Many boudoir photographers offer “Couples Boudoir” in addition to their regular boudoir offerings… but it’s not really boudoir and I’ll explain why in a minute. I’m not knocking it, I just think the genre is still in its infancy and hasn’t quite found its footing yet… still trying to discover exactly what it is, and still seeking to define itself.
Along with my reasoning, I’ll also offer what I feel “Couples Boudoir” should really be called and why.
Are you ready? This is going to get interesting, I promise. Don’t hate on me just yet.
I can understand how the label “Couples Boudoir” came about, how it evolved from boudoir photographers photographing just women, to women and their husbands, or boyfriends, or girlfriends.
Women who got a solo boudoir shoot wanted to go through that same experience again… yet in a slightly altered way, sharing it with a partner this time. Boudoir photographers were really the only type of photographers women could turn to because it so closely resembled boudoir… in a way.
I mean, who else are you going to get to photograph you and your lover in intimate poses? Your local sports photographer? Uh… no. The one who specializes in high school seniors? Mmm… probably not. Anyway, you get my point. A boudoir photographer is the logical choice.
Calling it “Couples Boudoir” made sense, because it was two people being intimately photographed… by a boudoir photographer. However, that doesn’t make it boudoir.
Okay, Why Is It Not Boudoir?
In a previous article I wrote entitled, “What Is Boudoir Photography and Why Is It Critical You Know?” I go into great detail on what I believe boudoir photography is, and what it is not. Without repeating myself too much, I’ll just give you a brief definition of “boudoir” here.
Boudoir photography is a genre of photography where women, from every walks of life, get sexy photos taken of themselves in lingerie (or other types of intimate apparel) in usually a bedroom setting to celebrate, acknowledge, and express their sexuality and their bodies.
My main point here is that boudoir is about focusing on the woman… one woman, and capturing her female form in an artistic and sensual way. In other words, it’s all about her and her sexual expressiveness and essence as a woman.
Adding Another Person
When you add another person into the mix it’s no longer about the woman, the focus now shifts to the relationship between the two people. It’s all about the bond and connection those two people share.
Which is great and wonderful, and worthy of being photographed in an artistic fashion.
However, I don’t think the word “boudoir” should be a part of that. I think it should be called an Intimate Couples Shoot. I believe that is a much more accurate description of what that type of photography is really all about.
The Other Problem I Have With Calling It “Couples Boudoir”
The other problem I have with using the word “boudoir” when photographing two sexually intimate people is when they are simulating sex acts with various poses. That, to me, is not boudoir but rather erotica.
In that same article I mentioned earlier (that you can link to here), I compare boudoir with erotica and explain how different those two genres really are. So, I won’t repeat myself here.
I will say this though, boudoir and erotica are quite different because they express different intentions. Granted, the line can get blurry between boudoir and erotica but that’s a discussion for another time.
Another Reason Not To Call It “Couples Boudoir”
Calling it “Couples Boudoir” limits its potential. It puts it in a box and keeps it from evolving much faster than it could because it’s so closely tied to the word “boudoir”. It needs to shake itself free from that moniker in order for it to truly become its own thing… it’s own genre.
Different Variations on Intimate Couples Shoots
Below are several examples of different types of Intimate Couples Shoots that a boudoir photographer could offer their clients. This would help both the photographer and the people taking part in guiding the direction of the shoot, and also adding a unique angle or flavor to the shoot to make it more specific.
Specificity is more interesting than generality. Specificity is about making strong choices, and strong choices is what makes art interesting.
The Romantic Intimate Couples Shoot
The Romantic Intimate Couples Shoot would (as the title implies) be very romantic in nature. The entire shoot would be designed to express romance and the romantic connection between the two people taking part.
This could involve rose petals on a bed or floating atop the water of a steamy bath, candles, satin sheets on the bed where the loving couple is entwined in a romantic embrace staring into each other’s eyes.
Romance is basically toned down sexuality. It’s sex, but done in a way that is socially acceptable. And since it is done in a socially acceptable way, the sex is, of course, implied. It’s really the moments before the sex happens, it’s the foreplay.
The focus could be on the “look” of love, which is the attraction one sees in the other — or the kiss, the touch, the embrace, the undressing… everything that leads up to sex… but not the act itself.
That’s one way to go.
The Erotic Intimate Couples Shoot
The Erotic Intimate Couples Shoot will be more raw, more intense, and of course, more graphic. The limits of which would be determined beforehand with the photographer and the couple involved.
Real erotica likes to push the boundaries and likes to get in your face. Shoots of this nature could involve bondage, simulated sex acts (but done in an artistic way), and submission and dominance.
It also seems to involve turning images into black and white. Erotica uses black and white to turn “shocking” images into art. Not always, but I think by turning erotica into black and white it legitimizes, differentiates, and distances itself from pornography.
(Think about it, any image made into a black and white immediately looks more artistic.)
Erotica tends to focus on the act of sex itself. It’s physical more than emotional, blatant more than subtle, and daring more than safe.
It’s the antithesis of romance.
The Sensual Intimate Couples Shoot
The Sensual Intimate Couples Shoot would fall somewhere in between the Romance and Erotic categories. It would be for couples who want a bit more edge to their session but not to the point of shocking anyone or being too revealing.
This, of course, would be on a sliding scale depending on the couple and how they would want to be captured.
The Themed Intimate Couples Shoot
Yet another possibility would be to have a Themed Intimate Couples Shoot. This would involve some type of theme or scenario that the couple would want to partake in.
Film Noir could be very cool (in black and white of course) You could also create a loose story with two film noir character types.
Historical Costumes could work. In fact, I’ve seen it done in Viking outfits on the shores of a rocky beach with swords and battle armor.
The Voyeuristic POV Intimate Couples Shoot
Shooting from a Voyeuristic POV is something I’ve been experimenting with in my work lately, and could be very cool for an Intimate Couples Shoot. The idea is to shoot from a distance, let’s say with a 35mm lens, so you get more of the setting in the shot.
You then have something in the foreground that’s soft and out of focus with your couple in the background in focus. The purpose of the fuzzy foreground object is to give the impression that you’re seeing something private and sexual in nature, hence a voyeuristic POV, which amps up the interest even more.
Adding Yet Another Layer
Adding another element to each of these examples would be lighting. You could offer all natural daylight, which would fit some of these scenarios, or you could offer dramatic moody lighting, which would probably suit others better.
This would only be an option if you shot in these two different lighting styles.
What Are Some Special Occasions To Get an Intimate Couples Shoot?
There are several reasons why two people may want to get an Intimate Couples Shoot. It could be to celebrate an anniversary of some kind, whether it be a wedding anniversary or just a special date that holds sentimental value to the couple.
What better gift to share between the two of you than to spend an afternoon being photographed in an Intimate Couples Shoot? Not only will the images be a special and unique gift that you both give and receive to each other in the form of an album or wall art, but the session itself will serve as a memorable experience the two of you will always have.
Many couples plan regular date nights within their busy schedules where they get to spend quality time with one another. Instead of dinner and a movie, planning an Intimate Couples Shoot will certainly break up the routine of dinner and a movie.
The End of a Chapter
I discovered one couple who wanted to memorialize the last time it would just be the two of them before they started a family. It marked the end of a chapter in their lives and they wanted to capture what they had shared together, before the arrival of children.
Maternity Plus One
To preserve and treasure the arrival of a new baby is also a great reason why people partake in an Intimate Couples Shoot. The theme doesn’t always have to be “sexy”. Instead of (or along with) the mother-to-be getting a solo maternity shoot, including the father-to-be as well seems only fitting.
As a Keepsake Time Capsule
Wouldn’t it be interesting to get an Intimate Couples Shoot at the very start of your relationship when you’re both young and vibrant with life as a keepsake for when the two of you are mature in later years to look back on?
Just To Celebrate the Two of You
You don’t need a special occasion to indulge in an Intimate Couples Shoot. Just being alive and in love is reason enough.
So, Why Am I Making Such a Stink About All This?
“Couples Boudoir” … “Intimate Couples Shoot” …
Does it really matter what you call it?
Yes, I think it does.
Boudoir is expanding and evolving at a rapid rate and new off-shoots seem to be popping up everywhere with Couples Boudoir, Bridal Boudoir, and even Dude-oir (and if you’re interested on what I have to say about that just refer to my article, “What Boudoir Is Not”, my opinion may surprise you).
I also see a lot of “boudoir photography” as a big mish-mash of whatever. Anything goes! Any woman posing in her underwear is boudoir!
I’ve seen a woman posing with her pet rats (yes, rats!) crawling around on the bed with her as “boudoir” just because she’s in bra and panties.
I’ve seen a woman covering her privates with slices of pizza lying in bed as “boudoir”.
Don’t even get me started on the barn boudoir shoot in a bunch of hay.
Hey, why not shoot a woman in a sexy teddy on a roller-coaster and call it boudoir?!
This is not boudoir. It’s something else. Please don’t call it boudoir.
Am I a Purest?
I don’t think one has to be labeled a purest to call something what it is, and then call other things that are not that, something else. (I know, I had to read that sentence again as well.)
I understand the definition of boudoir has expanded to include locations outside the bedroom but still within the house like the kitchen, a hallway, or a bathroom (which I happen to agree with). But those are all private, intimate spaces within the home with the expectation of privacy, which I believe is integral to being part of a boudoir shoot. Taking it outside changes everything. (You can read why in this article here.)
The Bigger Picture
Having rules and conventions for genres is a good thing. Having rules and conventions for boudoir photography is a good thing.
Hey, I know people are going to do whatever they want to do. I’m not fooling myself. But if you’re interested in reaching the pinnacle of your art form, then having a clearly defined set of rules and standards is a necessity.
A simple analogy would be to take any sport, like tennis for example.
If you had one group of people playing tennis with one set of rules, and another group of people playing by another set, and still another group making up rules for tennis to whatever they want, how do you establish what tennis is? Perhaps you could play tennis on a golf course, just string up a net somewhere on the faraway and call it tennis. Hey, it’s two people with racquets hitting a ball over a net, isn’t that close enough?
How can anyone become the best tennis player in the world if there are no universal standards for which to judge them by? How do you strive towards excellence if there are no universal restrictions for whatever field you’re operating in? The answer is, you can’t.
It’s only where rules and standards exist that one can achieve excellence, because otherwise there’s nothing to measure against.
Without standards there’s no way to excel at your craft, there’s no way to master your craft because there’s nothing in place to define it.
If you found this article helpful or just plain annoying feel free to forward it to someone you want to help… or annoy.
Thanks for your time!
Founder / Lounge Boudoir
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