Boudoir photography sessions have become extremely popular in the last ten years, along with maternity photo sessions. The reason behind this is possibly the fact that modern women are getting more and more confident about their bodies, no matter their shape and size. There are so many women of all ages and backgrounds who are not professionally modeling but are still looking for classy yet sensual portraits.
The primary goal of the boudoir photo shoot is rather simple – to make a woman feel desirable. These images make the perfect gift for her partner as well, and this is why boudoir sessions are often included in engagement or wedding photo shoots.
What Is Boudoir Photography?
In a nutshell, boudoir photography is a genre of portraiture that requires not only a great eye for female beauty and best features but also a good understanding of female psychology and making your client feel comfortable.
The common misconception is that boudoir photography has to be nude or borderline pornographic. This is not true at all; boudoir photos can range from intimate and sweet to straight-up provocative, depending on the client’s preferences. They can also feature a certain theme, such as the popular pinup or burlesque style, or something more trendy such as the steampunk, cyberpunk, BDSM, or gothic setting. The choices are unlimited and quite fun.
A successful boudoir session executed by a pro boudoir photographer is stylish and elegant, and hopefully never cheesy. The following tips can help you understand better this genre of photography, no matter if you’re a photographer or a potential model.
So, let's learn more about boudoir photography!
The Best Gear For Boudoir Photography
Boudoir photography is somewhat similar to regular portrait sessions. Fast prime lenses along with a full-frame camera might be all you need. The big aperture of prime lenses allows the boudoir photographer to create dreamy images with very soft backgrounds and a lot of bokeh, which looks very sensual and it can enhance the atmosphere.
Lenses like 85mm or 50mm (such as Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art) are great choices. Even a 35mm might work well if the setting is really beautiful and you want to capture some wider scenes as well.
However, once you start working with focal lengths wider than 50mm, distortion may start coming into play around the edges of the frame, so you have to be careful when composing your images.
It’s also important that you have a nice variety of shots and using 2 or 3 different lenses can help you achieve this variety. You can also try using vintage lenses that produce very interesting bokeh and unusual colors if you are into vintage, retro style.
In fact, a boudoir photo shoot in vintage style is a great idea if your client wants to wear old jewelry or if the furniture includes a couple of shabby chic pieces.
How To Prepare For A Boudoir Shoot
Preparations for the boudoir session should start well before the photo shoot because this genre of photography is quite intimate and it can be overwhelming especially if the model is inexperienced. It might take time for her to do makeup, choose proper outfits, and actually feel comfortable.
Communication between the model and the photographer is extremely important because the model has to feel confident and at ease about her physical appeal. It’s crucial to ask the model which of her features she would like to emphasize and which she prefers to underplay. Women tend to be very sensitive about their body image and that’s something to be taken seriously.
Boudoir images should highlight a woman's beauty and self-confidence, and sometimes it's quite tricky to achieve this. It can be useful to hire a professional to take care of hair and makeup if your client feels nervous.
Wardrobe And Picking Outfits
Another important part of preparing for a shoot is planning the wardrobe. For instance, if a model brings in a lingerie set that’s too provocative and outside of her comfort zone, she won’t be able to act and pose spontaneously. Being comfortable is very important for a model. It is really important to make sure that your client chooses pieces that fit properly, make her feel good, and reflect her personal aesthetics.
In order to help your model make perfect wardrobe choices, it’s great to spend some time talking to her before the shoot, over a cup of coffee. Also, a good stylist can help with lingerie choices in case both you and your client are unsure about the final selection.
We also found a pretty useful video from Cavin Elizabeth Photography on planning a shoot that is worth a watch!
Lighting Tips For Boudoir Photo Shoots
Boudoir photos can't look gorgeous without carefully planned lighting. Boudoir photographers need to have extensive knowledge of lighting setups!
If you’re looking for something more elaborate in your boudoir sessions, you can use various lights and light modifiers. The location where you shoot plays a crucial part in determining the best lighting. In fact, controlling light conditions doesn’t have to be too difficult if the location has enough natural light and if you can easily block any unnecessary light. From the additional equipment, you can consider plain backdrops, reflectors, and perhaps some sheer curtains to diffuse the light.
For models who feel more adventurous, there is an extra option as well – shooting the entire boudoir session outdoors! While this might sound frightening, it can result in impressive images that simply can’t be achieved indoors. I know that boudoir portraits are by their very definition bound to be shot indoors, but you can get creative and for instance bring a piece of furniture, such as a bed or couch, outdoors.
Westcott Lighting has a great Youtube video on a couple of simple lighting setups that work well for boudoir photography too.
This video on boudoir mistakes is also worth watching if you want to know the common pitfalls. Michael Sasser's Youtube channel is also worth subscribing to for boudoir photographers.
Boudoir Photo Shoot Posing Ideas
There are two important guidelines to have in mind when posing your boudoir models.
- First – you should shoot from your client’s perspective, not yours. This means that what looks great to you doesn’t necessarily look great to your client. Again, communication is the key! Your photography skills should match your client's preferences.
- Second – your images have to evoke emotions. They shouldn’t be just a cold and objective portrayal of female beauty. Boudoir sessions are delicate, intimate sessions, and you shouldn't treat them exactly the same as regular portraiture.
Most likely, your client will be nervous, and you will have to help her loosen up in front of the camera. The best way to do that is to suggest various poses and offer some positive feedback whenever she manages to relax and make a great pose. Most photographers have a list of poses that helps them direct the client and get the best final images.
Quick Posing Suggestions For Any Boudoir Photoshoot
Some of the common poses for boudoir shoots include sitting on the knees, lying on the back, putting legs up against the wall, lying on the side, sitting on a chair or sofa, and leaning against the wall.
If you want something more unusual, you can use various interesting props, such as stools your model can climb onto, vintage canopy beds, beautifully designed pillows, and so on.
If you’re shooting outdoors, your choices of props are basically unlimited. Flowers, branches, and rocks can bring an unexpected twist to your boudoir session.
In case you're shooting couples boudoir photography you can get even more creative in terms of poses. Just make sure to know how to pose men too! Check out this article with a list of poses that work great for men.
Boudoir Photo Shoot Retouching And Post Production
Retouching is as important as the shoot itself when it comes to boudoir photos. How much post-processing is acceptable should be up to your model, since there is no objective consensus on that.
The only thing to be avoided for sure is altering the image so much that your model becomes unrecognizable. While the physical imperfections of your client shouldn’t be prominent, there is usually no point in removing them entirely, as they make people unique.
One of the common issues in boudoir photography editing is the tendency of photographers to over-sharpen the eyes and over-soften the skin of models. This gives a doll-like, lifeless appearance to women and it should generally be avoided.
On the other hand, an experimental approach to colors, playing around with curve adjustments, and using various gradients can add an interesting vibe to your boudoir photographs while preserving the natural look of your client. You shouldn’t forget about using B&W conversions as well since they give a certain drama and vintage look that many models are fond of.
You can also try to use presets that are designed specifically for boudoir photography. Such presets focus on beautiful skin tones and pleasant and soft colors. I suggest you take a look at some gorgeous presets for boudoir photos here.
Great Resources For Boudoir Photography
- If you are looking to take things professional, then this set of tips at Photography Spark is for you.
- Empowering your subject is a key element of a good boudoir shoot. This article at JpegMini will give you a good start with that.
- The Phoblographer gets specific with gear in this post about photographing boudoirs with natural light and a 50mm lens. A great way to start.
- This article from the Huffington post is for people who are booking a session for themselves. Great advice.
- Finally, the Film Photo Academy blog is all about boudoir photography and will give you a lot of varied information on the craft. You can check it out here.
- Ed Verosky also did a great boudoir photography tips article right here on Light Stalking that you should take a look at.
- If you want to start shooting boudoir sessions for couples, check out this great article on HuffPost for additional inspiration.
While it can be difficult to understand your client’s needs and expectations, in the end, it’s truly empowering to shoot photos that will make your model feel more self-confident, both physically and mentally. Every woman deserves such a session at least once in her lifetime.
To learn more about boudoir photography, check out the links below.