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Lingerie Gift Guide: How to Have a Boudoir Photo Shoot

By: Marianne

A boudoir photo shoot 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 eyeshadow 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 hairstylist, 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 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)
Mariah Carle
Paolo Diavolo
Lydia Chen
Sam Guss
Lydia Chen
Mask Photo
Chris Gaede
Jesse Alford
Chris Gaede
Karolina Marek
Karolina Marek
Chris Mackessy

Marianne Faulkner

Marianne Faulkner is the designer of Pop Antique, a clothing and corsetry line specializing in sustainable materials and comfortable curves. She is based in San Francisco where she earned her MFA in fashion design at the Academy of Art University, and has been a columnist at The Lingerie Addict since 2011.

23 Comments on this post

  1. Mimi says:

    You asked us to share our experiences sitting for a boudoir shoot: last month I treated myself to a session via Dark Garden Corsetry, in San Francisco—they hold boudoir photo events two or three times a year—and I found the experience transformative. After having undergone a couple of major, life-changing events (a near-death illness, and a breakup), I decided this photo shoot would be one of the milestones on my path towards reclaiming myself—and it certainly did the trick!

    If a stylist is offered, I say go for it: I could have done my own hair and makeup, but happily succumbed to my curiosity of how somebody else would make me look, and the desire to be doted upon (because, really—this is about making oneself feel good, is it not?). It made the experience complete.

    My outfit consisted of some of my favorites: a waist cincher and little skirt, a push-up bra (which I later removed, tee-hee!), stockings, and knee-high boots; a feather teaser and some jewelry finished the look. I kept the palette spare—black and pink, with only an accent of burgundy—because I wanted *me* to be the focus, more than my wardrobe.

    Christy Carr, of Light and Shadow Design, was the photographer, and she was outstanding: her personality is a wonderful balance of strength and professionalism with openness and playfulness; immediately I felt comfortable in her presence. My one concern, going in, was that I tend to *hate* photos of myself—I think I’m un-photogenic; I’m nervous and self-conscious, and that always projects. Christy really surprised me, however: very quickly I stopped thinking of her as a person taking photos of me; she felt more like a friend sharing juicy, gossipy conversation. I stopped seeing the camera, and the photos attest to that—I’m relaxed, smiling, sultry, and happily reveling in my yummy-curvy self. It was great fun, and I love the photos.

    But I’m too shy to post them publicly…sorry, Treacle! ;-)
    [email protected]

  2. Cécile says:

    Really great advices, but honestly something is missing: I was expecting a few contacts left along the article such as photographers, make-up artists or studios who are accustomed to do boudoir photoshoots, I mean not just with professionnal models but also with the average woman looking for a great treat for her man. I guess it ain’t particularly easy to go through the first photo studio on the street and ask for “a boudoir photoshoot’ … ^^”’

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Cécile,
      I don’t get notifications about comments, so I apologize for not writing back to you sooner. Including a list of contacts for professional boudoir photographers wasn’t practical when writing the piece because I can only personally vouch for a few photographers in my area, which, naturally, doesn’t help anyone outside of it. You should be able to do a google search for “boudoir photography [your area/closest major city]” to find a studio that specializes in it.

      However, the follow up post for this piece, How to Book a Boudoir Photoshoot interview with full time boudoir photographer Mariah Carle, covers a lot of booking questions. I’d originally hoped to run the two pieces together but the word count was way off. You can read the next installment here:

  3. John Abbott says:

    I’m a Chicago based photographer, and I just wanted to add a few more things.

    Get a decent night’s sleep the night before you shoot. I know that sounds basic, but you’d be amazed at how many people show up in my studio space after a long night out, expecting that my photography skills can make up for their lack of sleep.

    Get a clear idea of your photographer’s privacy policy. Never sign a model release that gives the photographer complete control over the images. Make sure you know what happens with your images, before you pose.

    Give the photographer a heads up if you have an idea that you really wanted to try. Some of my best photos started with a client’s idea. If we are given some time to mull it over, we can generally add another layer to your idea that you’ll love.
    Along those lines, work with a photographer that you trust implicitly. If you trust us, then you’ll share your ideas with us. You’ll allow yourself to be more open, vulnerable, or bold, which always leads to better images.

    Great photography has to do with the connection between the photographer and the client.
    I understand why some people want a friend with them… but I encourage the friends to stay far behind me while we’re shooting.
    “Why,” you ask?
    Your friend will make a joke, or say something to try to elicit a reaction out of you, and you’ll unconsciously look in their direction… away from the camera. Or you’ll reply (quite naturally, its your best friend!) just as the photographer is shooting. There’s a fine line between moral support and distraction. Please make it easier for us, and don’t make us fight for your attention.

    My last tip – and there is no way to get around this – but I have to mention it: look at your calendar before you make that appointment. Be aware of when your period hits, only because it can affect the way you feel about yourself on that particular day.

  4. Carole Hayes says:

    You’ve given lots of great tips! I’m going to go pin this on Pinterest, and I’ll be adding this to my client info emails. I’m so glad I found your site! (I think I could fill my “lingerie I’d love to shoot” Pinterest board from your site, alone….) : )

  5. Marianne Faulkner says:

    Annmarie – Those are some great tips! A lot of that is actually covered by next month's interview with boudoir photographer Mariah Carle, of

    Definitely check with your photographer about bringinging your friend or husband – you're the client, so they'll probably say yes, but it's good manners to let them know about the additional presence. Third parties are capable of being notoriously disruptive on sets. Or you might consider a friend that will want to get in the photos with you!

    Kayla – Treacle writes lots of posts for Lingerie Addicts on a budget, so I think the hurdle of "enough" lingerie will be the easy one. Though with photographers, as with any craftsperson, you get what you pay for, so it's definitely worth saving up to make sure your shoot exceeds your expectation!

  6. Kayla @ TheEclecticElement says:

    This is something that I REALLY would like to do in the future when A.) I have enough lingerie to facilitate a full shoot and B.) Have the money to purchase a shoot. Lol

    These are some completely awesome tips that I will definitely remember when the time comes :)

  7. Annmarie says:

    Few more advice, based on the shoot I had a year ago:
    1. Invite a friend to join you- It will make you feel more at ease, and your friend can also chime in with creative suggestions.
    2. Bring a bottle of wine- It was actually the photographer's suggestion, and she was absolutely right. Luckily I brought two.
    3. Bring your own lingerie/clothing to the shoot, maybe even get something only for this purpose. it will make you feel comfortable and you know the garments will fit you just right.
    4. Talk to the photographer before the shoot and see if you click- I was reluctant to work with a "team" and chose a one-woman operation who uses her place as the set. She lives outside of Seattle where I reside, but it was a very worthwhile trip. And the fact that she could do the shoot on Sunday was a huge bonus as there was no traffic.
    Suza Marie contact info:
    [email protected]

  8. Marianne Faulkner says:

    Thank you all! So glad you enjoyed it.

    I have to admit, while some of this is stuff I figured out, a lot of it came from the photographers I've worked with for tips, and from obsessively reading the critiques forum on Model Mayhem for a while. Anyone looking to participate in more photoshoots might consider doing further research in that fashion.

  9. Becky says:

    Excellent advice! I'm a huge lover of boudoir and enjoy modelling this style of lingerie the most. I agree that focussing on the angles of your body is hugely important in creating the best pose you can do.

    A tip I would add is to take moisturiser with you that you can apply just before your shoot. One that has a light shimmer will make skin glow and look gorgeously healthy!

  10. Frantic About Frances says:

    Great advice! I sometimes model my own lingerie for shoots, and learnt the hard way about marks on the body from wearing clothing that just won't fade away!! Great article. xx

  11. Laura Brooks says:

    This is a great article! Answers every question I've ever gotten about boudoir photography. Being a boudoir photographer in Denver your article covers it all. I will be putting a link to this article on my website for sure! :)

  12. John says:

    All very good advice Treacle. I'd like to reiterate your advice on waxing etc..always make sure you do it in time that any redness will have faded away before your session..and most of all have fun! Love your blog!

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