Learn OWN Boudoir’s top-selling boudoir poses and create an amazing boudoir photography portfolio of your own. Your clients will look and feel incredible!
Boudoir Photography: Tips for Great Posing
Boudoir photography has been steadily increasing in popularity over the last 10 years. If you’re a portrait photographer, chances are you’ve seen images from a boudoir photo shoot, or even been asked to photograph one yourself. If you haven’t been asked for boudoir pictures, then it’s only a matter of time (even if your clients know that you’re strictly a newborn photographer).
My First Boudoir Photography Experience
I remember tagging along to my first boudoir photography session. The photographer I was shadowing had been asked to make boudoir photos for one of her brides, and since I wanted any experience I could get my hands on, she let me tag along.
The word boudoir was extremely hard to pronounce (still is), and I tried to act like I knew exactly what I was doing (I didn’t). Fast forward to 10 years later, and I’ve been photographing boudoir full-time for almost eight of my 11 years as a photographer. Even though I had no clue how to pronounce boudoir – let alone pose someone – I fell in love with the genre and with the joy that it gives my clients.
Tried and True Tips for Top-Tier Boudoir Photography
Whether you’ve never done a boudoir photo shoot before, you’re just getting started with the boudoir genre, or you’re a seasoned vet who’s made the transition into this niche, here are some solid tips that will help you execute poses that your client will love.
Each tip I’ll list has been learned from experiences with providing custom service, enduring long nights editing in Photoshop, and paying attention to which images my clients spend money on.
The Most Common Boudoir Question
The biggest question that I get from fellow photographers and potential clients is “How do you know which boudoir poses to use?”. My answer: most of the posing success will happen BEFORE the boudoir shoot. Before we get into the major posing tips, I want to explain where I start when it comes to posing each client.
Get to Know Each Client Before Her Boudoir Shoot
In our boudoir business, we get to know our client through a series of questionnaires that are sent before the session. We have questionnaires that cover their hair and makeup ideas, the music they want to listen to, where the like to shop, the reason they are having a boudoir session, etc. These questionnaires help us to get a great idea of who our client is and what she will love even before we ever officially meet.
Take time before you and your client are face-to-face in your studio or hotel room to get to know your client. An alternative option to the boudoir photography questionnaire could be setting up a virtual ‘meet- n-greet’ via Skype or Zoom. Getting to know your client before her session will help you both to be more relaxed, which will help greatly as you begin the session and prevent any surprises that may come up.
Five Questions to Ask
Here are a few helpful questions to ask your client before the day of the boudoir shoot:
- What boudoir images inspire you the most?
- Are there any potential insecurities or “trouble spots” that you’d like to avoid in your boudoir photos?
- Are there any physical limitations that may prevent you from accomplishing certain poses?
- What about yourself do you LOVE?
- What is the ideal image of you that we could create?
The answers to these questions should give you a great jumping-off point for what your client is looking for (or NOT looking for). They will also help you to pre-plan boudoir poses that will work for your client and that you know your client will love. I highly recommend pre-planning the boudoir photography poses for your session so that you have a plan to lean on if you get stuck.
Now we’re ready for my major tips for posing your client during a boudoir session.
Here are my top tips for how to pose your clients for boudoir…
#1: Communicate About Their Boudoir Poses
As you initiate a pose with your client, make sure to communicate exactly what you want them to do. Talking to your client throughout the posing process will help put them at ease and keep them from getting in their own head. Make sure you also cheer your client on so that they know they are doing a great job.
Try not to put pressure on yourself to have eloquent descriptions of how you’d like your client to pose. Some of my best-understood boudoir posing instructions will incite a little laughter from my clients. One of my favorite examples is when I’m wanting a client to make their jaw more defined (eliminating a double chin) I’ll say something like: “Stick your chin out like a turtle!” That will always get a little giggle, but it gets the job done and is easy for my client to understand. If a pose isn’t working, it’s ok to let your client know that you’d like to “make some adjustments.”
Show Your Client a Sneak Peek of their Boudoir Photos
While a controversial stance, I would 100% recommend showing your client some images on the back of your camera during the boudoir shoot. Visually communicating to your client about the images you are capturing will help put them at ease as well as prevent you from creating an entire set of images that your client doesn’t love.
At the beginning of your session, you should show your client a capture that you LOVE. As you show your client her image, listen to her reaction! From there you will know if you are on track to provide the type of boudoir photography she wants, or if you need to make a few adjustments. Hearing feedback can be nerve-wracking, but your client will be so thankful that you listened – and your images will be better for it!
#2: Change Your Perspective
There are times when I just KNOW that a boudoir photography pose is going to work for my client, but for some reason it is not coming out the way I imagined it. When this is the case, I will change the perspective from which I’m photographing the client. I’ll usually adjust my angle (the direction from where I’m shooting) or the height from which I’m shooting. My client’s pose will remain the same, but I’ll make adjustments from my perspective.
Get above your client by climbing on top of a ladder (a small step stool is also easily portable between shoots), or get below your client by squatting down. A change in your angle or height will allow you to see the pose from a different perspective as well as effect how your camera sees the light on your client, which can make for a really incredible discovery.
Here is an example of where I knew that the pose would be great for the client, but I needed to adjust my perspective:
These two images are the exact same pose, and the same lighting.
The image on the left is taken from above my client. I wanted to accentuate her rear, but the lighting and angle was causing her to appear flat.
The image on the right was taken after I adjusted my height. I climbed off of the ladder and got below my client. This angle allowed me to capture her curves much better by adding more depth to the composition. The image on the right also happened to be one of her favorites!
Changing your perspective in the middle of a boudoir pose will ensure that you don’t skip over the best angle for your client! You might just find that a pose that wasn’t working actually works quite well!
#3: Look for the Minor Adjustments You Can Make
As you’re posing your client, it can be extremely easy to get caught up in the entire composition of an image and forget about the minor details. Before your shutter clicks, take one last glance through your viewfinder for any minor adjustments that you could make in order to perfect the pose and please your client.
If you were able to talk with your client pre-shoot about any hesitations or insecurities they may have, then you’ll know exactly what to look for!
Was your client nervous about her arms? Pay attention to how they look in-camera. Pulling the arms away from the body can improve any sort of ‘pancake’ affect that might happen when arms are resting against the body.
Is your client nervous about her chin? Coach her through adjusting her chin angle (you can use my “turtle” trick above) until it’s perfect!
Was your client worried about how her stomach would photograph? Check to see if any adjustments need to be made like twisting the torso or possibly concealing the stomach with her arm or a sheet.
In these images above, the client had previously mentioned to me that she didn’t love her stomach area. Because of that conversation, I knew that she wouldn’t be too excited about the image on the left that showed a bit of her stomach. I took time to coach her through making a minor adjustment, which helped create an image that she LOVED. The adjustment I made: I had her twist her rear toward me, which also twisted her torso away from me and concealed her stomach.
My Top-Selling Boudoir Photography Poses
Now that I’ve shared my top tips for posing during a boudoir session, I would love to share my top selling boudoir poses, with a few tips on how to modify them for your clients.
My top selling poses are those poses that I know my clients will always pick as part of their album or digital collection (and sometimes both). These are poses that will also work well on most clients, with very minor modifications. It’s helpful to have a set of three to five poses that you know will work well with most clients (remember when I mentioned pre-planning?). Having a set of go-to boudoir photo poses will help you to never get stuck without ideas during a session; and since they look great on most clients, these poses are a great confidence-booster for when you’re sharing images on the back of the camera.
Here are My Top-Selling Boudoir Poses:
#1: From Behind
This boudoir pose is typically one of the first poses of the session. When I ask a client for inspiration images for their boudoir shoot, they will always send a photo from behind along with the comment, “Just make my butt look like this!”.
When executing this pose, you can modify it slightly by having the client lean onto her elbows or put her hands on the floor. If you want to make the rear a bit more round, simply move the knee furthest from the camera (in this image it would be her left knee) forward about two inches.
Angle your camera from behind the client in order to get the best shot. If you position yourself too far forward, your client will mostly be photographed from the side, and you won’t be able to see the rear enough for a flattering image.
#2: Lying On the Back
Not only does this pose ensure a gorgeous portrait of your client (and show off the makeup!), but it really flatters the entire body.
When executing this pose, I like to position myself at the client’s head and shoot down the body. One of the key traits of this pose is that the chin must be raised toward the camera. This defines the client’s face a bit more and also prevents the chin from disappearing into the neck.
A minor modification to this pose would be to shoot from down low, directing your camera to the the client’s side. Try having your client twist her hips from one side or the other in order to create curves.
Why does this pose get rave reviews?
For clients who have discussed hesitations about their stomach, this pose is perfect because it flattens the stomach area.
For clients who have mentioned wanting to remain more conservative with their boudoir photo poses, this pose hints at sensuality without being very revealing or provocative. If you wanted to make this pose more provocative, you could modify the client’s hand placement by having the hands grab the chest.
#3: Chest Portrait
I love a great “portrait” image of our clients that features the face AND the chest. The great news is that our clients love this shot, too! This pose is extremely feminine in nature, and it can be easily modified for the mood or feel that your client wants from their boudoir photos.
Try putting your client in an off-the-shoulder sweater for a more casual vibe. If your client is on the edgier side then add a choker style necklace to this look – or even a harness.
This pose also works well if you’re shooting implied nudity with your client. Have your client cover their chest with a sheet or a blanket for a great way to photograph them nude without ‘showing’ anything.
And there you have it!
Over my boudoir career I’ve found that these tips are the most important tips for a great boudoir shoot, and these boudoir photo poses are the highest-selling poses that work for any age or body type.
My last tip? Slow down and really focus on who your client is.
Photograph her as if she is the only woman in the world. While planned boudoir poses are great, avoid trying to fit your client into a mold. You’ll love the uniqueness that you create with this one-in-a- lifetime person.
BONUS: Sarah’s Favorite Tools for Finished Products
- Miller’s Lab for all things printed (Miller’s is partnered with ShootProof – yay!)
- Imagenomic Portraiture for skin editing
- Backblaze for file backup (this is the most important thing!)
- Spotify’s Soundscapes for Gaming playlist while I work
Written by SARAH ESTHER WITHERINGTON | Photographs by OWN Boudoir
Sarah is owner of OWN Boudoir studio in Atlanta, GA and has been photographing boudoir full time since 2012. She has photographed over 1200 women around the world and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. You can find her recent work on Instagram at instagram.com/OWNboudoir. You can follow her along in her daily life at instagram.com/SarahEsther.
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