Boudoir photographer Janel Matthias shoots risqué photos to uplift others

Miranda Moses

Risqué photos can be a great gift for a significant other, but feeling sexy and beautiful in your own skin is a great gift for yourself. Fort Collins businesswoman Janel Matthias loves to help people with both. 

A woman poses with her camera
After a long break from full-time photography, Janel Matthias decided to come back to it, leaving a job working with people with special needs to pursue both boudoir and portrait photography full time. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

The multi-faceted, self-taught photographer started her professional photo-taking career by creating her Soulful Image Photography business in 2001, where she shoots a variety of portraits for expecting women, weddings, graduating seniors and other clientele seeking to savor impactful moments.

Ad

After discovering new ways she could serve and empower people via her art and experiences, Matthias added boudoir photography to her services under Soulful Image Boudoir Photography. She now enjoys traveling the Front Range and beyond to take powerful, sexy portraits of all kinds of women and seeks her daily goal of uplifting others.

“I started out doing a lot of maternity shoots and a lot of them were nudes and couples,” Matthias said. “It kind of transformed after they had their babies, they wanted to do something special. So, we would do something more sexy and sensual.”

The career shift came with some self-doubt. According to Matthias, her fear of failing concluded with the passing of her son, who would have graduated from high school this coming May. Matthias said that he gave her the self-confidence to pursue her aspirations because you never know what is going to happen the next day.

“I lost a child, it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you,” Matthias said. “After that, I just was like, ‘I’m just going to go for my passion and help others feel great about themselves and give them memories.’ Because once you have those pictures, you have memories. I always had a picture album every year for my son, and I’ll just never forget them, so photography and giving people those memories are just like gold.”

Matthias graduated from Colorado State University in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. She has served for six years in the Poudre School District as a paraprofessional for children with special needs. She currently teaches yoga classes and recently acquired her certification so that she can teach pre-school and special needs yoga at Northside Aztlan Community Center. 

It’s fun to see their reactions when they get their photos back. They are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you made me look so beautiful.’ I’m like, no, I didn’t. I just took a picture with your natural beauty coming out.” -Janel Matthias, owner of Soulful Image Boudoir Photography

During her time at CSU, Matthias managed and bartended at local Fort Collins business B&B’s Pickle Barrel, where she worked under current owner and founder Brenda Smith. Decades later, the two remain friends, and Smith has observed Matthias’s difficult transitions, instances of growth and unwavering resilience.

“I think once something as horrendous as losing a child happens to you, you change a bit,” Smith said. “It has a way of defining what’s truly important and what’s not. Janel is always a free-spirited, happy, friendly, helpful, wonderful person.”

By utilizing boudoir photography as a means to pursue her aspirations of helping others, Matthias has found many opportunities in her work to help make women feel validated and beautiful in an intimate setting. Matthias prefers not to drastically alter photos in the editing process after shoots. Instead, she poses clients in ways that accentuate their beauty. 

A woman poses by a window with her camera around her neck.
As the owner of Soulful Images, Janel says that one of the things important to her is that her clients are excited and empowered from their experience with her and boudoir photography

“It’s fun to see their reactions when they get their photos back,” Matthias said. “They are like, ‘Oh my gosh, you made me look so beautiful.’ I’m like, no, I didn’t. I just took a picture with your natural beauty coming out.”

Fort Collins resident Jen Jane recently posed for Janel for a boudoir shoot and found that Matthias had many ways of making her feel comfortable in her own skin.

Ad

“It was an interesting mix of emotions that came up for me when I saw myself through her eyes and her camera,” Jane said. “I realize I need to rewrite a story I have about how I look. Which is good, and sad, that I have allowed myself to take on past comments and criticisms of individuals and cultural norms of what is ideal, I have somehow filtered to be true.”

Although many clients do take edgy photos to gift to their significant other, Matthias emphasizes the endowment of taking these kinds of photos for yourself. In a society that shames women for embracing their sexuality and teaches women they are “asking for it” when they do, she wants her clients to feel powerful and in control on top of loving themselves. 

“When you do boudoir, it’s something very personal, you do not have to share it with anyone,” said Matthias. “It’s all for you and to experience your sensuality in a different way. It’s your own choice…it’s all about you. And if you’re just feeling sexy and you want to give someone something special, of course, they are going to love it.”

Matthias said that in her experience, as you move through society and grow wiser, you find out different things about yourself and understand yourself better. Because of this, the encourages women of all ages to explore their sexuality through boudoir. She has photographed women as old as 65 and women in their 20s.

“I know a lot of different things about myself than when I was in my 20s,” said Matthias. “Now, I’m like, ‘Wow, even after two kids and saggier skin in certain areas, I’m still a sexy beast.’ So, you just have to find your sensuality, your sexuality, and your femininity and your power at every stage.” 

A woman takes a picture of a model
Working out of the lowest floor of an old school house, Janel tries to incorporate natural light and a relaxed atmosphere so that her clients have the most pleasant experience possible. (Josh Schroeder | Collegian)

As Matthias is non-discriminatory in the age of her clients, she also stresses that couples of all orientation, gender, and sex are welcome to be shot in her boudoir photography as well as clients of all different shapes.

She encourages models to shop for lingerie and outfits before their shoot. To keep her service accessible to those on financial restraints, Soulful Image Boudoir Photography provides an array of lingerie and undergarments in all different sizes for clients to choose from at Matthias’s in-home studio.

“It’s fun to work with different bodies and shapes, it’s just like different personalities,” said Matthias. “You don’t have to be a size 2, and even if you are, great, but it’s boring if everyone is the same.” 

Matthias shoots couples and boudoir parties for bachelorettes, 21st birthdays or celebrations of divorce. Clients can shoot in her natural light studio within her home, or Matthias can travel to any location that they request including in-home sessions so that the model feels the most comfortable. Matthias’s main concern is that the people she takes photos of are happy with themselves and their experience.

“Janel is someone who’s kind heart shows up on her physical person,” Jane said. “She has, all at once, a light, fun, loving, kind and playful way of being in the world and interacting that allows others to feel relaxed.”

 Collegian reporter Miranda Moses can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @mirandasrad.