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 to a brand new photographic genre, or it can be a refresher for your existing knowledge.
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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 boudoir photography also exists. 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. Having a DSLR, a prime lens, and a zoom lens will get you great shots.
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.
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.
The f/2 is great for low light conditions but doesn’t create hyper-sharpness in your image.
It works very quietly, which is perfect for this intimate form of portraiture. It is less distracting for the model and helps keep the mood.
A 50mm lens or ‘nifty fifty’ is a go-to standard prime lens. The reason for this is that it’s very easy to work with. There is little to no distortion, it’s fast, and produces sharp photographs.
This lens is more of an environmental portrait lens. It captures the subject in their environment and setting, rather than a tight portrait.
Your model might already be very nervous about their boudoir photo shoot, so this is a good choice.
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. Here, I’m talking about the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8L. This lens is a great choice for most boudoir photography. As a zoom lens, it has a range of 24-70mm. 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.
PC lenses were developed for use with architecture, interior, and still-life photography. What is to say you can’t use them in other areas?
As photographers, we often need to break the rules to create something new and interesting. These lenses allow you to not only focus horizontally but vertically too. This means that instead of a focus line, you get a focus spot.
If you are looking to highlight a specific area of the model, this will help. It will also push everything with less importance into a dreamy soft focus. Viewers are really shown where to look.
These lenses are expensive, and they will need more tinkering with on the shoot. So, both the subject and photographer will need some patience.
But, this can be an interesting and uncommon way to shoot boudoir photography poses.
Ok, so you have your subject 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 using 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
Boudoir photography is not a genre; it is an approach. An approach to intimate portraiture that can be sensual and racy. It involves lots of research and a fair amount of customer service. On top of this, marketing, communication, and post-processing are also necessary.
It is a multi-faceted area of photography that is very easy to get wrong. When it goes well, you can create stunning images. But when it goes wrong, the images can look cheap and cheesy.
There is a thin line between boudoir photos and glamour photography. But boudoir photography poses are very different. Here we are capturing what a person likes about themselves. The models here are real people, where the images, in all likeliness, won’t end up in a magazine.
They may have never posed in front of a camera before and can be very nervous.
This article will give you a deeper insight into boudoir photography.
The camera settings should be similar if not the same for any portrait shoot. You won’t be doing any time-lapses or long exposures, so do not lower your shutter speed below 1/200. This will prevent any possible mirror shake or slight movement.
It is also a great speed to sync with your lighting equipment. For boudoir photos, you need to focus on aperture and ISO.
Depending on if you are using natural light or studio lights, you will have a range that will allow a correct exposure. With studio lights, you can increase and decrease the power, giving you as much light as you need. This will help keep your ISO low for better quality and detail.
If you use natural light, overcast weather will push up your ISO and sunshine will bring it down.
Making her (or him) 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.
One of the most important tools here is research. Use sources such as Pinterest and other Boudoir photography websites for inspiration. Practice these poses yourself to see how it affects your body.
Visual instructions are very important. The model might not understand photographic terms and might get agitated if she feels confused. Be clear, kind, and understanding.
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.
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 photographers without excessively moving to and from different settings.
This system keeps a good flow and demands little from your subject, allowing her to focus on that smoky, sultry look.
Boudoir photography is a more risque version of portraiture, but the same rules apply. 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. This article is written by a photographer who photographed herself in a boudoir style. Through the whole project, she overcame challenges on her own.
Hands are a very important part of any 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 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.
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.
Boudoir photography doesn’t have to be about props and many dress changes. It is focused on the form 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 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.
Some photographers use specific terminologies. This is especially true for equipment and techniques surrounding photographic lighting.
Here is a list of the lighting terms that you might come across, and what they all mean.
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 Home Studio Tips article.
Natural light is a free and effective way to light your subject. Obviously, it can be used outside. But using it at home can also create powerful, natural images.
With a little help from reflectors and flags, you can easily manipulate the light into something that you can use.
These are very cheap and easy options when it comes to lighting. They work across different types of lights.
Where light falls, what it bounces off, and how it can be blocked are important things to look for.
Using natural light is just one form of lighting. What if the light is falling behind, but falls short at the front of the subject? This is just one situation where you can benefit from additional light.
This could be a beauty dish, a professional soft-box studio light, or even a Speedlite and an umbrella.
In this article, you can see the challenges faced with using two different lighting systems. Daylight is coming through the window and the photographer is using incandescent lighting from the front or side.
These two lights have different color temperatures. Daylight is much bluer than the warmer incandescent lighting. This article explores how to deal with the two types of light.
Do not be intimidated by boudoir photographers who own and run their own studios. They might have a slew of eager assistants and lighting set-ups, which need both time and money.
But what I find is that more lights equal more problems. You can take stunning and powerful images with just one light source.
The benefit of using one light system is that you only need to move and adjust one. Having one means it is very easy to see where the light falls and how to adjust it.
No need to over-complicate something that should be simple, right? The focus of the scene should be on your subject. They don’t want to work on a 3-hour shoot where 80% of the time is spent moving and adjusting the lights.
This article/video gives you great advice for using only one light.
One area that your boudoir photography could really benefit from is color management. This could be complimenting the colors of the setting and the clothing worn by the model. They could of the same color 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 color. This will help 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 this color wheel for colors 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 that will whet your appetite and fill your photographs with lots of creativity. The list includes tips on what to do before the shoot, how to switch up your pictures, and different ways to make your boudoir photographs pop.
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, then check out this article.
Post-Processing Boudoir Photographs
Finding a workflow is paramount to the way you shoot and edit. This will depend on what you will do with the images. If you are planning to build a business out of the boudoir style, then you will at some point show the clients the images.
Will this happen face to face? If so, this article is great for helpful tips on how to manage yourself and your images.
If they are to be posted on social media, then your work might benefit from thorough editing.
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 the white balance.
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 color 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 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.
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.
As a professional photographer, delivering your images in a timely manner is paramount.
That’s where Pixieset comes in. This is a platform that allows you to easily share large files with your clients. This all comes at a monthly fee.
This means your clients will be happy, satisfied, and likely to work with you again! It’s definitely one of the top options for file sharing.
For the full review, and information on how to get started, read our article here.
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.
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!