Boudoir photography, just like standard portraiture, requires an adequate gear – you won’t be able to make the best out of your boudoir sessions if you don’t have the proper lenses, lighting and accessories. This type of photography can be quite challenging because your model will most likely feel vulnerable in front of the camera. In order to make boudoir sessions comfortable for your models and at the same time technically impeccable, check out our hints and tips on gear.
Note: You can also see our specific article on boudoir poses for hints for the model.
Maybe you’ll need an additional piece of equipment if you’re still new to boudoir photography!
1. Camera Body And Lenses
When it comes camera bodies, any full-frame camera (either DSLR or mirrorless) will be adequate for boudoir photography. In case you want to have a lot of freedom and flexibility in terms of shooting angles, you can get a camera with a flip viewfinder, such as Olympus E-5. It will allow you to easily shoot your model from above as you stand on a chair. This is difficult to do without a flip viewfinder.
In terms of lenses, having a couple of prime ones is probably the best solutions for boudoir photography. You can shoot the majority of scenes with a 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens because it’s quite versatile. You should also use a 35mm lens for wider scenes and a 85mm for more intimate close-ups. Wide aperture will allow you to shoot in low light too, which is a great advantage especially if your budget is limited and if you don’t have off-camera strobes.
To sum it up, the top 3 lenses for boudoir photography are:
- 35mm f/1.4
- 50mm f/1.4
- 85mm f/1.8
2. Light Meter And Gray Card
If you don’t want to spend too much time on figuring out the ideal camera setting via test shots, you should use a light meter and gray card.
A light meter will help you choose the aperture and shutter speed for a proper exposure – sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your model is evenly lit. When it comes to a gray card, it is particularly useful if you shoot in an environment with different light sources, both natural and artificial ones. In order to avoid weird and unpleasant color casts, you should use a gray card to properly white balance your photos.
It’s easy to do that – at the beginning of your boudoir session, simply ask your client to hold the gray card and take a photo of her with it. This will help you white balance your photos in editing – the colors should be based on neutral white light by default.
3. Strip Lights and Strobes
In case you need to use an artificial light for your boudoir sessions, you should stick to off-camera strobes if you want truly superior results. Of course, you can still use a camera flash but the results will be average or even poor if you’re not experienced in flash photography.
Off-camera strobes will give you a lot of flexibility – with this type of artificial light you can easily control how much light is applied to your subject, which leads to more creative options.
Feel free to check out this video if you're interested in creating dramatic lighting for your boudoir sessions:
While you can choose any kind of off-camera strobes for boudoir photography, you should definitely consider using strip lights. These lights will help you accentuate the curves of your models since you can easily target the specific areas you want to highlight. The accuracy of strip lights is quite amazing and it allows for experimentation and truly artistic shots.
4. Light Modifiers
Boudoir shots should complement your model’s natural beauty – in order to do so, you have to be really careful about the type of light you use. Avoid harsh and direct light unless your model wants more edgy and daring photos. Soft light is a safer and usually better choice and you can achieve it by using various light modifiers.
You can use a softbox, umbrella or beauty dish in order to make flattering and dreamy shots of your model. Softbox is extremely versatile in controlling light and shadows on reflective surfaces – if you’re unsure what light modifier to purchase, you can definitely start with a soft box. The more gap there is between the light and the diffusion surface of the soft box, the less obvious and a lot more softer the overall effect.
Backdrops aren’t necessary accessories when it comes to boudoir photography, but they can be really useful and they can surely help you achieve different moods, from clean and minimalist to rich and colorful.
You should ask you client about her favorite colors and make sure to know what kind of lingerie she wants to wear for the shoot. Always have a few different backdrops available, such as black, white, gray and deep red.
Feel free to spice up your boudoir shots with various props – your clients will be grateful for having more options to choose from! The possibilities are endless, but what surely works great are various stools and chairs, satin or silk sheets, carpets, curtains and so on. Bear in mind that soft fabrics can accentuate femininity in a beautiful way.
7. Makeup Kit
Your model will most probably have her makeup on at the time she arrives at your studio. However, you should be prepared with backup makeup and most important accessories in case anything goes wrong. This backup makeup can be rather basic, but make sure to include the following items:
- Makeup setting spray
- Lash adhesive
- False eyelashes
- Creame foundation in a few different shades
- Double-sided fashion tape
- Makeup removing wipes
You should also remind your model to bring any of the makeup she put on earlier in the day, because she might need a touch-up.
If you want to learn more boudoir photography tips, check out the following links!
You don’t need a gray card if you’re shooting in RAW which you should be. No reason not to these days.
The second image (Andre Maliik) is a wrong image (no boudoir). Must be changed.