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What Is Boudoir Photography? (8 Best Tips to Get Started)

Last updated: September 26, 2023 - 11 min read
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What is boudoir photography? The term boudoir is a French word originating from the 18th century. It was used to describe a woman’s bedroom or private room. Boudoir photography is an art form. It celebrates a person’s beauty, confidence, and sensuality through tasteful, intimate imagery.

Our article delves into boudoir photography, exploring its origins and essence. We then offer eight easy tips to help you embark on this captivating journey of self-expression and empowerment.

Perhaps you’re a photographer seeking to expand your portfolio or an individual curious about the art and experience. We provide valuable insights to start your boudoir photo adventure.

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What Is Boudoir Photography? The History of Boudoir

Painters have been capturing the female form for centuries. One of my favorite paintings is The Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. It was painted in 1814. It shows the very nature of what boudoir photography has come to mean.

It captures the strength in the woman’s physical form. And it also shows the empowerment she creates with her emotional glance over her shoulder. These paintings were generally done with ornate backgrounds focusing on implied nudes.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres “The Odalisque” 1814
The Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 1814

Boudoir photography might have changed how this is presented. But it still maintains the same sensual ideas.

Artists understand that emotion is more important than expression. Expression is in the physical attributes of the client’s face. But the emotional side of boudoir photography is more important. It is in how the viewer interprets these expressions.

Posing a woman or man in a boudoir setting can become quite static. The emotional side has to be present.

Light and airy boudoir shoot of a blonde girl in turquoise dress lying back on a white chaise lounge


What Is Boudoir Photography? Boudoir Over the Years

A French artist in the 1920s, Albert Arthur Allen, merged the boudoir industry with photography by creating masterpieces of nude women. This type of photography at the time was illegal.

Moving through the decades, pinup photography became the focus until the mid-70s. This was when boudoir photography took its place in major magazines.

Photographs were replacing drawings in these publications. Many started to consider boudoir photos as artistic pieces. But there were still many who thought boudoir photos were too pornographic.

Fast forward to today, where boudoir photos are highly accepted among women and men. People like it for its artistic representation and not for the sexual ideas behind it. Many clients come in with the idea that it is a gift for a fiancé or anniversary.

But when they leave, the gift becomes secondary. Clients gain new confidence thanks to accepting their bodies. Boudoir shoots are an excellent booster for self-esteem.

In general, boudoir photography has focused on the female body. But in recent years, male and couples boudoir sessions have become popular, too.

Female couple posing in a dark and moody boudoir photohoot


Is Boudoir All About Sexuality?

No. Boudoir photography is not all about sexuality. In a world full of selfies, boudoir self-portraits are about true sensuality. Getting into boudoir picture taking as a photographer means you want to help people accept their bodies.

And you also help them value themselves. After any boudoir experience, the client sees themselves differently right from the moment they leave. That’s even before they see the final images.

What Does a Boudoir Shoot Consist Of?

This is up to your type of photography style. If you are a dark and moody shooter, most of your images should reflect this. Do you prefer images that are bright and airy? The majority of your boudoir photos should be geared towards this.

This is not to say to steer away from one or the other. Your clients will expect certain styles of images if they check your portfolio.

If you upload a certain style, but your results are different, your client will be unhappy and confused. If you like to mix styles, ensure you show that on your website.

I tend to show all sides of the client from start to finish—emotionally rather than physically. We work from soft and feminine moods into more empowered, bold looks. Toward the end, we capture the implied nudes if they feel up to it.

boudoir photograph of a girl in gold lingerie lying back on a couch


I prefer to have an idea of the posing I will take them through. But if the lighting catches her just right, I have no problem stopping my flow to catch a new look.

If you are a potential client or a photographer who has been looking into a boudoir session, communicate your choices. Do not be afraid to let your photographer know why you are there.

The connection between a photographer and a client needs to be genuine. This is the only way to let emotions shine through the images.

I tell my clients to bring certain items with them. But I also tell them to feel free to bring extra. I may see something that sparks my creative eye. I have had many clients bring in suitcases full of looks!

Black and white boudoir photo of a blonde girl in black and white lingerie lying on her back


8 Tips for How to Start With Boudoir Photography

In the beginning, boudoir photography was only focused on the location. Now, it is moving toward the emotion it shares.

Setting the scene can be as easy as a bed or as elaborate as a romantic castle on the shores of Ireland. But capturing the right mood is most important. Here are eight tips to get started with boudoir.

1. Spend Time With Clients to Know Their Preferences

Spend time setting the mood rather than the location. Your client needs to be the primary focus.

Understand that this is very intimidating for many clients. Most have never been in this setting before. Boudoir photographers have to understand their expectations and hesitations.

You cannot jump into the sessions, assuming your client is as comfortable as you are. I often send out questionnaires about their session beforehand. This way, I can better understand their preferences.

Screenshot of a questionnaire for a boudoir shot
Sample questions for a boudoir photoshoot

2. Keep the First Sessions Simple to Make the Model Comfortable

Your best bet is to keep the first photoshoot simple. Do not overdo the background, lighting setups, and posing. Stick to simple window shots if you are a natural light boudoir photographer.

Do not introduce strobes to your first boudoir session. They make your client uneasy when you are unfamiliar with your lighting. Even if strobes are your strong point, keep it simple. Many boudoir clients prefer the softer, non-fashion feel of boudoir photos.

Black and white photo of a girl kneeling on a white chaise longue


3. Ask Friends to Pose to Gain Boudoir Photography Experience

Do you want to experiment with new looks, wardrobe, or scenes? Put out a model call. This way, you can work out any kinks before having a paying client in the studio. No client wants to pay for you to be figuring out your space.

Hire a model for the first session if you prefer the fashion looks. This helps to attract the right clientele for your company. This is a good starting part for any genre if you are generally new to paid photography. Always use models or friends before charging.

You might understand your camera settings and composition. But it does not mean you should jump into charging without a solid portfolio.

4. Visit the Location to Find Out What Equipment You Need

Try to visit the location ahead of time if possible. It’s useful to see what equipment you need and if it fits the space. If you do not have a studio, many Airbnbs allow this type of photography if you are upfront from the start.

Clients’ homes were also very helpful when I was only in the beginning stages of my boudoir photoshoots. Clients often prefer their home to make their photo session more intimate and personal.

A male model posing on a bed in a brightly lit room for a boudoir shoot


5. Get Familiar With Boudoir Lighting, Gear, and Editing

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of using natural or soft light for boudoir photos. These make the skin smoother and hide the blemishes. If you don’t have enough natural light, use a strobe with a softbox on it.

Get familiar with the most flattering camera angles, too. If you shoot from a higher level, with your camera above your subject, your model looks innocent and submissive.

Shooting from a level lower than your subject makes your model look dominant and powerful. Both angles can work well, depending on the effect you want to achieve.

Get to know the different lenses suitable for boudoir photography as well. Use 50mm or 85mm lenses for a casual crop. For a more spacious scene, you can use a 35mm lens.

Using fixed lenses on a wider aperture smooths the background and brings some bokeh to the shot. This also helps you set the mood.

Using blacks, whites, and tones to enhance your images is great when editing your boudoir photos. Also, smooth the skin, but do not overdo it. You can bring down Clarity and Dehaze for a soft look, too.

A couple posing together in bed for a boudoir photoshoot shot from above


6. Provide Emotional Support to Gain Your Clients’ Trust

“How do I get clients in the door?” This is the question I receive the most from new boudoir photographers.

Getting boudoir clients is not unlike other photography genres. But it’s best to remember that your clients are leaving their comfort zones. So you have to be a sort of emotional support for them.

Many clients will come to you to gain more confidence or document their journey, such as weight loss. Or they may even want to regain that feeling of being empowered. You will lose many referrals if you are not sympathetic to these issues.

The clients coming to you may be very modest. But they want to break free from these ideas. Being understanding gets you better marketing than anything else. Many boudoir photographers get their new clients because of past ones.

Creating a model call can be a great way to start your portfolio. And it gets others talking about your boudoir.

I do a model call at least once a year—even after shooting boudoir photos for a decade. I do these calls to work on a new setup, show off all the new lingerie I have in the studio, or even for model releases.

A model leaning back on couch for a boudoir photography shoot


7. Create a Facebook Group to Share Client Experiences

One of my best decisions was to create my VIP forum group for past, current, and future clients through Facebook. I only allow those interested in a session and referred by clients in the group.

This helps the group to grow by word of mouth. And it keeps it safe for them to ask questions from fellow clients. I add lingerie sales posts and new upcoming events. I do anything to keep the conversation flowing within the group.

At least once a month, I do a video showing off the new items, such as albums, wall art, or fun client gifts. These videos get the most responses and keep the group engaged.

A blonde model in lingerie posing in front of a mirror


Being real in your groups is a great way to connect with potential clients. They will understand a bit about you and feel like they know you before a consult.

Also, this lets them see inside your shooting space and become comfortable with it. If you do not have a studio, a simple video from behind-the-scenes prepping for a shoot works just as well.

Clients can talk about their experiences in the group. And they can help reassure anyone else about their hesitations to do a session. Clients often sign a release for this group, knowing its purpose is to encourage others to do a session.

8. Treat Your Clients the Right Way

I love to go above and beyond for my clients. A boudoir photography session is a time to pamper your guests. Whether it is a corporate working mom, a single dad of three, or a couple who truly wants to reconnect, pamper your clients!

My questionnaires ask about their preferred music, snacks, and drinks. Clients love being in the makeup chair, eating strawberries, and sipping on a mimosa before their big session. This may be the only time they truly unwind in a stressful world.

The little things, like playing their favorite music when they arrive, help them relax. It also sets the mood, especially if they come in from a hectic week.

A boudoir shoot should be fun and exciting for you and your client. A tension-filled room only creates the same effect in the image. Good boudoir photographers are not only taking photos but also providing the experience of a lifetime.

Black and white photo of a girl posing with medieval crown, robe and sword


Conclusion: What Is Boudoir Photography?

We hope we answered the question, “What is boudoir photography?” It can be a life-changing experience for the client and the photographer. Watching my clients walk out the door more confident than when they walked in is the most rewarding part of my job.

We have a great post on boudoir photography business tips! Or check out our eBook, Profit from Portraits, for all the best tips on becoming a successful portrait photographer.

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