Boudoir photography is a relatively new form of artistry. Taking off in the mid-1980s, it has rapidly grown in popularity since then to become one of the main portrait/fashion photographic styles today. The sexy, sensual, and oftentimes erotic nature of Boudoir makes it unique from anything else a professional photographer may shoot. The lighting must be perfect in order to capture the desired essence. The intimate nature of Boudoir photography isn’t always easy to capture though, so we got some insights from Tim Hays of Carolina Boudoir in order to better grasp what goes on in a Boudoir shoot.

How do you typically prepare for a boudoir shoot?

The biggest thing for me is to get to know the client. When someone expresses an interest in having Carolina Boudoir photograph their Boudoir session, there is an information questionnaire that they will fill out. It gives me an insight to the little things about the client. “What type of music do you like” and “What is your favorite body part” are just a couple of questions on the form that help me get to know my client. 

What is the goal for a boudoir photographer? What’s the reason for a shoot like this?

For me, personally, I will be honest on both questions. First, I remember as a kid finding my father’s “Playboy” magazines and being struck by not only the beauty of the women, but I found myself wishing that I would have made that art. When I decided I wanted to pursue photography as a profession, I wanted my work to be where I saw the vision of my own personal version of Playboy.
Second part of the question is simple; in life, it seems that a lot of women take a back seat and focus on family and everything else besides themselves. A Boudoir session is such an (caution overused word coming next) EMPOWERING experience for most women due to what I stated about family consuming who they are, and who they used to be. It can also be a life changing experience that they want to have a record of; such as a weight loss goal or a surgery of some type. 

How do you make the subjects feel comfortable in such a vulnerable setting?

This a tough question, and I will say I feel as though I have to work super hard at this due to the fact that I’m a male. I always try to meet with clients prior to a session. That way they can see the studio and interact with me. This typically brings a lot of ease to their mind when they arrive on the day of their actual session.

I also encourage clients to start off with a set outside. I tell them to bring something casual and cute/sexy that we can shoot outside. My studio is in a small downtown area that makes for some fabulous images. That way they can get a feel for me and my direction and how things will work before they are in their underwear in front of me and the camera.

The other thing is … not to brag, but I am a funny dude LOL! I work my butt off cracking jokes to make sure there is no tension in the air at all. Many times, if the client is still nervous and I sense that, I will tell them I am going to take about 15 headshots and I want to see their most expressive face that they can give me. I want happy, sad, goofy, angry, anything they can express. It is amazing how that tends to loosen them up. 

How do you know what poses will look good? Do you have any signature poses?

I have a few poses that I call my “Go To” poses but for the most part I try not to make any of the shots look too “Staged”. I tend to overshoot on occasion just to get the client relaxed and flowing. I tell them my goal is to show them some things in the beginning and before we are done (in a lot of cases) they are “Flow Posing” all on their own. 

Do you have a typical lighting setup for shots?

It depends on the mood I am trying to set. Many Boudoir Photographers are natural light only, and God bless them. I am more along the glamour lines, and I believe in a sharp, crisp, image when needed. I like to mix natural light and LED lights together. I have 3 huge windows in my studio that let in some fabulous natural light. I will use that with an F&V lighting setup using the K4000 Light Panels to give the client the proper amount of fill light for one beautiful image!
The glamor shots are typically a Parabolic Umbrella and a strip box used for highlights, unless it’s a Hi-Key setup. If that’s the case, then it’s a six-light parade! 

What equipment do you use on a shoot?

I am a Sony shooter. I shot Nikon for years but once I went mirrorless I never looked back. I use the a7RIII Camera Body and in the studio, I will use either the Sony 24-70 G-Master, or the 85 Sony G-Master lens. Outside, my go to lenses are the 85mm or the Sony 70-200 G-Master for that amazing bokeh!
Lighting wise, I use the K4000 F&V Light Panels inside. Sometimes I use the Paul C Buff Einstein and Alien Bee Lights as well. When outside I will typically use the Flashpoint Xplor 600 with a Westcott Octabox that give some amazing lighting. 

What advice would you give to a beginner boudoir photographer?

I would ask, “why do you want to do this?” They need to make sure they are doing it for the right reasons. A lot of people still try to make something dirty out of this style of photography. That is sad and shallow minded. Boudoir is beautiful art and very personal. For the beginner, ask yourself why you want to do this and make sure it is for the right reasons. Then make the commitment to get to know your clients. You need to be in their mind and know something about them to do this successfully. The “why” for the photographer is crucial in helping to get the results you will want to achieve. 

What does post production typically look like for you? Photoshop? Lightroom? 

Super simple. Not to sound cliché but I really work at getting it right in the camera. The post should be a simple & quick process. I will load everything into Lightroom for exposure and white balance adjustments, then export to Photoshop where I soften the skin, sharpen the eyes and watermark the image. Then back to Lightroom where is gets a soft vignette and then I send it to the finished folder. Quick and easy unless the client has made special requests.