Erotic/Boudoir Photography: Beginners Guide to Rocking Your First Shoot

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I can think of a dozen reasons why others think boudoir photography is wrong. So why does it still exist if there are so many negative opinions about it? Because when it’s done right, boudoir photography can be empowering, self esteem boosting, and transformative.

What are boudoir photos?

Good ol’ Wikipedia defines Boudoir Photography as

“intimate, romantic, and sometimes erotic images of its subjects…primarily intended for the private enjoyment of the subject and her or his romantic partners”

Boudoir photography, like any types of photography, is an art form. There are no rigid rules dictating what has to occur. Boudoir doesn’t require its subjects to be naked; it all depends on the comfort level of the client. The decision to be naked in photos rests entirely between boudoir photographers and their individual clients, and no one else’s opinion matters. Most of the time however, the clients are wearing something that makes them feel confident, sexy, and beautiful.

Why do boudoir photography?

Everyday life can be hectic and challenging and short on free time. Speaking from a woman’s perspective, we often forgo spending a lot of time on our appearance to make sure every other part our their lives are running as smoothly as possible. So we get stuck in a rut of doing the bare minimum to look or feel good. A boudoir session gives women a chance to unapologetically spend time on her appearance by getting her hair, makeup, and nails done.

A good boudoir photographer makes their client feel special, beautiful, valued, and important, all while taking flattering photos. Whatever the motivation a client has behind getting boudoir photos, one of the best possible outcomes is reminding her how it feels to be noticed. Clients sometimes react with tears because they didn’t realize how beautiful they are. They didn’t think their photos would turn out that nice, and it gives them a huge self esteem boost. As a photographer, you couldn’t ask for a better outcome than helping positively change how a woman feels about herself.

What is a boudoir model?

So you’ve decided you want to give boudoir photography a shot. What’s the first step? You need someone to take photos of! With a portfolio you are one step closer to convincing others to hire you as their photographer. Be prepared that not all clients will be comfortable with you sharing their images publicly. So it can take longer to build up a portfolio. The best part is you DON’T need an experienced model to create those first boudoir photos for your portfolio. In fact, I’m not sure boudoir models even exist. I can’t think of a single instance where a woman is paid to have her photos taken in lingerie – unless those photos are being used to sell a product. Using these types of photos to sell products is the opposite of what boudoir photography is about.

So how do you find someone willing to do boudoir photos with you? Offer a free session! If possible, try to photograph someone you know because you’re likely be more comfortable around a friend than a stranger. Friends will (hopefully) be more understanding of your experience level and have no expectations for outcome. If you mess up the photos with a friend, they’re probably willing to give you another chance. Please know not all friends are good friends, so only photograph a friend who is encouraging of your work. If you think you’ll be more comfortable photographing a stranger, host a model call.

Boudoir photography ideas

Now that you have a model, you need to to visualize how you want your shoot to look. Do you want a light and airy look, or something a little more dark and sensuous? If you want light and airy, choose light color tones in your background and have lots of light. Perhaps ask your model to wear lighter colored clothing. Google and Pinterest are two great search engines to use for inspiration for your photo shoot. Don’t be afraid to be different! Does your client or their partner love a particular TV, comic book, or movie character? One of your client’s outfits could be inspired by the favourite character!

How do I prepare for a boudoir photo shoot?

This is where you make or break the photo shoot. Preparation is the key to success. First of all, discuss with your client any ideas they have for the photo shoot and if they have any reservations about it all. Your biggest hurdle will be helping her overcome her nerves and assuring her that you’ve got everything under control. Remind her that you’ll tell her exactly what to do so that she looks amazing in her photos. Will you be providing hair and makeup services, hiring someone else, or letting your client do her own? Do you have a studio or will you be taking the photos in her home or a hotel room? If you scheduled far ahead of time, send a friendly reminder the day before of the date, time, and location.

Will you be providing the clothing or her? Remind her to bring an extra outfit or two for variety (time permitting) or in case one doesn’t work. Do your homework to figure out what poses you want to do and in an order that makes sense. Take photos on the same memory card you’re using in the session of the poses you want to shoot. If you forget your poses at the shoot, you can discreetly check the photos on your camera for a quick reminder.

Send your client a list of things to help her prepare for her session. Tell her not to wear any clothing the day of the shoot that will leave marks on her skin. Remind her wax ahead of time so she doesn’t have red bumps and to avoid spray tans. Plan her session around Aunt Flo’s monthly visit. Charge your camera batteries, format your memory card and have your gear all packed and ready to go. Are you bringing professional lighting, or using natural lighting? Make sure to pack lighting too. Bring extra memory cards and batteries, and have music ready to play on your phone.

Contract is key

Put everything into a contract for your client to sign so that there are no misunderstandings. Even if you do a free photo shoot, a contract is still a must. Make sure your contract covers the discussion of sharing your work on your website and social media. Also put a clause stating whether extra touch up requests are included in your package or if they pay extra. Refuse to do a session without a signed contract, because anyone refusing to sign a contract will likely cause you trouble.

It all comes back to client care

The most important tip we can give you is to be positive on the day of the photo shoot. Be genuine in your compliments of how she looks, and tell her often in different ways how amazing she’s doing. Be upbeat and happy as she will feed off your energy, and play some fun music to help get rid of her nerves. Give her lots of positive feedback during the session because long silences will make her nervous again. Always go above and beyond to make your client feel extra special.