Taking boudoir photographs for your clients can be tricky. It’s an intimate setting, and you want the results to look as natural and relaxed as possible, which can sometimes feel awkward for both the boudoir photographer and the client.
It’s important to put your clients at ease and help them find different poses that capture the personal, seductive, and intimate elements of their personality. If your client feels anxious or self-conscious, you’ll see that result in the finished photos.
Whether you’re a novice or a longtime professional boudoir photographer, the way you interact with your client will make or break the resulting boudoir photos. But with these boudoir photography ideas with simple tricks and time-tested boudoir poses, you can help your clients relax and channel their inner femme fatale as you shoot.
With its roots in French, the term “boudoir” historically described a woman’s most private inner sanctum and refuge. More than just a bedroom, the boudoir represented a place where a woman could truly relax and be her true self. As a result, boudoir photography generally has an intimate, private, and personal feel. And unlike true nude photography, most boudoir photography employs subtle nudity that is implied, rather than overt, and a tone that ranges from playful to glamorous.
As a professional photographer, you have tremendous power to put subjects at ease and shoot natural and compelling images that capture their true spirit and personality—and this is couldn’t be truer than when snapping boudoir photography. If you’re invited into the most intimate space of your client, it’s important to respect that and do everything in your power to make sure the client feels peaceful, confident, and as relaxed as possible during the boudoir shoot.
Here you’ll find several ideas for posing clients in ways that help them feel calm, powerful, and alluring during a boudoir photography session. You may also want to check out our guide on photography poses to avoid to ensure you get a flattering pose with every shot.
Let’s take a closer look at some candid photography tips for posing clients to get the sultry and powerful boudoir photos they’re looking for:
Much of the magic of boudoir photography stems from creating angles, lines, shadows, lighting, and hints. Helping your model bend her limbs to create a series of triangles within the boudoir shot helps add dimension to your work and keeps the photo subject from looking flat or tense.
For example, have your model bend a knee and then place an elbow on top of it—either looking directly at the camera in a soft, alluring way, or looking off-camera in a dreamy fashion. A popular variation of this is to have your client lie on her back with one leg bent and the other crossed over the top of it. If she slightly arches her back, the resulting curve makes a nice foil for the angle of her crossed legs.
A third approach is to have your photo subject lie back with knees bent, feet pointed, and arms bent to 90-degree angles behind her. With her back arched and head tilted back, the resulting angles, curves and lines of the body can create a sultry and powerful look.
A simple, closeup headshot is usually a comfortable choice for many clients, and a good boudoir pose to start with. Have your model look directly into the camera and adopt a variety of expressions. You can capture everything from strength to innocence or seduction with this kind of pose.
Try out a few different options during your boudoir session to see what you and your client like. Depending on how the client is dressed, you also can get a great view of the shoulders with this simple pose.
Every boudoir photography subject will have a different comfort level with their body and how much they’re willing to have photographed. Additionally, if you’re not intentional about posing your subject’s hands, they can end up looking distracting and look as though they have no purpose. So, use this combination—allow your model to use her hands to strategically cover or distract from areas of her body she may be less comfortable with.
For example, having your subject lie with an arm across the stomach or chest gives the arm and hand a clear purpose, while also helping your photo subject feel relaxed, safe, and comfortable.
Lying on the back is a boudoir pose is generally flattering to all photo subjects, no matter their body type or comfort level with the boudoir photo shoot. It’s also a great pose to start out with since, in and of itself, it helps the client relax.
You can shoot this boudoir pose from near the client’s head, shooting all the way down the body. You also can circle around your photo subject, shooting from a variety of angles so they have more choices to choose from when it comes to the final image. Make sure the model’s chin is tilted up toward the camera, which will define the face and prevent the dreaded double chin effect.
For a sophisticated version of peek-a-boo, have your photo subject position one arm over one side of her face. Then, she can use her other arm to pull the first one into place, creating a straight line down the middle of her face and adding a sense of mystery to your final shot. This works as a side profile shot or you can shoot it from above.
This is a good pose for encouraging motion, too. Not every boudoir pose has to be completely static. For example, instead of having her legs stretched out in front of her, have your client fold them over to one side. She can then twist the legs to the other side, all while you shoot sexy boudoir photos.
This boudoir pose can be as seductive or as sensual as your client feels comfortable with. And some clients actually do well starting with a pose like this, since they don’t have to necessarily face the camera.
For example, you might have your subject kneel on the floor or lean over a piece of furniture. Depending on how she’s dressed, this is a great pose to show off those glutes if your client has been working out, and it also lengthens the waist for a flattering effect.
You also might have the client lean against a wall with arms extended overhead, once again elongating the waistline and arching the back. An additional variation is to have the model sit on her heels or crouch and look back over her shoulder at the camera.
This is a great boudoir pose that can be shot from the front or the back. Simply have your photo subject lift up both arms and run her hands through her hair. You can pose your subject standing or sitting for this shot as well. Even having them sitting in front of a mirror and pretending to style their hair can make an amazing shot. You’ll probably find that having your model take some kind of action like this helps them feel more relaxed and natural. Depending on your client’s comfort level, you can have her wear a loose sweater or top—or even wrap herself in a blanket, such that lifting her arms offers a glimpse of the stomach, hips, or tush.
Once your model trusts you and is relaxed, take a few shots of her looking directly into the camera, using her eyes to convey the effect you’re looking for. Expressions you might try include intense, innocent, amused, secretive, or serious. Be prepared to help the model visualize the expression she wants.
Lips are great for boudoir photography—they’re expressive and can be playful or sensuous, depending on the overall facial expression. With this boudoir shot, you’re getting only the mouth and chest area of the model.
You might, for example, have your photo subject wearing an off-the-shoulder dress or sweater or with the upper body wrapped loosely in a sheet or blanket. This is also a good option for showing off lacy lingerie.
One of the key questions clients have is what kind of facial expression makes the most sense during a boudoir photoshoot. Subjects often feel tense and awkward during a boudoir photo session, and asking them to plaster on a fake smile can result in a static and tense-looking boudoir image. Asking them to look smoldering when they’re nervous rarely goes well, either.
The most important thing is getting your model to relax. If you want to capture a natural, relaxed smile, ask your client to do something silly first: dance around, jump up in the air, anything that makes them feel loosened up and elicits a natural smile.
Make sure to give your client as specific direction as possible. If you just ask them to smile or “look sexy,” it’s doubtful you’ll get a great result. Instead, ask them to think of a happy or tender memory or something that makes them feel strong and sexy. If your client is too tense, let her take a break, do something silly, and then try again.
Also keep in mind that your client doesn’t necessarily have to smile, and all boudoir pictures may not include the face, so if the smiling is causing tension, avoid it for a while and focus on other boudoir photography ideas. Then, maybe try a few where you ask your client deliberately not to smile.
A boudoir photo session is one of the most challenging photo shoots a photographer can take on. It’s doubtful you’ll be working with a professional model, so most photo subjects may feel intimidated or insecure—perhaps even questioning their choice to schedule the boudoir photoshoot.
Your ability to put them at ease and capture boudoir poses that make them feel powerful, beautiful, and confident can go a long way toward capturing unique and intimate images that will be special to your client for a lifetime.
A great first step in putting your client at ease is making sure you walk in armed with flattering poses that put your subject at ease and build a sense of trust using the boudoir photography tips presented here. And when it’s time to edit your shots, be sure to download the Sleeklens Boudoir Nude Lightroom Presets to guarantee your boudoir photography is just the right amount of sexy and moody.