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Styling for boudoir and portrait photography – what to wear and what to avoid

Styling for boudoir and portrait photography – what to wear and what to avoid

I will talk here mostly about boudoir photography, but majority of these tips you can also apply to any other type of portraits. Hope it help you get the best out of your photos!

1. Be natural = be yourself

 

The first thing that might come into your mind is: “I’m going to be photographed, I need to work on my look!” and that’s totally understandable, but also please don’t go overboard. Stay true to the way you are everyday, or otherwise you will end up looking not like yourself (unless that’s your goal). Many times boudoir photography is paired with a makeup and hair styling session, and as much as I get it, I like to do things differently. I want women to look naturally beautiful – and you can define what naturally means to you. You feel natural with mascara on? Great, go for it. You never wear any makeup? Why should you change that for the occasion of the photo shoot?

It’s important to me you remain your everyday self. Why? I believe only when you embrace the way you and your body looks without all the extras, you can be fully empowered and liberated. Because you will feel beautiful just the way you are.

I think that when you come to a photo shoot and get all the makeup, hairdo etc. you get transformed into a version of you that normally doesn’t look back at you from the mirror. It can be a wonderful experience, but it’s a form of performance – the moment you get back home and take a shower, you go back to being your everyday you, very different from the “glamour” styling. Looking back at the photos in that situation can, in my opinion, unfortunately make you even more self-conscious: “I looked pretty once for a brief moment and right now I’m back to my regular boring me”. And that’s so untrue! When I take photos of the way you naturally are, you can relate to that every f*ing day, you can replicate the feeling you got during the photo shoot very easily, because you were the stylist, the hairdresser and the makeup artist! And you know that there’s no need for the whole “theater” around your appearance to be beautiful.

I don’t want you to change only for the photo shoot, make you feel and look unlike yourself and only then say “now you’re ready for a portrait”. I want to show you that the way you are every day – you’re great, beautiful and there’s nothing that should change about it.

2. Colors

Generally you should stick with colors you feel good in, but if you got this bright red dress and never found the courage to wear it – now it’s the time to give it a chance. Also remember a few rules:

  • a color that’s much lighter than you complexion will always make you look more relaxed and  give you that glow. Fair skin tones – consider wearing white. Darker skin tones – white can be in too much contrast with your skin, so consider something neutral but still much lighter than your complexion, because…

 

  • nude color (=the same shade as your skin color) is usually not flattering – always opt for something lighter or darker, not the same shade as your skin.
  • warm, muted colors usually work well with portraits – think of curry yellow, brick, earthy shades, dusty pink, peach, muted teal etc.
  • strong cold colors don’t usually work – every color you wear is casting shade onto your skin/face, and you don’t want to end up with a strong green hue on your face; avoid: strong green, blue. Also avoid strong red if you have a pinkish complexion.

     

Hana sitting and drinking coffee

3. Don’t be a banner for someone else’s promotion

Avoid clothes with big logos, promotional texts or portraits of celebrities on them – you don’t want to be someone’s advertisement for free. The only person you should promote is yourself. Other texts – if meaningful to you – are obviously more than welcome.

Below Adi in a great example of a meaningful wording on a T-shirt, that’s great to use during a photo shoot. Adi brought it to the photo shoot and it prompted me to combine it with a playful pose.

4.Be comfortable

Steer clear of clothing that is too tight. You want to be able to move around and feel good. Since we’re talking about boudoir here – lingerie and all related items are welcome. Anything that makes you sexy but also comfortable: bras & panties, body, night gown, corset, stockings and dress, skirt, sexy sweater (especially oversized ones you can wear on naked body), jacket, shirt/T-shirt, high socks, shoes (not necessary – only if you have ones you really want to show off).

boudoir photography myths

5. If you want naked photos – plan in advance.

If you’re planning any naked photos, please wear a bra/panties that don’t leave marks on your body, or just no bra. The same with outer clothes – if they’re too tight, it will take quite a long time for the seams and creases marks to disappear from your skin.

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Best Tips And Free Apps to Take Your Photography to a Next Level

Best Tips And Free Apps to Take Your Photography to a Next Level

Use Your Phone Camera like a Pro

First of all – most mobile phone cameras are currently good enough to take some really nice and good quality photos. You just need to know how to use them better. I will share some basic knowledge of how to measure light and help with composition using the tools your phone camera has already.

I’m using an iPhone, so sharing how to do it on an iPhone, but I’m sure it’s similar for all smartphones.

1. USE GRID TO GET BETTER COMPOSITION

how to turn on the grid in iphone camera

This will allow you to see a grid of 2 by 2 lines, dividing your screen into 9 rectangles.

This is the basic rule of composition – the most important elements on your photo should either go along the lines or be positioned in the 4 intersections the lines create.

These are the lines/points that our eye is most drawn to. When you place an important element of a composition along the lines, it will create a feeling of balance, so sought after when taking photos most of the time. Usually you want people to focus on the subject of your photography and not get distracted by weird cropping.

main focus points on the portrait photo

Portrait of gorgeous Adi – you can see how placing one of her eyes along the composition line created a feeling of balance.

portrait main focus points grid

Portrait of Andrea – the very strong triangular shape created by her bend leg ends exactly in one of the main focal points.

Remember about the main 4 intersections – these are the most “powerful” points of the composition

They’re not too much on the sides and not too much in the center of the photo. Try placing an important element of the composition in one of them.

2. BE THE MASTER OF LIGHT WITH ONE TAP

Tap on the element that’s the brightest on your photo, the camera will automatically adjust the light settings to make the rest of the frame darker. Another thing you can easily do: just tap on the screen and without raising your finger slide up or down – you will add/reduce exposure, meaning brightness of the photo. Especially useful when you’re taking photos in dark settings.

how to adjust camera brightness on your phone

Edit With Free Apps to Rule the Colors

1. VSCO – the most famous photo filters

VSCO started with their own app a while ago and quickly became THE app for editing photos.

When you see Instagram influencers posting moody or vintage looking shots, high chances they are using VSCO.

The app comes in a free version with a limited amount of presets, which you can extend paying $19.99 for a yearly membership.

What’s nice about these presets, apart from the wide variety of options, is that it allows you to control the amount of filter (from 0 to 12) and adjust other aspects of the photo like cropping, exposure, color, grain, fade. VSCO also has their own built-in camera option, so that you don’t even have to upload photos from your photos stream but take them directly within the app and edit immediately afterwards.

Selfie in the VSCO app with filter slider

You can easily decide on the amount of filter you apply with the slider – here it’s the maximum amount: 12

2. Afterlight – when you want to get more funky

photo with light streak from afterlight

Portrait of Adi to which I added a matching light leak to create a bit spiced-up image.

Afterlight offers you quite a good choice of filters (you can extend that with a premium membership for 3,49€ / month or 19,49€ / year) but the reason I’m mentioning it here is the ability to play with the photos afterwards: light leaks, color shifts and frames are available in the free option.

3. Tezza – vintage look from a photographer and musician who rocks Instagram with her back-to-70s style

If you would like to experiment with the grungy look – Tezza offers addition of dust and grain to make it look like an old camera photo. There is a premium version as well, which allows you to add vintage-looking subtitles to your photos and videos, as well as wider range of filter choices ($1.99 /month or $19.99 /year).

photo edited with tezza app filters

Tezza App can help you turn everyday bedroom setting into a vintage style boudoir feel – photo with added grain and dust.

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1. Boudoir photography is all about showing sexy women in lingerie or naked.

Wrong! Boudoir is a French term, which refers to a woman’s private room where she can have all the time for herself. This type of photography is all about being intimate, cozy and sensual, but you don’t need to pose in sexy lingerie to feel that. Everything that can waken up your senses is very welcome – your favorite soft sweater with a pair of woolen high socks can be a perfect solution. It’s not all about showing your skin, but of course it can be a part of it – you decide.

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2. You get boudoir photos as a gift for your partner.

Boudoir in my opinion is all about feeling comfortable in your own body, owning your body image and your sexuality. It’s not about being sexy for someone else, it’s about showing yourself that you care about the one and only body you have. I know that you can find boudoir photos focused on pleasuring the viewer on the internet: women perking up their breasts or sticking out their butts towards the camera. But it shouldn’t be a “who’s the sexiest” contest.

There’s a saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as much as I agree with it, we tend to put ourselves in the place of the beauty not the beholder. True magic happens when you position yourself as the beholder – you’re the judge of who and what is beautiful. You don’t need to expose yourself and wait for the judgement of others to know if you pass the beauty test or not, you can simply put yourself out there claiming “I’m beautiful.” Of course there might be people who disagree, but isn’t it the wonderful part of this diverse world? You may think roses are the most beautiful flowers, but someone will find them too cliche – and we don’t get upset about that. You are beautiful and you can decide to share your beauty with the world through boudoir photos if you wish so.

3. You need a total visual makeover before a boudoir shoot.

Marilyn Monroe once said “A smile is the best make-up any girl can wear” – I can’t agree more with that. In my opinion boudoir photos should make you feel at ease, happy and cheerful. I know that there are some photographers who offer hair styling and make-up services, and it’s completely fine if that’s what you’re looking for. But I want to show an alternative and remind women it’s an option not a necessity. Of course you can look amazing after a whole staff took care of your looks, but I want to show you that you don’t need all of that to feel and actually be pretty. Just come the way you are every day. You can wear make-up and style your hair, if you feel like it. But you can also stay as natural as you want. Just wear a smile and it will be fabulous.

4. Boudoir photos are only for young and slim women.

Biggest mistake you can make! There are no limits to what is beautiful, but unfortunately we were raised in a culture that decided there are certain boundaries. You need a firm, flawless skin, perky breasts, round butt, big eyes, small nose, long legs – you know, the Barbie type. But let me tell you – of all the wonderful women I photographed not a single one felt she has passed the “beauty test” from the start. And they came from all different countries, ethnicities, shapes and ages! When you’re white you want to get tanned, when you’re brown you want to avoid sun and not get any darker. All these laws of beauty are so contradictory simply because they’re straight up bullshit installed in us to make us feel smaller and less powerful.

We’re beautiful at every size, every stage of our life. And I’m on a mission with Berlin Boudoir to show that to all the people around. Stretchmarks, wrinkles, saggy skin, round belly – they deserve our love, they show the way our bodies went with us through life. Why would we be ashamed of them – they’re the witnesses of our resilience and strength. Show them with pride.

boudoir photography myths

5. You need to know how to pose/have experience in front of camera.

Absolutely not! In my photo shoot I will never ask you to strike a pose that feels uncomfortable, so you don’t need to have special posing skills.

When I first started Berlin Boudoir I asked my boyfriend to come and help me try out poses I found online. Oh my, how surprised I was to discover that some of them, which seemed easy, turned out to be really hard! I knew I never want to turn my models into a robot when I’m instructing them to move every body part separately. You should feel comfortable at all times during the photo shoot – that’s my main goal. If you feel good, you’ll look good as well.

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