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Ask A Boudoir Photographer: What REALLY Goes On Behind Closed Session Doors

Updated: Jun 3

a woman making a shhh gesture

Let's spill the beans! Do you have questions about what goes on in that boudoir studio behind closed doors... and maybe we're a bit afraid to ask... or know?

My name is Michael. I've been a pro boudoir photographer for over 10 years and I've photographed hundreds of women. You may say I know a thing or two about the subject. Boudoir photography is intriguing to many women but at the same time creates a bit of uncertainty for those not really quite sure of what women are actually doing during these sessions. Is everything just super tame? Are women really including nudity... or even taking it a step further?? What's really going on inside the average boudoir session? The people want to know!

I answer lot of client boudoir questions every year-- from the benign, to the down-right NSFW type-- that everyone wants to know! I thought I'd write a blog post to answer a few more these questions that you may have a bit embarrassed to ask, but were always curious to learn.

Although a lot of boudoir sessions are rather "typical" and can be just series of photos in bras and undies, boudoir has changed over the years, and women have become a lot more adventurous about expressing their sexuality. Let's face it, though-- In our world of super defined "roles," a boudoir session is one of the few places where women can express sexuality in a safe, judgement free environment. So, what are they really doing during their sessions?

Let's look at some questions about what goes on in boudoir that perhaps you'd be curious to know.

boudoir photo of women in jeans and black underwear laying in bed pulling down her panties

This looks fun, and I've always wanted to try it, but I'm not a lingerie person and I'm a bit more on the conservative side... Is this still for me?

Well, here's the interesting thing about boudoir. Boudoir photography isn't just one type of session. At it's foundation, boudoir photography is really about beauty, and taking a bit of a voyeuristic look inside a women's personal space. The dirty little secret is that boudoir really isn't about sex. It's not about pushing boundaries. And it's not about taking a series of photos till you get "more and more" naked. (Which I've heard from women more than once in my career.)

Boudoir, at it's heart is very simple...and cute. The idea is to make a women look beautiful, and create photos the view will enjoy for years. The one great thing about a boudoir session is the great sense of freedom and fun that comes from rolling around in your undies for a few hours. It doesn't really seem like a big deal-- but women have so much fun with such a simple activity.

Now, that being said-- as in any type of art form, it is certainly open to interpretation and there isn't just "one right way" to photograph a boudoir session. From photographer to photographer "boudoir" can mean different things, as well. --And some even advertise session as "boudoir," but they really aren't! Over the years, the scope of a boudoir session has widened tremendously. Aside from the traditional cute lingerie shots, there can be nudity, the use of props such as restraints, and even masturbatory type images-- whether implied, or the real deal.

The great thing is it's your session, and it can be whichever way your wish. If your partner is a booty person-- no problem. You can include more photos that show off your best feature. If you prefer to do just a few simply shots laying down in your favorite bra set with a cute smile-- no problem. If your partner loves when you touch your ****, and you wish to give them something that will really turn up the heat in your relationship, your boudoir photographer will know how to do that.

The bottom line is you can still take part in a boudoir session and enjoy all the cute photos without feeling you have to go beyond your personal boundaries.

beautiful blonde woman laying in bed in lingerie

I'd so love to do this, but why is boudoir photography so f***ing expensive???

Great question. Boudoir photography is an experience, and you are working with an artist who is essentially creating personal artwork made just for you. Top boudoir photographers only work with a few clients a month, due to the time involved working on each session. You are paying for their time and talents to create something that will, indeed, be a keepsake for years to come.

You have to think of boudoir as less like a commodity--such as searching for a discount pair of shoes, and more like a special event such as your wedding. Your wedding wasn't about finding the cheapest venue, and serving McDonalds to your guests... true McDonalds is less money-- it's less than paying a wedding venue $50 - $75 per person for an elegant meal, but in a wedding situation no one chooses to spend $2.29 per guest for McNuggets for wedding guests. True... it's cheaper, but cheaper isn't always the best choice in every case. Your wedding is an experience. It's not something that happens all the time, and it's about the memories.

Your boudoir session is the same in may respects. it's not about finding the cheapest option... it's about doing it right and enjoying the experience. Great boudoir photographers aren't going to be cheap... and cheap photographers are most likely not going to live up to your boudoir ideal, and your results may suffer.

That's why boudoir photography is expensive. Think less McNuggets... and more elegant wedding venue meal. You'll do a boudoir session perhaps once (or more... if you're lucky) and these are photos you want to enjoy for years

sexy photo of woman in black lingerie from behind

I've always thought about doing this with my best friend. Do women really come in and do boudoir sessions together?

Yes. Since I've started shooting boudoir, women have often brought a friend-- but let met explain.

I don't know the exact percentage, but there have always been women asking me about bringing along a friend for either a) moral support, or b) to share a photo session.

Of that group that asks about sharing a boudoir session with a friend, a majority are there with their friend to share in the activity together and make a fun day out of it. We alternate taking photos back forth between the two women who do their own separate sessions concurrently. They have a great time, and each gets an album of their photos for themselves or to share with a partner.

There is definitely a growing group of women, however, that come in to do their concurrent sessions, but also have planned ahead that they want to take photos with each other, as well. --And by "taking photos with each other" this can range from cutesy shots of simply laying next to each other kicking their heels up and smiling, to women who want to share more of a sexual experience with each other.

I've personally worked with single/single, single/married, and married/married friends who have come in with the intent of taking the opportunity of their session to do poses of a more sexual nature with their friend. As a matter of fact, there are more and more session that I do each year which are just this... I started calling them BFF sessions, and they've been a hit ever since.

erotic boudoir photo of woman in hog tie and black lingerie

Is there really such thing as "erotic boudoir?" What the heck is that?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, boudoir comes in many different flavors. There are a lot of things that can take place during a session which "technically" aren't really boudoir... but can be fun to shoot nonetheless. The term boudoir has grown to be a bit of a proprietary eponym and used to describe quite a few photo situations which aren't truly "boudoir photography."

"Erotic boudoir" may be one of those situations. This may be a session which may include photos that contain bondage elements, restraints, explicit photos of penetration, etc. To be fair, what is considered "erotic" by one person can be very different than another-- so there isn't one simple definition of erotic boudoir photography.

In my personal experience there aren't too many sessions that are completely shot as erotic boudoir from beginning to end. For the most part, the majority of a boudoir session may be fairly standard in nature, with perhaps a few photos of this more erotic style sprinkled in for a bit of flair. I don't believe, in general, most women are looking to include solely that much intense content in their boudoir albums or session.

What would be the most popular type of erotic photo currently? From my personal experience it would clearly be some type of photo in a wrist restraint of some sort-- whether leather, rope, etc. Probably the number two type would be implied masturbation photos-- whether photos of the client using their hand to simulate or imply masturbation, or shots using some sort of adult product to simulate or imply masturbation.

Can this be done in a "cute" way? Sure! It took a while at first to come up with some posing ideas, but I've shot this situation enough to be able to handle it in a manner which is more... elegant.

It may be a bit awkward, but if you are interested in doing content of a more intense nature in your session you should give your photographer a bit of a heads up before your session day to make sure she/he is on board with your plan.

woman in black lingerie in bed

Oh, I just had a baby not too long ago, and I have some stretch marks that weren't there previously. I hate them... Is this something that can be removed from my photos? I really want to try this...

Generally, yes. This isn't an issue. Depending on the extent of the stretch marks, typically they can be removed in post production.

For quite a few women stomachs are an area of concern... and women may be a bit uneasy about it being front and center in photos. This is a something I hear often. There are ways to pose in which your stomach isn't the center of attention in your photos. Additionally, a simple fix is using a robe or button down shirt which can be manipulated by your hands to cover/hide your stomach from photos, as well. This method works like a charm!

One important thing to note for all women. A boudoir session isn't about being perfect. That's not the goal. It really is just about having a bit of fun, rolling around in your undies while taking some cute photos. In all the years I've been working I've never had a client come in and say, "Boy, I'm just perfect..."

Don't fall for the "these gallery photos are perfect women--unlike me" snafu when viewing photographer's online samples. What makes it seem this way is that clients are often looking at gallery images from photographers websites which may be retouched-- causing people to think that the photographer "only works with perfect woman." The truth is, however, a lot of this is trickery! --In a good way! It really goes to show the power of a talented photographer-- using posing techniques and outfits that accentuate the positive, along with a little bit of editing magic.


Have a question that you're really curious about? No worries. Send it to me. I'm happy to send you a private answer.

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