Boudoir photography is a great gift for your significant other or yourself. You don’t have to be a model to do a private boudoir session, and it’s a great excuse to pamper yourself (and buy some new lingerie). Anyone can do a boudoir session: man, woman, or couple; any skin color, body type, age, sexual orientation, etc. But how do you make the most of it? Below I’ve outlined some tips based on my experience as a model and stylist at boudoir shoots.
Oh – and before you ask, no, it’s not too early for us to be talking about this particular holiday gift. The farther in advance you schedule your shoot, the better. Mariah, the photographer behind Bay Area Boudoir, tells me she’s already got some Valentine’s day shoots booked. The longer you wait, the harder scheduling will be, and the less time your photographer will have to edit your shots amidst their other holiday orders.
“I’m terribly unphotogenic!” I hear you cry. “I don’t know what to do in front of the camera.” The following suggestions are pretty much universal, not just specific to boudoir photography. It’s amazing what the right photographer, poses, lighting, and makeup can do for you… or what the wrong one can.
There are a few things you should do to prepare for your boudoir shoot in advance. Don’t forget to wax or shave your limbs, tweeze your eyebrows, and moisturize the day of your shoot. If you have sensitive skin prone to redness and irritation, do your hair-removing ritual the day before. Make sure to hydrate and get plenty of rest. Eat a light meal before you shoot – you don’t want to be bloated, but you don’t want to pass out either.
What should you bring or wear to a boudoir shoot? As much as you can carry. And considering the size of the average piece of lingerie, that’s probably quite a lot! You’ll want to have options, but depending on the length of your session you might not have time for too many costume changes or lengthy deliberations, so it’s best to have an idea of your favorite looks. Stick with matching or at least coordinating lingerie sets. Stockings or tights will smooth out your skin tone – you might even want to wear a pair of dancers’ tights under your fancy stockings, to smooth and lift. They’re also available as industrial-strength fishnets. Feel free to bring a prop related to your hobby, job, or personality.
Dressing in layers gives you the option of slowly stripping down. If you’re planning on shooting topless, implied, or full nudes, arrive in loose-fitting clothing, commando and sans bra, to avoid impressions from your clothing on your skin. Shoot this segment first, then your lingerie looks. Personally, I have a thing for corset marks, so you may wish to make a conscious decision about the appearance of imprints according to your tastes.
Even if you’re going for a natural look, you will need to wear (some) makeup. Powder over moisturizer or foundation is a must to even out your skin tone. Even the strongest brows need to be shaded in (I use eye shadow and an angled brush), otherwise the light shines through them and they look patchy. You’ll want at least some light eyeliner to keep your eyes from getting lost.
Often photographers will have a makeup artist, or MUA, available for an additional fee, or you can hire your own. You may want to have the makeup artist “contour” your features, to accentuate your bone structure. If there will be a hair stylist, don’t wash your hair that morning – a small amount of buildup actually makes their job easier.
The basic rule for posing, and the difficulty, is that you have to be aware of basically your whole body, from head to toe. A good photographer (or assistant, or stylist) will suggest adjustments to your pose as they are shooting so you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
The first thing you need to think about is your posture. Stand up straight, and keep your shoulders down. Lengthen the back of your neck – don’t try to elongate it by tilting your chin up, unless you really want to show the world your neatly maintained nostrils. Usually, “good posture” means tucking your pelvis in line with the rest of your spine, but for photographs this is less flattering to your rear and upper thighs. Tilt your pelvis backwards; which is to say: pop your butt. Try to remember to suck in your stomach or gently engage your core muscles.
You might have heard the word “angles” used in reference to modeling and had no idea what it means. The angles referred to are those created by the position of your limbs and joints, with the intention of creating a pleasing silhouette. Exaggerate your positions – arching your back? Arch it more. Leaning? Lean farther. Weight on one side? Pop your hip. I said pop your hip! (Seriously, this dramatic weight shift reads much better on camera than a casual list – your weight should be entirely supported by one leg.) You might be wondering what to do with your arms – try gracefully laying your hands on the side of your face, your shoulder, your hip, your thigh.
If you’re short (like me) and want to look longer and leaner in your photos, there are some things you can do. First, make sure your photographer is shooting you from a lower perspective – he or she will probably crouch or kneel to take the shot. Secondly, extend one leg towards the camera, as if you are stepping forward, but with your weight on the hip behind. Limbs extended slightly towards the camera will appear longer; limbs pointing directly at the camera will become foreshortened (which you don’t want). Always point your toes, keeping the line of your foot as an extension from your leg. Unless you are deliberately taking a wide stance, keep your knees together for a more elegant look. This is especially important for seated poses, in which you’ll also want to perch on the edge of your seat so that your thighs and rear don’t spread and flatten.
Probably the hardest thing to control is your face, and especially for boudoir portraits, this is how you convey a lot of the mood. For boudoir, I don’t think you can go wrong with a relaxed smile. Are you playing up the demure ingenue or the seductive temptress? Trying to channel Bettie Page or a Gil Elvgren pinup doll? The first choice you’ll probably want to make is whether you want to make direct eye contact with the camera or hold your gaze askance, and you may find one of them feels a lot more comfortable.
Whether posing your face or body, it helps a lot to practice in advance in front of a mirror. Study poses that you like in illustrations or photographs – what makes them work? Will they work for you or only for a 5’10” professional fashion model? It’s easy to get very excited but make sure you’ve got your reality check turned on.
It’s very important to communicate with the photographer. Do you have a favorite side of your face? What do you think are your best (and worst) features? What mood are you going for? Some of these things should also be communicated to the makeup artist – what color eyeshadow do you think best complements your eyes, for example? Self-conscious about your hooded eyelids? Love cupid’s bow lips?
Speaking of communicating with photographers, next month, I’m interviewing Mariah Carle of Bay Area Boudoir (who I mentioned in the first paragraph) to get her experiences and advice.
Have you done a boudoir photoshoot or are you planning on doing one? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments, especially if you’ve got a local photographer to recommend! Oh, and if you’ve already had your boudoir shoot, don’t forget to send your photos to Treacle so she can post them in the fan album on The Lingerie Addict Facebook page!
Image Credits: (in order of appearance)