Sensual and intimate photos seem to be very popular these days. The internet is overloaded with these photos depicting celebrities in intimate spaces and intimate poses. As for the ‘normal’ people these photos are popular wedding or engagement gifts for the significant other. This kind of photography is called boudoir photography. If we disregard celebrities as everything they do is partially public, these photos are supposed to be private. The idea is to have photos that would provide joy to you and your romantic partner.

If you’re still not certain what am I talking about, boudoir photography usually shows women in lingerie or scarcely dressed, in a bedroom or another intimate environment. These images are sensual, romantic, and suggestive. Nudity is implied and not explicit. To simplify it even further, these images should be attractive but classy, elegant and tasteful.

Boudoir photography is a subgenre of portrait photography. Because of the implied nudity and sexuality, it is often mixed with glamour and art nude photography. While there are similarities and risk to slip into these other genres, there’s a clear distinction as well. Glamour photography includes erotic poses and rarely uses amateurs as models. On the other hand, art nude photography shows the nude human body but accentuates emotional content, form, and composition. It is a fine art photography. Obviously, these borders are not strict. But you get the picture.

How to Get Started

Boudoir photography is a niche that offers a variety of possibilities. However, it is not all in your hands because your client wishes come first. Of course, you should guide the process as a skillful professional. But, all of your ideas must fit your client desires. Otherwise, it won’t work. Basically, your job is to shape your client ideas into great images. Usually, you are trying to capture what model likes about herself, or himself on rare occasions.

This genre requires many different skills. Research and preparation are extremely important to get the results. Communication with the model is even more important. Since you’re dealing with amateurs, they may feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. Not to mention ‘the uniform’ for the session. It is essential to make your model feel cozy and relaxed. You should have a studio or a room that can be arranged appropriately. Renting a hotel room or suite is also an option. Finally, you should have fitting equipment.

How to Prepare

In order to get the best out of the session, you need to plan carefully. Ask your model in advance about the expectations. Take a look at some existing photos of your model. That will help you to notice body shape and other details. Then you can estimate which poses will flatter your model most. Prepare some boudoir photos of other people as well. You can show them to your model and you can analyze them together. This way you will have a clear picture of what your model wants and likes.

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” – Audrey Hepburn

Now you can choose your gear. It depends a lot on your shooting plan. As a general rule of thumb, the lens is more important than the camera. Any DSLR will do if you have a great lens. As for the lens choice, if you are looking for versatility, 24 – 70mm lens is a perfect choice. I recommend Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8. You can also use a standard 50mm prime lens, although it is more suitable for an environmental portrait. These are of course just guidelines. You can choose from a variety of lenses depending on your shooting plans and ideas.

Prepare Your Model

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this. No matter how good you are, or how sophisticated your gear is, your session will end up in tatters if your model doesn’t fully cooperate. You are trying to show her sensual side and to do so, you have to provide a relaxed and trustful feel. So there is no real guidebook for this. It’s all about communication. You have to gain the trust of your client and to provide a relaxed and bright atmosphere.

To set the right mood you can use your model’s favorite music, snacks, and drinks.

girl posing for a photo in a bathtub

Camera Settings

When it comes to camera settings it is more or less the same as for any portrait photos. You don’t need long exposures, so you should use fast shutter speeds. That way you will prevent blurring from possible camera shake or slight movement. You should set your ISO as low as possible and an aperture between F/8 and F/16. You can set a wider aperture if you want to blur the background a little bit.

Composition and Posing

As for most of the portraits you have a variety of possibilities. You can use the rule of thirds, but you don’t have to. You can fill the frame, or you can use the background to enhance the focus on your model. It’s very easy to get it wrong and end up with cheesy images. So, make sure that your client feels good and start with easy poses. The best female poses for boudoir photography are the best poses for any kind of female photography and vice versa. Bending and leaning will provide lines and shapes that are involving and flattering. Direct your model, but make sure to be supportive and understanding. Leave the most provocative shots for the end of the session.

A Couple of Tips and Tricks

Small details can make a big difference. Human eyes are very expressive. Capturing the expression in the eyes is a must in any portrait photography. If the eyes are in the frame and open, of course. There is a rule to follow here. Your model should look straight into the camera, or the eyes should follow the direction of the nose. However, when the model looks straight into the lens or any object, the look can appear to be dull and empty. Therefore, I use eye-contact to induce expression and engagement.

“Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.” – Rabindranath Tagore

Shoot some black and white images. Contrast and textures are enhanced in black and white technique. It adds intensity and drama to your image. Removing the color gives a timeless sense. It accentuates your model expression and draws even more attention to your subject.

Using longer focal length is a way to improve some images. If your model has a prominent nose or some other facial features this trick comes handy. A wide lens will exaggerate perspective. On the other hand long focal lengths will compress and flatten the subject. It will make your model look thinner. Also, it affects the depth of field as well. Long focal lengths create a shallow depth of field, meaning that your background will be blurred to a certain degree. However, this trick is great only for specific situations.


Boudoir photography is an exciting niche in photography. It allows you a lot of creativity, but certain guidelines must be followed. There is a thin line that separates great images from cheap ones. Nevertheless, if you stick to the basics you will have no problem.

Now, you are ready to go out there and have some great shooting sessions. Or, maybe not. Rules, theories, and knowledge are just the first part of the equation. As with any other skill, the other part is practice, practice, and practice.