Are you planning on doing a boudoir shoot? They can be heaps of fun. But they involve lots of accessories. Don’t worry. We’ll tell you what to bring to a boudoir shoot.
Next, don’t forget the basics, like hair ties, brushes, and clips. You’ll also want to bring any props or accessories you’d like to use in your photos. Finally, don’t forget snacks and water—you’ll work up an appetite!
What to Bring to a Boudoir Shoot: A Boudoir Photographer’s Checklist
If this is your first rodeo in the boudoir world, I highly recommend starting with a model or a non-paying client. It is not a good idea to start asking for payment when you have never shot a boudoir session, even if you’ve shot other genres.
Boudoir requires a certain emotional connection and a trained eye for posing. So, jumping straight to paying clients could set you up for disaster.
If you have photographed models or friends and this is your first time with a paying client, a checklist and posing guide will help ease your mind.
1. Camera, Backup Camera, and Charged Batteries
There is always a chance of malfunction with your primary camera. Having a backup saves you the hassle of rescheduling. And it prevents you from having a disappointed client on hand, especially if they drove or flew in for their session.
Having one battery in the camera and a second charged and ready to go is important. There were a handful of times over the years when I thought my main battery was charging overnight, only to wake up to see it became unplugged.
Having the second was a lifesaver for the session. And my clients were none the wiser!
2. Memory Cards and Laptop
If you plan to shoot many cards’ worth, you must also have backups for these. Memory cards can malfunction in the middle of a session. If you notice your camera freezes before showing the back of your screen, you may have a faulty card on hand. Bring at least one extra than you plan to shoot.
Another option is to bring your laptop and download the pictures while switching out cards. If you shoot tethered, bring extra cords if you have a client to whom you plan to show the work while on set.
3. Lens Options
There will always be a debate about the best lens for any genre, but each shot calls for a different look. Having a few choices on hand is a good rule of thumb if possible.
Each of these lenses has its strong points, and it comes down to preference and the final look you are going for. Having at least two choices can be helpful if you have the means to have more than one option.
4. Makeup and Boudoir Shoot Accessories
I have a licensed makeup artist at my sessions. I also always carry makeup remover. This is just in case my client is surprising their significant other and doesn’t want to spoil it by coming home all dolled up.
Some photographers double up as makeup artists if they are licensed. If this is you, make sure to have these supplies, especially many shades of foundation.
Double-sided tape is always on hand when the outfit is not where it should be. I also have safety pins, mini clamps, and other items on hand to secure the backs of outfits for a more form-fitting look.
I encourage each client to bring jewelry to make the session more personal. With that said, I still keep various accessories on hand in case they forget.
Toiletries are a must in the studio. Jen Swehdin carries a line of gifts for your clients. I have these makeup bags that she stocks with everything from makeup to deodorant wipes. I give this to each client on the morning of their photoshoot.
The clients love these gift items. It works out not only on the day of their session. It also works great for marketing to their friends. I place my logo on the bags so every time she pulls this little bag out, it is right there to do some marketing for me.
5. Bottled Water and Food
This one really should be before anything else. Keeping your clients hydrated is important to keep them safe.
Clients often fast before a boudoir shoot to lessen the bloated look. But this can be very dangerous because they may not realize how quickly they can feel lightheaded.
I also keep snacks in the studio at all times as well. When they first arrive for hair and makeup, a tray of water, juice, champagne, and light snacks such as granola, apple chips, cheeses, and cookies are set out.
Not only do they feel the pampered treatment is already starting, but they will also feel better knowing they have this all on hand.
In the questionnaire I send out, I ask their preferred food and drink choices in case of any allergies.
If you are unsure whether your client is over 21, ask before serving alcohol. I have shot a few clients who looked 18, only to discover they were well into their mid-twenties. Never once were they offended when I asked for ID. It was a good laugh and peace of mind when offering champagne.
6. Ladder or Step Stool
When I first started in boudoir photography, I used the vertical space in my studio. This helped me move around my client and not trip over unused equipment.
That’s why I prefer a ladder and a step stool. A step stool doesn’t always give me the height to shoot directly above them. These are great for angles such as full-body floor poses, bathtub shots, and shooting through chandeliers.
Step stools are also great if the client is taller than you. Having the angle straight on or a bit higher is more flattering for many looks. If you are worried about space-saving options, hang these from the walls you do not shoot against so you are not worried about taking up floor area.
7. Footwear and Baby Wipes
While I am more of a fan of barefoot and natural looks, I do keep a pair of heels in the studio just in case a shot calls for it.
I also keep a set of disposable slippers that I give each client at the start of their session to get from the shooting area back to the changing rooms. This helps eliminate my editing time later retouching dirty feet.
We also keep baby wipes to clean feet if anything gets on them. Many pieces of wardrobe I have in the studio are covered in sparkles. And those will transfer to just about every body part!
8. Lights and Modifiers
If you are a natural light shooter, you should plan to shoot when the light is best in your studio. During two hours of the day, the sun shines across the top of my windows, casting the shadow of my signage outside onto my floors. I avoid that at all costs if possible.
If you prefer strobes in the studio, ensure you have all your modifiers, cords, and transmitters ready. No client will want to wait around while you fumble with wires.
Always have backup batteries for your transmitters in the studio as well. I carry a full box of AA batteries for my Pocket Wizards as I shoot daily. And there is always that one time that I forget to shut them off before the weekend. A completely drained battery on a Monday morning is just the worst!
A fan is also a great option to have on set. Not only will it help with cooling the client down under the lights. But they also give movement to the hair as well.
A small floor fan with three speeds works well for a boudoir shoot. It is not a fashion set, so we are not looking for fully wind-blown hair. Just enough to get the hair moving and some volume.
9. Posing Guide
If you are new to boudoir, having a posing guide on hand can be extremely helpful. You don’t need to have it right out on display. Maybe have it tucked in a section of your studio so you can refer to it while your client changes. There are several guides available depending on your style:
- Boudoir Photography Cookbook by Jen Rozenbaum:
- The Boudoir Posing Guide by Lindsey Adler
- Boudoir Photography: How to Sell with Natalie Kita
These are just a few of the many out there. They can help a new shooter or even a seasoned one looking to break out of their creative rut.
10. Boudoir Client Checklist
Send your client a checklist of how to prepare for the photoshoot. This will help with their preparation.
My list includes encouraging them to drink plenty of water, not to fast from eating food, and other directions like no spray tanning prior. These lists can include anything that will help you and your shots.
These lists have expanded over the years to include issues I have encountered in each boudoir photoshoot. The latest additions to this list have reminded them to come with clean nails or done up. Fixing any cracked nail polish is an extra retouching fee. This fee also applies to sunburns.
Bonus: Client’s Checklist
If you are a client wondering what to bring to a boudoir shoot, ask your photographer if they have any special requests from you. Each boudoir photographer might need something unique. The tips below are a good starting point.
1. Properly Fitting Looks
While you may have seen something on a mannequin in the store, try it before your boudoir photoshoot. The last thing you want is to be swimming in a bodysuit that is too large or trying to hook a bra that is too small.
Many designers have sizes that are not true to size. So be aware to avoid any frustration and disappointment.
If you ordered an outfit online that does not fit you correctly, message your photographer and see what they suggest. If you can clip it back during the day of the session, you may not have to return the item. (Unless you plan on keeping it for further wear.)
Don’t forget to bring a few nude thongs if you borrow your photographer’s wardrobe. While most photographers I know wash all items between boudoir shoots, why risk it? The more sanitary you can be, the better!
2. Something Personal
Even if your photographer has a wardrobe available, bring something personal. This could be a favorite oversized sweater, your significant other’s T-shirt, or wedding shoes. It will bring that emotional connection when viewing the images and tie the entire look together.
One couple in a session brought their Renaissance fair wardrobe (for men and women) with bows, arrows, and swords. They frequently go as a couple to these events and wanted to tie in a part of their session with a look surrounding something they often do as a couple.
3. Bride and Groom Wear
If you are getting married and doing a photoshoot for your husband or bride-to-be, a boudoir shoot should always contain a part of your wedding gear! It makes elegant and classic wall art to hang in your new bedroom.
Bring your bridal veil, tie, wedding shoes, or maybe even your dress or tuxedo. You can do a sexy but classy strip tease out of them for a major impact on your album. Ask your photographer if they carry any veils in the studio if you are worried about risking yours before the big day.
Some photographers will even have wedding dresses for photoshoots as well. I keep a few dresses I found at Goodwill in the studio to cover up to the waist and show off the back. It does not distract from the idea that it isn’t their actual dress. It just looks like a bridal gown being removed.
In the image below, the client did bring their own. But it was short, and she was looking for a fully covered look. I keep a long veil in the studio just for these special requests.
Always feel comfortable asking your photographer anything to help make your session perfect. They may not have it, but it does not hurt to ask.
4. Your Comfy Sweats
You may not like to go out in public “undone,” but that is the best option for your photoshoot. Show up with clean, dry hair without makeup. Always wear loose-fitting clothing like sweatpants to avoid the lines and creases jeans will make.
If at all possible, show up without wearing a bra. Again, this will help with those pesky marks that your photographer may charge to edit out.
5. Your Finished Look
If you say, “Oh, you can just Photoshop that, right?” be prepared for the evil eye from your photographer. Okay, maybe a bit dramatic. But please understand those words can be very cliche for a photographer.
Yes, we can do it. For some photographers, we can do just about anything in Photoshop. But be courteous and think ahead when you decide not to get your roots touched up or your nail polish is cracked.
These are things that can be edited. But most likely, you will be charged an extra retouch fee. This is especially true if your photographer warned you to have these details taken care of. It’s best to come to the photoshoot as close to how you want to look as possible.
Conclusion: What to Bring to a Boudoir Shoot
For both photographer and client, the main takeaway for what to bring to a boudoir shoot is to really think ahead on what you might need. It is better to be over-prepared than kicking yourself during the session, wishing you had remembered that one special piece.
I have told my clients I would rather have them come in with rolling suitcases filled with options than wishing they had packed more.
While we most likely will not use everything they bring, having the option to tie a few looks together creates a great vibe and flow and more options for them to choose from… Check out our article on how to make your boudoir client feel comfortable during a photoshoot!