My friend had a photo shoot last year with a reputable local boudoir photographer. She told me all about how she felt rushed from the minute she stepped into the studio. The makeup artist didn’t take any direction from her (my friend likes bold lipsticks and the makeup artist used muted colours) the hair stylist didn’t want to listen to what my friend suggested. The photographer was running late (from the shoot right before) and my friend was only given 1 hour for her session, because there was another shoot booked immediately after hers. Needless to say, she did not feel sexy; she felt rushed. This got me thinking, what makes boudoir photography different from a regular photo shoot?
What are origins of the word boudoir?
Let’s start with how Wikipedia defines it: “a woman’s private sitting room or salon in a furnished accommodation, usually between the dining room and the bedroom, but can also refer to a woman’s private bedroom. The term derives from the French verb bouder (to sulk or pout) or adjective boudoir (sulking)—the room was originally a space for sulking in, or one to put away or withdraw to”
“SULKING”, that is not the image that comes to mind when I think boudoir. But while that was the definition two or three decades ago, today boudoir means so much more than a fancy word for pouting.
True boudoir photography should be an experience, not a genre. Boudoir is an approach to intimate portraiture that involves a multi-step process, heavily involving customer service, counseling, photography skills, retouching skills, and an overall willingness to make people do what they never thought they could. It’s not simply posing, a style of lighting or specific wardrobe options within portraiture.
I bet if you were to swap out the lingerie in most “boudoir” images for a swimsuit, and leave the lighting, the pose and the model exactly the same, almost no one would call the image boudoir.You would never call a Victoria Secret ad boudoir, so why are these images considered boudoir? It’s easy to understand why this mistake has been made. Almost all boudoir photography models are seen wearing something intimate, it can be simple underwear to skimpy lingerie to totally nude. But the real mistake is made when the intent is overlooked, the how and why the photo was taken, and not what they happen to be wearing.
If done properly, the boudoir photography experience usually begins with a consultation, including discussions on why you are doing the session, (to feel better about yourself, to give as a gift, or to mark a milestone in your life) it continues with creating a mood board of images that inspire you, and an elaborate and pampered hair and makeup session immediately prior to shooting. Some boudoir photographers offer wine and snacks before the shoot, and of course the shoot itself. After the shoot, further meetings are often scheduled to review the images and select finals for printing (such as albums, enlargements, prints, etc.) and perhaps a final meeting to personally deliver the final product(s). A boudoir photographer can easily commit as many as 30 total hours to a client after all is said and done.
In contrast, the glamour photographer spends all of 2 hours creating images with the client in a commercial studio after having met her right before the session; this type of photo shoot couldn’t be further from what a boudoir session should be.
What is Sexy anyway?
We live in a culture where physical beauty is both celebrated and vilified. We all want to be that girl on the cover of a magazine looking sexy as hell, but we also want to be seen for more than our physical attractiveness. We condemn overly edited photos, and we roll our eyes at the apparent physical perfection of fashion and glamour models, dismissing them with such comments as “if I had a body like that, I could do that too.”
The simple fact is, ANYONE is a boudoir model. Or should I say, anyone CAN be. Everyone of us has an outer beauty we should celebrate if we choose to. My man often tells me men do not see the imperfections we see in ourselves. Us women are definitely our own worst critic.
Don’t you want to feel attractive and confident?
Everyone I know would be totally ok with a photo of themselves that made them look attractive, alluring, even flat out HOT. But 99% of them have no idea how to go about getting such images of themselves created. Or they feel they aren’t attractive enough, or too overweight, or too old, or they just need to get rid of their Covid body. It takes a courageous person to slam down a glass of wine and be brave enough to be naked, or nearly naked in front of the camera, let alone pay for such a service. Admit it, deep down inside, you secretly want to look hot in photos, maybe show that special person (or the whole damn internet if you so choose) that you can rock sexy as well as anyone else.
Boudoir clients are less experienced on camera than even the most amateur models;it’s really scary for them. They have to be open and exposed with a total stranger. It takes time; they have to drop all their walls to get into that sexual/sensual place. If they don’t get there, then the photos are simply pretty pictures at best, and not, perhaps, what they were hoping for.
There really isn’t any hard and fast rules about boudoir, but the objective, the intent, the impetus of the session are what defines boudoir, as opposed to glamour, fashion or any other type of photography. Boudoir is personal, and often life changing. See yourself in a new light!