The Art of Boudoir Photography

5 Key Skills You Need To Know Prior To Shooting A Boudoir Photo Shoot

A boudoir photo shoot should make the model feel empowered and beautiful.

In the past few years, boudoir photography has increased in popularity, largely due to the presence of social media. A boudoir photo shoot used to be a taboo concept that women took part in quietly, has become a popular art form shared on social media outlets.

Even with this increase in popularity, there are still several misconceptions about boudoir photography. However, when done properly, boudoir photography can be beautiful and subtly sexy.

Women, by nature, are sensitive creatures. We are constantly criticizing ourselves and looking for things to change. This makes photographing women an art form that requires a different set of skills from most other types of photography. In this article, I will share with you the key skills you need in order to jump into, or build up, your boudoir photography business and pull off a timeless and enjoyable boudoir photo shoot.

Marketing Your Boudoir Photography Business

Marketing your boudoir business can be tricky. Some clients won’t mind having their images shared online or on social media, but the majority of the clients I work with ask to not have their images shared for one reason or another. This can make creating a boudoir portfolio difficult.

My remedy for this is to set-up styled boudoir photo shoot sessions with the purpose of using the images for marketing. Make sure the model is aware of this, and then shoot the type of images you want to use to attract new clients.

Use creative locations on your boudoir photo shoot

Another marketing option is to partner with local businesses, such as lingerie shops, salons, and bridal boutiques. Collaborate with them on a boudoir photo shoot to help get your information out to the public.

If you already run a portrait photography business, and you are planning to add boudoir as an additional service, you will need to decide how you want to approach it. If you feel your family or senior clients will be offended or turned off by your boudoir images, you may want to create a separate website or social media account. However, if you work mostly with brides and couples, then adding a boudoir option is a natural fit and can be added to your existing website.

Pricing Your Boudoir Sessions

Boudoir is an interesting and unique genre because it isn’t something that will appeal to every client the way wedding or family photography does. As Molly Marie states in one of her blog posts about starting a boudoir photography business:

“Boudoir Photography is not a need, it’s a want …a luxury service. If you can produce an amazing product, experience, and service, you can demand the prices you need.”

This makes pricing your boudoir photo shoot sessions different than pricing a typical portrait session. You have to consider the audience you are targeting and price accordingly. For my boudoir session, I prefer an In Person Sales pricing model. The client pays a session fee up front for their styling and photo shoot, then comes back at another time to view her images and purchase prints or products. This pricing model allows me to have a pricing level in place for a range of budgets and gives me the chance to up-sell at the time of ordering.

The Boudoir Photo Shoot Experience

Since boudoir photography is a luxury service, I believe it should be treated as such. My goal is for the client to walk away feeling beautiful, confident and relaxed. The way to accomplish this is to ensure your client experience is top notch. Every one of my boudoir sessions includes professional hair and make-up along with wardrobe styling. I visit with each client prior to her session to go over ideas, questions, and styling options.

Include styling as part of your boudoir photo shoot
Image by: Kendra Swalls

During the session, I reassure her she looks amazing. I have music playing and I offer breaks for drinks or light snacks if she wants them. If I can tell she is particularly nervous I will show her a few images on the back of my camera to boost her confidence.

After the session, I send her a note telling her how thankful I am that she chose me to photograph her, and at her ordering session she receives a small thank you gift from me. I also have a referral program in place where my past clients receive a spa service when their friends book a session with me.

Boudoir Posing

One of the most challenging aspects of a boudoir photo shoot is posing. As I mentioned before, women are sensitive about their looks. Even the most beautiful woman will have something she is self-conscious about. It’s important to know which features they are most proud of and which ones they are most insecure about. You can use that information to emphasize their favorite features and de-emphasize the others.

It’s also important to mix up your compositions. It’s easy to get overly focused on the pose or the angle that you forget about the composition. One of my favorites to use in boudoir is framing. I talked a little about framing in the article The Big List of Composition Rules. For the image below, I used a sheer curtain to help frame the subject and create a soft, feminine feel. It also helps to isolate the subject, keeping the focus on her, rather than the surroundings.

boudoir photo shoot posing ideas
Image by: Kendra Swalls

Another favorite composition I like to use is to fill the frame. This also helps to keep the focus on the subject rather than the surrounding, and can also focus in on the features that the clients likes best about herself.

The perfect boudoir photo shoot should showcase the client's best features.
Image by: Kendra Swalls

Editing your Boudoir Images

Editing is a personal preference and there are a million different ways to edit an image. In my opinion, when it comes to editing your boudoir images, less is more. Most of my images are edited slightly for exposure, white balance, and contrast. I will then run a skin smoothing action on each image.

When it comes to removing imperfections and smoothing skin, you want to make sure you don’t go overboard. The blog post 5 Big Photo Editing Mistakes also talks about this. Take note of the section that mentions how too much editing can make your clients look fake or plastic.

I don’t spend a lot of time perfecting imperfections. The tagline for my boudoir business is:

My goal with each image is to have the client look at it and see herself the way the rest of the world sees her. I want her to see past her imperfections and see her true beauty.

How to have a rocking boudoir photo shoot
Image by: Kendra Swalls

How You’ll Know You Shot A Successful Boudoir Photo Shoot

Boudoir photography is not an easy genre to work with all the time. You are going to have clients that are overly critical of themselves and will critique each and every image you show them. You are going to have clients that take the time to come out of their shell and feel comfortable in front of the camera. And you are probably going to have people question your decision to shoot boudoir.

But, when you are able to make that one woman feel incredible about herself; when she cries over the images because she hasn’t felt that beautiful in a long time, it makes it all worthwhile.

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About the author

Kendra Swalls

Kendra Swalls is the owner of Paisley Layne Photography, a premier boutique portrait and wedding studio in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. With a background in education, Kendra incorporates her love for photography with her passion for teaching others through workshops, e-books and tutorials.

  • Sensational images, Kendra! Thanks for the great article.

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