What is Boudoir & Why?
I have been wanting to talk about this genre of photography for a long time. It is one of the most if not the most vilified genre that I’ve ever known, due to misconceptions and stigma that comes with it. Why stigma you may ask? Stigma that these photos are very private and can only be shown your significant other and this genre has got no place in the public space.
Before I start sharing my view on this subject, shall we first simply define this genre? Boudoir photography: “Or sensual photography, is a photographic style featuring intimate, sensual, romantic, and sometimes erotic images of its subjects in a photographic studio, bedroom or private dressing room environment, primarily intended for the private enjoyment of the subject and his or her romantic partners. It is distinct from glamour and art nude photography in that it is usually more suggestive rather than explicit in its approach to nudity and sexuality, features subjects who do not regularly model, and produces images that are not intended to be seen by a wide audience, but rather to remain under the control of the subject.” (While the word boudoir is defined as: “A French word meaning a lady's private dressing room or bedroom.”)
It is common for women to engage boudoir photography sessions and use these images as a gift to their partner, conventionally as an engagement or wedding gift and sometimes during a separation period such as a deployment/attachment of their significant other to another country. I have shot for a lady in Hong Kong while the husband-to-be is applying for permits to work in her country and we had a boudoir session with the intention of sending these images to him. To me boudoir can be an approach to finding your inner self, to bring out your thoughts and emotions which you don’t usually express in public. Let me also clarify that boudoir photography is not just for women who have a significant other – a good theme that I have used for years on boudoir is ‘Behind Closed Doors’. It brings out the essence of boudoir photography as it allow my subjects to be themselves. I realised that women of all age and sizes first and foremost is about cherishing herself and defining herself as a woman, boudoir photography should be about celebrating a woman’s beauty in her own form – in whichever way she feels is the most beautiful.
In this genre itself, there are different styles and each style transcends a different intent. Personally I came up with four styles that I always use whenever I discuss boudoir with my client: 1. Tease – Think of what is hidden is more intriguing than what is shown 2. Emotion – Bringing out the mood, this style doesn’t matter what she is wearing as I am trying to play with the facial expression, body lines and curves 3. In-Your-Face – Being comfortable in your own skin, usually stripping down bare 4. Themed – Building a story which either the subject is akin to herself behind closed door when nobody is watching or something totally not of herself.
I always access the comfort level of my client and ensures them that the session is private and I will be able to guide them and direct them in their poses even if they have never done a photoshoot before. Boudoir to me is about being confident in yourself and being comfortable in of your own body. When a subject meets these criteria, we always have a meaningful and enjoyable session. Meaningful because they start to understand more about themselves and achieve results which might shock themselves. “I never thought I can look this good...” and “How did you even bring that side of me out?” were some of the comments I have heard. On more technical terms, I want to appreciate the human form through the use of light and shadows to create depth, to add emotions from the gestures of the body. I want to see through the flaws on a body and how these flaws can become a part of the journey. Some calls it ‘battle scars’, these imperfections are what makes a picture whole.
Lastly, I wish to address the question about who boudoir photography is for. Recently, I read an interesting survey that speaks about why woman are shy about trying a boudoir session. The survey question was “If I were to do a boudoir photography session, the thing that would stop me would be…” The highest amount of reply was “I am too fat/I have to lose weight first”. Why do we tend to think that only a perfect body is worthy to be photographed? All you need to know is that you are good enough as you are.
I always assure that I have all the ingredients you need in getting a good shot. Be it posing, styling, dressing, or expression – You just come as you are. The trick is not just being confident, it is about being open.