11 Critical Mistakes Beginning Boudoir Photographers Make

Female photographer in black & white

In this article I’m going to discuss some critical things that can trip you up when you’re first starting to shoot boudoir. There are a lot of things to think about from preparation of the shoot, the photo session itself, the processing of the images, all the way to the ordering of products and it can be a lot to think about and plan for everything. 

I’ve been guilty of my share of these as well and it’s what prompted me to try and save you from making some of these same mistakes. I’m even going to include an embarrassing goof I made that fortunately did not affect the client but could have been disastrous for me. 

So, there’s that to look forward to.

So, what are eleven critical mistakes beginning boudoir photographers make? 

They are:

1.) Not having a signed contract or agreement

2.) Not Making It Clear That Photos Are Not Included In the Session

3.) Not Having a Game Plan For Their Shoot

4.) Not Having a Posing Guide Handy

5.) Not Easing Into the Shoot

6.) Not Using Enough Variety

7.) Amputating and Impaling Your Client

8.) Trying To Do Too Much in the Time Allotted

9.) Not Securing Your Client’s Gallery

10.) Not Having Sample Products

11.) Taking Too Long to Process Images and Order

Let’s go through each one of these and take a closer look.

1. Not Having a Signed Contract or Agreement

Having a signed contract or agreement (I’ll get into that word a bit later) is critical to ensure that both parties are aware of what is expected of them. It protects both the photographer and the client and sets expectations and limitations on the service you’ll be providing. 

It can also include conditions in which the photographer can refuse to shoot a client, for example, if she shows up drunk or under the influence of drugs. It’s especially important with regard to the money part of this whole arrangement. 

It should explain your policy for deposits, cancellations, re-scheduling, product ordering and what exactly they’ll be getting for their time and money, and for your time and talent as well. 

Having a legal document to refer back to if an issue arises can be the difference of you getting paid or not. As well as, them not expecting anything more than what’s been agreed upon. 


Even if shooting a free or TFP shoot, I always have my subjects sign an agreement that simply states what they’ll be getting in exchange for their time modeling. That way there’s no ambiguity and no one gets taken advantage of. 

I like to use the word “agreement” for free or TFP shoots, instead of “contract”, because it just sounds a lot less intimidating and legal, especially when there’s no money being exchanged.

However, I think it’s wise to use the term “contract” with a paying client for the exact opposite of those reasons, in that it does sound more authoritative and legal. It makes them mentally commit to their shoot and also think twice about challenging you on something that’s spelled out in your contract.

For a more in-depth look at what a boudoir contract should include, along with a TFP agreement, check out my article “What Should You Have In Your Boudoir Contract?”.

2. Not Making It Clear That Photos Are Not Included In the Session

I read a lot about this issue in some boudoir photographers private Facebook groups and it’s usually associated with doing model calls

Model calls are a way to get people booked for a boudoir session with a reduced or waived session fee. The idea is that you make it attractive for women to schedule a boudoir shoot with you without them having to fork over $300, $400, or $500 up front for just the shoot. It’s a low cost of entry strategy. Then you make the bulk of your profit with their product order.

Regardless, whether you’re conducting a model call or serving a regular paying client, it’s important that you not just tell them that no images are included in their photo session, but that it’s also written in your contract somewhere. I’d even have them initial that section where it states this. 

That way there can be no doubt that they were not aware of this fact. You don’t want to get into a situation where it states it in their contract and then they claim they didn’t read it or something, and they’re still claiming ignorance (or more likely avoidance of payment). 

Mention it several times throughout the entire process. On the phone or in an email with them during their initial inquiry, during their pre-shoot consultation (usually on the phone), and when they first arrive for their shoot. 

It could save you a lot of time and headache.

That’s part one of the equation. 

Part two is informing them before they shoot with you that “on average people spend about $1800 on their entire order”, or whatever amount you want to put in there depending on the price of your packages.

The goal here is to get them to understand that they’re getting their photo session for free or at a reduced rate, but that it doesn’t include receiving any images. They’re still going to have to pay for their products at full price (or whatever price you want to charge them). 

The Bait and Switch

Fish going after baited hook

I think problems arise when photographers try and almost bait their clients into getting them in front of their lenses under the guise of a “free shoot” without fulling explaining the costs they’ll still incur to get their images.

Whether this is done intentionally or not, I’m not sure, but I don’t believe in doing anything to manipulate the client in any way in some type of sales tactic. 

You’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort, and emotional angst by just spelling it out for people and having them sign or initial that they understand what the offer is and what it includes.

A way to safeguard against someone backing out of buying product would be to collect a non-refundable deposit on their future order. Say $300, or whatever. An amount that would cover your expenses shooting her and not have it be a total loss. 

They need to have some skin in the game to hold them to the agreement they signed and initialed. If they have nothing to lose then they’ll be more likely to try and wiggle out of it if they’ve suddenly had a change of heart.

Just cover yourself. That’s why contracts and agreements are so important (#1 in the list) because they give you leverage. They put you a position of strength in which to then enforce your agreement or to negotiate with the client for something new. 

If they’re unwilling to hand over three or four hundred dollars and sign an agreement with you then they probably had no intention in paying for it in the first place. It’s a way to weed out those who are serious about your offer from those who are not.

3. Not Having a Game Plan For Their Shoot

Based on what the client has told you they want out of their boudoir shoot, what type of looks or mood they want, how many outfits they’re hoping to fit in, and what body parts they want featured or hidden… you need to come up with a game plan so you don’t forget anything.

To do list in spiral notebook

This is more like your “to do” list for this client. If you don’t write it out you’re likely to forget something. Yikes!

You’ll be like the wedding photographer that never captured a picture of the bride’s mother. Oops…

Formulate a simple plan of action the night before with when, where, and how you’re going to capture everything your client wants. For example, if your client has asked for you to feature her booty, then have several poses ready to go that will do that, and where the best spots are to make it happen. 

Planning it all out will give your shoot direction and purpose, and planning it out in the most efficient way will save you time. It will also make you look more professional and instill confidence in you with your client. Plus, you’re more likely to sell more images if you include everything she wanted. If you forget one or two, that’s just leaving money on the coffee table you’re still paying off with your credit card. 

4. Not Having a Posing Guide Handy

Boudoir image of black woman on pink bed

If you haven’t studied posing for boudoir and you think you can just “wing it”, good luck. There is a lot more to posing than meets the eye. I’m currently studying boudoir posing intensely and I’m discovering more insights than I ever imagined. So much so, that I’m writing a posing guide with an approach no one has ever really taken before, so stay tuned.

Anyway, back to having a posing guide handy. Yes, have one you can easily refer to during your shoot. Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious that you haven’t memorized them or that you’ll “look bad” in front of your client. She is not going to care. She has enough on her mind than worrying about you not knowing 25 poses by heart. That will come in time.

She’d much rather have you take a quick look at a pose you have in your phone or on paper that she’s going to look amazing in, than to never get the shot in the first place because you forgot about it… or you forgot one key part of it. 

So, whether you print them out and keep them in a binder (like I do), store them on a Pinterest board (like I do), keep them stored as images on your phone (like I do), tear out images from magazines (like I do), just have something you can quickly refer to, to not forget a pose and to get it right. 

Trust me, when you’re first starting out you’re thinking about your camera settings, the lighting, dealing with a nervous subject — this is one less thing you have to worry about. 

5. Not Easing Into the Shoot

Warming up is good. It allows people to acclimate themselves to their environment and to the situation at hand, both mentally and physically. 

Starting off your boudoir shoot with your client stripping down to their barest of bare, twist themselves up like a pretzel, and have them put on their sexy face is probably not the best way to start your session. 

Start the session off with the most clothes they’ll be wearing for the shoot. For me, I like to begin with them in jeans and a stretchy top they can pull over one or both shoulders. I’ll instruct them to unzip the front and pull their jeans down just enough to expose some undergarment and some skin. 

If they’ve arrived in a dress, you can do the same thing with having them unzip the back or side, exposing some skin and a sexy bra and bottom combo.

This works in two ways. For starters, I just really like the pose and it’s a great way to start off an album with, progressing to more revealing outfits and more risqué posing.

Next, it’s a great way to get your client warmed up and comfortable in front of the camera without her having to feel self-conscious and too exposed if she’s a little nervous… which is only natural.

It’s also a good time to show her some images from the back of the camera when you feel you’ve got a good one. It will put her mind at ease that things are going to be okay and that she does in fact look good!

6. Not Using Enough Variety

This has three parts to it. 

Variety of Different Poses

Make sure you capture a wide variety of poses. Don’t get stuck taking lots of shots in one pose with just slight variations in head or hand placement, but they’re all basically the same. This is where having your posing guide comes in handy.

Boudoir image of tattooed girl on bed.

Make sure you take a wide variety of shots in different locations and in different positions — on the bed, on the floor, on the sofa, in a chair, standing, kneeling, on their back, on their stomach, etc.

The bigger the variety, the more chances you have of selling more images. In contrast, if you have a lot of little variations in basically the same pose, she’s only going to pick the best in that series. 

Oh… and don’t forget about anonymous shots with her face covered with hair or her back to camera or facing away. 

Variety of Different Lenses

The second kind of variety you can add is by changing lenses with different focal lengths (if you have more than one kind of lens, of course). Most boudoir photographers will have a 50mm and or a 35mm and or an 85mm — or you may have a zoom lens which will give you some nice variety as well. 

Variety of Different Distances

The third kind of variety deals with distance to your subject. You want to make sure you get some close-up detail shots of just her lips, legs, or back arch with a shallow depth of field — along with some medium and full-body shots. 

This will work in conjunction with the kind of lens you’ll be using at the time. 

Once again, let me emphasize that the more variety you can capture, the more likely it is that your client will want to purchase more of the images… and that just means more profit for you.

7. Amputating and Impaling Your Client

Cutting Off Hands and Feet

Boudoir image of young girl standing on bed

This can happen when taking three-quarter or full-body shots. You have your subject perfectly framed and you snap away only to discover later that her hand or foot was chopped off at the wrist or ankle. 

This kind of ruins the shot because it’s going to look a little weird and wonky — and it’s easy to do when you first start shooting because your mind is focused on other things and it’s something that can easily go unnoticed when snapping away.

Avoid Impalement!

Under this same category is the unintended impalement. This is when something in the background appears to be impaling your model and if you’ve captured a great shot otherwise, it can really mess things up for you if you can’t Photoshop it out. 

Try and watch out for this in the first place, especially if you have a lot of “stuff” in the space where you’re shooting. Take a mental note before your session of anything that could “impale” your innocent lady and remove it if possible. 

Avoid Amputation!

Since we’re on the topic of model mutilation, might as well mention the amputation shot. This usually occurs when one arm is hidden by the model’s body and her shoulder appears to be a stump. 

Catching this and having her bring it slightly into view will easily restore her back to her normal self.

The same thing can happen to a leg as well. If she’s lying on a bed or sofa with one leg tucked back it could look like she’s amputated from the knee down. 

This is what makes shooting boudoir appear deceptively easy for those looking from the outside in. But there are a lot of little things to take into account when trying to capture the entire body within your frame.

It’s also knowing where you can cut off certain parts of the body at the appropriate spot with your frame so that it doesn’t look odd. For example, capturing the upper two-thirds of your subject standing, a good place to crop the bottom frame is mid-thigh about three or four inches above the knee. 

8. Trying To Do Too Much in the Time Allotted 

Trying to fit in too many outfit changes, having a client that takes way too long changing, or spending too much time trying to get a particular pose can eat up valuable time. You have two options. 

One is to just extend the length of the session if you’re both okay with it.

The other is more severe. You’re going to have to start prioritizing what you want to get because you may not be able to get everything you set out to capture. In this situation I think it’s better to concentrate on quality over quantity. 

Sure, you may not get everything you wanted, but it’s better that the images you do get are stellar rather than rushing through everything and having them all be sub-par. 

That’s why having a game plan (#3 on this list) will help you see what’s still left and make it easier to decide what you both want and what can be saved for last if there’s still time. 

9. Not Securing Your Client’s Gallery

Bank vault in purple hue

There are a number of different platforms that allow you to create a private gallery where your client can view their images if you don’t do in-person reveals. I personally use Cloudspot and it’s the only one I’ve ever used so I’m not familiar any other option.

Cloudspot gives you the option of creating a password your client can utilize to access her gallery, and with boudoir, privacy and security is vital — and your client is expecting you to provide it. 

Which brings me to my embarrassing and potentially disastrous story I hinted at in the opening paragraphs. 

Lesson Learned

I had finished batch editing and uploading my client’s images into Cloudspot and even created a password for her the way I had done with all my previous clients. 

I looked up her email address that she had texted me (by the way, always ask which email to use, don’t assume the one she’s been corresponding with is the one she wants you to use), typed it in, and hit send. 

In no time, she would have access to her safe and secure private gallery of boudoir images… or so I thought.

Within a few minutes I received an email from someone telling me she was not the “Mary Smith” (not her real name) that I thought she was.

This “Mary Smith” said she lived in Denver and I had shot my client in Virginia!

Oh no, what had gone wrong?

I looked at the email address where I sent the gallery link to… that all looked good. There was her name, plain as day.

Then I went back and checked the text message my client had originally sent to me with her email address… and then I spotted it.

There was a middle initial between her first and last name that I had missed. You see, my client had a fairly common first name, and a fairly common last name, and used one of the big email providers. 

I just failed to notice a sliver of a middle initial between her first and last names. 

Fortunately, the person I had sent access to was not going to do anything malicious with her newfound access to the gallery. She was, after all, a yoga instructor and they’re not known for having mean streaks. It would be bad karma.

So, I quickly changed the password, made the necessary correction to the email address, and sent it again. This time reaching its intended target.

But man, I can’t say I was feeling very good during that mini-crisis. It made me stop and think how bad it could have really gotten.  

So, make sure you check and double-check that email address before you send off a gallery link with password. 

(I just re-lived that whole experience again writing about this and it still affects me to this day.)

Let’s move on, shall we?

10. Not Having Sample Products

Guys… and gals… you have to have some sample products that clients can touch, feel, and smell if you want to make the sale or even up the sale. You sell what you show, so have those products you want to move on hand for clients to experience first hand.

It will not have the same impact looking at an image of an album you want to sell, compared to having them hold a real one in their own two hands.

The same goes for wall art.

Have the sizes you want to sell on display where they can be viewed and get a feel for their size… and their size compared to other sizes you offer. There’s no substitute for the real thing (cliche, I know, but that’s why it’s a cliche).

11. Taking Too Long to Process Images and Order

Bored Asian girl waiting at table

Ideally, your client should not have to wait longer than two weeks from the time they place their order to the time they receive it, barring any problems. Any retouching and post work should be done as soon as possible so you can send their order off ASAP, which will ensure they receive it promptly.

You want to keep the momentum going as much as possible, and get the order in their hands not long after their session. 

Taking too long to arrange their album (if done without them) and to post-process images will only take longer if you have more clients to shoot… and then stuff happens in life outside your control that could delay you even further. 

So, it’s good to get things done promptly when you have the time, and get it off your plate.

This is when having an efficient post-processing workflow comes in handy. It saves you time. Personally, I’ll do a quick batch edit in Lightroom from their culled images that I’ll show them from which they’ll choose their final choices. 

If they select wall art, I’ll spend extra time retouching and post-processing those select few shots because they’re going to be enlarged and under closer scrutiny. 

Your goal with all this is to try and get it right in camera as much as possible. This will save you a ton of time in post so developing your know-how of the exposure triangle is critical. 

In Conclusion

I hope this article will help you to prevent some pitfalls and mistakes that can easily be made by beginning boudoir photographers.

If you found this article helpful, please forward it to someone it may also benefit.

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Thanks for your time

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

Bella Mitri Boudoir

Charles Mitri

Charles Mitri is an award-winning boudoir photographer and also founder and writer of LoungeBoudoir.com, an educational blog and resource website for boudoir photographers worldwide. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

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