Making a woman look alluring, powerful and strong is essential when they bare all (almost) in boudoir photography. Use our boudoir photography tutorial to discover how to create a home studio in which to pose your model creating beautiful and flattering portraits.
The word boudoir comes from French. The correct boudoir pronunciation is ‘bood-waar’.
A boudoir was typically an area where the woman could have time to herself – it doesn’t just mean a bedroom. Traditionally this area, depending on the budget, was either an entire room or just an area separated by a room divider.
Boudoir photography often has a playful, provocative look, with nudity that is implied rather than shown. Glamour photography tends to be more explicit.
The aim of boudoir is to portray your subject in a sensual, intimate way. Creating flattering photos needs the photographer to be artistically thoughtful about the subject’s body, clothing, and personality.
Whether you’re wondering how to take your own boudoir photography or doing a boudoir shoot for a client or friend, take a deep dive into our boudoir photography for beginner’s guide for inspiration, tricks, and tips.
If you’re looking to shoot boudoir style photography then you need to start with building a suitable place to shoot.
You could look for pro studios to hire that offer boudoir room scenes near you or, for a relatively inexpensive investment, you could create your own at home. This may be more advisable if you can foresee yourself doing more boudoir shoots in the future.
Planning how to set up a home boudoir photography studio can be overwhelming. With so many elements to consider, where do you start?
The first step is to do some research on the photo studios near you. Of course, you didn’t have to visit those places physically. A simple internet search was enough.
When I looked around, a photo studio near me even had images of their facilities. Seeing their set-up allowed me to figure out how to arrange my equipment at home.
Remember that it would take years to acquire expensive equipment you see in professional studios. For now, don’t be afraid to start small with the essentials.
Write down a list of the common equipment and boudoir props that you see in the studios examples.
● Chaise Lounge
● Fluffy Rugs
● White Bed Sheets
● Net curtains
But you don’t have to go to the expense of buying specific furniture if you’re just trying out boudoir photography for the first time. When you are starting out you’ll be able to get away with a clean wall and window light.
It’s only if you really want to amp up the scene and create a little more atmosphere and story as to when you’ll need more elaborate and authentic props.
I’ve put together a list of photography equipment that you may want to consider getting together for your boudoir photography.
● Lights – Just one light and a reflector are more than enough to start boudoir photography. But as time goes on you’ll start to realise that a standard 3 point lighting system will give you greater flexibility. When you get to that stage don’t mix lighting types (i.e. continuous lamps and flash). When you are starting out, natural light and a white reflector is the most cost-effective combination.
● Flash Trigger – If you prefer to use a flash then make sure you get a wireless trigger or a flash sync cable. This will allow you to set off your flash without it being connected to the camera.
● Lighting modifiers – Since off-camera flashes deliver hard light you’ll need some way of softening it to flatter your subject’s skin. A white/gold reflector and umbrella are a must in this situation. You could otherwise place a softbox over the flash to spread the light wider.
● Light stands – When using an off-camera flash make sure it’s mounted on a light stand. It means you’ll be able to control the direction of the flash more accurately.
● Fans – A powerful fan can introduce some motion into your portrait (think wind-blown hair or clothes). But they can also make it comfortable to work if the boudoir gets warm. Continuous studio lights and strobes with modelling lights generate a fair amount of heat. A fan helps provide some comfort to you and your model.
● Background – A collapsible background is a good way to start if you don’t have a plain white wall to shoot against. Lastolite produces a range of collapsible backgrounds that can be folded up and stored away discreetly.
● Step ladders – We wouldn’t say step ladders are essential for boudoir photography but there are benefits to having a set nearby. They are useful to change your point of view on your model. But also, to change the orientation and settings of your lights.
Good lighting can make or break a boudoir photoshoot, especially if you don’t want to worry about a complicated lighting setup.
To keep things simple and flattering, look for a spot in your chosen room with lots of natural light. If it doesn’t already have any coverings then purchase some net curtains, light-coloured curtains or blinds to diffuse the incoming light.
Turn off other ambient lights in the room. You don’t want your colour balance to be affected by lamps and ceiling lights. A bright, naturally lit room or a studio with natural light is an ideal location for boudoir photography.
You don’t need to spend a long time deliberating over which is the best camera for boudoir photography. Almost any digital SLR camera is a solid choice for boudoir photography. Depending upon the lens most are lightweight, easy to use, and can cycle through many frames per minute.
Given that image quality is more guided by the glass in the lens, if you’ve got a larger budget then consider investing in mid-high range lenses and less on the camera body. The decision will pay dividends in the photos.
We’d say having a lens that can shoot between 35-85mm is ideal for boudoir photography. A standard 18-55mm kit lens will be ok for starting out but something with a greater range like a 24-70mm would be better.
Whichever lens you choose, look for one that can stop down to around F/1.4-F/2. Boudoir photography is all about the softness and delicacy of your client’s body. A shallow depth of field softens the appearance of skin outside the focal plane and makes it look smoother.
Plus the other benefit of a fast lens is that it’ll work better in low light. If you’re going for a moody boudoir style then you may be using less natural light so a wider aperture will help with the camera’s focus system.
Given that your client will be posing in their underwear, this (for a first time model) can be very nerve-wracking. It’s up to you as the photographer to make them feel relaxed, powerful and confident.
Making the model comfortable at the photoshoot 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. Once you gain more trust and confidence from your client you’ll find it easier to shoot as they’ll be less conscious and expressions will be more genuine.
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.
All it takes is a little conversation. Talk to them about why they are doing the shoot in the first place – you’ll probably know already but there’s no harm with re-addressing it. From there you can go on to talk about holidays, future projects and work – your conversation doesn’t just have to be about the shoot, in fact, it may distract them a little to talk about something else.
Either way, whatever the chat, make sure it stays professional, appropriate and upbeat. The last thing you want is for your model to feel conscious, uncomfortable and worried.
Just so you’re fully prepared for your boudoir photo shoot we’d recommend that you have a pre-shoot chat with your model to ensure they feel comfortable in front of the camera.
Discuss their ideas for the shoot and create a shot list so they have a sense of what the boudoir photo shoot will be like. It’s important for you to add in your own ideas too.
For example, you might do a mix of wide and close up shots. Or you might decide together which parts of your client’s body you will highlight in the boudoir photos. On that note its important to know which areas (if any) that your client may want you to avoid shooting, or focusing on.
People are body conscious, even more so when they are in their underwear in front of a stranger. Therefore, in an effort to make yourself more caring and attentive, find out if there’s anything that would make your model feel uncomfortable.
Prepare a moodboard with images for you and your client to look at and pick out some shots to recreate. Look through sites like Pinterest and search for the following terms depending on your client;
● Essential boudoir poses
● Boudoir poses that hide stomach
● Boudoir photography ideas
● Boudoir photo ideas for plus size
When it comes to preparing outfits for your model to wear, suggest that your client try on a few outfits before the shoot to determine what they feel most comfortable and sexy wearing.
Get them to bring along a few outfits so you have a few options to work with. Advise your model to wear loose clothing ahead of the shoot so their skin is free of any marks, impressions, or lines. For women, bra straps are the most common skin indentation you’ll have to edit out if you don’t advise your client beforehand.
If your client wants a full photo makeover then consider hiring a professional makeup artist to help with that on the day of the shoot. Note that makeup artists can take anywhere between 40 – 90mins to complete a look depending on the complexity so build this into your time.
Ask them not to go heavy on foundation and bronzer as it can be visible in shots and looks less natural. You can tone and tan the appearance of skin by using a gold reflector if this is what you’re client is looking for.
A makeup artist may be able to cover up skin blemishes that your client would prefer to stay hidden which means you don’t have to overthink too much during the shoot. It’s like a less digital version of retouching!
Time to talk about how to pose your model. These essential boudoir poses and approaches can be used with all clients. Just because a model may consider themselves plus-sized it doesn’t mean they should be treated differently.
All boudoir photography poses should have angles to create conflict and leading lines.
Ask your subject to bend their legs or arms creating triangles. These shapes stop your subject from looking flat, dimensional and tense.
This could be as simple as raising a knee and leaning an elbow on top. Check out the examples below for more inspiration.
The eyes are the first place we look at on any portrait. They are the first line of your picture’s story – so make sure you get it right.
Direct your subject to convey the mood you’re creating with their eyes. Think of ‘intense’, ‘suggestive’ or ‘innocent’ expressions to portray. But don’t assume every subject will know how to do this. Be prepared to give them directions i.e. ‘think of something you can’t tell anyone else’.
If you want your shot to look less engaging, then ask them to look away from the camera. It then becomes more voyeuristic for the audience. A glance towards a window, gazing at a phone or reading a book are nice ways to create this distraction.
Don’t leave your subject lingering. Idle hands can look distracting and unprofessional. Instead position them over your subject’s body, behind the head or clasped together to make them look purposeful.
If your subject feels a little conscious of their body, then ask to position their hands across these areas if it would make them more comfortable. An arm across the stomach or chest gives the hands purpose and also relaxes the subject.
Boudoir is all about beauty and/or temptation, if you give everything away then it leaves no further interest.
Don’t ask your model to bare all – as that’s not strictly boudoir photography. Full unabridged nudity starts to become glamour photography instead.
In boudoir, it’s respected to cover up private areas, but leave a hint or a suggestion in the viewer’s mind. Look to reserve your subject’s dignity whilst still showing their strength and power.
Using sheer clothing and thin materials such as satin and silk is another way to tempt and tease the final audience.
The mouth has an incredible power of suggestion to an audience in a sexy boudoir photograph. Open mouthed shots look conversational, parted (or pouted) lips could suggest a kiss or bated breath.
Closed mouths can look closed off or cold so make sure you strike the right mood.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the hair. Use a reflector or a fan to waft your model’s bonnet so it looks mid-motion and dramatic.
Combined with a low angle can make your subject look like a sexy superhero.
Consider the physics of doing this too. If you’re subject is indoors, with no open windows sat down – why would their hair be moving? Make it look natural and believable by getting the subject to sway (or dance a little) which means in turn angles the body suggesting overall movement.
Hopefully all these tips and ideas have you fully prepared to embark on your journey as a boudoir photographer. If you are still a little nervous about working face-to-face with a boudoir model then why not do some selfies instead?
Use all these points we’ve covered to put into practice how to take boudoir photos of yourself. All you’ll need is a remote shutter button to take the shot and everything else is the same.
Let’s recap with 5 tips in this beginner’s guide to boudoir photography.
1. Get yourself a gold/white reflector if you are only using natural light to fill in the shadow areas gently.
2. Diffuse your off-camera flash (if you are using one) through a softbox or an umbrella.
3. Research boudoir photography tips and poses online to present some ideas to your client
4. Ask your client to bring a range of suitable outfits
5. Remember to bend limbs with all poses and always consider facial expressions to create a story within the image.