Let’s talk about boudoir photography, some tips and techniques plus other good things to know. Boudoir photography is a form of portrait photography that has grown in popularity over the past several years.
How does boudoir photography differ from other forms of portraiture? Is it different from fine art nude photography? What boudoir photography tips should you know and use? Are there other things to consider about boudoir photography?
What Is Boudoir Photography?
Boudoir photography is similar to glamour photography. One of the aspects that makes boudoir different is the inclusion factor of the subjects. Traditionally, glamour models were generally just that, models. Aspiring photographers and models would often trade out work, each one benefitting from creating a portfolio of images.
The current trend for boudoir photography is that everyone is potentially a valid subject. This has opened up people’s minds to the possibilities. Adults of all ages, male and female, and any body style are potential subjects and potential clients. A successful boudoir photographer will be able to maximize that latent potential for a wide variety of subjects.
This is really a fantastic thing. Everyone can join in on the fun. Besides the financial boon for professional photographers, this also fosters a positive self view for so many people. Photography is art, and art should be accessible to everyone.
Whether for profit or just for personal enjoyment, make boudoir photography fun for both you and the subject.
Okay, I’ll get off of my soapbox and concentrate on the photography now.
Another major difference between traditional glamour and boudoir photography is the intended audience. Generally speaking, glamour images are meant for mass consumption, while boudoir images have a limited, perhaps even personal, audience.
Glamour is sometimes referred to as Pin up. Boudoir images are often given as a gift for the subject’s romantic partner, so a much smaller audience.
Different Styles of Boudoir Photography
There are multiple ways to make fantastic boudoir images. Lighting techniques, posing, and exposure variations allow for many types of final images.
Glamour and Pin Up images are typically brightly lit, sometimes in high key, and tend to focus on enhancing the beauty and physical charm of a subject. Full length portraits are the norm, posing may be standing, seated, or reclining.
There may be a measure of sexuality suggested but overt sensuality is not emphasized. Costuming might include fully clothed, revealing garments not limited to lingerie, and nude or semi nude.
This style does emphasize sexuality and the sensuous nature of romance. Softer lighting is used a lot, but low key also works well. Posing is more natural and the images can be full length, ¾ length, upper torso, or head and shoulders.
Wardrobe choices often include lingerie and other revealing items, perhaps including nudity. While it can be extremely sensuous, eroticism is not the primary intent. Romance is usually emphasized more so than sexuality. There’s nothing wrong with making some “hot” images, though. Just make sure your subject/client/model is comfortable with posing options.
Fine Art Nude
Pick up any photography yearbook from current years and all the way back to the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and you will see many images of the nude human body as an artform unto itself.
Lighting to accentuate form is common, as are posing choices that may be radically different from regular portraiture. A popular method to employ is treating the human body like a landscape or architecture. A focus on texture and shape is prevalent in fine art nude photography.
Though the nude human body may be extremely sexual when photographed, fine art nude photography tends to actually minimize sexuality. For the most part, the intent is purely a celebration of art, light, and form.
Variety of Lighting and Exposure Techniques for Boudoir Photography
In addition to specific lighting configurations, there are also exposure methods that will add diversity to your boudoir photography.
A high key image is bright and contrast is usually low. Exposure highlights not essential to subject detail may even be blown out somewhat. High key images project a feeling or mood of lightness and fun.
It’s not a lighting technique as much as an exposure technique, though a lighting set up with low contrast levels definitely helps.
When romance and sensuality in the final image is desired, low key is a beneficial effect. Low key imaging is contrasty by nature, so the light configurations employed in split lighting can be a good choice.
Split lighting is awesome for traditional boudoir and for fine art nudes. It really helps to bring out form, shape, and texture. Images can be anywhere from purely abstract to traditional portrait poses.
An art term to examine in regards to this lighting technique is chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is the use of strong lighting contrasts. Split lighting and the related Rembrandt lighting are excellent examples of chiaroscuro.
Split lighting is one of the techniques used for low key images which can portray glamour quite well.
Broad lighting results in large areas of a subject being lit by the main or key light light. High key images are easy to make when using broad lighting. Broad lighting can be very flattering for certain subjects.
Artificial lighting is used for a large proportion of boudoir photography. It’s easy to control. Light position in relation to the subject and the distance of the lights are adjusted by simply moving them.
Artificial lights can be further adjusted with light modifiers such as umbrellas, soft boxes, or snoots and scrims.
Soft boxes and umbrellas are often used for softening the light quality, while snoots and scrims provide great control over harder light sources. A review of portrait photography lighting basics will go a long way to increase your own comfort level during boudoir photoshoots.
Boudoir Photography Posing
First off, there is no basic boudoir pose. Due to the nature of this style of photography, there are going to be many posing options available to your subject. Being familiar with flattering poses will make the photoshoot go smoothly.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have a portrait posing guide to assist your subject in seeing what may be flattering poses and positions for themselves. It’s also a good practice to have the client choose other photo and posing styles ahead of time that they think might work for them.
Models, even professional models, tend to have difficulty in deciding what to do with their arms and hands. Skillful direction, kindly given, can go a long ways towards eliminating this issue. This is where a commercial posing guide and having the client pick out images they like from your own catalog or an online source.
The most important boudoir posing tip is to put your subject at ease. Advanced preparation by both the photographer and subject is vital. Let them choose their favorite wardrobe items and have them concentrate on having fun. This will relax the subject which increases their confidence, both of which result in better images.
Cameras and Lenses for Boudoir Photography
Boudoir photography can be done with any camera, but certain camera types lend themselves well to more advanced photography. So, while you could use a smartphone and apps, many professionals and other serious photographers take advantage of features and capabilities found in DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
Their reasons for doing so usually come down to two features. Larger sensors, such as those found in MFT, APS-C, and Full-Frame digital cameras, give better performance in regards to depth of field control and selective focus. Not a knock against iPhonography, mind you, simply a matter of physics.
The other feature often cited is the ability to record image files in a RAW format. RAW image files hold more information than Jpegs. A Jpeg is compressed, even if the info comes from a large, high resolution sensor. RAW files allow for more adjustment and fine tuning in post processing with programs such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
Since many boudoir photography poses are some sort of full length body shots, a photographer might be tempted to make use of a wide angle lens. A caution applies here, too. Photographing people with wide angle lenses at close distances can introduce perspective distortion effects which can be quite unflattering.
A fast normal lens is a wonderful choice for boudoir. Normal focal lengths provide a pleasing perspective and are often very fast in regards to maximum aperture. Having a wider f-stop available gives you more versatility in applying depth of field and selective focus methods.
A wide angle to short telephoto zoom lens is also a good choice. The lens probably won’t be as fast as a prime normal focal lens, but it still has a good range of usable f-stops. So, the kit lens that comes with many entry level and prosumer DSLRs will actually work out rather well as a lens for boudoir photography.
A short telephoto focal length is useful for the more tightly framed poses. A head and shoulders shot can be framed from a comfortable distance with short telephotos. That way, you can capture close ups without being too close for comfort physically. Remember, these aren’t usually seasoned photographic models.
Other Boudoir Tips to Consider in 2020
Among the boudoir photography tips to consider as photographers are non photographic issues, especially considering business and legality.
Glamour photographers taking pictures of models have long been using model releases that allow them to use the images they create. For boudoir photography, the situation is different. As noted earlier, glamour and pin up photos are generally meant for wide distribution.
But, boudoir images are usually meant to remain private. Boudoir sessions are often commissioned as a gift from the subject to their significant other. Many boudoir subjects don’t want their very private images to be given wide distribution.
So, if you have any ideas about using the images you created for self promotion, perhaps in an attempt to gain new clients, it’s good business to make sure you have the client’s permission to do so. You can spell it out in your contracts, but it’s a good idea to have a discussion about this before putting in their specific contract.
Some clients will agree enthusiastically, other likely won’t be comfortable with the thought of other people seeing their private moments. You can probably tell before any contract is brought out if you’re even going to ask about it.
Besides these business legal issues, subject comfort should also be an important consideration. Temperature is one thing, but feeling safe and secure is also an imperative. In order to capture the subject at their most relaxed, they need to know that they aren’t as vulnerable as they may feel with little or no clothing.
Privacy is vital for a good boudoir photography session with many people. Most of your subjects or clients will not be professional models and they will be hoping to stay comfortable during the photoshoot. If you need an assistant, that’s good, just make sure the subject agrees ahead of time.
Taking care of these business and legal issues is more than a protection, it’s simply good business practice. Your reputation will benefit by having good reports from pleased clients. A good reputation can be leveraged quite effectively to increase your customer base.
Profitable Boudoir Photography Is Fun!
Sometimes in our effort to stay profitable in our photography business or to start up a photography business, we forget why we stated in photography in the first place. Photography is fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s an artform.
Boudoir photography is very popular right now, and it seems that the popularity is here to stay. In order to take advantage of that high demand, you will need to keep your own enjoyment of the art and craft of photography.
A happy, content photographer makes others around them more comfortable. Even if someone doesn’t hire you right away, keep a positive attitude. Use the time on some personal projects of your own, perhaps engaging in boudoir photography of yourself or your romantic partner.
Try out these boudoir photography tips and have fun with boudoir photography!