I think shooting boudoir in a specifically designed and furnished boudoir studio would have to be a number one choice for most photographers. It’s convenient, always available, and would always have great light for the shoot. If I was set on a location to live, I would most likely create a boudoir studio for my sessions. I, however, don’t live in one location and have to choose other places to shoot boudoir. It’s really not a great disadvantage when I think about it.

The places I shot all of my boudoir sessions were as follows:

  • My client’s own home
  • Hired photo studio
  • Hotel or Airbnb apartment
  • My own home

I am a natural light boudoir photographer. I do not use any lights or flashes in my sessions. I just need decent light coming from the window. That means that the sessions have to be done in daylight and there should be a decent size window which would produce the light we need. Rooms with small windows found in many modern hotels or places with buildings very close together would probably not give me enough light to create my images. I do carry a handy LED light and a flash, just in case, but I only ever used it a couple of times.

Shooting boudoir at my client’s home is actually a really good option. It cuts down on the cost and it’s a familiar place where my clients already feel comfortable. Most people have a bedroom with a big bed and a living room with a sofa and a chair. I normally ask my clients to send me a photo of the room and the window to see if the room is adequate. In most cases it’s more than good enough, however, there were instances where the room was either too small, or the window was too small which means that we had to make other arrangements.

When I shoot at my client’s home they have access to all their makeup, all their clothes, and their wine, which often comes in handy, but most importantly it’s a place where they are already comfortable and familiar with. Comfort is very important in a shoot because it affects the mood and with that the quality of the images. They also don’t have to carry all their clothes with them which allows us sometimes to shoot wearing pieces of clothing that women may not bring to a shoot, like a leather jacket, ripped jeans, comfy sweater, etc.

Here in Sydney, I have a friend who is also a boudoir photographer, and she has a decent size apartment in the city which has really good light too. It can’t be described as a proper studio, but for me it kind of is. I can hire it for a few hours. The bed and sofa are prepared. The windows have nice curtains and that is pretty much all I need for a shoot. I looked for a studio specifically designed for boudoir in Sydney, but could not find any, and setting up a normal studio with the furniture would definitely not be practical.

Things were very different when I shot in Vietnam. There, I was able to hire a proper boudoir photography studio for about 200,000 Dong an hour. It looks like a lot of money, but it’s actually less than $10 an hour. Boudoir photography is quite popular in Vietnam, so it was easy to find a nice-looking studio. In Hanoi, there were actually a few photo studios I could choose from, so it was probably the easiest place to shoot.

A hotel or Airbnb is the place where I shoot most of my boudoir sessions when I travel. I always check the hotel or the Airbnb apartment to make sure it has good available light. I check the guest’s pictures because they best show the room’s size. Hotels often hire professional photographers who, with wide-angle lenses make tiny rooms look quite big. I hate those “surprises”. This is also the reason I prefer to shoot in Airbnb apartments. An apartment will always have more room than a cheap hotel.

When I stay in Europe, I almost always shoot in Airbnb apartments. I will book my shoots on a specific day and try to do at least a couple of them over the weekend. I don’t shoot much in clients’ homes in Europe because the houses in Europe are actually a lot smaller than in Australia. If the apartment is new, it’s much more spacious, but those built 50 years ago or older, are tiny. Often smaller than a hotel room. And the windows are small too. They look nice and cozy, but not really suitable for a boudoir photo session.

The last option that I listed is shooting in my own home. I only really shot in my own apartment while in Vietnam. In Europe, I stay with family and in Australia, I share an apartment, so it’s really not possible to organise a photoshoot there. In Vietnam, however, I rented a very nice 1br apartment that was perfect for photography. Well, I chose it to be suitable. Spacious, with big windows and decent-looking furniture. I rented it in a “western” part of Hanoi because traditional Vietnamese houses are also very small and often built very close to one another. With not much daylight available.

Just like so many things in Vietnam, a decent size apartment in the center of Hanoi was only $500 a month. And it came with cleaning 3 times a week. I never lived in a cleaner home. 🙂 Hanoi also had a number of old French-era hotels, so I had the most places available for my boudoir shoots. And quite a few customers too. Unfortunately, it looks like I will not be returning there any time soon. I am based in Sydney now and do most of my boudoir photo sessions in my client’s homes or Airbnb. Can’t complain, as Sydney has a lot of nice apartments available to shoot over the weekend, but I do miss the traveling.

If you are interested in a boudoir photoshoot, you can find more information on my Boudoir photography page. Call or email me, even if you are in Hanoi or Wroclaw, or Krakow. I will be back there sometime soon.

I don’t know how to pose “sexy”, can you help? This is one of the most common questions that I get from women booking a boudoir photo session. They often tell me that they looked at my portfolio and they thought that all these photos were of professional models. Granted, some of the images in my boudoir portfolio are of models, but most of them are of ordinary women who did a boudoir shoot and gave me permission to use their images on my website. This question always makes me smile because I know how important it is for my clients to look “sexy”, and I also know how easy it is to achieve that “sexy” look. The quickest answer I can give is Yes, I can help you pose sexy, and it’s easier than you think.

Before every boudoir photo session, I do a quick 10-minute posing crash course. This is a very important part of the session because it gives me an opportunity to explain or show how to transform a boring pose into something much more beautiful. It also helps break the ice, as seeing a grown man doing “sexy” poses never failed to get a smile out of my customers. Creating a nice boudoir pose means paying attention to the way a woman stands, what she does with her feet, what she does with her hands, and where she looks.

Point your toes.

This one is actually really simple. Point the toes. Always. Point forward, not back, I mean. What it does is to make the legs appear longer, and give the calves a much nicer, leaner look. This is why they invented high heels. Actually, even if a woman is wearing high heels, I still want her to point her toes. I demonstrate it during the posing guide and I make sure she does it in every photo. In fact, once they see how much nicer the legs look with pointy toes, they will walk on tippy toes the entire session. And yes, I want them to point the toes when they sit and lie down, and get on their tippy-toes when they stand. No exceptions.

Arch your back.

This one is also extremely important. Arching your back will make you look so much more athletic. It will also help accentuate your bum, and nice bum pictures are the most sought-after images from the entire boudoir shoot. I learned posing at a time when photographers were asked to make the bum look smaller. I did that by making sure that a woman puts her weight on the leg which is further away from the camera. Those days, however, are long gone. Today the exact opposite is expected and demanded.

Drop your weight on one foot.

Photographers call it creating the S curve. The S curve looks so much better than a rigid straight line. What it means is that when looked straight on, the body should resemble the letter S. Curvy, not straight. And the easiest way to achieve this is to drop the weight on one foot. It doesn’t matter which one, actually, the one that is the most comfortable and looks the most natural. I always ask women to drop their weight on one foot, then the other to see which one looks better. Often the foot that feels the most comfortable and natural will create a more pronounced S curve too.

What to do with the hands.

No, I do not pose hands. It’s very difficult to pose them. That is why there are hand-models making a good living just posing their hands. I do not try to pose hands, I give their hands something to do instead. I ask them to play with the straps of their underwear, pulling it up, or pushing it down. I get them to play with their bra straps. I get them to slowly unbutton their shirts or bra straps. I get them to play with their hair, and often times I will just ask them to run their fingers up and down their bodies. Lifting arms up in the air also adds length to the body and can look really classy. What is very important is to make sure the hands are nice and soft and naturally curved – ballet hands I call it. Straight fingers look very unnatural and kill every shot. Hands that are just hanging next to their body also don’t look that good.

Where to look.

I often start a session with women posing with their eyes closed. This creates a very nice, sensual mood, and once they get more comfortable being photographed, I can get them to interact with the camera. The eye contact with the viewer needs to be very strong. These images will be seen by their partners so the look in their eyes needs to reflect a deep and intimate connection. I like the piercing look into the camera. A look of a strong woman. A bit of a tease, a coquette. I want to see a flirty look, too.

Looking away from the camera is also nice, as long as they look at something specific. Often women would just look into the distance and the picture just looks weird. I prefer them to look slightly to the side and down, and I would often find an object on the floor on which they can rest their eyes and that created a bit of a mystery in the image.

These tips I include in every boudoir session I shoot. It only takes a few minutes to do but it sets the tone for the entire session, and I don’t have to repeat myself and explain every pose in detail. I still remind them about pointy toes and arched back, especially at the end of the session. And when I see that they can no longer do these things, I know that they are tired, and it’s a good time to end the session. Boudoir sessions normally take about 90 minutes. They can be quite physically demanding, so 90 minutes is more than enough for anyone. And that includes me.

One of the advantages of being a portrait and boudoir photographer is the fact that I don’t need to have a lot of gear. I shoot all of my boudoir photography and portrait photography images on a Fujifilm X-t4 and either a 23mm f1.4 or 35mm f1.4 lens. A camera and 2 prime lenses. I also have a backup camera which at this time is my old and trusted X-T2 and I also have a set of 23 and 35mm f1.4 lenses as backups.

Boudoir photography is not like wedding photography where I carried with me 2 bodies with large lenses and I kept another backup camera in the car, just in case. At a wedding, I had to make sure I document as much of the ceremony and the party as I can, and also capture the emotions, the facial expressions, close-ups, and wider shots to deliver to my customer a good memory of that day. That’s why I had to carry a wider angle lens and a telephoto lens, to make sure I don’t miss too many moments. And backup was essential because it’s not really possible to reschedule a wedding shoot. With Boudoir Photography it’s very different. Sure, I have a backup camera and a backup lens, but I don’t have to carry them all the time. Just need to have them with me in case the main camera or lens fails.

Sydney boudoir photographerI shoot all my boudoir portraits with a Fujifilm X-t4. I used to shoot with Canon gear but decided to change the equipment because Fujifilm is a much smaller camera and their lenses are also half the size. At a wedding, which often went for 16 hours, I would carry about 10kg of camera gear, different lenses, flash, extra batteries, etc. Now, on a boudoir shoot, my camera equipment weighs less than 1kg. And that is one of the main reasons I no longer shoot weddings.

My lenses are primes, fixed focal length. I don’t use zooms at all. Zooms are usually much larger, much heavier, and much more expensive. And they are all at least f2.8 in the widest aperture. I don’t think I took a boudoir image at an aperture higher than f2. I like the blurry background bokeh I get when shooting at f1.4. And my customers like it too. Both my 23 and 35mm lenses are f1.4. Most of my lenses are Fuji as well, but today I received a 23mm backup lens made by Viltrox. I really like the build quality and the image quality as well. So much I like it, that I’m ordering their 33mmf1.4 as well. 23mm on my Fujifilm cameras works out to be 35mm in Full-Frame cameras and 33 or 35mm are close to the 50mm in Full frame.

I try to shoot most of my boudoir sessions with the 35(50mm) lens. It’s a perfect portrait lens that produces very little distortion. I just think that people look better when photographed with a longer focal length lens. Unfortunately, I have to stand at least 4m away from my subject to get a full-body image. Some bedrooms I shoot at are big enough for that. Sometimes I shoot in a living room, which is usually a lot larger than bedrooms too. However, most of the hotel rooms that I shoot at are not big enough to only shoot with a 50mm lens. I can get nice closeups, and half body images, but if I want to get a full-body shot, I have to shoot with the 23(35mm) lens.

That is the reason I carry 2 different lenses to a boudoir photography session. I have no problem with that. Compared with a wedding shoot where I had to have 2 cameras on me and 2 sets of very heavy lenses, I’m ok with having to swap the lens every now and then. The image quality of these lenses is superb, and they are tiny compared to the Canon gear. I also have a 56mm f1.2 lens, but I never use it on a boudoir shoot. It creates a very nice, blurry background, but the rooms are just too small for this lens, so I only really use it on my portrait shoots outdoors.

That is it, actually, a camera with 2 lenses and a backup. All that gear fits easily into a backpack, together with some extra batteries, chargers, etc. So much easier to carry and also so much cheaper than my old Canon gear. I know that I will no longer shoot any weddings and even if I get a family shoot from a previous customer, I can still deliver using the simple Fuji setup. Add a decent laptop to this list and that is all the tools I need to capture, edit and deliver beautiful boudoir photographs.