What Is Boudoir Photography?

Kate Miller-Wilson
Woman wearing black lingerie in bed

Boudoir photography is all about capturing the beauty of the female form in a romantic and even erotic way, while still being tasteful and appropriate. It requires a unique blend of professionalism and artistry that some photographers handle very well.

Regular Women, Not Models

The word "boudoir" refers to the private bedroom of a lady, and it's a good name for this type of photography. These shots feature regular women in lingerie or in the nude, often in a bedroom setting. The key here is that these are not models; they are normal women of all shapes and sizes. When done well, boudoir photos bring out women's natural beauty using the right lighting and poses to flatter.

According to Racked, about 50% of women set up a boudoir photo session in order to give the shots as a gift to a special guy, sometimes as a wedding present. The other 50% do it simply for themselves. Either way, the goal is to feel beautiful.

Nude or Clothed?

Some women choose to be photographed nude while other prefer to wear lingerie or other items of clothing. In nude sessions, photographers pose the women carefully to ensure the resulting shots are tasteful. This can mean different things for different women, but it usually involves no open legs or close shots of lady parts. Many sessions feature "implied nudes," which are photos where the subject isn't wearing any clothing but you also can't see anything that would require censoring on Instagram.

Alternatively, women can choose to wear their favorite lingerie, borrow some (regularly cleaned) fancy things from the photo studio, or pose in something else entirely. Think your husband's shirt, an old cheerleading uniform from high school, or a favorite bikini.

Carefully Constructed to Flatter

Boudoir photography is far from candid. These shots are very carefully constructed to help women feel their best. If you don't love the way you look in the mirror after you get out of a shower that doesn't mean you should avoid being photographed for a boudoir session. It just means you should talk to the photographer about the areas that you love and don't love so much on your body.

Consider some of the following common features in boudoir images:

  • Shadows to hide areas a woman doesn't want to show
  • Flattering sensual poses, such as lying on the side with one leg up, to hide the tummy while showing off the curves
  • Careful draping of sheets and fabrics to conceal private areas or spots about which she's less confident
  • Shallow depth of field to have certain areas, such as her face, in focus, while the rest of the image is blurred
  • Minimal side lighting that can draw attention to skin imperfections

At the same time, this type of photography isn't meant to be fake. It still needs to look like the woman being photographed, not a professional model. This requires careful post processing from the photographer, so the image is flattering but not overly airbrushed. This balance is different for every client and photographer, but it's important to consider.

Classic or Themed Boudoir Shoots

Most boudoir photography keeps the setting simple and allows the focus to be on the woman being photographed. Props and sets are usually limited to a bed, curtains, a soft rug, or a simple hardwood floor.

However, some couples or women opt for a theme that sparks passion or represents their hobbies. This might include pinup-style photos, an outdoor setting, a sports theme, or anything else that works for the client.

Tantalizing, Yet Tasteful

When it comes to boudoir photography, it's all about keeping the images tantalizing and flattering to the subject while still being tasteful. Leaving a little to the imagination is what adds that extra sultry element to an all ready lovely photo. When it's done well, the client will walk away with images she (and possibly that special guy in her life) will love for years to come.

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What Is Boudoir Photography?