A Beginner’s Guide to Boudoir Photography

Looking to create stunning boudoir photography, but not sure how? Check out our beginner’s guide for tips, tricks, and inspiration for a boudoir photoshoot.

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What is Boudoir Photography?

Boudoir photography harkens back to the 1940s and has been popular ever since. This type of photography often has a playful, provocative look, with nudity that is implied rather than shown. When you take boudoir portraits, you’re portraying your subject in a sensual, intimate way. Creating strong boudoir photos requires a thoughtful approach to your subject’s body, clothing, and personality.

Clients may request a boudoir photo shoot as a personal keepsake, to mark an anniversary, or as a fun wedding gift for their partner-to-be. You may have requests for couples boudoir photography, a maternity boudoir shoot, or plus size boudoir photography. Regardless of the client type, you will need to choose the right photo gear, location, and poses to create timeless boudoir photos your clients will love.

Whether you’re a seasoned shooter or a new photographer, boudoir photography can be a fun addition to your online photography portfolio. Boudoir photo shoots can help you improve your portrait taking skills and highlight your unique approach to a popular photography style. Whether you’re wondering how to take your own boudoir photography or doing a boudoir shoot for a client, take a deep dive into our boudoir photography for beginner’s guide for inspiration, tricks, and tips.

Selecting a Camera and Lens for Boudoir Photography

Go for a camera that is easy for you to hold and focus during the boudoir photo shoot. A digital DSLR camera is a solid choice for boudoir photography, as they are lightweight, easy to use, and can cycle through many frames per minute. Look for a DSLR with a light body and different light settings. Depending on your budget, you may decide to go for a cheaper DSLR camera body, and then spend a bit more on a lens.

Opt for a 35mm or 50mm Zoom Lens

Having a good quality lens will ensure your boudoir photographs come out beautifully, and wow your clients. The camera lens will help you control the light, exposure, and depth of field of your boudoir photos.

A 35mm f/2 lens is a great option, as it allows you to capture your subject quickly and effectively. The f/2 feature means the lens will adapt well to low light conditions without creating too much sharpness or contrast. This lens is great for tighter shots of the face or body. It also has a quieter click, which will help to keep the mood intimate and distraction-free for the boudoir photo shoot.

Another option is a 50mm lens, which is considered a solid standard prime lens. It’s easy to adjust based on the lighting and composition of your boudoir portraits, with little to no image distortion. It’s a great lens for shooting your subject in a setting, rather than close up. Some clients might prefer boudoir photos that show their body and face in a larger environment, rather than just close-ups, particularly if it’s their first time posing for boudoir photography. If so, the 50mm lens is a solid choice.

Regardless of the lens type you go for, make sure it has a zoom feature so it’s versatile and can capture a variety of shots during the boudoir photo shoot.

Choosing a Location for the Boudoir Shoot

The setting for a boudoir photo shoot will help to create the right mood and tone for the images. It should also make your subject feel comfortable and sexy so the boudoir photos turn out well.

Go for a Location with Natural Light

Good lighting can make or break a boudoir photo shoot, especially if you don’t want to worry about a complicated lighting set up. To keep things simple and flattering, look for a location with lots of natural light, preferably diffused behind light-colored curtains or blinds. Avoid locations with harsh top light or fluorescent lighting, as they tend to be unflattering. A bright, naturally lit room or a studio with natural light is an ideal location for boudoir photography.

If you are doing outdoor boudoir photography, pick a bright location with cloud coverage to avoid glare. Shooting at sunset can also create a beautiful setting with great light for the boudoir photo shoot.

Go for a Spacious, Open Location

The location of the boudoir photo shoot should have just enough visual interest to fill the frame, but not too much to overcrowd your subject. Go for a location with a lot of space for you to move around and pose your subject. Avoid cluttered or busy locations with too much going on in the background. The location should complement your client and make them feel like they have room to move around.

For example, you may opt for a bedroom with minimal furnishings or a studio with a few key props and a plain background.

Ask Your Subject About a Preferred Location

Before shoot day, discuss possible locations with your subject. Perhaps they would prefer to take boudoir photos at home, where they feel most at ease. Or maybe they want to try outdoor boudoir photography at a beautiful, private location. Some subjects might be more open to a boudoir photo session at a studio. Find out what location is best for the subject so you can have a fun, comfortable shoot day.

Preparing Clients for a Boudoir Photo Shoot

Have a consultation with your client before the shoot to ensure they feel comfortable and sexy 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. 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.

Have Your Client Bring Several Outfits

Suggest that your client try on a few outfits before the shoot to determine what they feel most comfortable and sexy wearing. Advise them to pose in front of a mirror in different outfits to ensure they can move around and can achieve the look they want. Ask them to bring a few different looks for the shoot so you have options to work with.

Make sure your client wears loose clothing ahead of the shoot so their skin is free of any marks, impressions, or lines.

Discuss Styling and Appearance Beforehand

Find out if your client is looking for more of a glamour shots boudoir photography look or a more natural look, as this could determine their makeup and styling.

Your client may arrange for a makeup artist to come in for the shoot or you may offer to provide this service as part of the boudoir photography package. If your client prefers a bronzed look, advise them to opt for a natural-looking tan so it looks attractive in photos.

If the boudoir photos are going to reveal a lot of skin, your client might get certain areas groomed or waxed. Determine what your clients would like to highlight during the shoot and ensure they are well prepared on shoot day.

Advise your client to drink lots of water before the shoot and get some rest to ensure they look their best in the boudoir photos.

Posing Clients for Boudoir Photography

Perhaps one of the more challenging aspects of a boudoir photo shoot is posing your subject so they look sexy and beautiful. Because every person’s body and comfort level is different, maintaining strong communication with your client is key. Discuss each pose with your client and make the shoot feel collaborative to create strong boudoir shots. Maternity boudoir photography and plus size boudoir photography may require some extra discussion to ensure your client feels sexy when they pose.

Playing music in the background can also help to make posing for boudoir shots more comfortable for clients and set a relaxed tone during the shoot.

Start with Simple, Flattering Poses

A good starter pose for boudoir photography is on the knees, with their feet tucked underneath them. Have your client place their hands on their body in a natural, relaxed way. If they have bra straps or jewelry on, instruct them to play casually with them for a playful look. If your client is wearing a cover-up or top piece, ask them to wrap it around their bodies to highlight their natural shape.

Another strong pose is arching their back with a pillow under their arm to prop them up. Remind them to keep their feet pointed and turn their chin over their shoulder.

For an easy pose, have your client lay on their back and place their arms over their head. They can also arch their back and play with their hair or run their fingers along their neck to create a sensual pose. This pose works great for male boudoir photos as well as female ones.

Another go-to pose is lying on one side, with the bottom leg straight and the top leg bent to accentuate their natural curves. If your client wants to cover their midsection, they can place a hand in front of them to shift the focus to other areas.

Do “Flow Posing”

To keep the boudoir photo shoot loose and comfortable, ask your client to move naturally from one pose to another. This is called “flow posing,” and it allows you to take a variety of boudoir shots, following the natural movement of your client. It’s also a good way to help your client stay in the moment and not feel too awkward or stilted as they move from pose to pose.

Use Props During the Boudoir Photo Shoot

Props can be a great way to give your boudoir photography additional detail and interest. Use props that will create a sensual, engaging image, such as feathers, pillows, mirrors, or chairs. Ask your client if they have props they feel comfortable using during the shoot. Position your client with the prop so it highlights their body in a beautiful, intimate way.

Go for props that are simple and classic, rather than distracting. If the boudoir photo shoot is a wedding gift, try highlighting the subject’s wedding ring or pose them wearing a garter belt to mark the occasion.

Highlight Your Clients’ Best Features

A good boudoir photo shoot will showcase your clients’ body and face in the most flattering way. Make sure you get a variety of shots that highlight any areas your client wants to show off, such as their lower back, butt, legs, or chest. Your client may also want a few close-ups to highlight their face and upper body.

When you’re framing your client, shoot straight on and avoid cutting off their arms or legs. Try to get ¾ of their body in any wide-angle shots so the images are flattering and full.

For lower body shots, ask your client to pop their butt back with one leg bent in front of the other, tilting their hips to one side. Angle the camera so their behind is slightly above your eye line to create a flattering shot.

Processing and Pricing the Boudoir Photos

Some photographers prefer to process black and white boudoir photos, especially if the images use light and shadow to beautiful effect. Follow your clients’ preferences, or present them with black and white boudoir portraits and a set in color so they can decide which they prefer.

Do Light Retouching of the Boudoir Photos

Once the boudoir photo shoot is a wrap, you may want to do some light retouching using a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can use the program to remove any blemishes and soften or smooth any minor imperfections. In some cases, you can use the liquifying tool to subtle do some minor tucks. But, only retouch the boudoir photos with a light hand. Overdoing it can ruin your hard work and make your subject unrecognizable.

You may decide not to do any retouching, especially if your client does not want you to or prefers a more natural image. If you do retouch, do so in a way that is empowering and makes your client look their best.

Price Boudoir Photography by the Hour

When it comes to pricing your boudoir photography, most photographers charge by the shooting hour. The average price can vary from $100 an hour to $250 an hour. Budget for a two-to-three-hour shoot, at the low end, as well as time for processing the boudoir photos.

Another option is to provide different packages to clients that are tiered. On the low end, you might offer a $500 package with two hours of shooting and all processing/retouching. You may also note the types of images you will provide, such as a mix of wide and close up shots.

On the high end, you might charge $1000 for four hours of shooting as well as all processing/retouching. You could even include the option of a boudoir photo book with the best shots, a great option for clients giving the boudoir portraits as a gift.

Adding Boudoir Photography to Your Online Portfolio

Once you’ve created stunning boudoir photography, make sure you include them in your online portfolio to attract potential clients and showcase your skills.

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This way, you can attract potential clients by showcasing your boudoir photography and increase your chances of getting hired for more boudoir photo shoots in the future.

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