Boudoir photography is a niche within portrait photography. It consists of portraiture, fashion, fine art, glamour, and erotic photography.
Our Complete Guide to Boudoir Photography will take you through everything you need to know. The guide can help you get started in a brand new photographic genre. Or it can be a refresher for your existing knowledge.
The word boudoir comes from French. A boudoir was an area where the woman could have time to herself. This area, depending on the budget, could be a whole room or an area separated by a room divider.
Boudoir photography is a new trend that has grown to be quite popular in recent years. But the style itself has been around since the 1940s.
When it comes to boudoir photography poses, they offer a sensual, intimate look at a person. The photos focus on their mood, their clothing, and the landscape of their body.
The clients are most commonly women, but male and couples boudoir photography also exist. People are looking for these kinds of photos of themselves to keep and look upon as time passes.
They might even give them to a partner to reaffirm their connection and sensuality. This could be a precursor to a wedding. This is typically one photographic theme that boudoir photos concentrate on.
Boudoir photographs aim to appear candid and unposed. The style is playful and provocative. It enables those photographed to give off a strong presence. Nudity is implied yet rarely shown.
Yet they still need varying degrees of posing, composition, and lighting patterns.
Boudoir Camera Equipment
How to go about capturing boudoir photos starts with your camera gear. What camera equipment do I need? How many lenses? Do I need a different camera or new lenses?
Well, this all depends on what you have and what you want to get from your photography.
Lenses are almost if not more important than the camera body. If your lenses are producing low quality, blurred photographs, there is nothing your camera body can do about it.
The lens is where you can control the light by using the exposure triangle. It also helps you work with movement and more importantly, the depth of field.
For amazing photos, pair your equipment with a few lighting and compositional techniques. Also, use the internet to research poses and identify your favourites.
When it comes to boudoir photos or portrait photography, there is no standard of what you should use. You can use a DSLR with a full or cropped frame, or even a mirrorless system. They all have their benefits and drawbacks.
It only matters what you want to use the camera for, and what you want to achieve.
The next thing you need to consider is your budget. Having a better lens for your medium level DSLR might get you much more content. Buying an expensive camera body, and having to buy a cheaper lens might not be the way to go.
Knowing which lens you need is half the battle. As a boudoir photographer, you are going to capture portraits, details, and the environment the subject is captured in.
This means you’ll need a wide range of focal lengths, the field of views, and apertures. You can opt for a few lenses. Or, one zoom lens might allow you the versatility.
For example, a zoom lens with a range of 24-70mm is a great choice for most boudoir photography. It allows you to get close to the subject while allowing you to photograph from afar.
Less time spent with your equipment means more time focused on your subject. A subject becoming less and less comfortable is difficult to photograph.
When you have your subjects arriving, how do you make sure you are well prepared? You might have all the camera and studio equipment sorted. All your batteries are charged and the props ready. But what else can your photo shoot benefit from?
Look outside the scope of just your work tools. These men and women will be wearing makeup, such as foundation and nail polish. Having something to clean nails or faces after the shoot is a great idea.
Have you thought about snacks and water? Music is also a great way to help people feel comfortable.
These are just a few ways you can make the experience more comfortable for both you and your model. The more comfortable your model, the better your boudoir photos will be.
Boudoir Posing and Composition
Making the model comfortable at the photo shoot is paramount. Their body language and expressions scream their mood. If they feel out-of-place or nervous, you will see it in the photographs.
Communication is very important, but so is your professionalism.
Creating images that show the subject in beautiful, sensual ways will help their confidence. This, in turn, will allow you to get the most out of your subject and your photographs.
Start with the things that they like about their body. Ask them questions and work with the answers. Slowly, as the confidence and trust become stronger, work with the other areas.
Posing women across all types of photography is very similar. That is unless you feel like breaking the rules and want to try something very outrageous and specific. When it comes to portraits of any kind, communication is key.
You need to build up the trust between you and the subject to make them feel comfortable. This is how you photograph great moods, expressions, and the tone of the image.
Take a look at our list of 30 female poses. They can be used even in boudoir photography. Getting inspiration from this collection is going to help you to come up with new ideas. Practice these poses yourself to see how it affects your body.
Visual instructions are very important. The models might not understand photographic terms and might get agitated if they feel confused. Be clear, kind, and understanding. Show them the poses you would like to see from them.
Boudoir photography can be challenging. Photographing someone who might be nervous or uncomfortable is 50% of the battle, if not more.
Another huge trial comes down to posing the model. Capturing that natural, spontaneous look takes practice, technique, and know-how.
One great asset is ‘flow posing’. This system keeps your model in motion, which helps to keep that natural look to the photographs. It works well because you can take many photographs without excessively moving to and from different settings.
This system keeps a good flow and demands little from your subject. It’s allowing her to focus on that smoky, sultry look.
Take a look at our list, and prepare for the photoshoot by learning which is good when.
What holds true when posing women does not follow when posing men. The keywords for how women want to look could be cute and pretty. This is what photographers look for when focusing on the female body’s curves.
With men, they want to be seen as strong, tough, cool, and tall. So how do we show these things? Boudoir photography poses are slightly different from other portrait poses.
The two things that should be focused on when photographing a man is the ‘V’ frame and jawline.
This article looks at these in great depth.
The trend of “dudeoir” is, in fact, a thing. This means the male version of the classic boudoir photography.
Here are ten ideas to try if you are shooting male boudoir photography.
Do a short brief before the shooting session. This way you are going to know the purpose of the photo shoot, and enhance the different aspects accordingly.
Also, giving your model ideas on the outfit helps him to feel comfortable.
Inspiring your model with posing tips, and playing with the light is crucial for making diverse images.
Using minimal props and photographing silhouettes are helpful for creating a dramatic effect.
Tell stories with boudoir photography. You can even involve his partner in the photo shoot.
Boudoir photography is a more risque version of portraiture, but the same rules apply.
This article focuses more on the technical aspects of portrait photography than the poses.
Apertures are best used at f/8-16 as this will give you the sharpest images. It will also give you a slight blur to the background.
The eye direction of your model is important. Either they look straight into the camera, or they follow the model’s nose. Every other option doesn’t work.
Off-camera lighting is necessary. This plays a big part in showing the form of the model in the best possible light (pun intended). It gives your images depth, and the shadows can be used to extenuate parts of the body.
Having boudoir photos taken by a professional photographer can be daunting. But it shouldn’t stop you from being photographed.
You can photograph yourself. This saves you money and allows you to take your time. You can try a lot of styles and see which one fits you the best.
Also, you might feel much more comfortable, because you are posing for yourself. If you don’t like an image, you just delete it and move on.
Not to mention the improvement you can achieve by practising with yourself. It is going to be easier to shoot other models. You are going to know how they feel, and which pose is comfortable, which is not.
This article shows images of a photographer who photographed herself in a boudoir style. Through the whole project, she overcame challenges on her own.
Every woman is beautiful. Every body, with its unique set of curves and proportions, is a work of art. As a boudoir photographer, it is your job to help each woman feel beautiful, desirable, and confident.
But it is important to remember that there are different body types, with different features that should be highlighted. Hence, everyone also needs to be posed differently.
Here is a guide of 12 simple posing tips to help you photograph voluptuous curves and highlight beauty.
Besides the poses, communication is crucial here too. Make sure to comfort your model, and ask her questions. Starting with more clothes on is also a good idea in this case too.
Couples boudoir photography is about highlighting the intimacy between the partners. You are there to capture aspects of their relationship they might not even know about.
The same rules apply here, as in the one-person photoshoots. You should have a short brief with the couple before the photo shoot. Help them with the outfits. Make compliments. Make them feel comfortable and loose.
You can get creative with the location, find a place that is close to the couple’s hearts. Telling a story is a nice idea for couples too.
A themed boudoir session can also result in intimate and warm images.
It’s also important to direct their moves. They usually don’t know what is going to look great in images. Try combining their love language with your expertise of poses.
Capturing details also adds to the intimate feeling.
Wedding boudoir is getting more and more popular as it is a perfect gift for the bride or for her partner. Read our ten ideas to learn how to shoot stunning bridal boudoir photography.
Using props that fit the wedding’s theme is a nice idea. If there is no specific theme, using the colours of the decoration is more than perfect. You can include the flowers that are used as a decoration too.
Include wedding accessories. The wedding (or the wedding night) lingerie, the veil or the wedding shoes will make a more authentic look.
The bride’s or the couple’s home as a scene for your session will make your images more personal.
Use props that belong to the groom. This is going to show that although this session is about the bride, the groom is still in her mind.
You can best capture the intimacy by including the groom.
You don’t necessarily have to make it a separate photo shoot. You can capture the preparations before the wedding. This is great because the bride’s hair and makeup are going to be perfect.
A pregnant female body is a perfect example of raw and natural beauty.
Like in standard boudoir photography, the pregnant model is photographed in lingerie, naked or with very light clothing.
Maternity boudoir images can celebrate the beauty of the female body, and give some self-confidence to the mother.
Getting to know your client is essential in this genre too.
Use simple outfits to keep the attention on the body. The poses and the clothes should emphasise the belly, and they should make it look good.
You can use simple props (for example little shoes) that fit the maternity theme. These make the images cuter.
Including the other parent is great for showing emotional connections. Shooting at home will create an intimate atmosphere too.
Also, taking the boudoir session outdoors is going to create a close-to-nature feeling. This can result in beautiful images that enhance the natural beauty of pregnancy.
Hands are a very important part of any portrait or boudoir photography session. But a lot of people just don’t know what to do with them.
Within portraiture, they can sit gently in the lap. Or, they can even be used to prop up or frame the face, like ‘The Thinker’ by Rodin.
Here we have a few great tips on using hands effectively within your photoshoots. Boudoir photography poses for hands are very important. They extenuate the emotions and mood of the subject.
Use the hands to give off that sultry, sexy feeling. Have the model caress her own skin, touch her lips, or play with her hair.
These can all be very powerful in boudoir photography poses. Also, relaxed hands will make your images more natural.
Boudoir photography doesn’t have to be about props and many dress changes. It is focused on the shape of the model, fully clothed or scantily-clad.
Believing that you need more equipment, either for your camera or for building a studio, can be a setback. You can create stunning, classic images with a minimal amount of kit.
This could be simply dressing a chair with a blanket or something that has a little texture. You can take quite a few different images from one set-up by changing your position, your perspective, and the placement of the model.
Even by using two or three changes of outfit, you can photograph a whole portfolio of 15-20 images. You just have to move around and use your creativity.
Improving your boudoir photography knowledge takes time and practice. One important thing photographers have found in this area of photography is less is more. Do not try and go overboard with lighting, the setting or even costume changes.
Boudoir photography becomes successful when the model feels at ease and gives her best. This comes from simple set-ups, as they require less time and tinkering.
It also comes from you, the photographer, giving directions with confidence. You know what is best, you have all the research and information, so put it in your work.
Set limits for yourself and for your model. Make it enjoyable for the model, and they will give you the images you want. Getting frustrated and pushing for longer shoots will produce weak images.
This helpful article goes through 5 of the best lighting patterns to use for a boudoir photo shoot. They involve natural light, studio lights, or a mixture of both.
Natural light is one of the most flattering forms of light. It is also easy to use. Have the model stand in front of a window. The distance depends on the harshness of the light.
Using one studio light and a backdrop, also known as a Colourama, is also a very simple choice. The light should be just off of the camera, as it will give you complimentary shadows.
If you place the light slightly above the model, then the light will drop off. This is great for a transition on parts of the body that leave the frame.
A proper grasp on boudoir photography lighting separates the lingerie snapshot from a professional work of art.
You can consider the lighting tips you would use for a simple portrait. But in a boudoir photo shoot, it’s more important to find what suits the body type of your model the best.
Use available natural light for softness. You have to be lucky to have the perfect light as you don’t have much control over it. But if you have, it can give a natural and silky atmosphere to your images.
Experiment with one or more light sources. Also, colour gels can add a little extra to your boudoir photos.
And last but not least, emphasise your boudoir photography lighting with post-processing.
Chances are, you don’t have a studio at home. You will need to make the most out of what you do have. Most of the setting can be cropped out in post-processing or by using a closer, tighter framing.
Boudoir is all about showing off what the model likes about her body, and downplaying what she doesn’t.
This can be done without a huge budget and renting a professional studio or setting.
For ideas and costs for setting up a boudoir photo shoot in your own home, see our article.
One area that your boudoir photography could really benefit from is colour management. This could be complimenting the colours of the setting and the clothing worn by the model. They could of the same colour range, by using different shades and tones of green.
If you are photographing in black and white, you need to think about this too. If the background is plain and white, you could use gels over the lights to add colour. This will help to isolate the subject from the background.
A model wearing black lingerie on a white sheet background is very powerful. White and white is difficult to separate. Black on black could work very well if the lighting is highlighting the curves of the model’s body.
Use a colour wheel for colours that work, and ones that don’t.
Boudoir photography requires creativity and taste. If you feel a bit stuck on inspiration, here is a list of 16 great ideas. These will fill your photographs with lots of creativity.
The list includes tips on what to do before the shoot and different ways to make your boudoir photographs pop.
Consider taking images from behind, to create mystery. Photograph from above to make your client look taller. Use mirrors to create drama and interest. Adding negative space to the images will draw attention to your subject.
The list goes on, take a look at it!
Nude photography can be quite intimidating for both the model and the photographer.
Before embarking on this genre, you should be aware of some of the general conventions. But that doesn’t mean you will be limited on creativity.
If you are not sure where to begin and how to create artistic nude photographs that aren’t just sexual, check out this article.
Begin with considering the basic tips, just like shooting in a warm place. Your models can’t relax if they are freezing.
Starting to shoot with limited light is going to make your subject feel more comfortable. The same is true about starting to shoot with the model having (more) clothes on. Also, a telephoto lens can give more space to him or her.
Props, other models, and shooting in black and white just other things that are going to add a little extra.
It’s always a good idea to get inspiration from other people’s work. This is true for boudoir photography too.
Reading other, more experienced photographers’ thoughts on this topic is going to help you to feel comfortable. Also, it’s essential for creating your own style.
By looking at other artists’ images, you can decide what you like. And of course, what it is you would like to avoid in your images.
Here in this article, we collected 20 blogs you should follow. No matter which kind of boudoir photography you are interested in, take a look at every genre. You may find ideas for your field too.
Post-Processing Boudoir Photographs
Editing boudoir photographs is very similar to other forms of portraiture. There are things you need to think about before photographing the subject, and then before editing.
The more work you do in the moment of the photo the less work you have to do in post-editing. But, if time is a luxury, you can definitely use Lightroom to change some basic settings.
Lightroom is a great place to store and work on your images, as and when you wish. Their keyword system lets you find things very easy. Also, their collection tool is very useful. If you are unsure how they operate, read our article here.
Presets for Lightroom that you can copy and paste also help make your workflow faster and easier. For more information about presets, look at our article here.
You might find yourself asking “Lightroom or Photoshop?” Both are very good post-processing and editing software packages. Some might even use both. Using the library and simple interface of LR, then using PS for more dramatic changes.
Photoshop forces you to work on one image at a time, which lets you focus entirely on that image.
The workflow is a little different and Photoshop can become a little confusing. You can do almost the same things in PS as you can in LR, but PS is a lot more in-depth, and not just for photographers.
This article goes from colour management to how to remove bags from under eyes.
If after reading this article you are even more interested in boudoir photography, maybe building it into a business is a good idea. You will need to have a designated space or a few of them that you can use as a setting.
A portfolio is a great place to start. Create a physical portfolio and one online, such as a website or a blog.
Contracts and release forms will need to be a regular part of your business. These allow you to use the images on social media or for commercial use.
Create a strong business plan, research your competition and make sure your web presence is strong.
In this article, you will find all the tips you need to help your business flourish and become successful.
A photography contract for boudoir photography is to ensure both parties retain their rights.
It makes sure that neither side can do anything with the images that were not pre-discussed and agreed upon. Risk of prosecution from either side can be enforced if consent was not given.
As boudoir images are very intimate, take your models’ wishes seriously.
One rule for photographing people is to get a model release. This is a contract between both parties, allowing the use of the model’s image. Most stock photography requires this if you wish to sell the images online.
Read here for the other nine tips on what your photography contract needs to have.
If you are looking into portrait photography niches, take some time to explore boudoir photography. It is a great niche where you can be creative and create unique shots. You can also boost the confidence of your client.
The camera settings and the lighting are similar to the ones used in ‘simple’ portrait photography. You just have to work with the whole body here.
The most important thing you should always pay attention to is making your models feel comfortable. This is true for any kind of portrait photography, but boudoirs are quite intimate. This can be a problem with shy subjects, so make time for a talk before the session. Keep the kind attitude through the whole shooting.
Using these tips, you can create beautiful, empowering photos that your clients will love!
To get ahead in your portrait photography business, don’t miss out on our eBook – Profit from Portraits!