Updated: Oct 19, 2020
What's it like to have a couples boudoir photo shoot? In short, a lot of fun! Digging deeper, a couples boudoir session can be anything from playful to super sexy and intimate. Let's take a look...
Hi, I'm Michael. I'm a little bit of a geek, but I'm also a boudoir photographer from New Jersey. I've photographed hundreds of women over my career-- I've been at this a while! Have you been searching for info on couples boudoir sessions? You're not alone.
Couples boudoir wasn't really even a "thing" until fairly recently. I know the first time I had a couple was maybe five years ago... and it wasn't even planned. I had a client who came in for a boudoir session, and she brought her husband along. He was loitering around the whole session watching his wife, and near the end of the session the client kept playfully motioning to her husband to jump in with her and do shots together. He shrugged her off once or twice, but finally relented. She was was having a great time during her session, and she responded with a big grin when her husband finally obliged.
So we shot a few impromptu boudoir shots of them together, and she was super happy. When she was previewing her photos a few weeks later, most of the favorites she picked were the photos of the two of them!
Since then, I've been doing and increasing number of couples boudoir sessions every year. I receive more requests for information about sessions, and the couples boudoir page of my website gets increasing traffic, as well. Surely, couples boudoir has arrived!
...And why not! Couples boudoir is different from standard boudoir in a few ways. Primarily, its not a secret. My entire life as a boudoir photographer is one of secrecy-- secret phone calls, secret text messages & secret emails. It's all about sneaking (in a good way!) Boudoir sessions are often gifts, and therefore surprises. The shoot is kept a surprise from the unsuspecting boyfriend or husband. Women have to come up with stories on why there were absent for a day... and often are surreptitiously smuggling out their wardrobe and shoes hidden away in bags and in the trunks of cars. Pfew! That's a lot of pressure!
Couples boudoir, on the other hand, is in the open. Couples have time to prepare and come in with a little different spring in their step. People generally seem a bit more at ease, not living a life of lies(!) for the past few weeks.
Want to know more? I'd thought I'd take you through the process of the journey of a typical couples boudoir session. It's a bit of work, but if you take your time and plan wisely, that work really pays off in the end. Just a note: I'm sure every photographer has their own unique twist on a couples session... and this just happens to be mine.
So What Is It Like To Have A Couples Boudoir Session?
Let's get started. The boudoir photography landscape has been a bit messy over the past few years, and I'll get into more detail on that later, but I'll walk you through some of the important keys of planning your session, and I'll get into a bit of what to expect. To start off, why are people doing this?...
Why People Have Couples Shoots
Why do people do this? In short-- it's fun. Unlike traditional boudoir, which is still mostly done as a gift for a partner, couples boudoir seems to be done more often for the fun of it, and not necessarily for a particular occasion or event.
The social acceptance of boudoir has come a long way over the past 10 years. I often talk about how back in the day it was something that was best not talked about by decent people in public, and photos were hidden away under lock and key lest someone find out... Oh! The Shame! ...Meanwhile, today I have clients live streaming their sessions on Instagram and sharing photos all over social media. Quite a change!
As the perception of boudoir photography has changed over time, more and more people have taken part in boudoir sessions. Afterward, women do really walk away feeling great about themselves. Not only that, women like to feel beautiful, and that's exactly what boudoir is all about. An expert boudoir photographer's job is to create an intimate beauty. In it's essence, boudoir really isn't a sexual thing at all. Granted, people are in lingerie, or even possibly naked, but blatant sexuality is not really on the menu of a boudoir session, and it's definitely not the focus. (For people who would really like to get into the definition of boudoir photography you can read more about it in this article.)
Women keep their boudoir albums, and look at them for years. They are that important. Couples boudoir grew out of the desire to share this amazing type of solo experience with a partner. Sometimes couples boudoir has the misconception of being about photographing sexuality, but like standard boudoir, the focus of couples sessions really isn't about blatant sexuality... it's more focused on closeness and intimacy.
For the right kind of couple, it's a great activity. Often, I think the shoots are to inject a bit of a spark in a relationship. I once had a couple that just started dating and the woman wanted to do something adventurous on one of their first few dates. How exciting! Here are some of my unscientific reasons for a couples shoot:
Couples looking for a bit of excitement.
To celebrate a relationship milestone.
Because "you've always wanted to try."
An fun anniversary celebration.
A Birthday surprise.
An exciting date idea.
Couples who want intimate photos of themselves.
Who Has Couples Sessions?
The range of people that come in for sessions is pretty diverse. I'd say the the majority of my couples are mid 20-ish to early 30-ish, but I have had people up in up to their 50s stop in for a shoot. Dating couples and married couples are probably fairly evenly split. These groups are mostly opposite sex couples, although female same-sex couples are also a group who come in.
What Style of Couples Session Do You Want?
Style? Yes, style. Every photographer runs their shoots in their own unique manner. Some photographers may really want to focus more on cutesy playful type sessions and images with lots of pillow fights, cuddling, and sweet smiles. There are other photographers out there who tend to have sessions which skew in more of an intense sexual nature with more of a focus on nudity and sexual intimacy.
What did you and your partner have in mind? Flirty? Sexy? There isn't one correct style of couples session. All of those previous styles-- and any mix of them is right. It comes down to matching what you want to the right photographer.
This is something worth talking about not only with your partner, but also with your photographer. You can get a good idea of a photographer's style by viewing sample photos online, but, as someone who shoots couples sessions, sometimes there's more to what goes on than you see in sample photos. I'll explain.
Sometimes there's more to your photographer's portfolio than meets the eye. He/She may have a bit more range to their portfolio than immediately viewable on their website. I'll use my work as a good example. I intentionally try to keep my boudoir samples mostly in a middle ground that will appeal to most people. I do work that does include sessions that veer to the safer and more erotic sides, as well.
If you are looking for a cuddly good feeling session, you may not want to investigate too many photographers displaying mostly boudoir erotica.
This All Sounds Fun, Can You Talk My Partner Into Doing It?
*Sigh* The "Can you talk my partner into it" dilemma. Everything was going great until... Sometimes there's a partner that just isn't 100% into having a couples session. This can, and does happen.
I've spoken with husbands or boyfriends who wanted to come in for a session... but they were fairly certain it just wasn't what their wife/girlfriend really wanted to do. Likewise, I've had a similar discussion with a wife or fiance who really thought it would be fun, and would let on "I know my husband would never really want to do this..."
It's a difficult situation. Once in a while I've been asked to talk to the reluctant partner to tell them more about the session and see if I could talk them into it. I'm glad to talk to people about boudoir, but trying to talk someone into a session is never a good idea. It won't work, and forcing people to come in against their will doesn't make for a good time.
I've had the "reluctant partner" happen during my career. In one instance, a couple came in for their session and it was clearly evident that one of the them was really there more under obligation then desire. The husband was enjoying himself and was suggesting photo ideas and poses during the session and the wife kept sighing and rolling her eyes with a look of I can't wait for this to be over.
It's a realllllyyy awkward situation. Beyond that, as for the person who is really not into the session-- their photos will look it. It doesn't make for great results. That's a look that can't be photoshopped away.
It's definitely important to discuss your session plans with your partner and be certain they are as excited about the idea as you. If everyone is up for the session, it will be a great success. If only one partner is seemingly on board... well, it's best to maybe shelf your session plans and try again at some point in the future.
The good news is if you're a woman reading this, you can always do a solo session!
Finding The Right Photographer.
I put this information in a lot of my blog posts... just because it is so important. I'm going to try to cover as much as I can about a super important part of the whole process-- finding an amazing boudoir photographer. This is actually hard work. The world of boudoir photography is a bit of a mess over the past six or seven years. A big mess. You are living in the midst of the "Boudoir Boom" which isn't exactly as fun as it may sound.
What happened? For some reason, starting about six or seven years ago, there were seemingly large groups people that woke up in the morning and suddenly decided they wanted to "make women beautiful." They set off to Amazon and bought a camera, and plopped down a few bucks for web hosting and *BOOM* labeled themselves as "pro" photographers. Imagine, just two weeks earlier they had an at home cupcake business, and now they are a pro photographer! Amazing.
You can spot one of these Boomers because they make a lot of noise about "changing lives," but often offer little in terms of technical skill. Somewhere along the way, the 10,000 hours of practice to become that "expert" fell by the wayside here, and the photography part is often lacking. --And after all, isn't that what it's all about? Many of these Boudoir Boomers have faded away, but it's still worth mentioning. If you get one on the phone, you'll know... they will be less concerned with their skill, and more concerned with telling you how they will "empower" you.
I've written a lot about How To Shop For A Boudoir Photographer, so as time allows, you can read that article full of juicy tips on how to successfully find the best photographer for you. To summarize up the process: