What’s the Difference Between Boudoir and Glamour Photography?

Glamour brunette model with long legs

In this article we’re going to take a look at the difference between Boudoir and Glamour photography so you’ll have a clear understanding of what each one is all about. The line between these two genres can appear blurry, but rest assured, I’m going to draw a definitive line in the sand with my selfie-stick between the two… and I might even throw in a surprise as well.

What’s the difference between boudoir and glamour photography? Boudoir is everyday women having sexy photos taken of themselves in lingerie in a private setting for their personal enjoyment. Glamour is paid models who are photographed on location or in a studio to sell a product or service for a company to make money. 

But that’s not the whole story and in the following article we’ll explore in great detail all the differences, plus, one genre not mentioned in the paragraph above. 

But first…

What Is Boudoir?

In a previous post I dove deep into this question and you can read that full article here entitled, “What is Boudoir Photography and Why Is It Critical You Know?”. I won’t repeat myself here but instead, add to that short definition stated previously. 

So, along with boudoir being about everyday women getting sexy and alluring photos taken of themselves, the other important aspect of that is it’s also a way for a woman to celebrate, acknowledge, and express her sexuality and her body. It’s a very personal and private thing.

What Is Glamour?

Okay, here’s where the rubber meets the road because the way I see it, there are two very distinct types of glamour photography — and it’s important we define the differences between these two types of “glamour” so we can compare and contrast them to boudoir (I’m big on defining things if you haven’t noticed).

Beauty/Glamour

Yes, you read that right — “beauty slash glamour”. 

Beauty/Glamour is a lot like boudoir in that it’s a genre of photography where a woman pays a photographer to have photos taken of her in a beautiful and glamorous fashion in a private setting. 

It’s really a blend of portrait photography and fashion photography.

The emphasis here is in somewhat “making over” everyday women into the most beautiful and glamorous version of themselves with professional hair and makeup, along with a professional photographer to capture it all.

The photo shoot, like boudoir, is done in a private location, like a photography studio or sometimes at a location but the intent is for private use. In other words, the final images are to be enjoyed and treasured by the woman herself or as a gift to someone close to her.

A significant other or family member is usually the recipient of these Beauty/Glamour type images. It’s almost like having a day at the spa but instead, it’s a day at the photography studio. 

For some women, the Beauty/Glamour shoot is a way for them to experience what it’s like to be a real model for a day. It can also serve as a stepping stone for those who would like a boudoir shoot, but have not yet mustered up the courage to go through with it.

Some Differences Between Beauty/Glamour and Boudoir

Inner Beauty vs. Outer Beauty

One of the biggest differences between these two types of photography is that with Beauty/Glamour the emphasis is on a woman’s inherent beauty both inside and out.

With Boudoir, the emphasis is more on a woman’s sexualized physical beauty. 

Sexual vs. Non-Sexual

In Beauty/Glamour there’s no overt sexuality or sexual intent of the images. Any sexual vibe that does come from these shots is just a result of being human and being a woman. We are sexual creatures after all so there’s always going to be that element about us, but it’s under the surface with Beauty/Glamour, and not emphasized.

Of course with boudoir the intent is sexual… and it is emphasized. 

Clothed vs. Scantily Clad

In Beauty/Glamour the woman is always fully clothed (usually in some fashionable outfit) and the emphasis is on beauty not sex.

In Boudoir the women are typically photographed in lingerie or other types of intimate apparel, implied nudity, or partial nudity — but not in a vulgar or exhibitionist fashion because that’s more of an Erotica type shoot. (Update: that last sentence is becoming less true since boudoir is borrowing more and more from Erotica now.)

(I compare Boudoir with Erotica in that same article entitled, “What is Boudoir Photography and Why Is It Critical You Know?” — so check that out if you’re curious about differences between those two genres as well.)

Face vs. Whole Body

Another difference is that with Beauty/Glamour the focus is on the woman’s face, as in portraiture, with her hair and makeup and wardrobe supporting that focus. The posing is casual and relaxed either standing, sitting, or reclined.

With Boudoir, the emphasis is on the woman’s body, featured parts of her body, as well as her face. It’s her whole being and parts of her that are expressing her sexuality. The posing is more on a sliding scale that can range from innocent to highly sexually suggestive. 

Bedroom vs. Studio

With Boudoir there’s usually a bedroom setting involved at some point, but shots throughout the house are not uncommon like a living room, kitchen, or hallway.

Beauty/Glamour is primarily shot in a studio against a wall or stylish backdrop. 

The “Other” Type of Glamour Photography

Commercialized Glamour

The other type of Glamour photography is something I’m going to call “Commercialized Glamour”. 

The big difference between Commercialized Glamour and Beauty/Glamour is that the subjects are paid models who are hired by a company selling a product or service to make money. 

Paid Models

Yes, these are all the pretty young women you see in most advertising that sell everything from clothes to makeup to jewelry to everything else. The emphasize with these models is to portray youth, vitality, beauty, and sex appeal. 

Granted, there are models of a more mature age that are hired in these shoots, but only if the product that’s being promoted fits that same demographic. 

For some women, the Beauty/Glamour shoot is a way for them to experience what it’s like to be a “model” for a day. It can also serve as a stepping stone for those who would like a boudoir shoot, but have not mustered up the courage yet to go through with it.  

Small Team vs. Large Production

Another difference between these two types of glamour photography is that with Beauty/Glamour you’re usually only dealing with two or three people — the photographer, makeup artist, and hair stylist.

With Commercialized Glamour you could be dealing with an entire production team depending on the scale and budget of the shoot — and with the photographer, makeup and hair stylists we’re just gettin’ started. 

There could be people from the ad agency, the client, lighting and grip people, production assistants, oh, and let’s not forget catering.  

Makin’ That Moola’

Moola’, dough, scratch… money. What’s that saying– it’s all about the Benjamins.

Make no mistake, Commercialized Glamour is all about making money and profit, and there are some powerful forces and lots of research behind it. 

Advertising agencies are going to use every trick in the book to get you from seeing one of their commercialized glamour images in a magazine to getting you to whip out your credit card and buy what they’re selling. 

I’m not casting judgement here. That’s how advertising works. That’s how business works. My point is that it’s the Commercialized Glamour industry that is the reason why everyday women even want a Glamour/Beauty session of their own in the first place.

To Be Just Like…

After seeing thousands of commercialized glamour images in ads and commercials throughout the years, the Beauty and Fashion Industries, and others have created a desire among the population to want to embody that look. 

Celebrities also promote the commercialized glamour image because they too are not immune to the effects of advertising!

And that’s all good. I have no qualms with anyone wanting to partake in a Beauty/Glamour shoot. Hey, we all want to look our best.

To Rebel Against

On the flip side of that, everyday women partake in Beauty/Glamour shoots to rebel against that commercialized glamour look. They see that industry as trying to define what “beauty” is and refuse to be defined by someone else’s interpretation of that.

They want to shatter the “one-size-fits-all” mentality of beauty and do so by celebrating their own uniqueness with a Beauty/Glamour shoot all their own. 

The biggest difference between Beauty/Glamour and Commercialized Glamour is that one celebrates the unique inner and outer beauty of the individual, while the other is used as a means and strategy to sell a product or service and make a profit. 

That’s night and day between Beauty/Glamour and Commercialized Glamour when you really look at it.

That’s why I love researching and writing these articles. It helps me to see clearly what it is that I’m doing as a photographer and how best I can serve my clients.

That’s why I think it’s important to clearly define what something is, at least in regards to photography and its genres. (Hey, that’s just my thing.)

Quick Reference Guide

Differences Between Boudoir and Beauty/Glamour

BoudoirBeauty/Glamour
Women in lingerie or implied
nudity
Women fully clothed
Emphasis on outer beautyEmphasis on inner and outer
beauty
Sexual in natureNon-sexual in nature
Focus is on body, body parts, faceFocus is on face
Shoot takes place in bedroom setting
or somewhere within the house
Shoot takes place in photography
studio (usually)

Differences Between Beauty/Glamour and Commercialized Glamour

Beauty/GlamourCommercialized Glamour
For everyday womenFor professional models
Women pay for photoshootModels get paid for photoshoot
Small teamLarge Team
Celebrates unique inner/outer beautyCelebrates youth, vitality, beauty,
sex appeal
To experience being a “model” for the dayIs an actual model for the day
To celebrate one’s unique beautyTo sell products and services

Black female fashion model in jeans and jacket

Is There a Difference Between Commercialized Glamour and Fashion Photography?

Fashion photography is its own genre. The focus is on clothing, fashion, and lifestyle. You see it in magazines like Elle, Bazaar, Vogue as well as many others. 

I hope this article has cleared up a few things about Glamour and Boudoir and if you found it helpful please forward it to someone who may also benefit from it.

Thanks for your time!

Charles Mitri

Founder / 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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