What is boudoir?

What Is Boudoir? Here’s an In-Depth Look

The word “boudoir” (pronounced ‘boo·dwär‘) originally referred to a women’s private room where she would relax and take a break from the busy life of being a woman. Now in modern times, boudoir is nearly always referring to boudoir photography. Boudoir photography is a type of sensual & intimate photography in which women wear lingerie and even get nude. The woman then poses in sensual ways, usually guided by the photographer, as women doing boudoir are generally not models. The boudoir pictures are meant to stimulate the viewer’s imagination. Boudoir ranges from fun and playful to extremely erotic.

How Did Boudoir Photography Get Its Name?

Boudoir photography got its name because it takes from the original aim of being relaxed and in a private setting. Women usually got undressed in their boudoir; they got into their underwear or full out naked. During the world war effort, the US realized that they could use sexy pin-ups to entice men to continue fighting to protect the country and, more specifically, our beautiful women. Some photographers decided to shoot in boudoir-like settings that were more on par with a home look to push the idea that these women were waiting for soldiers at home, and thus boudoir photography got its name.

So, What's the Point of Boudoir Photography Now?

There’s no world war anymore, so why do women continue this? The original reason is still around but done differently. Some women do it for their deployed spouses or when they are deployed themselves. If possible, they send them, but when it’s not, they give them the gift in person as a welcome back and thank you for your service. So, women who take part in a boudoir photoshoot usually do it as a gift. A boudoir gift is mainly delivered as a compilation of images in a breathtaking album or photobook. If it’s a bridal boudoir session, the gift is for their future husbands and is given to them on or before their wedding day. Other times boudoir pictures are gifted include anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day. There are times when it is not a gift to others but is a gift for oneself. Women sometimes have boudoir sessions to celebrate and gift themselves for milestones such as birthdays, weight loss, and other forms of body change or alterations. Sometimes it’s for more than just the pictures. It’s for the experience and a great self-esteem boost. It’s also a fantastic way to get out of your comfort zone & push your boundaries in a safe setting.

Where do Boudoir Photoshoots Take Place?

Boudoir rooms are, for the most part, a thing of the past. Boudoir photography uses the same values of a boudoir, except it can take place in any intimate setting. Using one’s bedroom is usually the best option as it is where you sleep & relax in. You are used to the environment; you can be yourself more easily so you will be less tense. It is not limited to the bedroom though! Any room in the house serves well. If using your home is not a good idea, maybe you live with others for example, it can take place in a hotel or other private location, such as a studio or vacation home, and even outdoors if there is no one around. After all, nature is our true home! Check out more boudoir location ideas.

What Does One Wear to a Boudoir Photoshoot?

It depends on the type of boudoir photography. Lingerie is what people think of when they hear boudoir photography and for good reason. It is a staple of the genre and lingerie should always be incorporated when having a boudoir shoot. From there, outfits can go up or down. Some ladies start off with non-underwear clothing such as but not limited to: jeans, leggings, pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, & tops like tank tops. From there, she may decide to go all the way down to fully nude.

What Are The Genres of Boudoir?

There are three main genres in boudoir. Elegant, playful, & sensual. These three branch off into subgenres such as fine art, the popular bridal & maternity boudoir shoots, the nice part though is that all subgenres can fall below all main genres. 

The elegant style is bold, rich, & sexy yet classy. Typically, the lady will have lusciously styled hair and wear more elegant and/or vintage items such as a vintage corset, a classy dress, or robe. The majority of the photos are displayed in black & white. This style looks like an exquisite art piece worth a trillion bucks. 

The playful style can also be referred to as naughty, the poses & facial expressions are cute and innocent while still being sexy. Outfits tend to be cuter and can include costumes. Props also make this genre more fun. Playful sessions are commonly based around a career, for example, a firefighter, the client may want to play around with a hose and wear firefighting gear. They are also based on a holiday, for example, a client may want a playful session for Christmas time so we may include Christmas themed lingerie or fun panties like those that say “Naughty” on them, a Santa hat, candy canes, ornaments, etc. However a playful shoot can be incorporated at any point and will typically include long socks & oversized comfy clothes like sleepwear. 

The sensual style is of course more on the sexy side, the poses and expressions are more serious & sexual. Sensual can range from mild to extremely hot and erotic. 

The mood is always up to the client and is usually a reflection of how the client feels about their body & sex. Many first timers pick playful but then come back for a more sensual shoot because their first session made them more sexually confident. Sometimes it transitions mid or late shoot. However, there are some first time boudoir clients who want to push themselves so they go straight for a more sensual shoot. There is no right or wrong here but every client should eventually want to make their way into the sensual side, after all, boudoir is meant to sexually empower.

What Are The Moods of Boudoir?

Every photographer has a different mood style but generally the mood is either bright & airy or dark & moody.
In bright & airy boudoir, the vibe is almost angelic because of the bright and warm colors with little no shadows. This is generally the case for outdoor boudoir but indoor bright & airy boudoir works extremely well too, as long as the room brings in lots of light and has bright or warm walls and furniture. This style is commonly seen in bridal photography as it gives the images a more joyful appearance. 
Dark & moody boudoir has more drama and pop with a lot of shadows & highlights giving the images a mysteriously sexy vibe. It is done in low light settings with one or a couple light sources that don’t fill up the room but instead highlight the body’s curves. This style has been growing in popularity as boudoir branches off from being mostly a wedding gift to more of an everyday woman experience. 
As stated before, these moods vary from one boudoir photographer to the other so there are of course in betweens or mixtures, such as what I refer to as my signature style that combines modern warm & fiery brights with modern darks & shadows to create the perfect sexy combination for any occasion. 

What Is the Difference Between Lingerie & Boudoir Photography?

You might have heard or seen the term lingerie photoshoot, & for the most part, they are referring to boudoir. Lingerie photography is a term that is overly broad and is usually used by those who are not aware of boudoir photography. Lingerie photography could also mean a commercial shoot for lingerie products, really it could mean anything that has to do with lingerie but it is not automatically boudoir. Lingerie photography can be done in public settings such as busy sidewalks, that is if the model is bold enough. Although boudoir can be done outdoors, it should only be done in a secluded area. Public shots where passerbys can easily see the model would usually take it out of the boudoir genre as it is no longer in a private setting and she would be in a different state of mind. 


 Boudoir has changed, but if you ask me, the word boudoir has a better meaning now than what it meant in the 18th century. The birth of boudoir photography one century ago has been revolutionary and it has truly evolved along the way. Will you take part in the history of boudoir? 

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