Boudoir Photography (History, Photographers, Tips)

In portrait photography, there are various niches used to capture the complexity and rawness of the human experience. Today, we want to discuss a type of intimate photography that infuses portrait, fashion, and beauty – famously known as boudoir photography.

What is Boudoir Photography?

Boudoir photography is a form of portraiture that often contains romantic, intimate depictions of your subject and is captured in either a studio setting or on location, usually in a dressing room or private space such as a bedroom.

This niche of photography is characterized by its sensual nature, posing a woman in various intimate ways to create personal and even erotic images.

Boudoir photography infuses the elements of fashion, beauty and fine art to create emotionally rich situations and scenarios with your model.

Although Boudoir photography has become increasingly more commercial and popular in the photography industry, it is a method of image-making that has been practiced for decades.

The History of Boudoir Photography

The term Boudoir originated in France and historically has been used to depict a women’s private room. Usually found between the dining room and bedroom, the boudoir is a place of activities for the woman or somewhere to spend time with a romantic partner.

The concept of boudoir photography originated back in the 1920s, where photographers would create settings in either their studio or a luxury hotel environment. In these photography sessions, the models wore lingerie or in some cases were nude – a technique that was meant to express more implied sexuality than vulgarity.

The intention of Boudoir photography is to capture the beauty of a woman’s figure and emotions, rather than an unrealistic or inappropriate exploration of her body.

Additionally, boudoir photography was also used to create images for a woman’s romantic partner. The genre became popular among women as many soon to be brides would surprise their husband with images of themselves or even send their photographs to partners who may be in the service and overseas.

Famous Boudoir Photographers

In boudoir, several photographers have been recognized for paving the way of this photographic niche.

One being Albert Arthur Allen, an American photographer known for his nude portraiture back in the 1920s. His images were a form of boudoir at its most explicit and intentional form of photographing a woman’s body. His subjects can be seen sitting, standing or laying down with very little production elements on the set.

He focused primarily on capturing the women in their natural state, not always looking directly at the lens or properly posed. His work shows some of the first fully nude images of a woman’s body, breaking boundaries in a world of classic portraiture.

Another boudoir photographer famous for his images of Marilyn Monroe was Cecil Beaton. Beaton was an English fashion, portrait and war photographer. His black and white film imagery of Marilyn depicts a soft, feminine complexity with implied sensuality.

His images of Marilyn show her in a casual manner, wearing lingerie to infuse the touch of seduction.

Other boudoir photographers include Sam Shaw, Steven Mason and companies like Bella Bella. As the industry transforms, boudoir photography has transitioned into a more commercially recognized form of photography. Including the likes of famous models and actresses, boudoir photography has become a standard for creating intimate imagery of the industry’s elite.

Boudoir Photography: From Film to Digital

When looking at the work created by boudoir photographers of the past, we can learn a thing or two from their work and artistic creations. Considering that boudoir photographers of the 1920s shot their subjects on film, the focus was always placed on the process of shooting.

When shooting film, there must be an attentional to detail, poses and mood that allow the photographer to plan each shot. With this process, the postediting was minimal with little to no alterations. With this, the boudoir images of the early 19th century were pure, natural and intrinsically beautiful.

In the digital age, it is important to remember that simplicity is key and less is always more. Modern boudoir photographers should focus on direction, posing and capturing the emotion from their subject in a subtle, yet sensual way and avoiding harsh or unrealistic editing will allow your model to exude her natural beauty.

How to Capture Beautiful Boudoir Photographs

Captivating boudoir photography is achieved by creating a definitive mood and feeling with your subject. Boudoir photography is meant to exude sensuality, playfulness, provocativeness, romance, and intimacy. In order to draw these characteristics from your subject, you will want to consider these tips:

  • Make your subject feel comfortable – boudoir photography is an intimate process that requires trust and comfortability between the photographer and its subject. Speak with your model before about your expectations, ideas and allow for any input to make the session successful.
  • Focus on posing your model in natural ways – avoid poses that feel unrealistic or too explicit. Boudoir photography should be intimate and sensual with implied sexuality.
  • Use natural light if possible or softer studio light to frame your subject – stay away from lighting that washes out your subject’s figure or creates distortion
  • Prepare and plan all elements of the shoot including hair, makeup, wardrobe and even prop settings. Boudoir photography is less of a portrait session, but more of an inclusive idea surrounding your subject. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
  • Consult the model frequently during the session. Share the images and give feedback and artistic direction when necessary. Boudoir photography is truly a team effort, so being open and flexible throughout your shoot will lead to creating beautiful images.

Boudoir Photography: a Delicate & Sensitive Type of Photography

As you can see, boudoir imagery is a unique niche in the medium of photography. With intention of capturing the true sensuality, intimacy, and sexuality of your subject – boudoir photography is a process that should be handled in a delicate, sensitive manner.

Are you a boudoir photographer or have considered breaking into this niche of photography? Let us know in the comments below.

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