Guide to Boudoir Photography: 25 Tips, Examples & ideas
Boudoir photography is a thriving business, but it’s not easy to do.
Even if you’re an experienced portrait photographer – a boudoir photo session can be awkward if you or your client aren’t well prepared.
Not to worry, though. In this guide, you’ll find 25 tips and ideas to make a success out of your next shooting.
Table of Contents
What is Boudoir Photography?
While the video above is aimed at prospective clients, I believe it’s also very useful for aspiring or beginner boudoir photographers.
It does have one of the best definitions I’ve heard – “boudoir photography is an intimate type of portraiture for the everyday woman”.
I would just like to add that boudoir photography is not gender-specific anymore, so I’d change the definition to the everyday ‘person’.
It’s not even for a single person actually, because couples boudoir photography is also a thriving field.
In any case, let’s break it down – boudoir photography is an intimate portrait. This means that you’ll have the photoshoot in a private place – usually the photographer’s studio or the client’s home.
Of course, you can go on location, but these typically are hotel rooms or secluded areas outdoors away from the public eye.
Another thing that’s implied here is the wardrobe. A boudoir shoot doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be taking nude pictures. While this is a possibility, you’ll usually be wearing intimate clothing.
Now, the second part of the definition is key: ‘for the everyday person’. This means that the subject is not a professional model.
If you’re the photographer, you should remember this because you’ll be in charge of directing the posing, and you need to be clear and patient with your client.
If you’re the model, remember that there’s no expectation of rocking the set from the start – just relax and trust the photographer to guide you.
Styles of Boudoir Photography
There are many boudoir photography styles, and they have to do with the photographer’s style and the lighting, aesthetics, subject, etc.
Here are some popular boudoir photography styles that you might run into:
- Glamour photography
- Maternity photoshoots
- Pinup boudoir photography
- Fine-art photography
- Traditional boudoir photography
- Plus size boudoir photography
- Couples boudoir photography
- Male boudoir photography
- Pre-wedding/Brides boudoir shoots
- Before and After boudoir photoshoots
25 Tips for a Succesful Boudoir Shoot
How do you prepare for boudoir sessions? How do you take boudoir photos?
Embarking on your first ever boudoir shoot can be nerve-racking, but don’t worry – we’ve all been there!
Here are 25 tips to help you improve your boudoir photography in 2022.
1. Good communication is essential
As mentioned before, boudoir clients are not professional models – so they aren’t necessarily comfortable in front of the camera.
Furthermore, the intimate nature of the photos creates extra anxiety.
That’s why successful boudoir photographers recommend getting to know your client.
While a questionnaire can give you a good starting point, having a face to face meeting to establish trust and good communication will make the boudoir photo session run smoothly, making a noticeable difference in the final images.
2. Try different angles
Different perspectives can significantly change the final images in a boudoir photoshoot.
A great point of view for boudoir shoots is from the top down because you can show the entire body lying on a bed or a couch.
3. Use dramatic lighting
Dramatic lighting is a very contrasting setup commonly used in portrait photography.
As a boudoir photographer, you can use this technique to hide body parts and leave the viewer wanting more. It’s also helpful to cover parts that your client might not feel comfortable with.
4. Color creates an ambience
You can change the atmosphere by adjusting the overall tone of the image. You can do this with the choice of light or by colour grading in post-production.
5. Try some wet clothes
Often clients ask their boudoir photographer what they should wear for the session. While intimate apparel is a good choice, you can also make regular clothes look sexy.
If your client is comfortable with it, one idea to try is to wet their clothing. Depending on the type of fabric, water can make it more transparent or simply cling to their body, giving it a very appealing look.
6. Bathtubs are perfect in a boudoir shoot
A boudoir session often takes place at the client’s home so they can stay in their comfort zone. Make sure you scout the bathroom and see if there’s a bathtub because it offers many creative possibilities.
If there isn’t one at home, ask your client if they would be willing to go on location to a hotel room or a rented holiday home where there’s a tub.
7. Experiment with faceless portraits
A boudoir photo is a type of portrait, but it doesn’t mean that you have to show the client’s face all the time.
Some faceless portraits can be pretty intimate, mysterious and sensual – so make sure you try them.
8. Use colour theory to build your set
Whether you’re styling a location or choosing the background to work on your studio – colour theory can help you choose the backdrop and props.
Defining a colour palette can also help your client decide on the wardrobe.
9. Give milk bath photography a try
Milk bath photography is exactly what it sounds like – you submerge your client in a bathtub filled with milk diluted in water.
You can decorate the bath with flowers or colourful props and even add essences to help your client relax.
The opacity of the water with milk makes it perfect for shy clients who don’t want to reveal their entire bodies. It also helps to make some implied nudity.
10. Choose the right props
Props are a fun way to add a pop of colour and add to the photo’s mood. For a romantic picture, you can use flowers – for a lustful session; you can use chocolate and fruits.
Props are always helpful to the subject when they feel awkward while posing because a prop gives them something to do or hold.
11. High-key is perfect for boudoir images
High key photography has minimal dark tones, as it has mainly white or light colours and bright light.
It’s perfect for a boudoir photo shoot in the style of glamour photography because it naturally smooths the skin.
It also gives a very romantic and ethereal feel to the final photos.
12. Use implied nudity – if your client is comfortable
Boudoir is not the same as nude photography. A good way to play with that thin line is to take photos where there’s implied nudity.
This means that either your client is naked, but you don’t show the most intimate parts, or it’s not nude, but you make it look like it is playing with the angle of the shoot and the lighting.
13. Shoot through glass
Another fun idea is to shoot through glass. Maybe you use the shower door with some water drops in it, or you shoot through the window showing the frame to give it a voyeur style to the picture.
14. Try different lighting setups
Using different lighting setups throughout the boudoir session will give your client various choices. Otherwise, the final album might look repetitive and could become tiresome.
15. Try unusual settings
While a boudoir shoot usually takes place in the master bedroom, the living room, and the bathroom – there isn’t a rule that prevents you from trying something different.
Depending on the location and the style of the photos, you can try the kitchen, the garden, and even the parking garage – let your creativity run free.
16. Edit your images
Editing the final photos of a boudoir shoot is tricky because it goes from style to ethics, and you need to find the right balance.
Figure out how you like to work and discuss it openly with your client.
For example, some photographers like to do magazine-type retouching for flawless skin and body manipulation – some clients might not like that.
Many people use the boudoir experience to empower themselves and gain confidence in their body as it is.
It could be the other way around. You might want to do light editing while your client expects to look like a magazine’s top model in the photos.
So, discuss what they expect from you from the start and decide whether you’re comfortable working that way.
17. Use the camera in manual mode
Learning how to use the camera is important to have complete control over the final image. With the aperture, you can change how much is in focus – using selective focus can help you highlight your subject or a part of the photo.
With the shutter speed, you can blur or fix motion. Finally, you can control how smooth or grainy is the final result with the ISO.
18. Wardrobe goes beyond lingerie
Most clients get nervous about the photo shoot, and they can’t even decide what to wear. As a professional photographer, you should be able to offer some wardrobe ideas for the big day.
Lingerie and underwear are good, but you can also suggest fancy apparel or even a pair of jeans with a semi-sheer t-shirt for her and topless for him. It all depends on the mood you’re looking to get.
19. Use mirrors to add depth
When looking for props, keep in mind that mirrors are a great resource. This is because they fit in naturally in a boudoir scene.
Also, it helps you add depth to the space – and it can help your subject see the pose and correct it if necessary.
20. Take close-ups
You don’t always have to show the entire body. Some close-ups can be pretty powerful and give the final images or album a visual variety.
It’s important that you understand where to crop, though. Keep in mind that you should never cut on a joint. So, never cut the legs on the ankle or the knee, never cut the arm on the wrist or the elbow, and so on.
21. Posing is key
Successful boudoir photographers know how to pose their models according to their type of body, the mood of the photoshoot, etc.
Don’t forget that most clients have never done a professional photo session – so it’s up to the photographer to make them feel confident, relax and direct them to create some amazing pics.
In this article, you’ll find 31 posing ideas for your boudoir shooting. It’s always a good idea to have some basic poses already in mind before the photoshoot.
You can have a set of cards or a compilation of photos on your phone to show your subject – sometimes, a visual is easier than trying to explain. Also, don’t be afraid to make the pose yourself to show them what you mean.
22. Look for inspiration
Another important step before the shooting is to make mood boards. On your side, use all the inspiration available online, in photography and art books, museum exhibits, etc., to form your style and get ideas.
This can be collaborative work between you and your client. Ask them to collect and send you images they like to show you what type of work they are looking for.
23. Ask for consent before sharing
Because of the private nature of boudoir photography, you must ask your clients if they are comfortable sharing their images.
You can’t just use their images on your website or Instagram without their consent. Not only because, by law, you need a model release before publishing, but also because this will build trust and make them feel freer during the shoot.
Remember to have this conversation from the start and be honest about how you would use their images if they grant you consent.
24. Play your client’s favourite music
Music can play a big part in setting the mood of the photo shoot – is it slow and sensual music? or is it sexy and upbeat?
Playing your client’s favourite music is also an excellent technique to help them relax and feel comfortable.
25. Hair and makeup
A boudoir session is not just about the images – it’s an entire experience. Having a professional hair and makeup artist adds to the pampering that your clients are looking for with your services.
Also, hiring a hair and makeup artist will give your images a more professional look. You can offer this service as part of the package or encourage your clients to bring their trusted aesthetician.
Boudoir Photography FAQs for Models & Clients
What do you do with boudoir photos?
You can keep your boudoir photos digital or printed. With them, you can make an album or a large format canvas to use as wall art – this can be for yourself or as a gift to your partner. If you have them in a digital form, you can create a presentation or share them in a social media profile if you feel like doing so – just check the rules and limits of social media if there’s nudity in your photos.
What should I wear for my boudoir session?
Anything that makes you feel comfortable, empowered and sexy is excellent for a boudoir photography session. You can discuss with the photographer what will be the theme and colour palette – this is to narrow down your choices.
Where do you hang boudoir pictures?
The most common place to hang boudoir photos is the master bedroom. However, you can also hang them in the bathroom, a walk-in closet, or a dressing room.
How do you look skinny in boudoir photos?
Ideally, you’ll want to embrace your body and feel comfortable in your own skin without trying to follow body stereotypes. However, if you want to look skinnier, you can pose at a 45-degree angle from the camera – discuss this with your photographer, and they’ll know how to pose you.
These are Shotkit’s top boudoir photography tips. If you want to share with us some of yours, or you want to let us know if these were helpful, please do so in the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!