The Difference Between Sexy and Alluring In Boudoir

Difference Between Sexy and Alluring

Knowing the difference between what is sexy and what is alluring will help you in your boudoir business because some women look better being sexy, while others look better being alluring.

If you know how to shoot both sexy and alluring you’ll be able to serve the wide variety of women out there better because you’ll be providing them images that they’ll like that much more.


Sexy is a word that’s been used so much that it’s kind of lost its meaning, similar to the word “love”. 

Oh my god, I just love this!

Now we all know what sexy means (in general) and have probably used it much like the word “love” in our lives, but in this article I’m going to give it a very specific definition by comparing it to the word “allure” within the context of boudoir photography.

What Does It Mean To Be Sexy?

For me, being sexy has more to do with the physical body. It’s putting your body (and body parts) out there on display to attract attention with the goal of achieving sexual desirability. 

Whether paired with a sexy attitude or not, it’s an outwardly radiating signal that can’t help but get noticed. It’s a physical presence that emanates with the effect being felt more in your loins than in your mind.

Pamela Anderson in her prime was sexy, probably still is, but in her youth she was a sex symbol.

Anna Nicole Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch, Jane Mansfield all held the mantle at one time of being America’s sex symbol. I would describe them all as sexy, but not alluring (at least by my definition).

What Does It Mean To Be Alluring?

Allure is both a direct and indirect form of attraction that contains an element of mystery to it.

For me, being alluring has less to do with the physical body, but rather the sexual mystique created by the woman in general.

Allure is a more subtle low-key force that draws you in with the effect being felt more in your mind and imagination than in your loins.

If someone is alluring, they’re drawing you in through the subtle seductive force of sexual mystery.

More Ways Sexy and Alluring Are Different

Sexy is a declarative statement… allure teases a question.

Sexy is a billboard while allure is a private text message.

Sexy broadcasts outwardly and openly while allure is a whisper.

Sexy is obvious and overt that draws attention to itself, allure is more subtle and low key.

Sexy is an open invitation… allure is a sealed one.

When To Shoot Someone Sexy Verses Alluring

Women come in all different shapes and sizes and they all want to experience a boudoir shoot to feel better about themselves (for the most part). Your job is to provide them images that do that, obviously.

Pretty women with good bodies can get away with just about any type of photography and look good.

You can shoot them sexy, alluring, or a combination of the two and they’ll look good in all three styles. That’s just the way it is.

However, the vast majority of women who get boudoir shoots do not fall into the above category. Most women who get boudoir shoots are everyday women with average looks, with a percentage being above average and a percentage below average. 

This is where shooting a woman who is self-conscious about how she looks, her body, or parts of her body, in an alluring fashion can produce images of her that she’ll love by making her look better than how she sees herself normally.

Just like the type of lighting you use to shoot older women verses younger women to make them each look their best, the same holds true for shooting women either sexy or alluring.

How To Shoot A Woman To Look Sexy

Since we’ll be featuring and showcasing the woman’s body (and parts thereof), we want to be able to see it clearly, so shooting her fully lit is preferable. This can be with a light and airy style or by utilizing broad lighting (which lights about 80% of someone’s form) but for the most part your subject will be fairly well lit.

Now, since mystery is a big part of allure, and shadows are what create mystery, shooting a woman fairly well lit will not produce many or any shadows… and if it does, not to the degree needed to create mystery and mystique.

How To Shoot A Woman To Look Alluring

Since mystery is the key element to creating allure, how do you create mystery?

Mystery represents what is unknown. It’s what’s hidden in the darkness both literally and figuratively. 

In photography we create mystery with shadow and that’s mainly done by shooting in a dark and moody style utilizing short lighting. With short lighting the majority of the woman’s form is in shadow.

This creates the mystery and the mystique because it’s literally what’s hidden from our view. 

Boudoir standing wall pose

This causes anticipation, curiosity, and begs the question… what’s hidden in the dark that I can’t see?

“I want to see what’s there, but those darn shadows are preventing me from seeing more.” 

This creates a sexual tease because it’s an invitation to see more but the shadows are not allowing you.

How To Create Allure Fully Lit

Okay, there is another way to create allure that will work while shooting fully lit but it’s not nearly as potent as with the use of shadow… but it’s worth mentioning.

There are other ways to hide parts of the body that create mystery without using shadow and that’s through the use of accessories and sheer clothing.

A mask, hand-fan, veil, or anything sheer will work too.

A woman holding a fan in front of her face so just her eyes are seen can be alluring because it creates mystery about who she is. We can’t see her full face because it’s hidden behind the fan.

A mask or veil would create the same effect, as well as a hat pulled down low to conceal her eyes.

In essence, the physical accessory takes the place of the shadows that are not present when shooting fully lit.

This will give you allure, but like I said earlier, not to the same degree that shadows will.

Combining a physical accessory (a fan) to partially hide the face, along with shadows to create allure.

Combining Sexy and Allure For A Knockout Punch

If you have a client who is gorgeous with a great body you have the luxury of shooting her sexy, alluring, or both at the same time.

That’s the knockout punch because you’re getting the best of both worlds. The images will be stimulating both viscerally on a physical level and by the imagination on a mental level. 

If you have such a client I suggest you shoot at least one series combining both sexy and alluring at the same time. These will be extremely powerful images.

The Popularity of Dark and Moody Boudoir

Don’t get me wrong… I like both light and airy and dark and moody boudoir.

They both have their place and their pros and cons.

I get a sense though that dark and moody is getting used more by photographers these days because it brings something to the table that light and airy can’t.

That “something” is allure.

Boudoir standing wall pose

The Allure of Diane Lane

When I think of someone who is alluring I think of Diane Lane, or rather, her character in the movie Unfaithful.

Her allure lived just below the surface. It was in her eyes and the way she spoke and carried herself. She drew you in. You sensed there was more to her but she kept it guarded, tempting you, teasing you with nuance, subtly, and mystery.

Compare this to Pamela Anderson who was “out there” with her body — the big hair, the big boobs, her legs, the eye makeup, the nails. She was showcasing her physical attributes. Her “sexiness” was a force that radiated outwardly like a klaxon.

Allure, on the other hand, has built-in subtext because it has an element of mystery. It’s saying something else beneath the surface that’s elusive but also captivating. 

Just about every female pop singer today pushes “sexiness” to the max with their revealing outfits and choreography. There’s nothing subtle or mysterious about them.

Madonna used both sexiness and allure in some of her stage performances and videos, but for the most part, allure is no longer used.

Variety of Mood

I’ve talked about variety of mood (or tone) in other articles but here is a clear example of it. 

Shooting someone “sexy” verses “alluring” are two different moods.

If you understand the difference you can provide variety of mood in your images which will help you sell more images.

Even though I’m known for my dark and mood style, which is alluring, I always like to shoot a series light and airy with my clients (which is more sexy) just to provide variety of mood.

In any event, this is just another tool in your boudoir utility belt you can pull out and use when the situation calls for it.

Wrap Up

So, that’s the difference between sexy and allure and how you can use each to your advantage in providing your clients with images they’ll love (See? There’s that word again!)

Thanks for your time!

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Charles Mitri

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

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