The dark side of boudoir… what is it?
And why is it such an untapped opportunity?
Is it for you? As a boudoir photographer, is shooting the dark side of boudoir something you want to explore?
These are all questions I’m going to answer in this article, so sit back, open your mind, and let’s explore some uncharted territory within the boudoir genre.
Welcome To The Dark Side
The dark side of boudoir as I define it (and as you know, I’m big on defining things), is capturing emotions, expressions, energies, and attitudes that express the “darker” side of our human nature.
I’m talking about sadness, loneliness, anger, outrage, confrontation, conflict, envy, jealousy, spitefulness, grief — basically any emotion that would be considered the opposite of fun, happy, joyous, and uplifting.
Notice, however, that I didn’t include sexy, sensual, or alluring in that list. The reason being is that I believe you can express these darker emotions and still be sexy, sensual, and alluring.
This is, after all, still boudoir so we want to maintain boudoir’s essence as much as possible here… but it can make for an unexpectedly interesting image.
I touched on this topic in a previous article entitled, “My 5 Guiding Principles For Boudoir Posing”, when I talked about giving your client an action to express in an attempt to elicit a specific emotion, and some of my examples were not your typical actions like to seduce, to tease, or to flirt.
They were, instead, actions such as to challenge, to connive, to control.
That got me thinking about a whole array of emotions that we, as boudoir photographers, never explore with our clients.
And I get why that is, too.
It’s because the boudoir experience for women is typically an emotionally uplifting experience, a confidence builder, an infusion of empowerment, and an escape from everything negative.
But what if we threw in some darker themed shots?
What if instead of trying to be beautiful and sexy and empowered all the time, we catch a glimpse of something else? Something with a little more angst to it.
Am I making you nervous yet?
But just think what powerful images those could be!
Raw, honest, authentic… emotional… while at the same time, sexy, sensual, and alluring.
The results could be quite captivating.
The Secret To Pushing Your Creativity
When I used to write screenplays with my writing partner and we came up with an idea we thought was too outrageous, it would quickly get dismissed.
“Oh my god, we can’t do that!”
But since the idea was so outrageous we would then go off on a tangent and start amusing ourselves with this new concept… and we found that it captivated our attention. So much so, that we thought…
“Hmm… maybe we’ve got something here.”
If it’s that shocking and entertaining for us, it would undoubtedly have the same effect on an audience.
We would then talk seriously about executing on it and incorporating it into our story.
The point is this… it always turned out to be the right decision.
It’s what my former acting teacher called “taking a risk”.
He always encouraged his students to “take a risk”, meaning, he wanted us to make strong choices, unpredictable choices within a scene that were still appropriate to the circumstances… yet surprised, shocked, and delighted the audience.
This is not easy to do, by the way, but when done right, can be magical.
Taking A Risk In Action
A wonderful example of taking a risk in acting happens in the movie Godfather II between brothers Michael (Al Pacino) and Fredo (John Cazale) at a New Year’s Eve party in Cuba.
In this climactic scene, Al Pacino grabs his brother’s head with both hands and kisses him hard on the lips and tells him he knows it was him that betrayed him. He loves him and depsises him both at the same time.
I’m willing to bet that kiss was an inspired acting moment for Pacino as opposed to being written in the script, but who knows? Either way, it was a brilliant choice.
(If you’re interested in checking out the clip on YouTube, just search the term “I know it was you, Fredo.”)
I like to take this same approach with my writing and photography if such an idea happens to pop into my head.
It’s always floating around in my mind as a creative option and everything else aligns to make it all work.
Shooting your boudoir client and showcasing these other emotions through her vulnerabilities and insecurities is dangerous and risky.
And that’s why it’s worth exploring because there’s great potential for some amazing images that deliver a different kind of emotional punch.
This area of boudoir, what I’m calling dark boudoir, is completely untapped and unexplored.
The one catch is that you have to be willing to fail, to create bad work, to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and for your client to not understand or get it.
And that’s a lot, I realize.
I would suggest trying this out first with a willing friend or model that you hire before springing any of this on a paying client.
You need to play around with this for yourself first so you at least have some experience doing it and guiding your subject into revealing these darker emotions.
What I think will happen is that you’ll be striving for something at one end of the spectrum of human emotion, but your subject will only be able to express herself so far, and you’ll end up with something in the middle.
Which could still be very interesting on its own.
In fact, I think this is how most of these kind of shots will unfold. You’ll end up with something that suggests sadness, loneliness, anger, or whatever emotion you’re going for, without fully getting there.
But that’s okay.
It’s still flavoring the image with this untapped area of emotions rarely seen in boudoir.
This knowledge and experience will prepare you for trying this out with a paying client. You’ll know what to expect.
Working With A Paying Client
I would suggest you introduce this sparingly into your sessions. Have a talk with them about doing this first and see if she’s open to it.
It’s all in how you present it.
Assure her it won’t be the entire shoot but perhaps a few shots here and there.
And if she’s open to it, see what happens.
There will be no pressure to be “sexy”… she can just “be”… lost in her thoughts (with a little guidance on your part).
Slice of Life Photography
The arena this might work best in is in shooting slice of life or in a voyeuristic style, meaning, you, as photographer, are acting like a fly on the wall capturing these darker intimate moments as if the subject is all by herself.
You can read more about this approach in my article, “Shoot Boudoir In A Voyeuristic Style For Added Interest”.
Looking straight into camera on your normal boudoir “set” can be effective too.
Regardless, do what you can with what you have available to you.
This is certainly an unconventional approach to a genre that has built its reputation on being everything that is the opposite of this “dark side” approach.
Does the idea make you want to run for the door? … To scrap the whole concept and say to yourself, “Oh my god, I can’t do that!”
That’s how it’s supposed to make you feel. Those are the signs that tell you you’re on the right path… to something.
What that “something” is, we’re not quite sure at this point, but…
There is great potential in the unknown and you have to be willing to take a risk.
The only question you have to ask yourself is… are you?
Thanks for your time,
Lounge Boudoir / Bella Mitri Boudoir
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