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Boudoir Photography Definition - Why So Many People Get It Wrong 🤷

Updated: Apr 12

Hi, I'm Michael. I am a womens portrait and boudoir photographer from New Jersey who works with wonderful women from all over my home state and the NYC area. I've been involved with boudoir photography for a long time and I've witnessed it's growth in popularity over the past 10 years. We all know a boudoir photo shoot is a unique gift for a wedding day, anniversary... or just for yourself. Even with it's increase in appeal I've encountered clients (and photographers!) that may still not really understand what boudoir is. Turns out, there may be a bit more to the definition than that you think. So, if you've been wondering what it's really all about-- you've landing on the right article.

I've worked with many clients throughout the years, and I'm still a little surprised when someone comes in for a boudoir shoot and really doesn't actually know what it's all about. Although many people may have an idea-- that somehow its pictures of women in underwear-- it seems that most don't really know the correct definition of boudoir photography. The real answer may surprise you.

Even though I talk to clients extensively, and have tons of information on my website about the subject, sometimes clients have a different experience in mind when they show up. On some level this would make me feel like I failed-- in the sense that I have not communicating properly with the client. Perhaps I didn't ask the right questions and clearly set expectations. --Or maybe, the client really didn't understand what boudoir photography really was about, from the git-go. Let's take a look...

So, that leads us to the question-- What is the definition of boudoir photography? Well, you can search the interwebs, but its sort of tough to find an exact boudoir meaning. Today we'll attempt to define the boudoir photography meaning. Google grabs their default definition from The Knot (a wedding website)-- which may not be exactly the best source of boudoir photography information.

I guess maybe... that's sorta... kinda... in the ballpark --But not really. 🤷 Hmm... so if Google isn't hitting the nail on the head, what hope do any of us have?

Well, I think what happened is that the term "boudoir," which is a fairly specific type photography, has been adopted and applied to a whole larger genre of photography, that technically isn't really boudoir. It's become, in a way, a proprietary eponym-- a situation where a successful product has come into general use to refer to a generic class of products rather than its specific brand type. For example, how Kleenex is used to describe lots of different tissues. Boudoir is used to describe lots of different types of photography...that may feature women in lingerie... most of which, though, aren't boudoir!

I think lots of people have in their minds that boudoir is the all encompassing term for taking photos in little or no clothing. ...That's not exactly what it is.

What is the definition of boudoir photography?

Well, let's start with the word "boudoir" itself. It's easy enough to see where the foundation comes from. It's a French word that means "a woman's private sitting room," or "woman's private dressing room," or "woman's private bedroom." The words derives from the French verb bouder (to sulk or pout.) The space was one for sulking in, or to withdraw to.

The word "boudoir" eventually got attached to a certain type of photography-- which we know as boudoir photography-- which is an extremely simple, but yet very misunderstood, and often misrepresented, genre of photography. The main construct of boudoir is that - as it’s name implies — typically takes place in a women’s “boudoir,” or bedroom, and contains elements of voyeurism, in so much that the viewer is observing private moments and there may be indications that she may, or may not know the viewer is watching.

Boudoir is foremost about beauty, passion, and simplicity. Boudoir is photographed in a very simple organically lit style, and may be beautiful and passionate. Boudoir is about body language and soft curves.

Well, lets dissect this a bit, and see if we can find out exactly what the definition of boudoir photography is... so we can know better what it isn't.

boudoir photo of a woman in fishnet stockings

Where do we shoot a boudoir photography session?

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, or bedroom. OK, so know we know where boudoir takes place... perhaps a bit about the Why.

Why do we shoot boudoir photos?

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. It's for her private enjoyment.

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 may often be natural light, 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 a boudoir photo shoot.

But there is a bigger issue...

As Stuart from the Big Bang Theory so elegantly put it &quo