Friday, June 8, 2012

How to do a self-portrait Boudoir photography shoot (or DIY Boudoir Shoot)

Yes, I have been quiet lately! A big project that I have been working on for a while has had my attention, so I am guilty of not posting for a while. Now, I can finally say what the project was!

I did a boudoir shoot for my husband's birthday! For those of you who have done a shoot like this, I think you'll agree that it is very liberating! It is a great way to let your confidence and sexy show, especially if you don't believe you have either! Even if you don't think you are photogenic, it can turn out great and beautiful!  A great photographer can bring that out in you!

My shoot was a bit more challenging than the usual shoot though. I wanted my husband's gift to be ..... well, me.....but also my photography skills. ....So, I did my own shoot!  

For obvious reasons, I limited the photos that I put in this post.  I had trouble deciding which photos to include. I decided to error on the conservative side and keep my panties and other bits off the internet. So, there is one photo.  I think these give a good representation of how PG shots can be fun and sexy (The rest of the photos are reserved for the hubby! ;)

Everyday a la Mode_How to do a self-portrait Boudoir photography shoot



The overall project took place over 5 months in about 6 separate shoots!  Each shoot included multiple clothing and set changes. I used a tripod and remote for each shoot, using my ol' Nikon D40 with an external shoe-mount flash. I also used additional lighting (like turning on every light in the room since I do not have real lighting).  It helped though to do each shoot during the day to maximize the natural light.

The biggest challenge was of course controlling the to focus on someone who isn't in position yet! One way I did this was to focus on an object like detailed pillow if I was going to be sitting or on a broom pole that I leaned against the wall when I was going to stand. I set the lens on manual focus and focused on the object. Then, I would move the object and get into position.  It also helped to position a tall leaning mirror behind the tripod so I could adjust my pose as needed.

What a fly on the wall would have seen...

During those shoots, the fly on the wall would see me changing poses several times, several different expressions, different angles, and several clicks. Then, me crawling back the camera to check if the focus was still good, if I was lined up with background well, if my feet or head or hands were in frame correctly, etc. I would make adjustments to the camera or adjust the lighting, then I would crawl back to do it again.  And repeat A LOT of times!  It's a long process!

After each shoot, I would review the photos, deleting the "yuck" (and there were many!) and ranking the remaining. The group I found to be the best were processed in Photoshop to correct exposure settings, sharpen, and to make color tone adjustments such as black and white or to enhance colors.

Patience is a virtue!

As you may be learning about me, I tend to be a perfectionist. The overall project took place over 5 months in about 6 separate shoots. Over 2000 photos were taken, only 19 made it to the final group. There were multiple clothing changes and set changes.

This project took so long for a few reasons. At first, I was not fully comfortable with the idea of the shoot. I was thinking what if someone found these photos and what if they looked unprofessional and what if my husband thinks.....etc, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah, excuses, excuses, excuses...

Photos from the first two shoots never made it to the final set, but those shoots were definitely not a waste! They were great for my learning curve with the focus and lighting challenges and helped me to relax and have fun! When a woman gets a boudoir shoot done by a hired photographer, a good photographer will be encouraging and give good energy and direction. While doing your own shoot gives you the control and privacy you may want, you need bring the positive energy, creativity, and direction yourself or it won't be there and that gap will show in the project!

Another reason the project took so long was life gets in the way.  I scheduled the shoots when the family would be gone. At one point, I thought I was done with the album, but my husband's birthday was not for another month. I was excited to give him his gift and see his reaction, so asked him if we could celebrate his birthday early. Seriously! He said no, his birthday is May. So, May it is! The voice talking in my head was thinking, "Seriously?!  ....Oh, wait, is HIS birthday.....hum...". So I was patient and waited.  The extra time gave me more time to over-analyze the work. I found myself saying "This could be better....this should be from a different angle.... Oh! What about this composition instead?!". While I was overcritical, having the delay was actually a good thing! Some of my favorite photos ended up being from that last shoot! I love how playful it came out!

The Gift - Mission Success!

We had to go out of town unexpectedly over my husband's birthday weekend. The situation was not what I had planned, so I had to improvise to make it the best.  Weirdly enough, I gave him his gift at a bar since it was the first time that day we were alone. I tried to get a seat at the end of the bar, but the seats were taken. So, while we were seated in the middle of the bar, he opened the present. He had a big smile and was very surprised! I had to remind him to keep the album low so we didn't show the whole bar!  :)  He loved it! He even said he wanted to show some close friends of ours!  That is the most awesome compliment he could give me, as a photographer and as a woman!

Pointers for Do-It-Yourselfers

If you plan to do a DIY boudoir shoot...
  • Research professional boudoir photography websites.  There are some awesome ones out there! You can get great ideas on posing and lighting and composition. Let these ideas trigger some of your own ideas to make it more personal. 
  • Talk with supportive friends. They may have great inspirations to share and may be able to give you encouragement.  Awesome energy helps this project to be successful! 
  • Use a tripod and remote!  This will greatly simplify the shoot.
  • Attention to the camera focus can not be stressed enough. Place an object were you are going to be and use manual focus. Then, get into position as close as possible to that were that object was.
  • Use as much natural light as possible. It will help you to keep the colors true.
  • Use props and/or costumes and different locations! Have fun with the shoot!  One of my shoots consisted of a sexy shoes, thigh high stockings, a Fedora, and a man's suit jacket and a tie.  It was a fun, playful shoot and was my favorite!  As for different locations, I shot all over my house. I also picked up a roll of paper from a local craft store and used it to create a backdrop.   When I was in editing, I used the Photoshop patch tool to remove the seams in the paper. After editing, it looks like a solid backdrop!
  • Shots do not need to be rated R. PG or PG13 shots can be sexy and fun and classy!  I think my results came out upscale, sexy, classy, artistic, yet still fun.
  • Pay attention to the details. Notice how your hands are placed. Do you have a better side of your face or body? Use it to your advantage and position the shoot to focus on that angle. 
  • Reduce attention to what you prefer to hide. If you have things you prefer to hide (and what women doesn't after having kids!), pose to hide those things. For example, creative placement of a man's jacket or a shawl or a towel can be a great accent in the photo, but can hide a lot!
  • Smile, don't smile.  Smile sometimes, then for other shots, do a sultry look (practice in a mirror). Sometimes, look to the side or look up and smile. Vary your expression.
  • Do several shots in sequence, then check those shots in the camera. Are you framed in the shot as you planned? Or is only half of your head in the shot?  Is your hand cut out of the shot?  Notice what adjustments are needed so you can fix them when you get back in position.
  • Shoot in raw, if your camera can. It will give you more flexibility in editing.  
  • Edit to enhance the photo. It may be sharpen or soften or converting to black and white or enhancing colors. You are the artist, so bring out the best of the photo! If you use PhotoShop, there are websites that have free actions to process edits. They are awesome! Check them out!
  • Print on a high quality printer using high quality paper. I have one so I didn't need to worry about privacy issues.  
  • Put your photos in an nice album.  I found a good one at a scrapbooking store. I preferred white pages since they do not distract from the photos. I tried black pages, but I personally didn't like the tone of the black when the photo was placed on it. To me, it reduced the quality of the photo. In my opinion, the white page keeps the quality of the print high.
  • Be Confident!  Confidence makes a much better photo! 
  • Most importantly, relax and have fun!  When you relax, you'll find the results are better! Enjoy the fun of the shoot!  Enjoy and celebrate your sensuality and being a woman!  Women are beautiful and powerful! Celebrate it!   

One of my reasons for starting this blog was for me to experiment and grow. This project was definitely part of this process!

Have you had a boudoir shoot done either a DIY or professionally? I would like to hear more about your experience! Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

*** Update:
This post has been linked in MyBridalPix 's post titled "Boudoir Book The Best Grooms Gift Ever!".  It's a great resource for DIY Boudoir books! Swing by a take a look!

Enjoy More!

Like the idea? I would be honored for you to link back to this post!


  1. Will you do another shoot using what you learned from the first one?

    1. Thank you for asking! Maybe someday. The shoot was fun, but VERY time consuming since I was on both sides of the camera and I can be a detail-oriented spaz. I have other projects I plan to work on in 2013, so I have to see how it goes.

  2. Thank you for this detailed post!! I want to do a boudoir shoot for my husband's anniversary gift, but I really can't afford professional prices right now, and I don't have friends in the area I feel comfortable taking these kinds of photos of me, so I'll be doing it solo. Again, this information is so helpful!


    1. Hi Amy! That's great! Cost was also one of the reasons I decided to do the shoot myself. Since I'm a Photography Hobbyist (for lack of a better title), I thought it would be a great way to learn more about lighting, staging, aperture, etc. It was a fun experience! My husband loved the album!
      I hope you will comment again and let me know how your shoot turned out! Good luck!

    2. Our first anniversary was last week, and my husband loved the album! And I had a lot of fun putting it together (more than I thought I would, ha). Learned a lot about Photoshop, too. I definitely second your tip about using a wireless remote; I would've been worn out using a self-timer (just make sure it's well hidden in your hand, or use it in combination with a self-timer to give yourself time to tuck it out of the way... I had to use the Patch and Clone tools to erase the timer from my hand in one favorite shot!).

      Three tips I'd add: 1) If you don't feel particularly sexy one day, don't feel like doing make-up, your hair isn't washed, etc... set up your tripod anyway and take photos of just your legs on some rumpled bedsheets, or your booty in your partner's fave undies, or a torso-to-hips shot in nice lingerie. 2) I put together an "ideas" folder on my computer from various boudoir photography sites (most don't let you directly save an image, but you can easily take a screenshot and save that), which gave me inspiration for various poses/shots. And 3) I had good luck finding some sheer curtains at Goodwill to put over the windows (I'm in an apartment, so that provided more privacy while still letting in natural light) as well as a large red curtain I used as a backdrop in a few shots.

      Oh, and a bonus tip: Hide your photos well on your computer so s/he doesn't stumble upon them! Hide your tracks, too, by saving a file to the desktop after you save one to your boudoir folder (so your computer doesn't automatically try to save to that folder the next time you use that software).


    3. Hi Amy! I apologize for the delay in my response to your comment!!! It was in my spam folder and I just saw it.

      Great comment! I also had a folder of ideas and found Christa Meola's site had lots of poses and tips. I also kept a small notebook with me so I could sketch out ideas. My husband doesn't use my pc, so I didn't need to hide the photos too much. :)

      Thank you for sharing your feedback!!!

  3. This post helped me in my pursuit of DIY Boudoir photos. The only real cost was the false eyelashes. I shot them myself using the self timer, tripod and home printer. I dropped the kids at school, came home and went to work. My tips: all white bedding and lots of pillows-make the bed lush. Sally Hansens panty hose in a can- all over the whole body, it bronzes and hides imperfections like red bumps and veins. Bronzer- I brushed it on to create subtle ab lines and roundness around my cleavage. A manicure- if your planning on doing some topless pics with your hands covering yourself, you want everything to be pretty.

    1. Hi Anon! I apologize for the delay in my response to your comment!!! It was in my spam folder and I just saw it.

      I'm all for hiding the things that need to be hidden and accenting our gifts! :) I agree, a mani is strongly recommended. The small details makes the shoot work! Thank you for sharing your tips!

  4. Thank you for all the advice. I am doing this for our 5 year anniversary. Do you know of any photo editing websites(free) off hand.

    1. That's great, Jackie!!!

      I'm using an old version of Photoshop(5), so I can not recommend any free editors based on my experience. Does your camera have an editor? Some cameras have options built in (like exposure, etc) and some come with CDs. If not, I used Photoshop Elements years ago. It is much less expensive and the editor is easy to use (at least back then).
      There is an editor in Photobucket and it is free. It's very limited, but it may be enough.

      Good luck and have fun!!! Please comment back after your shoot and let me know how it goes!

  5. Hi Robyn,

    I'm working on a diy boudoir album as a groom's gift. I just wanted to know how you went about getting these photos developed....or did you keep them digital? In my experience, the developing services at drug stores aren't the best. I'm pretty good at photoshop and I don't want the quality diminished through the printing.

  6. Hi Robyn,

    I'm working on a diy boudoir album as a groom's gift. I just wanted to know how you went about getting these photos developed....or did you keep them digital? In my experience, the developing services at drug stores aren't the best. I'm pretty good at photoshop and I don't want the quality diminished through the printing.

    1. Hi Ludell! For this type of album, I personally like traditional printed photos. I selected a classic album and matted the photos. Since privacy is important to me and my personal printer prints well, I printed my album on it. Good luck with your album!

  7. Thank you for the tips! I will be shooting myself (wow that sounds bad) this weekend and I'm nervous but can't wait!! Luckily I have a tripod and remote but I will have to lock myself in the small bedroom while he's home to get it done. It will be for valentines day so I won't have as much time. I'm not great with indoor photography so any advice? Also I won't have the best lighting and I'm using a d3200 55mm

    1. That's great! It's a fun project! The most important advice I can offer on indoor photography is lighting, lighting, and lighting. Turn all of the lights on in the room. I don't have professional photo lighting. I moved desk lamps and other lamps into the rooms. I angled the lamps to bounce the light off the walls and ceiling so the lighting wouldn't be as harsh. Doing this will improve the quality of the shots and help reduce graininess.

      Also, don't just limit yourself to the bedroom. The living room, den, shower, hall, or deck can make great backgrounds. Be creative and think out of the box. Put a blanket or sheet on the floor. Or use a stair rail or corner to your advantage. The room may not even be recognizable in the final shot.

      Good luck and have fun!!! Let me know how it turns out!

  8. I used a green screen for our wedding photo booth, and I bought the set up early on. My excuse was practice setting up the green screen (not entirely a lie). This was an amazing tool for my own photo shoot, because I was not limited by my setting at all!!!! This meant I have beautiful window shots without having to actually stand topless in front of a window! I mean, don't get me wrong, a green screen is not easy, along with a solo photo shoot, but the determination REALLY paid off. My hubby and a few lucky close friends all agreed they looked professional!
    My Tips:
    - Be patient!!! It takes a lot of photos, sorting, and editing to get the very best photos out of your shoots.
    - A few sit up/push ups (to inflame muscles with blood & reduced nerves), bronzer, and oil before a shoot go a LONG way for very flattering photos.
    - Buy thrift clothes for sexy outfits (wash well) as I ended up with over 14 outfits in total (plus, B/W photos allow for easy mix and match) and to buy brand name lingerie new would have cost more than my entire shoot set up!!!!
    - Pixlr and Krita (Both free) came in VERY handy for editing.
    It was difficult and took almost 8 months for a full book, and the courage to send the photos through shutterfly to create a real book. But entirely worth it and the risk that a stranger now has some very personal photos of mine. But the finished book was amazing and totally worth it. Best of Luck!

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  10. Thanks for the tips! I have already have the tools i just need to get started

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