BO: Simple. Honest. Truthful. These words have always been the mantra of my work.

My brand is all about self-love, personal expression and storytelling—each person has their own story, their own narrative without negative external pressures or judgment. Each shoot is customized based off of each client’s aesthetic and their own personal stories as the main core, then conceptualized and improvised organically throughout the shoot. I believe every person moves in a unique way. Rather than replicate pre-set poses, my boudoir and figurative art seeks to enhance the natural movement of each person.

The way each individual moves, the space, the ambiance and their personal stories provide a constant source of new inspiration in my photography. Ideally, I hope to create a comfortable space to enable individuals to express their own source of confidence, embrace their sexuality and truly be themselves without any attempt or pressure to fit in.

Another example of Ong’s boudoir style.

Rf: Do you also have male boudoir clients?

BO: Yes, I photograph men. I have never restricted my target clients. So far, I have truly embraced a wide range of clientele. Other than photographing boudoir, I also photograph events and workshops that are aligned to the genre of figurative art. My strong storytelling style is what got me invited into covering these events. A lot of times, other than shooting the story of the events, I always came out with a number of strong art pieces that stand alone by themselves.

Rf: What is your gear of choice?

BO: My main camera body is the Canon 5D Mark III. Lens-wise, I kept it very simple with three Canon lenses: the EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. For in-home sessions, I pretty much use all natural light, but I do have a couple of Canon Speedlite 430EX II in my bag just in case. Depending on the studio I use, my lighting gear varies. I have a fairly decent knowledge of lighting but like to improvise and am always up for experimenting and creating new looks.


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