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:
Discover your local options. Do a comprehensive search of available photographers in your area. Decide your travel radius, and stick with boudoir specialist
Immediately discard photographer with low quality and "shady" work. Stick only with high quality boudoir photography.
Get rid of the "Cupcake Queens" and "Boudoir Boomers." Stick with only the highest quality experienced professionals in your area. Avoid photographers making "life altering" claims.
Understand what high quality work sells for in your area. Plan for and expect that to be your budget.
Shop Smart. Price should never be the sole deciding factor in your decision. Price without any other context is meaningless.
Avoid making baseless comparisons on session packages or products. Photography is not a price comparative industry. There are too many quirky packages, such a huge variety of products, and vast range in skill levels of photographers that this practice is meaningless. Don't try to play the Audi dealer against Joe's Used Cars.
Meet your photographer. This should be the easy part. By now you've cut out most of the bad choices. Be certain you have a good rapport, feel comfortable, and get your session scheduled early.
Be super ultra picky about who you select, but if you follow my tips in the article above, you'll know how to find a few qualified candidates, and review their work with your boudoir group and get opinions.
Discuss your plans with the photographer.
Every photographer works in a different manner. Once you have a few candidates its worth reaching out to discuss your plans. Send out an email or pick up your sexy Android phone and call and talk to your photographer. Ask how he/she runs couple's sessions, do they include hair & makeup, how long is the typically session time... etc.
If you want to be proactive you can search for a couples photo ideas that you like and send them over. You can use Pinterest or Google as a great resource to get started. This may be an easier way to bring up your session ideas and get feedback, versus a possible awkward verbal discussion-- "I'd really like to do some shots tied up..." If you are working with a seasoned pro, he/she has most likely seen it all, anyway.
We Don't Know How To Do All Those Fancy Poses...
That's OK! Nobody does! --And it's really one of the least important things to worry about. Did I mention that pretty much everything is posed? Ah, the secret's out. People who are skilled photographers know that, well, you don't get good shots by luck. Odds are, you'll be skillfully guided through a series of poses. The trick here is...no make it not look posed.
Whether it's a couples session, or a standard session, posing is a bit of work. You won't really come across any photographers claiming they aren't posing experts, but the proof will be in the pudding. What do the photos look like? Do the sample photos look super posed and awkward? Are people heads cut off, or weirdly crooked? What you want to see are natural looking couples who appear to be having fun.
I discussed this a bit earlier, but there is a lot of baaaaaaadddd photography out there. Don't assume because someone has a camera and a website they know what they're doing. Coaching is an important part of a photo session, so you want to stick with someone who can gently guide you for great results.
As I mentioned earlier, every photographer has a unique way that they working, but many couples photos seem to be bed-centric... for some reason. You'll be doing a lot of laying around 😀. There should also be good options for standing poses, and even seated poses, as well. Make sure you have some diversity.
Make Time To Prepare
At this point all of the hard work has been completed. You've found your photographer and booked your session. You've discussed your plans with your partner. Now, you're ready to start preparing. Most people do give themselves plenty of time, but be sure to give yourself at least a couple weeks to get ready for your session.
Take time for a bit of pampering and shopping. The shoot is a great excuse for getting hair and nails done. It's also a good time to pick up an outfit or two!
Although you don't need to spend a lot to look cute, be mindful of what you're buying.
I see lots of lingerie come through my doors, and I have some strong opinions on how women shop! Boudoir is a bit of a special occasion, so budget for your outfits. The universe of lingerie options has expanded greatly over the past several years and there are plenty of shops out there other than your local mall's Victoria's Secret, which is good. (Everyone doesn't dress the same anymore...LOL) Lots of choice is good, but on the other hand, the .87 cent polyester thong you saw pop up on an Amazon special may not be your best bet. To put it mildly, some items people purchase on Amazon, are, well, a bit cheap looking and not necessarily super flattering. I understand they were inexpensive, but invest a bit in your appearance, because those photos will be around for a long time.
Another little secret about boudoir is that you don't need tons of things for a successful session. I understand people like variety, but opt for quality instead of having tons if different choices. I can shoot an entire album with a cute white lace bridal bra and stocking outfit and make it look amazing.
And finally... If you're not a lingerie person (and I understand everyone isn't), get help! Ask a friend. The time you invest in making great choices for your session will really pay off.
...Don't forget to stop and get a bottle of your favorite wine to bring along, as well.
I Think I Have A Good Idea Of What I'll Wear, But What Should My BF Wear?
This is a good, and often overlooked question. Sad to say, even couples boudoir tends to be more women-centric. You'll have a lot more outfits and looks than your partner. Typically, guys just need to keep it simple. He may just need a fitted shirt or t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and perhaps a pair or two of boxers or boxer briefs.
Down And Dirty Couples Session Details
Is Sex Involved In Couples Boudoir?
Is this what you've been waiting to hear about? 😂 This is probably the most asked question about couples boudoir! Many photographers will lie about this...right to your face! LOL. You'll hear them tell stories like "The two of you will be so worn out by the end of the session... that will be the last thing on your minds. With all the arching of backs and the holding of poses no one, and I mean no one, would have any energy left for sex to occur." Or-- "I've been doing couples sessions for thirty seven years, and never once...even one single time... has it ever happened. With a crotchety old photographer, like me, pointing a camera 18 inches from your head, trust me, no one is getting aroused." ...Among other such tales. Well, I must be doing something wrong...
The short answer is-- it can happen-- it has happened-- but that's not really what we're trying to accomplish, and it's not on the itinerary.
Although boudoir is itself not really focused on explicit sexuality, and there is never any expectation or requirement for any kind of sexual contact, couples who are taking part in a couples boudoir session, well, are pretty much there because they enjoy each other. After posing together, and rolling around together, it can excite a few flames-- and why shouldn't it?!
The truth of the matter is couples boudoir really isn't about having sex while getting photographed. A lot of what goes on is implied. Photos are strategically taken that sort of make it appear that there may be a lot more going on than really is.
That being said, people do get caught up in the moment, and well, on occasion it can happen in one way or another. There are some couples that want that moment of ultimate closeness captured. More often than not, it isn't something that is planned. People wind up having a great time during their session, and one thing leads to another...
I certainly receive inquiries about having sessions that may be more physical in nature, and personally, that isn't an issue for me. If you think that your session may swing more in that direction, remember to have that talk with your photographer.
In the end, I wouldn't spend too much energy focusing on the idea of a couples boudoir session being about sex. It isn't.
Interestingly, a lot of my couples sessions tend to be more "woman"-centric. I start out doing photos of just the woman, like a standard boudoir session. I find that women still do like to have a good selection of "traditional" shots in their photo galleries. After a few sets of solo boudoir shots, I tend to bring the couple together for the couples part.
A couples boudoir session does not have to be all "couples" photos.
Do We Have To Get Nekkid?
Nope. Like boudoir really isn't about blatant sexuality, it's also not fundamentally about nudity. Nudity is not a requirement of any boudoir session. You can have a super cute session completely clothed, err, well maybe not totally clothed... 😂
Do people shoot nude photos? Sure. Nudity, in some form, is a part of quite a few sessions-- and it has been for years. If someone is comfortable with it, or wants nudity as part of their session, that's fine. This is more of a preference than a necessity.
Should I Bring Some Props?
My personal opinion on props seems to have changed over time. I was not really a very "pro-prop" guy for a long time, and I was fairly against shoe-horning items unnecessarily into photos. I've softened my stance on this subject over time, because ultimately, these sessions aren't about me... it's about what my clients enjoy. If a prop shot puts a smile on a clients face, and helps them enjoy the photos, then so be it.
Couples sessions don't seem to be as laden with props as singles boudoir. I do receive emails from couples prior to their session that often start out something like, "Um, Mike, this is kinda embarrassing to ask, but..." --followed by an awkwardly phrased question about bringing some kind of prop during a session. What kind of props are couples bringing, you ask? Well, good question.
Unlike singles props, which tend to be more "partner" oriented, like a husbands work shirt, or favorite team jersey, couples props tend to be more erotic in nature. These type of props are certainly not for every couple, but for those who'd like to know, here's a bit of a list:
Handcuffs, ropes & restraints. Playful for couples boudoir shots. I tend to keep these light-hearted.
Bed Restraints. I do have a four poster for couples who'd like to bring in bed restraints.
Blindfolds & Masks. Masks are cute fun.
Crotchless Panties. These seem to be a long time couples fav.
Vibrating Undies. A bit of giggling fun for couples, and husbands love controlling the remote while the wife is posing.
Sex Toys. Vibes are a popular prop in sessions these days. Used for some playful implied shots.
Again, these items are not for every couple. If you and your partner aren't having a blast tying each other up at home, a couples boudoir session isn't probably the place to get started in the world of bondage.
Hopefully this article has given you a bit of insight if you are looking to do a couples boudoir session with your partner. Bottom line: You should! It does take take a bit of up front work to find the best photographer to fit your needs along with open communication with your partner to make sure everyone is on board, but a little work will yield great results and a positive experience.
Some Other Resources For Couples Boudoir Info