7 pro tips on setting up a successful boudoir photo shoot at home

When it comes to sexy photography, there is a line between tasteful and NSFW. In the boudoir photography genre, one that stems from the early 1900s, it’s more about the former, capturing images that don’t necessarily have to show any skin. In fact, a subject in a boudoir photo could be fully clothed; contrary to what you might think, boudoir photography isn’t just about baring it all. Think of it as the slightly edgier side of portrait photography.

If you’re looking for something to do with your loved one this Valentine’s Day, that doesn’t involve overpriced dinners, step behind the camera and capture what she or he finds beautiful about themselves (boudoir images are typically of women, but it’s the 21st-century, you make the rules). The resulting photograph is a far more thoughtful, everlasting gift than dead flowers. (How much clothing stays on or off is entirely up to your subject.)

For some tips on shooting your own boudoir-style photos at home, we reached out to photographer Susan Eckert, an expert in boudoir photography and the author of the recently released book, Body and Soul: Lucrative and Life-Changing Boudoir Photography (Focal Press). What makes Eckert’s work in the medium successful is her understanding of human emotions, thanks to her background as a former psychologist.

“Over the years, I’ve heard my fair share of DIY boudoir photography horror stories,” Eckert says. “’He just loves taking pics of me,’ a woman will tell me, ‘but when I look at the images, they’re just sooooo unflattering, so I make him delete them!’”

Boudoir photographers learn how to create images that emphasize what a woman loves about her body while playing down what she doesn’t.

Eckert says that while nearly everyone has a camera in his/her pocket these days (thanks, iPhone!), there’s a difference between amateur and professional, and it all has to do with know-how.

“Professional photographers learn to see light in a way that others haven’t yet trained themselves to do,” Eckert says. “We also notice lines and shapes in a way that others may not. Our training gives us valuable information that helps us to understand why something is flattering or unflattering. We understand why certain lenses create distortion, and which focal distances make for flattering images when shooting headshots, 3/4 shots, or full-length images. Boudoir photographers learn how to create images that emphasize what a woman loves about her body while playing down what she doesn’t.”

Here are seven pro tips Eckert offers for setting up a boudoir photo studio.

Shoot from her perspective, not yours. What does she like about her body? What makes her self-conscious? Compose your images and position her so her best assets are highlighted while the things that make her self-conscious fall into the background. Don’t know what she loves about her body? Engage her in a discussion about it beforehand – tell her what you love about her body and then more importantly, encourage her to share her thoughts with you.

Evoke emotion. How would you describe her? Is she playful? Edgy? Sexy? Shy? Talk to her as you capture images – say things that will evoke the emotions you wish to capture. Know that she’ll feel silly with a camera trained on her, so allow her to look away and guide her in real actions, like brushing hair away from her face. Be sure to guide her in moving at a speed your camera will be able to capture without blur. If you’re using a DSLR, modify your speed settings accordingly (shoot manual or shutter priority). Share encouraging words throughout and you’ll build her self-esteem in the process.

Look for the light. Most often, light is the main culprit behind unflattering images. Ask yourself: Where is the light falling and accordingly, where are the shadows? Overhead light creates ugly shadows beneath the eyes, while light coming from directly below creates a ghastly haunted look. Consistently pay attention to the light – its direction, color and source. Fluorescent light is just about as unflattering as you can get, while soft diffused window light flatters skin like nothing else can.

Watch for distortions. As a general rule, whatever is closer to the camera will look larger. This is especially so when you’re using a wide-angle lens. Position her in diagonals to minimize and flatter.

Use arms and legs to create interest in an image. Lingerie models are adept at making beautiful triangles and shapes with arms and legs. Study the positioning of arms and legs on a lingerie site and you’ll see what I mean.

Vary your shots so you get a nice variety. Shoot close-ups that honor her favorite features, as well as full length and 3/4 shots (from head to the knee, or 75-percent of the body).

Bonus: Hand-pick something flattering to wear. If she feels sexy, she’ll be sexy! But remember, it’s what she finds comfortable.

Photography

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.
Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Photography

Lens Rentals zooms in on the most popular cameras of the year

As 2018 comes to a close, Lens Rentals is taking a look at most popular cameras of the year, based on rental data. While Sony and Panasonic saw more rentals than the previous year, Canon is still the most-rented brand on the platform.
Photography

Luminar’s new libraries don’t even need you to manually import images

Luminar 3's new libraries feature doesn't require importing -- images are automatically added after clicking on a folder. The long-promised libraries feature gives editors a Lightroom alternative with organization tools as well as syncing…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Photography

Photography News: Startup redesigns tripod heads ‘inside out’ for more flexibility

Well, this doesn't look like the ball heads that we've seen before. Instead of designing a tripod ball head with a small cutout, the Colorado Tripod Company created one with most of the ball exposed, allowing for more possible angles.
Photography

Leica targets street photographers with a pricey camera bundle

Described by the camera company as "your perfect companion in the city," Leica's Street Kit comprises a Leica CL camera body, a 23mm (35mm full-frame equivalent) F2 lens, batteries, a handgrip, and a black leather carrying strap.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Photography

Photographers can now customize the layout of Lightroom Classic controls

Tired of scrolling past Lightroom tools that you don't use? Adobe Lightroom Classic now allows users to reorganize the Develop panel. The update comes along with new sharing options in Lightroom CC, and updates to the mobile Lightroom app.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.