Boudoir Photography 101: Everything You Need To Know

There is a misconception about boudoir photography. Some people see it as indecent, erotic or explicit. They totally miss the point of the boudoir experience. So in Boudoir Photography 101, I am going to share:

What boudoir photography is,
What is a boudoir experience?,
How to select a boudoir photographer,
What happens during a boudoir photoshoot?,
The history of boudoir,
Styles of boudoir,
What to wear for a boudoir photoshoot,
Popular boudoir poses,
Misconceptions about boudoir photography,
Who boudoir is for,
Why women do boudoir photos, and
How to prepare for a boudoir photoshoot.

what is boudoir photography

What is Boudoir Photography?

Boudoir photography is about empowerment, self love and celebrating your beauty. It helps the woman who is unsure of herself, her femininity or her body, learn to see herself in a new light. The photoshoot and resulting photographs help re-ignite her confidence and realize she is more than she imagined.

Boudoir is classified as intimate portraiture. Unlike other types of photography, the photographs are usually private in nature and not intended for a wider audience. The photo session may involve everything from “flirty” images to sensual, lingerie, exotic, implied nudity and even artistic nudity. The client’s session is completely under their control. Although guided by the photographer, the client has the final say in any poses or photographs and the photographer should operate within her comfort zone.

Boudoir Experience

What Is A Boudoir Experience?

A boudoir experience is a professional photoshoot that is all about the client. It is designed around what the client’s likes. This allows the photographer to capture images that truly represent her authentic self while reaffirming her beauty.

Most boudoir experiences begin with the client in the chair of a professional makeup artist. Professional makeup and hair styling makes a huge different in the photographs. The artist works with the client to match her style, be it natural, glam, pinup or something else. The time in the makeup chair helps to relax the client’s nerves and helps prepare her for the shoot.

boudoir makeup artist
boudoir photographer

How To Select A Boudoir Photographer

It is important you are comfortable with your choice of photographer. If the trust is not there, it will show in the final images.

Because the client often poses in lingerie or less, they are in a vulnerable position and safety is paramount.

Before you hire a boudoir photographer, I recommend you read my article: Is Boudoir Safe? 10 Tips To Protect & Empower Yourself

Today there are a lot of photographers who shoot boudoir. Make sure you stay safe and select one that you will enjoy working with.

behind the scenes - boudoir-photographer
boudoir photoshoot

What Happens In A Boudoir Photoshoot?

Boudoir photoshoots make most clients nervous. They are afraid they won’t know what to do, how to pose or that they won’t look as good as others. A professional boudoir photographer understands these nerves and helps you feel at ease.

During the planning stages, the photographer asks questions to help plan your photoshoot. They understand your comfort level and what you want to do. Even more important, they understand what you don’t want to do!

Your photoshoot will most likely consist of several outfit changes and settings. This will provide you with a variety of images to choose from later.

Your photographer will guide you through a series of poses. Some will even demonstrate the pose first, so you understand exactly what they are looking for. If you are uncomfortable with anything, it is important you speak up. You should have total control over what you will and will not do.

The photoshoot itself should remain completely professional. At no time should the photographer ever touch the client. He or she is only there to guide and document the experience.

history of boudoir photography

The History Of Boudoir

Boudoir was the French word for a woman’s private sitting room. Men were allowed into the boudoir by invitation only, and many women entertained men privately there.

In the early 1920’s, American artist/photographer Albert Arthur Allen became known for his nude portraiture. Some believed his work was obscene, but he maintained it was neither erotic or explicit.

As photography became more popular, the desire to capture a woman’s natural beauty emerged. Natural beauty was the solution to society’s expectation of the perfect female body.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, actress Betty Grable became a popular pin up girl. Women began to pose for their own pin up pictures to send to their husbands during the war.

Marilyn Monroe became an icon by embracing her femininity and sexuality. Her confidence, innocence, & playfulness endeared her to the public and she became a role model for many women.

Today, boudoir photography is accepted as an art. Women who stand up to their own self-criticisms find the experience empowering. They develop a new found confidence and are able to truly appreciate their own beauty.

styles of boudoir photography

Styles Of Boudoir

Within the genre of boudoir, there are different styles. Some boudoir photographers shoot light and airy, with bright well lit images. Others shoot dark and moody, playing with shadow and natural light.

Some photographers shoot with a shallow depth of field, helping the subject stand out from a blurry background. Others shoot so every aspect of the image is crisp and in focus. This is usually an artistic choice for the photographer.

Boudoir photographers may also shoot low key images, where the body is lit from an angle and highlighted against a dark background. These are sometimes done in black and white, creating an artistic, art noir look.

low key boudoir photo
low key black & white boudoir photography

Bridal boudoir is another popular style of boudoir photography. While it has similarities to other forms, it is an art unto itself.

From 40’s pin up style to provocative, sensual, naughty or fun, each photographer has a style.

When you are looking for a specific style, it is important you select a photographer who offers a look you like.

boudoir outfits

What to wear for a boudoir photoshoot

Clients usually decide what they want to wear for their photoshoot. Your photographer should offer suggestions and tell you what will photograph well. It is important the client selects pieces that fit properly and they are comfortable in.

Some popular choices are:

  • A button up shirt,
  • a cocktail dress,
  • crop tops,
  • robes,
  • one piece teddy,
  • t-shirts,
  • tight jeans,
  • lingerie sets,
  • high heels,
  • sweaters, and
  • theme outfits

Make sure before the shoot, everything is clean, properly fitting and that you remove tags. Outfits should also reflect your style.

Want more ideas on what to wear for your boudoir photoshoot? Download my free PDF Magazine: 26 Perfect Boudoir Outfits & Ideas. Just click below to request the link.

boudoir outfit guide image
boudoir poses

Popular Boudoir Poses

The Curtain

Wrapping yourself in lace curtains is a great way to start a boudoir photoshoot. Lace photographs beautifully and the soft flowing curtains envelope the subject. From framing the face to torso, to the classic gazing out of the window for her lover, curtain shots are some of the most popular at our studio.

curtains - boudoir pose

The Chair

When the queen in you takes her throne, peasants beware! Classic arm chairs allow for a variety of poses, from curling up to commanding attention. Think fastening your heels, reading a good book before bed, having a glass of wine or champagne. There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to chair shots.

boudoir chair pose

The Knees

Sit back on your feet with the knees slightly parted. This can be done on the chair, the floor or the bed. This ia a classic pose to show off your form. Your hands can be running through or bunching up your hair, playing with bra straps, or beckoning the viewer to join you. This is also a great position for a button up shirt, stretching the fabric tight to show off your form. Another popular shot here at the studio is this pose with a white blanket covering, or barely covering the body.

kneeling boudoir pose

The Crawl

Slowly crawling across the bed allows your photographer to capture some incredible shots at various angles. You may be asked to do this more than once. At my studio, the client is crawling toward windows, creating beautiful catchlights in her eyes.

boudoir pose

Lying On Your Back

A very versatile pose that with proper positioning can look amazing from many angles. With legs stretched out or bent, from above, or head on with the client looking into the camera. This pose will require your photographer giving you specific directions on what to do with your hands and where to look. This is also a great pose for detail shots, the eyes, the lips, the lace of the lingerie. An extremely popular boudoir pose.

boudoir pose

Lying On Your Side

From lying on your back, it is a natural move to roll onto your side. Keep your bottom leg straight and bend the top leg so the knee is touching the bed in front of you. Prop yourself up on one elbow and allow the upper arm to rest on your hip, or if self-conscious about your tummy, drape down in front of it. This pose really shows of your curves.

popular boudoir pose

The Booty Shot

A great shot of her booty is a confidence boost to most women. Your photographer will show you the angle they are looking for. You’ll then stand with the leg closest to the photographer straight, and bend the leg farthest away. This accents the curvature, which is then highlighted by moving your hips back to pop your bottom out. Since most women only see their booty from one angle in a mirror, they are often surprised with how amazing they really look!

booty shot
boudoir misconceptions

Misconceptions About Boudoir Photography

Boudoir requires the client to be naked – FALSE!

While some clients do pose nude, others do not. Clients select their own wardrobes and wear what makes them feel confident and sexy. Boudoir isn’t pornography! If you feel sexy in something lacy, great. If you feel sexy in jeans and a shirt or sweater, no problem. The goal is to help you overcome body negativity and see your true beauty, the way the rest of the world sees you.

The women are models, not real women – FALSE!

Women from all walks of life have boudoir experiences to raise their confidence and rediscover their inner Vixen. Moms, wives, brides, single women, teachers, real estate agents, nurses, business women and more! They live in the everyday world, but with a bit of makeup, coaching and confidence, discovered they were more than they ever imagined.

You have to know how to pose and make a sexy face – FALSE!

A professional boudoir photographer knows how to guide you during the session. They will demonstrate poses and have you mirror their moves to find positions that flatter your body type. Your photographer will coach you right down to the look you give to the camera. Even if you’ve never liked your photographs before, a skilled photographer can help you look even more amazing than you already are!

Now is not the right time, I need to: lose weight, get some more confidence, have a tan, get in shape – FALSE!

There is no perfect time. These excuses are your subconscious mind trying to hold you back. Boudoir is about celebrating the skin you are in and realizing you are enough just the way you are. When these types of excuses rear their ugly heads, be brave and go for it. You’ll discover the inner voice was wrong!

I have to do a boudoir photoshoot for my partner – FALSE!

Many clients do these session for themselves. They may be celebrating a graduation or birthday, a weight loss goal, their upcoming marriage, or proving they still have it after a divorce. I’ve had clients document their body before a mastectomy. Some who have the experience after beating cancer to accept and love their bodies again. The reasons may be different, but the results are worth the journey.

I also have clients who have sessions to present their partners with a special gift for birthdays, holidays and anniversary. But even for those clients, they often find the biggest gift was to themselves.

who is boudoir for?

Who Boudoir Is For?

Boudoir is for every body. Women of all body shapes, sizes and weights can benefit by having a boudoir experience. Age is just a number, although we don’t offer sessions to anyone under 18. Women from age 24 to 65 have come to my studio for a confidence boost. From fast food employees to company CEOs, if your inner voice is saying you aren’t good enough, it is time to shut those thoughts down.

why do women do boudoir?

Why Women Do Boudoir Photos

While some women have boudoir photos taken for their significant others, a large number do it for themselves. The photos are a way to embrace your femininity and love yourself for exactly who you are at this moment in time.

You may do it to celebrate hitting a milestone, getting a promotion or conquering a condition. You may do it to enhance your own confidence and mindset.

The best reason women do boudoir photos is because they deserve it! And so do you.

prepare for boudoir photoshoot

How To Prepare For A Boudoir Photoshoot

Prior to your boudoir photoshoot, your photographer will have you fill out some questionnaires. These will help you to organize your thoughts about exactly what you want out of the session. It will also help the photographer personalize the photoshoot to meet your needs.

Look over your photographer’s boudoir gallery. Let them know which photos are your favorites. It is also okay to search out other boudoir photographs you like and share them with your photographer. While he or she won’t copy them, they should work with you to help create your own version of the pose.

Look through your closet and then go shopping! Find outfits you want to wear for the shoot. Try them on and make sure they fit. Try striking some poses in front of the mirror to see how they move on your body. Your photographer will coach you on posing, but practicing your own will help you feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

Accessorize! Pull out your favorite jewelry, earrings, pearl necklaces, and other pieces you love. They will add some extra bling to your photos.

Personalize your photoshoot by gathering some things that mean something to you and/or your significant other. Perhaps a ball cap or jersey of your partner’s favorite sports team. One of their shirts or ties can be added to the photos for an extra surprise.

Try different looks for your hair. Use the photos you liked as examples and see what style you like the best. It will help you to communicate the look when you are in the styling chair the day of your session.

Plan your schedule. If you plan to wax before your shoot, do it with enough time that your skin can heal and you aren’t covered in red bumps. Plan a manicure and pedicure for the day before. These not only help to relax you, but add a finishing touch to your photographs!

Hydrate with water and exfoliate your skin. Especially around the elbows and knees. Don’t pick at blemishes. Your photographer should be able to remove blemishes that aren’t permanent from your photographs.

Don’t eat foods that make you feel bloated or retain water.

Avoid fake tans. Come as you are, don’t try to color your skin prior to the shoot. I had one client who used a fake tan she had experience with, but that time it left big orange blotches on her skin. Don’t be an orange Oompah Loompa – be yourself.

Make sure to pack your outfits and accessories a day or so before the photoshoot. This way you won’t be running around at the last minute looking for something.

Relax the night before. If that is with a glass of wine, have one. If you enjoy relaxing in a bubble bath, take one. Nerves can be high before a boudoir session. Trust me, every client talks about the nervousness, but after the shoot, they tell me the nerves went away as soon as we started shooting. Know that yours will too.

Wear loose clothing to your photoshoot. Tight clothes will leave marks on your body. Even if you aren’t posing nude, the marks have a way of not lining up with the outfits you planned.

Try to relax and trust your photographer and their team. They will make you feel and look amazing!

I hope this Boudoir 101 article was able to answer your questions about boudoir photography. You may also want to check out our frequently asked questions section here on the website.

If you are in, near or traveling to Maryland and would be interested in possibly scheduling a personal boudoir photoshoot of your own, please reach out. I’d be happy to talk with you and see if my services would be a good match for your needs.

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