So, you’re dipping your toe into the “boudoir waters” as a photographer migrating from another genre or as someone new to photography but with a strong interest in seeing what all the fuss is about with this boudoir thing.
You’ve managed to convince a friend of yours to be your guinea pig for the day or you’ve set up a TFP session with a local wannabe model… but now you need a place to shoot.
And you don’t have one.
The question you’ll be asking yourself is, “Where can I shoot boudoir if I don’t have my own studio?” — and that would be a good question to ask, so let the list below serve as some possible solutions.
Where To Shoot Boudoir With No Studio
- In your own house
- At a friend’s house
- At your client’s house
- At your makeup artist’s house
- In a rental studio
- In your garage
- At an AirBnB
- In a hotel room
- In a yoga, dance, or art studio
- In a rented office space
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these little gems of an idea and see if they could work for you.
Shoot Boudoir In Your Own House
If you have a suitable room or space in your own house that would work, this is probably going to be the easiest and cheapest solution for you — and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bedroom. If it’s your own bedroom then there are different schools of thought on using that and you’ll have to decide for yourself what feels right for you. If you’re a male boudoir photographer (like myself) I would shy away from that as your first option… and probably your second as well.
Ideally, a shoot at your place would involve a spare bedroom or a space you could make work as a bedroom with an inflatable bed or other boudoir-type furniture, like a settee, lounger (the old-fashioned kind, not the Lazy-Boy grandpa kind), or velvet cushioned chair.
You don’t need a lot of furniture to shoot boudoir. You can even get away with not even using a bed, but a private intimate space in the home is most desirable.
When I started out I used my living room as a studio which had a couple of big windows that let in natural light. It wasn’t even direct sunlight, but light that bounced off the building next door. Not ideal and I almost let that stop me from moving forward and whining like a little baby because “things weren’t perfect” but I tried it out and what do you know? It turned out to be pretty okay. And it got me shooting and got me learning and got my little butt in gear.
Of course you’ll need to schedule things out if you have other family members or kids living there… or harboring any felons, and you’ll have to make sure it’s clean. My shoots always kept me honest with regard to that. Before every shoot I’d clean my bathroom, living room, kitchen, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, the whole nine yards.
You especially want your floors clean if they’re hardwood floors in case the woman has to sit or lay herself down. You don’t want grit and grime getting onto her skin and it doesn’t make the best impression if that happens.
Shoot Boudoir At A Friend’s House
Okay, this is kind of a long shot but I wanted to mention it because it might just work for some of you. Who knows? You might have this really cool friend who has a great pad and is willing to let you shoot there… in exchange for a free boudoir shoot for herself! (See, now you’re thinkin’!)
It helps to throw a little incentive her way. I wouldn’t just ask to use her place without offering something in return, and what better way to persuade her than to offer her a free boudoir shoot in exchange for a little time shooting at her place.
If you get the big thumb’s up from a friend be sure to ask if it’s okay to use their bed. You can bring your own linens and pillows if that’s the case. Perhaps, though, you may not even need or want to use the bed. If they have cool furniture that would work just as well, or a great bay window with a bare floor in front, you can do several poses right on the floor there. If they have hardwood floors — better! You can pick up some nice reflection and shine from the light coming in through the window.
Shoot Boudoir At Your Client’s House
Offering to shoot at your client’s home is quite a viable option. You’d have to scout it out first to see if it would work, but if it was shootable (I just invented a new word) then by all means make it happen.
The client will feel very comfortable and at ease in familiar surroundings, and she’ll have access to her entire wardrobe. It saves her the trouble of having to pack it up and bring it to another location.
It will also save her the time it would take to travel to and from a location, and if she’s got a tight schedule it might be an attractive incentive for her.
Shoot Boudoir At Your Makeup Artist’s House
Speaking of friend’s houses… if you use a particular makeup artist that would be willing to let you shoot at their place, that could work as well. I’d give them some extra cash though or offer to trade services. In exchange for letting you shoot at their place, give them a free boudoir shoot for themselves.
I’ve traded services with others before, offering my boudoir photography in exchange for what they had to offer. If it works out for both parties it’s a great way to acquire services you would normally have to pay for, plus you get to practice shooting on your way to charging clients in the future.
Shoot Boudoir In A Rental Studio or Other Photographer’s Studio
Of course there’s the option of renting a studio space, whether it’s another photographer’s studio or just a studio space in general, there’s bound to be something somewhere close by you could rent.
The best place to find such a place would, of course, be Craig’s List. Just look under the headings for “Services” or “Housing”. A quick short cut is to click on the heading itself, then type in “rental studio” or “photography studio” into the search bar. That will automatically search every category under that main heading. Then you don’t have to conduct a search for each individual listing. Pretty cool, huh?
Now you’ll probably end up getting some studio apartment rental results, but that comes with the nature of that particular search term. That’s why adding the word “photography” to the search may reduce irrelevant results.
Join a Co-op Studio
Another great option of having your cake and eating it too is to join a co-op studio. Co-ops are studios shared by a number of different photographers and for a low monthly fee you get a certain amount of hours of studio time. You can join a co-op that’s on a month-to-month basis, or with others you may have to sign some type of agreement for a set period of time, like three months or six months, just depends.
This is a great option because you don’t have to sign a lease and be responsible for the rent for the entire lease period (which is usually at least a year or more), but you get all the privileges that go along with having your own studio, just with limited usage.
And if business is booming and you’ve used up all your hours for the month, you’ll still have the option of paying whatever the normal rental rate is and continue to shoot. Plus, having a real studio is nice for both you and clients to work in, especially if shooting at home or anywhere else is not an option.
Your Facebook Group
Another place you could look would be a photographer group on Facebook. If you haven’t joined one already you might want to.
Just post that you’re looking for a studio space to rent for an upcoming boudoir shoot. Add a picture to your post so it will get noticed. In fact, you should probably post a boudoir-related image. That will certainly get it more attention and also leads on some rental spaces you can follow up on.
Shoot Boudoir In Your Garage (oh yes, I’m goin’ there girlfriend!)
Yes, the ever popular and glamorous garage shoot. Not unless you have a really nice garage… with air conditioning (or heating), would I shoot a paying client in such a location.
If you can dress up a section that won’t look like you’re shooting in a garage, with some curtains, or backdrop, or painted wall (you see where I’m going with this), perhaps some carpeting or a rug… it could most definitely work. All you’d need then is a window or if you have the privacy, an open garage door to let in the light.
You will need some type of temperature control though because shooting in a garage, in Virginia, in the summer (where I live) ain’t gonna’ cut it. Or even in the winter where you’re dealing with cold temperatures.
Adding an inflatable bed or velvet settee or other piece of furniture and adding that into the scene could work very nicely. Just sayin’… it could work and will work for some you out there. It’s also free. (Yes! We like free! — perform fist pump here.)
In fact, I know of a professional photographer in southern CA that does actually shoot in his garage that he’s converted into a very nice space for photography. And I’m sure there are hundreds more out there as well.
Shoot Boudoir In A Hotel Room
Booking a hotel room is a great option. There are usually plenty to choose from if you live anywhere near a modest size town. You’ll want to check out the decor and where the bed is located in the room in relation to the window first before you just dive in.
Make sure the bed is fairly close to the window so light spills across it and is not tucked away in a dark corner. The great thing about hotel rooms is that they almost always have two sets of curtains — one sheer (which is great for softening sunlight) and the other for black out.
Be careful that the room isn’t too small. You’ll need space to maneuver around to get a decent angle on your subject. In any case, if there’s a window and a bed you should be able to make just about any hotel room work.
The one drawback with using a hotel is the check-in and check-out times. Most hotels have a check-in time of 3pm with a check-out time around 11am. Now there is some flexibility here but it depends on the occupancy rate of the hotel. If they’re booked solid your odds of requesting an earlier time decrease but ask anyway if you want an extra hour of light, especially during daylight savings during the winter.
Telling Them You Shoot Boudoir
When I went scouting hotels in my area I’d go around noon or 1 pm. That’s an ideal time to ask if they can show you some rooms. It’s between when people have already checked out and before new people will check in. So, they’re not busy with all that at the front desk and there’s someone to show you around.
I did go to one place where the person at the front desk just gave me the key-cards to several different types of rooms and let me take a look on my own, but usually they will be someone escorting you.
It’s usually during this time that they’ll ask when you plan on booking and that’s a good time to bring up what you’re there for. I always hand them one of my killer boudoir business cards and tell them to check out my website when they get a chance.
If there’s any objection to what you have planned it will most likely be brought up here and I’ve only had that happen to me once so far. The reason being is that the manager did not want the hotel’s logo in any of the images (well yeah, neither did I), but that didn’t convince her to allow me to shoot there.
Also, if the hotel is part of a chain, don’t assume that just because one hotel won’t let you shoot that all the others in the same chain won’t also. They have different managers and you’ll get different responses — some will, some won’t.
Most people are rather intrigued by the idea and as long as you’re not bothering anyone they have no problem with it.
Shoot Boudoir In An Airbnb
Renting an Airbnb is definitely an option under one condition. I’d make sure the Airbnb was for the entire house/condo/townhouse/loft and not just a rented room within the house/condo/townhouse/loft.
A boudoir shoot requires privacy for both you and your client and just renting a room where others are coming and going is not going to work.
The great thing about Airbnb is you can go online and check out many different places that show off the space and the lighting because they have awesome pictures and they want to present it in the best possible light (no pun intended… okay, well maybe). Seriously, you can get a really good look at where the windows are located in relation to the bed or what the decor and color scheme is and see if it would work for a shoot.
Check In/Out Times
Now, just like hotels their check-in time is usually around 3pm with check-out around 11am. However, there is some leeway here. All you have to do is ask if they allow an earlier check-in. If so, and you want some extra daylight (especially during daylight savings) just ask if you can check in earlier. All they can say is “no”, but if they don’t have someone already staying there the day before your requested date, chances are much better you can get in earlier.
The great thing about an Airbnb is not only will you have access to the bedroom but other parts of the house that might work for set-ups as well. They also have a pretty good cancellation policy if you book then have to cancel outside of 48 hours but be sure to check that on a regular basis because things can change at any time.
Should I Tell Them I’m Shooting Boudoir?
Hmm… good question… very good question. Should I tell the owners that I’m shooting scantily clad (and possibly nude) women in their space?
Personally, I would. I’d be up front about everything and tell them my intentions from the start. First of all, you don’t want to be sneaking around as if you’re doing something wrong — and getting a surprise visit from the owner just as you’re snapping away at your client who’s bent over the arm of their antique sofa is not going to go over well, in my opinion.
I’m up front about my boudoir business and I love talking about it. The truth shall set you free. It really is liberating. I’m also proud of the work I do and the service I provide.
So yeah, I’d let them know right from the get-go. But sell it! Explain to them why their place is so awesome to shoot in. Tell them how they have great light and how you love the decor. Get them excited about it too!
Shoot Boudoir In A Yoga, Dance, or Art Studio
Another set of possibilities is checking out your local yoga, dance, and art studio… or any similar type business that utilizes an open space large enough to shoot in.
You could bring along your inflatable bed with linens or chair you like to shoot clients in and you’re set. Windows that let in natural light and afford privacy will of course be key. Just make sure you bring along some sheer curtains you can get at Target for like $8 and duct tape to fasten them to the sill.
Offer a trade in services if you’re short on funds or would just rather not use money as your currency.
Poses with the client standing next to the window, lying on the floor, sitting against the wall are all shots that don’t require any furniture at all, so don’t let not having a bedroom with a real bed stop you. Improvise. Be inventive. Adapt your shoot to the environment you have to work with — make it work.
Shoot Boudoir In A Temporary Office Rental Space
Okay, this one might sound strange but hear me out.
There is a boom right now in temporary office space rental. Companies are popping up and serving the need for temporary and part-time office space. They’ve become quite popular and more and more businesses that don’t need full-time office space are taking advantage of the opportunity.
Most will come with various monthly subscription fees at various levels, depending on usage. I’ve seen rates as low as $80/month up to $500/month, but check your local area. You may find something even cheaper.
This, of course, is dependent on if the space itself will work for you but you can almost guarantee plenty of windows with bright sunlight pouring in. You’d have to have a private office obviously instead of those shared office space layouts, but it’s worth seeing what’s out there.
The logistics of this will be rather challenging if there’s office furniture that needs to be moved but see if there’s any with no office furniture… and bring that inflatable bed of yours. By the way, it’s the kind that gets inflated after you’re inside the space, not before. You might get some curious looks lugging an inflatable bed into a rented office along with your client in tow.
Shoot Boudoir In A Treehouse
A treehouse is another great spot you can schedule a boudoir shoot. First, find a large treehouse that gets lots of sunlight.
Second, sweep out all leaves, twigs, and squirrel poop.
Third, inflate your inflatable bed being careful not to pop it on any protruding nails and thus ruining the shoot.
Fourth, help your client up into the treehouse once she arrives (she may have to remove her heels though… or not! Maybe she’s got skills!).
Fifth, dedicate a corner of the treehouse for a hair and makeup station.
And finally, make sure you have plenty of nuts on hand to distract squirrels from scurrying into your frame and ruining your shot. (I hope you realize by now I’m kidding… or am I?)
Why I Don’t Recommend Shooting “Boudoir” Outdoors
First of all, if you’ve read any of my previous articles you’re probably familiar with my now infamous rant that getting pictures taken of yourself in intimate apparel outside is not boudoir. It’s an outdoor modeling shoot.
There, I’ve drawn a line in the sand with my selfie-stick and I’m not budging. But if you’d like to crawl inside my head and read my in-depth reasoning on that then just click on this link here.
So, What’s This Inflatable Bed You Keep Mentioning?
An inflatable bed is basically a large inflatable mattress that’s roughly the height of a box spring and mattress together, as opposed to an inflatable mattress that’s a lot thinner. This gives the appearance of a real bed and not just a mattress on the floor.
A lot of boudoir photographers use them because they’re so easy to move around within a space and to transport since there’s no frame. Once you throw some sheets and pillows on them you can’t tell the difference.
If you’re interested in purchasing one, get the queen size and not the twin. The queen size gives your model plenty of room to sprawl out on and will just look better in your photos. The twin size will be too small and look like you’re shooting on a kid size bed because, well, you are.
Almost all models come with an electric pump of some kind and inflates quick and hassle free. They’re also reasonably priced from around $60 to $120 and can turn any type of room into looking like a bedroom.
Here’s the one I use if you’re interested. It’s around $65.
That’s A Wrap!
As you can see, there are plenty of options where you can shoot boudoir if you don’t have your own studio. In short, you don’t need one. You can get by without one for a long time or until the volume of your business warrants one. But for now, don’t sweat it.
Finding the right spot can take some time and research but stick with it. There’s something out there that will work for you, I’m sure of it.
If you found this article helpful, please forward it to someone it may also benefit.
Thanks for your time!
Founder / Lounge Boudoir
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