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There Is No Such Thing As Outdoor Boudoir

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

What is outdoor boudoir? Well, let me start by saying there's a bit of an issue here. Let me explain...

Ahh, outdoor boudoir. You'll see this mentioned online from time to time across the interwebs, such as a photographer's posting on social media about an "Outdoor Boudoir" event they will be hosting. You'll may come across a blog post about "Ms. R's" outdoor boudoir session which is full of shots in grassy meadows. Some photographers even have a dedicated page on their website to such an offering. It seems like this is a thing. No? If you even dig a bit further, you'll even see this topic popping up in articles on websites such as FStoppers.

So what gives? It all seams so "natural." These posts always contain lots of text about "warm summer breezes", and the purity of "golden fields," which are the perfect location to host your outdoor boudoir session. It's all very appealing! Except for one small detail... technically, there's no such thing as outdoor boudoir.

"But wait, Mike. Just like you said, I saw it online. It does exist. The photographer even showed a woman in a lace bodysuit laying half submerged in a pond."


"Yeah, there was even other photo of a woman in a bra and undies laying in the grass! She was in grass, I say!! That's outdoor boudoir!"

Well, no. It's not outdoor boudoir-- At this point I can't help but think about the phrase from Seinfeld, "Not that's there's anything wrong with that!" Allow me to explain.

I guess the simplest way to start is with the definition of boudoir photography. Boudoir photography is an extremely simple, and misunderstood genre of photography. There are a few basic tenets that describe all boudoir photography. These are:

Where do we shoot boudoir? We can start with the word "boudoir." Boudoir is defined as a woman's bedroom or private room-- an intimate setting. It's a where. Boudoir photography is photography that captures a woman in her boudoir. OK, so know we know where boudoir takes place... perhaps a bit about the why.

Why do we shoot boudoir? Well, boudoir is about capturing a woman in this intimate setting. It certainly has voyeuristic overtones. Its a look in on a woman's private quarters. It's her caught in private moments-- perhaps not meant to be seen-- creating a sense of allure. Is she smiling, or looking into the camera? Well, perhaps, but there's just as much chance that she isn't.

And now, the how. How is boudoir captured? Well, given the paragraphs above we know the where, and the why-- and we can use those to piece together the how. As boudoir is a simple and pure form-- so is the how. It is captured in a simply lit style which is beautiful, organic and flowing. It tells a story and makes you want to know more. It creates allure.

Those are the three core parameters of boudoir, as defined by me. --And who else better to do it! Can there be exceptions? Of course there can. Art being art, there can be many interpretations of boudoir.

So, let's take those basic tenets and apply them to what has been called outdoor boudoir. Let's start with the "Where." Is a grassy meadow a women's bedroom or boudoir? --No, it isn't.

How about the "Why." Is a grassy meadow an intimate setting? Are we looking in on a woman's private quarters? Not really. A grassy meadow may possibly even be a wide open public space.

Now the "How." Is the session captured in a beautiful, simple manner? Possibly. Outdoor photography may be photographed using natural light, or a simple lighting setup that doesn't interfere with the tone of the session.

So, by the definition of boudoir photography, this scenario may only possibly pass one of those criteria. There's more, though.

The other big mistake is people often associate the term "boudoir photography" with any photograph of a woman in underwear. It simply isn't the case. An outdoor photo of a woman laying on a pile of rocks in a bra isn't boudoir. Lingerie isn't the defining characteristic of what makes boudoir photography. It may be an element of boudoir, but it is not the sole defining characteristic.

Look at it this way. Taking a photo of a woman in a bathing suit standing in my backyard doesn't make it a beach photo. A bikini may be a wardrobe element of a beach photo, but the bikini itself isn't the sole defining factor of a beach photo. If I snapped a photo of a woman in a subway car wearing a bikini, that really isn't a beach photograph, either. Get the idea? There are a few things that need to come together to define the beach photo, such as the location, and other factors.