- Boudoir Photography Defined
- Boudoir Photography Camera Equipment
- Lens Recommendations for Boudoir Photography
- Boudoir Photography Accessories
- Essential Boudoir Poses and Composition Tips
- Camera Settings for Boudoir Photography
- Make the Model Feel Comfortable
- How to Pose Hands
- A macro lens (say, this 105mm beauty)
- A wide-angle lens (like a 24mm lens or wider on a crop sensor camera)
- A traditional 50mm (even a cheap one like this will work great!)
- Your camera, a backup camera and charged batteries
- Memory cards and backup memory cards
- Options for lenses
- Makeup kit and accessories (more on this later)
- Water/snacks/maybe a little liquor!
- Shot list
- Step stool for high shots
- Setting spray
- Lash adhesive
- Brown and black false eyelashes
- A high-definition super palette (so no skin tones are left out)
- Double-sided fashion tape
- Baby wipes
Photo by MaxFrost via iStock
So, you want to break into boudoir photography?
Unfortunately, it's a little more complex than just making sure your models can pose in a sexy manner all the while wearing little clothing.
You need to think about everything from the gear you use to the purpose of the photoshoot to the manner in which the model is posed. It's a lot to digest!
Additional Resources: Our list of nude photography tips will give you more ideas for boudoir poses and composition. If you're working with a model that doesn't have much experience, try these portrait posing tips for people that don't know how to pose.
To help you out, we've put together the following comprehensive list of boudoir photography tips.
Table of Contents
Boudoir Photography Defined
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Boudoir photography is a type of photography that has been around ages, but it has grown to be extremely popular in the last few years.
While many times you will find yourself shooting boudoir for a woman's partner (say around her wedding day), many women are also reclaiming the art of seduction through boudoir photography and having sessions done for themselves.
Some women believe that feeling sensual for nobody but themselves is empowering and that boudoir photography helps them to love their bodies more.
Photo by avi_indy via iStock
Typically, boudoir photography is about looking candid and laid back (unposed), and you will usually begin a boudoir shoot with the model completely dressed and work your way down to implied nude shots.
Boudoir photography is provocative but in a PG-13 way. Models should feel at home during the shoot because boudoir photography is about getting the model to be as playful as possible.
When it comes to boudoir photography essentials, this pursuit is all about the model's body and celebrating it!
Boudoir Photography Camera Equipment
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Unless you are starting a full-fledged boudoir photography company, there's no reason to go out and buy yourself an entirely new camera for one boudoir shoot.
Using a camera you are comfortable with is more than half the battle, anyway.
Besides, you can take beautiful boudoir photos with any type of camera - a smartphone, an entry-level DSLR, a full frame mirrorless...you name it.
It's not what camera you have that makes a difference, it's what you do with the camera that does.
Photo by recep-bg via iStock
Ultimately, what will likely determine the camera you use for boudoir photoshoots is your budget.
Naturally, something like a Sony a7R III will cost far more than a Nikon D3500. Sure, the Sony is a much better camera, but as noted above, that doesn't mean that excellent shots can't be had with a cheaper, entry-level rig.
Additional Resources: Check out our article on the best Sony Cameras for portraits to get a few insights on possible cameras to use and features to look for in a boudoir photography camera.
Lens Recommendations for Boudoir Photography
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Honestly, the most important boudoir photography gear is the lenses you use.
When I'm trying to learn about a new type of photography, I'm trying to learn from the best in the biz, and that's how I stumbled across Rachel Stephens.
Stephens is a boudoir photographer who makes over $350,000 per year on individual client sales. She books around 500 boudoir shoots per year.
Stephens did a tell-all where she examined everything she brings with her on a boudoir shoot... her boudoir photography essentials.
Stephens recommends three types of lenses:
The 50mm is for traditional portrait shots, while the macro lens captures intimate details like a woman's lips and tongue, her eyes or the way her bra lifts her breast.
The wide-angle lens is for incredible shots like this one:
Photo by nemchinowa via iStock
Though using a wide-angle lens for portraits is not terribly common, as you can see above, a wide-angle view gives the shot tons of depth. I personally like the bit of wide-angle distortion, too.
High fashion photographers oftentimes use a wide-angle lens to get that depth and to highlight the model's surroundings, and a wide-angle lens in boudoir should be used for the same reasons.
Boudoir photography oftentimes uses accessories like a chair, bed or mirror, to make the model seem larger than life while still looking relaxed.
Wide-angle lenses add depth to boudoir shoots that your competitors probably won't have, because as I mentioned before, Stephens is at the top of the boudoir photography gear game.
Additional Resources: If you're on the hunt for the perfect portrait lens, let us help you figure it out. Naturally, lighting is an important aspect of boudoir photography as well. Check out these tips for the best boudoir lighting to make your client's booty look like a million bucks.
Boudoir Photography Accessories
Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
After you're done reading about essential boudoir poses and boudoir photography lighting, you've booked your first client and they're on their way in a half hour.
Here's a boudoir photography gear checklist to make sure you don't need to interrupt the shoot for anything:
Photo by ChristopherBernard via iStock
While some of this boudoir checklist is self-explanatory, like the need for a camera and a backup camera or multiple memory cards, some of these items are unique to boudoir shoots.
Boudoir photography gear is unique because you're trying to make your client feel very comfortable in an extremely uncomfortable setting.
More often than not, this will be your client's first time posing semi-nude or nude and if they aren't a professional model (or even if they are) they might have body image issues.
In order to quell the model's fears, you'll want to be prepared with backup makeup and accessories in case anything goes wrong.
Here's a boudoir photography makeup checklist:
You'll also want to remind your client to bring any of the makeup she put on earlier in the day in case she needs a touch-up.
As for accessories you should have around your studio, make sure you have disposable slippers to ensure your client's feet don't get dirty before and between shots or during costume changes.
Also, despite the fact that you reminded them not to, you will definitely come across a model who fasted before the shoot and starts to feel faint during it. Make sure you have snacks for this person so you don't have a situation on your hands.
You'll also have the person who needs to loosen up a bit (well, this will be almost everyone but sometimes they need a little liquid courage). I recommend keeping champagne in the studio because it's a fun way to remind your client that you're here for their enjoyment. Turn on some music, too. In fact, encourage your clients to bring their favorite tunes. There's nothing like a favorite song blasting on the speakers to get you do loosen up, right?!
Essential Boudoir Poses and Composition Tips
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You can't cover a boudoir photography essentials article without discussing essential boudoir poses.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of particular poses, know that you need to practice these shots yourself long before you have an actual model in your studio.
You need to be able to tell each model what a pose will do to specific parts of their body, so they can be as excited about it as you are. You also need to be able to redirect them into the proper pose, too, and be able to do so without touching the model (unless they give you permission, of course).
Photo by Iampixels via iStock
The bent legs shot is one you've definitely seen before; it shows a model's sexual pleasure. Plus, it's a great way to hide a tummy role your model is uncomfortable with.
During this pose, instruct your model to put one or both of her arms up behind her head. This way her breasts even out and look perky.
This shot is explicitly sexual, though, so don't lead with it. You'll also need to show her exactly what you are looking for, so lead by example or have photos pulled up on a laptop to direct her.
Legs in the air
Photo by vadimguzhva via iStock
The legs in the air shot is a variation on the bent legs shot. Every woman's legs look great stretched out like this, particularly because you can see her toned legs in all their glory.
You can also move around during this shot and get it from a ton of different angles, so play around with your positioning so you can get multiple images without having the model move at all.
Photo by AmeliaFoxvia iStock
If your model is uncomfortable in front of the camera, instruct her to giggle. This gives off an innocent vibe that probably matches her personality better than any overtly sexual pose does.
Another great pose for a shy model is to inform her not to look at the camera and to instead look down and out of the shot. Sometimes lessening eye contact is just what the model needs to feel a little more confident and comfortable.
Finally, shy models work really well with implied nudity so long as they are comfortable with it. Have her strip down and cover up with a sheet, a shirt or a pillow. A timid face matches implied nude shots very well, so it won't feel at all unnatural.
Take Your Bra Off
Photo by razyph via iStock
This is something women do every day anyway. It's another "pose, but not a pose" that will make even the most uncomfortable of models look good.
Not only is it sexy, but you can also add a mirror - like in the shot above - to direct the viewer's eye to the front of her breasts. It will almost feel like the viewer is there with the model!
Camera Settings for Boudoir Photography
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Most boudoir photographers choose to shoot in aperture priority mode.
If you're unfamiliar with this shooting mode, it allows you to control the aperture, and thus the depth of field of the shot. The camera then selects an appropriate shutter speed to get a good exposure.
The advantage of this is that you really only have to worry about one setting - the aperture - because you can set the ISO at the outset and forget it, assuming the boudoir photography lighting situation doesn't change.
Additional Resource: Give our comprehensive guide to the best camera settings for portrait photography a look to get more details on critical camera settings for portraits.
There's so much going into each shot, I recommend using auto white balance whenever possible. Sure, it isn't ideal, but you can easily correct white balance issues in post-processing.
The only time you should not use automatic white balance is if your model is wearing white, blue or green and sitting on a white, blue or green background. These colors will show on the model's face and throw off the picture.
Additional Resource: Learn all about white balance in this in-depth article.
Photo by ozgurdonmaz via iStock
Again, your camera knows what it is doing. Use multi-segment metering whenever possible. The only time I use spot metering is when my client is backlit.
Additional Resource: Learn about different metering modes and when to use them.
Autofocus for portrait shots; always autofocus for portrait shots.
Select a single autofocus point (most frequently the model's eyes in boudoir, but sometimes a body part if her face isn't in the shot). Then, use center or off-center settings to bring the shot into sharp focus.
Additional Resource: In this article, we explain the differences between various camera autofocus modes.
Make the Model Feel Comfortable
Photo by deniskomarov via iStock
Boudoir photography is playful, but the shots will come off creepy if your model is visibly uncomfortable...
Don't Touch Without Asking
The first way to make a model comfortable is to ensure all of her needs are met. Send an email before your client gets to the studio asking where and if she is comfortable being touched during the shoot.
Never touch the model without express consent beforehand. If you need her to move her shoulder back, get her to do so by asking. If the shot still isn't right and you need to adjust her posing, ask if you may.
Every model has had an uncomfortable encounter with a creepy photographer who won't stop staring. This is a surefire way to ensure your model never comes back or recommends you to anyone.
Use Her Perspective
Photo by Junior Moran on Unsplash
Now that those extreme basics are out of the way, make sure you are shooting shots from the model's perspective.
Are there parts of her body she doesn't particularly like and wouldn't want you to focus on? Probably! So ask.
What parts of her body make her feel sexy? Boudoir photography tips can only go so far if you're refusing to listen to the reasons your model is there.
Capture Her Essence
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
You'll probably be able to gauge what your model is like while corresponding with her leading up to the shoot and while making small talk with her before the shoot begins.
If she is shy, capture this in the photos. If she is blatantly sexual, use this to your advantage in the shots.
One way to capture a model's essence is by using real movements in your shots instead of just using "essential boudoir poses."
Tell the model to wink at the camera, or put on a comedy special that will get her truly laughing out loud.
How to Pose Hands
Photo by Dmitry Belyaev via iStock
Hands can get in the way of most boudoir photography, but that's only because photographers haven't studied them enough.
Hands can convey a playfulness, or a sensualness, that most other body parts can't.
If It Bends, Bend It
While this is a good rule for all parts of your model's body during a boudoir shoot, it is especially helpful for the hands.
Bend her wrists, elbows, and fingers in each shot. Artists will tell you that nobody naturally stands or sits with their arms and hands completely still. Since boudoir is all about conveying a natural pose, make sure your shots emulate this motion.
Pretend You're a Baby
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Okay, this one may seem insane at first, but it works. Tell your model to touch themselves like they are an infant they are trying not to rouse.
Such soft touches convey sensuality, and this move also ensures a model's hands never fall limp during a shot.
It's All About Intent
Your model's hands should be placed intentionally.
Have her place them lightly on her breasts, or have her playfully tuck her hair behind her ear. Simulate real-life flirting strategies that women do subconsciously. I actually looked into subconscious flirting techniques when I first started shooting boudoir and began mimicking some of these hand motions in my shots. It works great!
With that, you have a host of boudoir photography tips to help you get things started.
As with any kind of photography, practice makes perfect, so study these tips, get a model, and start shooting!