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Boudoir photography tips: lighting, posing and camera skills for fine art photos

Boudoir photography tips
(Image credit: N-Photo Magazine)

Boudoir photography is big business at the moment and, if you’re in to taking portrait shots, it’s a useful skill to master. 

First off it’s worth thinking about the style of shoot. Classic glamour has its place, but it’s not here. It’s not just about hiding the rude bits. We need a style that celebrates the shape of the model’s body without objectifying them. There’s an element of empowerment to boudoir photography, which is why more often than not it’s the women, rather than their partners, who seek out and pay for this type of photo shoot. 

Watch the video:  Boudoir photography tips

It’s a boost for a woman’s confidence, and a chance for her to celebrate her shape now and to say “I can look this beautiful if I want to.” So how do we get this sense of empowerment across in the photos? Firstly we talk to the subject – whether it’s a partner, a friend, a model or a client – and find out the kind of look she’s after and what she is prepared to show or not. 

The best portrait photographers learn how to emphasise a person’s most alluring assets and play down the unflattering parts. With boudoir, this is vital. On the technical side, there are choices we can make to ensure this happens.

01 Plan the poses

(Image credit: Future)

Compile a mood board together before the shoot so you both know what to expect, and go through poses. During the shoot offer encouragement, tell your model how great she looks, give her clear directions and posing tips and show her shots on the back of the camera as the shoot goes on.

02 Find the light

(Image credit: Future)

Window light is ideal for this kind of shoot. Soft and flattering, it floods over the body evenly. Move your subject around to have the window in front, to the side or behind them. Positioning your model in the doorway channels the light from the window behind the camera.

03 Control the light

(Image credit: Future)

As well as flooding a scene, window light can be made more moody by narrowing it into a strip. Here we closed the shutters on a window to the left, leaving just a narrow strip to light the subject from the side. All other windows were closed and artificial lights were off.

04 Camera settings

There’s no stock setting for all scenarios, but most of our shots here were taken in Manual mode with the aperture around f/2.8 and shutter speeds around 1/100 sec. We then adjusted ISO to perfect the exposure, with the sensitivity ranging from ISO400 to 1600.

05 Focus on the eyes

(Image credit: Future)

When shooting with wide apertures, precise focusing is essential, so move your focus point over the nearest eye and take the time to focus precisely. Review your shots, zooming in to check the eyes. It doesn’t matter if everything else is soft, as long as the eyes are sharp.

For one of the classic boudoir shots, get your subject lying on the bed, on their tummy or side. The angle is flattering on the face, it presents a great cleavage, and it gives you the opportunity to either go in for a close up or pull out for a full body shot. For heavier ladies, the front-on view in the above image can be more flattering. Ask them to cross their legs behind them then shift the hips onto one side to create a great curve to the back and the behind.

06 Pose the arms

(Image credit: Future)

The arms and legs are often key to posing, so look for ways to make interesting shapes out of them. Move the arms away from the side of the body and it’ll strengthen the shape of the pose. A slight side-on angle like this works too, as it presents a slimmer view of the body. Take some posing guides to the shoot for inspiration.

07 Try adding light

(Image credit: Future)

Sometimes natural light may not be enough. Try using LED light panels for constant lighting. For our opening image we combined window light with a ring LED to light the face, then added a second LED positioned behind her and to the right to create an edge highlight along the body.

08 Controlling window light

(Image credit: N-Photo Magazine)

Window light is a ‘soft’ light source because it channels daylight through a large opening, and it’s the size of the light source that determines how soft the light is. We can control the softness of the light by moving the subject closer to or further from the window. Close in, the window is larger in relation to the subject, so the light is softer and fills out shadows. But move her further away and the light source becomes smaller, so the light gets harder and more direct.

5 tips for shooting on boudoir

(Image credit: Future)

1. You’ll need a room large enough to shoot in with a 50-100mm lens. Get too close or wide and she’ll look distorted. A space with big bay windows is ideal.

2. Use a monopod to help prevent shake, you can use shutter speeds as low as 1/80 sec in the dim interior, especially if your lens has vibration reduction.

3. Ask your model to bring a few outfits that don’t all need to be underwear. It’s about creating an alluring mood, so a gown or even an old t-shirt might work

4. Make your model comfortable by keeping the room warm and providing soft cushions and furnishings. Keep a dressing gown to hand for downtime.

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  • SunnyMoon
    I was shooting it once and that was the most troubled experience I've EVER have :ROFLMAO: I totally support the point about agreeing on the poses and posing the hands because otherwise it all turns into a nightmare.