Professional boudoir photography guide.

Whether you’re just stepping into the world of photography or you’re an experienced photographer looking to switch things up, boudoir photography is a growing style that not only provides you with an in-demand career option, but you also have the pleasure of working closely with subjects. In fact, boudoir photography can capture some of the most intimate and raw moments of a person’s life. 

With that in mind, we like to remind photographers that boudoir clients will come to you not only for your photographic style, but they will also likely want to work with a photographer who they feel comfortable with. Because of the intimate—and often skin-baring—nature of boudoir photography, boudoir photographers need to be comfortable and confident with their clients. Fail to do so and you will likely end up with awkward photos. 

But never fear, if you’re not certain how to achieve this level of confidence, or you need some new ideas for your already established business, this boudoir photography guide covers it all. 

Let’s dive in!

beautiful woman with tattoos in boudoir image

What is boudoir photography? 

Boudoir photography is an intimate photography style. There is often a sensual element to the photos, and most commonly, the celebration of the human form is the primary intent. There are also elements of glamor photography, portrait photography, and fashion photography mixed in, meaning the photos are highly stylized. 

boudoir photograph woman in black lingerie

Boudoir photoshoot meaning. 

A boudoir photoshoot requires styling that considers what the model is wearing (and not wearing), where the photos are being shot, who is in the photos, and what the personality of the subject is. 

For instance, boudoir photography can include both partners of a couple during an intimate moment, or it can feature a person of any gender in lingerie on their own. Boudoir photography can be tasteful and classy, or it can be more intimate and sensual. The range of photoshoots can vary widely depending on what the client’s goals are, but in general, boudoir photoshoots are always intimate and have some sensual element to them. 

Types of boudoir photography. 

How you stylize your boudoir photography session is going to vary widely depending on what type of boudoir photography you specialize in. 

While you can certainly jump around with different styles depending on your client’s goals, we still recommend having a general idea of the type of boudoir photography you want to be known for. This will help with finding clients who align with your vision and style.   

couple boudoir image in shower

Couples boudoir. 

Couples boudoir embraces the sensual energy between two partners. The photos are intimate and they often highlight the connection shared between partners. 

Keep in mind that the photos should not simply be about a sexual connection. While sexual energy certainly can—and probably should—exist in a couple’s boudoir session, the photos should highlight the relationship and the intimate connection shared. How a photographer accomplishes this is up to them, but the relationship should never be second to the sensual elements. 

plus size boudoir photography

Plus size boudoir.

At its core, boudoir photography is about the celebration of the human body, which includes bodies of all shapes and sizes. 

If you’re a photographer who enjoys shedding a light on subjects that were once marginalized, plus size boudoir is the perfect opportunity to help ensure that every body is seen and feels beautiful. 

Plus size boudoir photography can highlight relationships, but it can show also be a time of empowerment, embracing sensual energy and showing off your body, whether you’re with a partner or not. 

maternity boudoir photo

Maternity boudoir. 

One of the most special and unique times in a woman’s life, maternity boudoir gives pregnant mothers-to-be a chance to show off their growing belly in an empowering, feminine, and intimate manner.

There can be a sensual element to these photos, but remember, not all boudoir photography needs to be overtly sexual. In some cases, the photos can simply be sweet, feminine, and chic, which is often the case with maternity boudoir photos. 

woman posing on low couch, her arms raised and hands clasped gently near her head and wearing white lingerie and wrapped loosely in a white mesh veil

Bridal boudoir.

In terms of the actual look and style of bridal boudoir photography, the photos are similar to what you achieve with traditional boudoir photography: sensual, intimate, and empowering. There is also often a traditional bridal element worked somewhere into the photos to help give them that bridal feeling. For instance, white lingerie is frequently used. 

In addition, bridal boudoir photography celebrates one’s commitment to their partner. This can be done with both partners in the photos, but it can also strictly highlight the bride. 

male boudoir photograph

Male boudoir. 

While women are most commonly associated with boudoir photography, men can also get in on the fun. 

You’ll often find that the poses are different in male boudoir photos, and depending on the personality of the man in question, male boudoir photography might have less soft and feminine styling, and instead, focus more on highlighting masculine features. However, this is not required. Capturing your client’s personality and making him feel confident in his boudoir photoshoot should always be your top priority. 

mature woman boudoir photograph

Mature boudoir. 

Boudoir photography should always maintain a level of sophistication. Having said that, some clients will want to express themselves with intimate moments that could require you to get up close and personal with the subject. 

Nudity, suggestive posing, and intimate moments that are often reserved for the bedroom are all things that you might need to capture if you want to specialize in mature boudoir photography. Being comfortable and confident with this style is a must. 

fashionable boudoir photograph of woman in styled lingerie

Boudoir fashion photography.

As mentioned, boudoir photography can be highly stylized. If you find yourself gravitating towards these more stylized boudoir shoots then you will likely enjoy shooting boudoir fashion photography. 

With boudoir fashion photography there is usually a more glamorous element in the photos. Perhaps it’s a luxe piece of lingerie or jewelry, heavily stylized hair and makeup, or a very elaborate shooting location. While most boudoir photoshoots will have some element of all of these, boudoir fashion photography takes styling to another level.  

curvy black woman in lingerie posed languorously on the floor in front of a white brick wall, one arm behind her for support and the other raised, her hand resting on her hair.

What does body-positive boudoir photography mean? 

In the mainstream media, we’ve seen a big push for body positivity, and thankfully, we’re happy to report that this push has also extended into boudoir photography. 

Body-positive boudoir photography celebrates the body types of all people, regardless of size. 

Beyond just size, though, body positivity seeks to be positive about all aspects of the body. Whether it be race, gender, age, sexuality, or disability, body positivity boudoir celebrates you through professional imagery that is empowering and confidence-inducing.

Keep in mind that body-positive boudoir photography is not only empowering for the model. Body-positive boudoir photography can also be empowering for other people seeing the model in the photos. For instance, perhaps someone who doesn’t feel confident in their body comes across a boudoir model with their body type who is celebrated in a professional photo shoot, or maybe this person previously lacked the confidence to show off their body but now feels inspired because of your photo.

Setting yourself up as a body-positive boudoir photographer gives you the opportunity to work with a variety of people who all deserved to be celebrated. It also gives you the chance to establish yourself as a photographer who is accepting, open, and free from judgment—all keys to success as a boudoir photographer!

Boudoir photography styles and themes.

Not every boudoir photoshoot needs to have a distinct theme, but if you want to wow your clients and/or help bring a little personality to a photoshoot, a theme is an excellent way to do so. 

Not to mention, themes can make clients feel more comfortable because setting out with a theme will allow the client to have some vision of what the final images might look like. Without a theme, the client might not understand the vision. 

Here are some common themes to help get you inspired: 

1. Nude boudoir photography. 

If you’re shooting nude boudoir photography, you won’t need much else to give your images that wow factor. In fact, you might find that nude boudoir photography does best when the rest of the scene is left relatively minimal. 

Nude boudoir photography can involve individuals or couples. In some cases, full nude photography might be preferred, but often we see a lot of partial nude photography where one body part is highlighted in a handful of shots rather than full nude photography throughout the entirety of the photoshoot.  

2. Vintage boudoir/noir boudoir photography. 

Utilizing shadow, moody lighting, and oftentimes, a black and white theme, vintage/noir boudoir is a very popular theme in the world of boudoir photography. 

Vintage boudoir theme utilizes a good deal of styling. In particular, we will often see quintessential vintage styling elements at play in a shoot like this. Whether that be red lips, Marilyn Monroe-style dresses, or vintage lingerie, there’s no shortage of ways to bring in that vintage styling element. 

3. Gothic boudoir.

Similar to the noir boudoir style in the sense that the images and dark and moody, gothic boudoir tends to have an edgier feeling about it. For instance, think about what you might expect from someone who dresses in a gothic style, and apply that to a photoshoot. 

Some gothic boudoir styling elements you might come across include dark lips, dark hair, tattoos, platform shoes, velvet, corsets, and black lace showcased in lingerie. Historic mansions with a lot of gothic decor and moody forests are also quite common settings for this boudoir theme. 

4. Outdoor boudoir. 

Don’t limit yourself to thinking that boudoir photo sessions can only occur inside because of the nature of boudoir photography. So long as your model isn’t getting fully nude in the middle of a public setting, setting up your boudoir photo session outside opens up a whole new world of opportunities. 

Some popular outdoor boudoir settings include forests, fields, gardens, beaches, and large historic properties. 

Most commonly, you’ll find that outdoor boudoir features a lot of greenery and flowers, depending on what mood you are going for. 

5. Tattoo boudoir. 

Yes, tattoo boudoir is a theme in and of itself. And no, we’re not talking about a few tattoos highlighted here and there. With tattoo boudoir, not only do we celebrate the body, but we also celebrate the body covered in tattoos, meaning the more tattoos the better. 

In terms of styling, tattoo boudoir can really go any way. Most commonly, we see tattoo boudoir photos with a slightly edgier and raw feel; however, if you want to give your tattoo boudoir photos a different feeling, you could consider working in a more traditionally feminine style. The contrast of the tattoos with the soft femininity makes for a nice juxtaposition, which can be visually interesting in photography. 

6. Moody/dark boudoir. 

Somewhat of a mix of noir boudoir, tattoo boudoir, and gothic boudoir, moody/dark boudoir gives the photographer a bit more room to play with the theme. For instance, you don’t need to incorporate tattoos, the theme doesn’t have to be vintage, and if there are no gothic elements that is also fine. 

Instead, with this theme, the whole purpose is to ensure the images have some moody and dark elements. Whether that comes through with lighting, styling, or post-production editing doesn’t matter so much as long as you achieve that moody feeling in some way, shape, or form. 

7. 1920s boudoir photography. 

Similar to noir boudoir, 1920s boudoir photography differs slightly in that there is a very distinct 1920s element to the images rather than just a standard vintage feel. In some instances, you might find that the images are done in a sepia tone to give the 1920s feel. In addition, vintage lingerie is also often implemented, as well as styling techniques that feel reminiscent of the 1920s. 

Think of what you might be reminded of when you think of a “flapper” style and this will give you some insight into what this theme entails. 

8. Military boudoir photography. 

Utilizing American flags, camouflage print, combat boots, and dog tags, military boudoir photography essentially takes all those style elements you might think of when you think of the military, and gives them a sexy spin. For instance, a military uniform worn without pants, a flag used to hide key body parts, and military caps worn with lingerie are all ways that you can bring a military spin to a classic boudoir shoot. 

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