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What is boudoir photography all about?

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

What is boudoir photography all about?In this blog you will gain an understanding of what a boudoir photography session is, what to bring to a session and what you can get from doing a boudoir session.

A boudoir session can heal you/make you fall in love with yourself. This is not just a portrait or a regular photo session. A boudoir session is not typical. It will increase your confidence and get you in touch with your strength and powerful self. The resulting images also bolster a woman’s confidence, bravery and illustrates how sensual and great looking she really is.

A simple coffee mug makes a GREAT prop!

The definition of boudoir photography stems from the French word meaning a lady's private dressing room or bedroom. In the field of photography, it refers to a style in which women pose for photographs partially clothed or in lingerie.

Making the decision to schedule your boudoir session can be a tough one. Because of its intimate nature you will see yourself as others’ see you. You will be shocked at how stunning you will be in your final images. Some women love the way they look or are about to start a family and want to be able to look back and remember how they looked prior to having children. Some are just coming off a divorce and want to start a new chapter in their lives – a way to regain their self-confidence and self-assurance. Many women schedule a session as a gift to their fiancé the night before or day of their wedding. Still more celebrate their transition into each decade and use their albums to record their beauty and sensuality. Here are a few questions about a boudoir session to help you understand and feel more comfortable with the process.

A man's white shirt is always a great idea to bring!

What are typical boudoir outfits?

In partnership with your photographer, you will plan out your wardrobe. Some of the pieces will depend on where you are going to shoot your session, but most will be picked out by you because you feel confident and sexy wearing them. Bring all your lingerie, intimates, and cute shorts, short dresses and outfits you find sexy. You can make almost any piece of clothing work in these specialized portrait sessions.

Do I need to lose weight prior to my session?

Absolutely not! This is a common reason woman forego one the few photography sessions that can change your life. Weight gain, no matter how much or how little is off putting to many women. This doesn’t mean you will look fat. Using strategic lighting, wardrobe selection and lighting techniques you will look as if you’ve lost weight. There are many techniques that can accentuate your curves and enhance your beauty while de-emphasizing areas you are self-conscious about.

Hair and makeup – do I go pro or no?

In collaboration with your photographer, plan out the look that fits the mood of the session. The “romantic” look is a classic look and fits most sessions. A look that is just a bit more than your typical “day” look is another good starting place. Many if not most, of portrait photographers have makeup artists or MUAs that are available to apply your makeup. I always suggest using a professional MUA. It is well worth it.

portrait of a woman looking directly at the camera
Makeup ideas for a boudoir session

If you decide to apply your own makeup it is ESSENTIAL to use matte finish makeup. If you use makeup that has metallic particles the light will reflect off it and the photographer is going to have to spend a ton of time Photoshop to mask out the reflections. Make doubly sure that you coordinate the look the photographer is going for as well. You want to feel confident, glowing, and beautiful so wear a look that makes you feel like strutting your stuff. Eye lashes are a MUST!! Much of the focus will be on your face and eyes. Adding lashes will make you look even more stunning and give you a romantic, knock your socks off look!

What to bring to a boudoir session?

In addition to the clothing mentioned above, you REALLY need to bring a small “emergency” kit because something will need to be DIY’ed at the session guaranteed. Generally, a professional photographer that has been doing this for years will have you covered but don’t take any chances. Here is the start to that emergency photography kit. Bring safety pins, small binder clips, rubber bands, hair scrunchy, Band-Aids, moisturizer, extra lipstick, and tissue to name a few.

Do I have to get naked?

Absolutely not! This is a personal preference. This is one of the most intimate of all portrait photography genres and as such it consists largely of implied nudity. The emphasis is on implied. The photographer is skilled at posing and lighting and will combine those elements to tell a story to viewers in your images. I find that most of my clients want a few images that show their derriere or their chest. Women who have had an augmentation schedule a boudoir session to celebrate their new figure and will quite often choose to show themselves off.

What props do I bring to make my session unique?

Props are a wonderful way to make your images unique. My number favorite prop is a mirror. Mirrors are just awesome! I can’t get enough of mirrors – I LOVE them!! Umbrellas, parasols, a man’s athletic jersey, bubbles!!, boa, stilettos, faux fur, hats, stockings (stay-ups), and to name a few favorite props.

Woman sitting with a hat covering her face
Arthur Ellis Photography Boudoir Image

How to find confidence to do a boudoir session

So, you want to, but you just can’t pick up the phone and schedule the initial consultation call. You see the images of others and say to yourself – those are models – look at that figure”. You further the conversation by adding there is no way I look like that…look that good … Photoshop is not powerful enough to make me look that good… and your self-criticism continues. You have a limiting belief that prevents you from making that call. I guarantee you that it is not the first time that belief has spoken to you. It happens from time-to-time. Figuring out what the limiting belief is the first step. Look at it straight in the eyes and say – not today!! Pick up the phone and call the photographer and discuss your limiting belief with her/him and get it out on the table. I will guarantee that the photographer has heard the same concern before. Here are some common refrains I have heard – I am scared, I am afraid you will share my images on-line, I am too heavy, not sexy, hate my (stomach, bingo – wings, hair, hands, feet legs, skin condition (psoriasis, keloids, scars, etc.)). Guess what?? Once we discussed how to compensate for the beliefs – they scheduled, and we held a session.

What are some of reasons to schedule a boudoir session? Here are 7 out of my 26 reasons to do a session.

  • You’re worth it. You know you luv, luv, luv to be pampered and that is just what a boudoir session is – a day of pampering. My hair and makeup artist will make sure you feel and look so beautiful. Our playlists and sweet treats will get you more into the mood too!

  • You lost weight (or gained it, or it’s still there). Let’s face it, if you’ve gained weight or lost weight or neither – there will STILL be something about yourself that you don’t like. Resign yourself to this fact and think of this look as a time to celebrate your own body and how you look right now.

  • You have all of maybe five photos of just you. You spend hundreds of dollars a year on photos of other people (family photos, school photos, sports team photos), and you take 100s of photos with your phone of others – your friends, your pets, your family and I will bet dollars-to-donuts you aren’t in any of them or at most one or two and you are visible only from the neck up.

  • You’re getting married. The #1 reason that most of my clients seek out a boudoir session. Many buy an album for their fiancé as a gift just prior to their big day.

  • It’s your wedding anniversary. Consider a session each year to remind yourself just how beautiful you are AND to remind that certain someone that “you are still the one for me”.

  • You’re getting a divorce. It’s all too easy to think of this time as fault finding. At some level you feel a twinge of insecurity here and there and what better way to look back and say: “Yup,I was rocking it”! I will never forget how a now recently divorced mother of two answered the following question I posed to her: “will you be showing these off to your ex to remind him what he left?” and without missing a beat she replied: “No, he just doesn’t deserve to see my looking this good”. This was a sure sign she had turned a corner and was moving forward with her life and I would like to think this experience was a piece of that transformation.

You’re single and rocking your current life. Need I say anything more? I think not!!

How to choose a boudoir photographer

This one is near and dear to me. It’s so important to “interview” your photographer. When there is a genuine chemistry between the client and the photographer the images are noticeably better. When you are relaxed, confident and trust that your photographer has your best interests in mind and is dedicated to making sure each image is tasteful and makes you look gorgeous it shows in your face, your body and ultimate in the final images. Don’t think the pre-session call is just to discuss the details. Make sure you ask the photographer the questions you need to, to start building the trust and a relationship that will make your session fun, and ultimately a safe place to be vulnerable, find your courage and bravery and express that sensual side of yourself that is just aching to be captured in an album you can look at for many years to come.

You’ve got this!

Arthur Ellis, is owner and photographer at Arthur Ellis Photography, in Charleston, SC. He specializes in Family & Children, Headshots, and Boudoir photography. He can be reached through his website:

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