Do you need a studio? What about retouching? Do your clients have to get naked? Learn how to take boudoir photos that break the mold and WOW your clients!
10 boudoir photography myths (and truths!)
Ready to dive into the sultry, sexy, often hilarious world of boudoir photography?
We’ll show you how to take boudoir photos while challenging the 10 most common boudoir myths. Pour yourself a fancy beverage, don your favorite kimono, and settle into your chaise longue; it’s time to talk boudoir photography!
“My photography style and inspiration come from my clients themselves. It comes from helping them shine.”
—Lindsay Hite, Show Your Spark
Myth #10: You need a studio to shoot boudoir
You definitely do NOT need a designated photography studio to shoot boudoir. If you want to shoot inside, there are only about, hm… let’s see… a GAZILLION alternatives to a “proper” photo studio. Here are just a few of those possibilities:
Rent a studio from a fellow photographer
Big cities always have photo studios available for rent by the hour or day. Another option is to sublet from a photographer-friend who already has a studio.
Make sure to keep the transaction professional: establish a rate, confirm the date, and sign a contract to finalize everything. You’re relying on this space to fulfill your agreement with your client, so don’t risk any last-minute changes caused by an unreliable studio owner!
Book a hotel room
Higher-end hotel rooms and suites are fantastic spaces for photographing boudoir. You’ll need to book the room for two nights, though, if you want a full day of access to the room. This can work in your favor, however, if you’re photographing “boudoir minis”—short sessions with multiple back-to-back clients.
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Book a multi-room suite, you can shoot in one space while a hair and makeup artist works on your client in the next room!
Keep in mind that hotels typically DO NOT allow photography in any of their public spaces. Simply keep your shoot to yourself, and don’t venture into the hallways or lobbies with your camera.
Reserve an Airbnb
A vacation home is a fantastic solution when you need a space for indoor photography. It’s wise to communicate with the homeowner in advance and let them know you’d like to photograph a private session in their space—that the images are only for personal use. (E.g., you’re not using their home for a high-dollar commercial shoot!)
Again, if you can book multiple boudoir sessions back-to-back, your investment into the home will be especially worthwhile.
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Learn everything you need to know about booking an Airbnb for photography HERE.
Shoot in your own home
It’s always an option to use your own home as a shooting space. Just be certain that you can make your home client-friendly. No one should be tripping over the pets or stepping on LEGO bricks or smelling last night’s lasagna.
Also, take the time to deep-clean, or invest in a housekeeping service to make sure your home is spic-and-span. Your client should have access to an immaculately clean restroom and changing area.
Shoot in the client’s home
If you’re client is willing, it can be extra-special to make their boudoir photos in their home—a space that perfectly represents them and their life.
In advance of the booking, though, ask your client for some snapshots of the rooms where they’d like to shoot. You don’t want to arrive to discover that the space is poorly decorated or otherwise ill-suited for photography. (If it happens, though, take a deep breath and don’t stress. You can make it work!)
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Who pays for the space?
If you choose to rent a studio, hotel, or vacation home for your boudoir shoot, you can handle the added cost in a couple of different ways:
- Include the cost of the studio in your boudoir package pricing. If you do this, you can use the studio for as many sessions as possible during the time allotted!
- Have your client book the space themselves. If you and your client decide that they will book the space, make sure you’re both in agreement about which location to select. Photographers know exactly what’s needed to make a great portrait; your client may not!
- NOTE: You won’t be able to shoot multiple sessions in a space rented by your client, since the space will “belong” to your client for the length of the rental.
Myth #9: It’s not boudoir photography unless someone gets naked
“In the south there’s a difference between naked and nekkid. Naked means you don’t have any clothes on. Nekkid means you don’t have any clothes on—and you’re up to somethin’.”
Oh, Lewis Grizzard. Your words will never cease to crack me up. But here’s the deal:
Nudity is NEVER a requirement. Ever.
I’d print that on a billboard for y’all if I could.
Note to clients:
If a photographer tells you that you “have to” take off your clothes for your boudoir photos, LEAVE. That is not professional behavior. It is creepy behavior; it is predatory behavior; and it may even be illegal.
If you’re comfortable photographing naked people, and your boudoir client wants you to document their unclothed body, that is awesome! Make all the super-sexy shots you can, and proudly deliver them to your beautiful client.
But also know this:
- It’s okay to be a boudoir photographer who chooses not to photograph nudes.
- It is okay to be a boudoir photographer who photographs nudes only if your client asks for them.
- And it’s okay to be a boudoir photographer who specializes in nude photography.
However you choose to build and market your boudoir business is a-okay as long as you clearly communicate your approach to your clients and get their buy-in.
Myth #8: Boudoir photographers need massive lingerie closets
Seriously, lingerie closets are AWESOME. But you don’t need one to photograph boudoir!
“WTHeck is a lingerie closet?”
A lingerie closet is a collection of boudoir outfits purchased by the photographer and made available to their boudoir clients to wear during sessions.
If you don’t have a lingerie closet…
You’ll want to chat with your client in advance about what they’ll wear to their session. This is a great opportunity to create and send a What to Wear guide.
Pinterest is a super-easy way to make a variety of clothing guides for all personal styles and body types. Or you can go ultra-pro and utilize one of Design Aglow’s gorgeous boudoir marketing templates!
If you don’t want to take responsibility for maintaining a lingerie closet, consider at least adding a few accessories or props to your kit. Unique jewelry and other accessories are fantastic accessories that your can share with any boudoir client!
If you DO have a lingerie closet…
Should you choose to go the lingerie closet route, document every item you collect, and built a visual inventory. This will enable you to:
Create a magazine of boudoir looks to show potential boudoir clients
Lay out a new page on your website domain, use one of the Design Aglow templates suggested above, or make a Pinterest board to show off all the gorgeous outfits and accessories you have available! Try to share photographs of each item on an actual person—and represent multiple body types so your clients know they’ll have options.
Maintain your inventory
Keep track of which pieces you own, the sizes, and what needs to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced.
Cleaning is especially important for lingerie and other intimate clothing pieces! Find a professional cleaner who can safely wash these delicate items and return them to you in sterile condition.
Myth #7: All boudoir sessions are super-sultry and sexy
Hold on a minute there! Boudoir photographers specialize in all kinds of intimate image-making for all kinds of people. The more inclusive you make your marketing, the wider your reach; and the wider your reach, the more clients you’ll book!
This doesn’t mean you need to book people who don’t align with your ideal clientele. It simply means that you may find your ideal clients in more places than you initially imagine.
Don’t make assumptions about how your clients want to look and feel
When you receive a new boudoir inquiry, ask your customer:
“How do you want to feel when you see your photos?”
Maybe they’ll use words like “sultry” and “sexy.” But maybe they’ll prefer descriptors like these:
This list could go on and on and on! If you use a questionnaire with your clients, you may want to give them a list like this to help them express their vision for their boudoir experience.
“I have a windowless room in the back of my studio where I create my darker, more nuanced images. A lot of people don’t expect to love those sensual, powerful photos—but they end up being favorites for many of my clients.”
—Linday Hite, Show Your Spark
Myth #6: You have to be a master retoucher
The retouching spectrum ranges from simple blemish removal all the way to contouring and reshaping a client’s body. Your style may include minimal skin smoothing, or it could demand extensive skin resurfacing. You may rely solely on gorgeous boudoir posing and lighting to achieve your signature looks; or you might employ dramatic post-production effects.
Learn to make great photos even before retouching
If your photographs require extensive retouching to merely look halfway decent, you should invest more time into learning the basics of posing and lighting. Your style shouldn’t be 100% reliant on Photoshop. The best retouched images begin with a photo that was already good to begin with.
Create a photo editing workflow you can replicate
Your photographs should exude a consistent look and energy, regardless of who you’ve photographed. You don’t want to leave some photos without any retouching, but go crazy on other images.
Establish an editing and retouching baseline that you’ll repeat with every client’s boudoir photographs.
Here’s a sample script you can copy and paste that will help clarify your retouching process:
“Your boudoir photographs will receive my signature edits, which include exposure, color, and contrast adjustments, as well as subtle skin retouching to soften the appearance of non-permanent blemishes.”
Myth #5: You’ll need to spend hours on retouching
There are three standard approaches to boudoir photo editing. For consistency, I encourage you to adopt only one approach:
Option #1: Deliver proofs, then edit and retouch your client’s favorites
With this approach, all you do is cull out the “bad” pictures, then upload. Then your client must select their favorite photos for you to edit and retouch.
Be cautious with this option, however, as it places a large burden on your clients, and will reduce the overall value of your services.
Here are the steps for Retouching Option #1:
- Cull the photos to eliminate duplicates, blinks, out-of-focus shots, etc.
- Upload the unedited JPEGs into a ShootProof gallery
- Create a Retouch Label, and instruct your client to apply that Label to the photos they want edited. (You can set an image limit on the Label if your client only purchased a few photos.)*
- Fully edit and retouch the labeled photos, then deliver the final images in an Album within the client’s gallery
*You may need to remind your client more than once to make their selections.
Option #2: Deliver basic edits, then fully retouch your client’s favorites
This approach gets your client closer to the final product with some basic editing. They will still need to select their favorites for you to retouch.
Here are the steps for Retouching Option #2:
- Cull the photos so you can deliver only the best images
- Apply your standard Lightroom edits, then upload the JPEGs into a ShootProof gallery
- Tell your client to use the Labels feature to select the photos they want retouched. Be sure you set a limit on this Label if your client’s package only includes a set quantity of photos.
- Fully retouch your client’s favorites, then deliver those final images in a separate Album
If you choose this path, you may want to guide your client through the selection process. Schedule a screen-share meeting via Zoom and help your client pick their favorites.
Option #3: Deliver fully edited images, then charge your client for any additional retouching
This approach requires more of your time on the front-end, but it also allows you to deliver a more luxurious client experience. If you intend to charge a premium for your services and products, you don’t want to show your client photos that are anything less than perfect.
Here are the steps for Retouching Option #3:
- Cull the photos down to the best of the best of the best. Period.
- Edit and retouch all of the photographs to your standard of final print-readiness. Then upload the exported JPEGs into a ShootProof gallery and schedule a gallery viewing with your client. Hooray! Time to sell some beautiful wall prints!
- You might want to enable your client to apply a Retouch Label if you want to offer more extensive retouching. You can even add Retouching to your ShootProof Price Sheet, and make it easy for your them to purchase additional retouching directly through their Gallery. This kind of extensive retouching would include requests for dramatic body contouring, wrinkle removal, and changes to the environment.
This full-service solution is the most inclusive workflow you can pursue. It’s also the most satisfying for the client, since they get to enjoy a print-quality product from the first moment they open their Gallery.
When you show only finished photos, your brand will become associated with the highest quality, deserving of the highest investment.
“After the session, I sit my client down in a comfy room where they can rest, relax, and meditate for an hour while I edit. It’s all about them taking time to reflect and be like, I just did this for ME.
Then when they see their photographs, they’re able to really take ownership of who they are, how they feel, and why they booked a boudoir session in the first place. They can confidently say: Yeah, I’m a badass; just look at me! I’m amazing.”
—Lindsay Hite, Show Your Spark
Myth #4: Um, hello!? Boudoir sessions aren’t for pregnant people!
Okay, first of all, your boudoir sessions can be whatever you want them to be. Photograph couples. Men. Dogs in feather boas. And definitely photograph pregnant folks! Maternity sessions are already so close to boudoir photography; why not fully embrace the genre?
HERE are a few things to consider when photographing maternity boudoir sessions. TIP: No matter what, always prioritize the health and comfort of the parent!
Know when to photograph pregnancy
Pregnancy can be photographed any time, but there is a “best” time to photograph pregnant people.
NYC photographers the Rainiers recommend that you photograph maternity session clients in the 28th to 36th week of their pregnancy—assuming the client wants to show off their belly! The main goal, however, is to ensure that your client is comfortable. So if someone wants to schedule an earlier session, that’s okay, too!
Consider pregnant people’s needs
If you’ve been pregnant yourself, you already know: more pee breaks, more snack breaks, more fans, more help getting off the couch… The struggle is real!
If you’re going to photograph pregnancy, be prepared with all the things a pregnant lady needs—and don’t hesitate to ask your client before their session! If you can satisfy their craving for blue M&Ms with BBQ chips, they may not even care what their photos look like.
Myth #3: Boudoir photography is only for skinny people
Okay. Right now, I’d like you to still your mind. Think of this as that “quiet time” you used to have in school. We’re going to reimagine a bit of language that is so embedded into our vernacular, we don’t even realize what we’re saying.
“Boudoir photography is only for skinny people.”
Stop right there.
People aren’t skinny. Bodies are skinny.
Bodies are long or curving or muscular or hairy or pierced or all of the above. People, however… People are kind. Creative. Wise. Silly. Clever. Intuitive. Intelligent. Shy. Gregarious. Sensitive.
People are swirly, whooshy, invisible thoughts and feelings.
And people belong in photographs. People with bodies.
If you believe all of that radical body acceptance talk above, and I hope you do, then you need to considering doing one more thing.
Make your lingerie closet size-inclusive
Kansas City boudoir photographer Kinzie Ferguson’s website states, “Every single session includes… access to Client Lingerie Closet (over 200 pieces, sizes XS-6X.)” By offering outfits in a wide range of sizes, Kinzie invites a wide range of clients. And more clients equals a thriving business!
Myth #2: You need tons of sample products before you can book clients
Sample products are awesome for helping your clients choose their own prints and albums. But you can sell beautiful printed products without sinking thousands of dollars into samples. Here’s how to start earning cash from print sales even without sample products:
Don’t offer too many choices
It’s so tempting to offer every photography product under the sun. What if my client wants this? What if my clients wants that? But if you offer too many options, your clients are likely to experience “overchoice”—they’ll become overwhelmed by the quantity of the options before them.
This USA Today article about selling jam demonstrates the correlation between choice and purchasing:
“One day [researchers] offered shoppers at an upscale market 24 types of specialty jams, complete with free samples. About 3 percent of people who tried a jam sample also purchased a full-size jar. Then, [the researchers] cut back on choices and set up a table offering only six jams. About the same number of people tasted the jam, but of this group, 30 percent purchased a jar.
Sales increased tenfold by offering less choice.“
Choose products that complement your brand
It’s wise to begin your boudoir business with only a small collection of product offerings. Use this approach to save money on sample inventory, and make it easier for your clients to make their selections!
We recommend that you start with:
- an album option
- a range of common print sizes on your preferred paper
- a wall print series (metals or canvases, or framed prints)
Sell a signature product
It’s fun to offer a signature product—something that represents the heart of your brand and isn’t available just anywhere. Get creative with ideas like:
- a custom View Master (or “reel viewer” if you search on Google)
- unique photo boxes (there are some amazing Etsy suppliers!)
- “painted” canvas prints
Create a product guide
Use your website (or one of these stunning marketing templates) to showcase the products you offer. This makes it easy to sell photography products without the need for samples. Product guides are also handy to use with destination clients who can’t see your samples in person.
Myth #1: Women just get boudoir photos for their significant others
Boudoir photographs are a great gift for a client’s partner! But that’s not the only reason clients book boudoir sessions.
Maximize your marketing reach by encouraging people to book boudoir that…
- celebrates their scars
- respects their strength
- enhances their unique beauty
- commemorates their body’s journey
- reflects their vulnerability
- honors their creativity
…and on and on and on.
Boudoir photography can be sensual and sexual and intended for a spouse or significant other. Most importantly, though, boudoir images should elevate your client’s self-image.
“I don’t empower you. You empower yourself. And I want that to shine through, because the true sense of empowerment comes from within.”
—Lindsay Hite, Show Your Spark
Every boudoir client should leave their session feeling like their truest self: fully seen and like they belong just as they are, even in this critical, chaotic world.