3 Common Mistakes Beginning Boudoir Photographers Make

woman upside down in chair

There’s a lot to learn about boudoir photography, more than what may appear on the surface.

Many beginning boudoir photographers get tricked into thinking this genre is easy… and I get it.

From the outside looking in, maybe it does look easy.

“Heck, how hard is it to shoot a woman in lingerie? All she needs to do is get in front of the camera and you start clicking, right?”

If you’ve spent any time at all trying to learn this genre you’ll quickly realize there’s a lot more to it than that. Besides learning all the technical stuff (camera settings, lighting, posing, etc.) there’s a huge psychological component to it as well. 

Probably more so than any other type of photography I know of but that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I’m going to talk about three common mistakes beginning boudoir photographers make when first trying their hand at shooting this genre. 

These are mistakes you can avoid when setting up trade shoots to practice your boudoir photography.

(Notice I said “practice” here and that’s important because it will shift the mood and set expectations for the session for both you and your model. Practicing your craft is important and I’m a huge advocate of it. At the start, you’ll be doing a lot of practice shoots.)

Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

When starting out, there’s things you know, things you know you don’t know, and things you don’t know you don’t know.

It’s the last one that is impossible to prepare for but will rear its head during one of your sessions. This article was written to try and have you avoid a few things you don’t know you don’t know.

(You might have to read that last part again a few times. It’s not something I made up, but a saying that’s been around for awhile.)

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Common Mistake #1

Thinking Your “Model” is Going to Know What To Do Once She Gets in Front of the Camera

If you think your model is going to know what to do once she steps foot in front of your camera, think again. She won’t.

She’s going to step out into whatever space you’re shooting in, after changing into her outfit, and stand there waiting for you to tell her what to do next.

Will you shoot her standing against a wall? Next to a window? On a bed? In a chair? On the floor? Kneeling? On her stomach? On her back? On her side?

You should know what setting you’ll be shooting her in before she arrives as well as which poses you want to capture. 

And even if she’s a real model or even a dancer and starts to strike poses, odds are they’re not going to be appropriate for boudoir.  Besides, you don’t want your model doing that in the first place because it takes away from you learning how to pose her. 

So, in order to avoid mistake #1 you’ll want to have some type of posing guide or images on your phone or Pinterest board you can refer to during your shoot. 

It’s okay to take them out and look at them, don’t be embarrassed you have to use a “cheat sheet”. I used to feel a bit self-conscious when I did this at first but then quickly got over it and now think nothing of it when I do it with paying clients today. 

I like trying a couple of new poses with every shoot just to keep things interesting and showing my client a picture beforehand helps her quickly understand what we’re going for. 

Common Mistake #2

You Try to Shoot Too Many Poses During Your Practice Session

Don’t try to shoot a lot of different poses during your limited time with your subject when practicing. 

You want to shoot just a few… less than you think even… like three or four.

This is so you can fully explore each pose from different angles and various distances.

From one pose you can get sixteen different shots. Did you know that?

By shooting fewer poses you can really get to know the pose and it will imprint itself in your mind much quicker than trying to shoot many poses with just a couple of shots of each.

The 4 Different Angles

Left (usually at 45 degrees)

Right (usually at 45 degrees)


Overhead or Bird’s Eye (if feasible)

The 4 Different Distances

Wide shot

Medium shot


Extreme Close-up

(The extreme close-up is more of an option at angles where it’s more appropriate.)

As you can see, the maximum number of variations from these four different angles combined with these four different distances would be 16.

Sixteen variations from one pose without the model even moving. You doing the moving instead, around her.

For Example

So, you would shoot from the subject’s left side, one wide, one medium, one close-up, and perhaps one extreme close-up.

Then move to the center and shoot one wide, one medium, one close-up (extreme close-up optional).

Then from the right side, one wide, one medium, one close-up (extreme close-up optional).

And if feasible, get up on a chair or ladder for a bird’s eye and repeat.

(Please note that getting the variety of distances from overhead may not be possible if you’re shooting with a prime lens — with a zoom it’ll be easier, but just capture what you can.)

This will give you a maximum of sixteen variations on the same pose without the subject having to move at all. 

When you get a chance to look at them all on a bigger screen, you’ll immediately learn which angles and distances the pose looks best at. This will save you time when you have paying clients later on because you’ll know when shooting this particular pose which angels and distances you should shoot it at. 

This will make your shoots more efficient and not waste yours and your subject’s time and energy on poses you know in advance aren’t going to work.

So, less is more in this case. 

Plan to shoot only a few poses, and then, if there’s time left over, you can add another pose or two until your time together has to end.

Common Mistake #3

You’re Not Aware of the Type of Light You’re Shooting In

When shooting boudoir, you’re not just capturing images of a woman in intimate apparel, but capturing a woman in intimate apparel in a certain kind of light.

If you’re using natural light from a window, you have to know what kind of light it is so you can recreate the look with paying clients in the future. 

Is it front light, back light, side light, short light, broad light?

Each one has its advantages and disadvantages and depending on the age of your client, you’ll definitely want to use specific types of light over others to flatter her best.

If you’re not familiar with the different qualities of each of these types of lighting then you may want to check out my guide (just $7) How To Shoot Boudoir With Natural Light: 5 Setups You Need To Know

That’s A Wrap

I hope this article has prepared you a little more when planning practice shoots and beyond. 

It’s easy to plan around things we know we don’t know. For example, shooting boudoir with a strobe and soft box. If we know we don’t know how to do that, that easy enough to avoid.


Things we don’t know we don’t know, like don’t shoot older women with hard angled light, is something you may not know you don’t know… until your older client gets her images back and you’ve made her look even older.

She’s not going to be happy. 

But you can learn all about that in my guide.

Thanks for your time!

Charles Mitri

Lounge Boudoir

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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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