Boudoir Behaviors for Success

In one of photography’s most intimate genres, how do models and photographers alike maintain safety, integrity, and fun? The Hustling Creative’s newest featured artist, photographer Michael Marshall, sheds light (sorry, I had to) on practical tips and appropriate behavior.


Throughout my many years in the photography business, I have found few subjects as polarizing as boudoir. When created tastefully, boudoir images have the power to make the subject feel confident, empowered, and yes, sexy. Yet well-documented issues ranging from seasoned professionals abusing their position to get what they want to models compromising themselves for discounted or free images have caused a stigma around the genre in the photography industry. However, I still love boudoir’s unique ability to empower the subject and truly let creativity run wild.

My years of experience have exposed me to many encounters, unfortunately, not all entirely pleasant. But these have taught me a number of things that both the photographer and the client can do to make sure the shoot is successful and safe and keeps both parties confident in the creative process. I outline some of the steps and behaviors I employ to keep the client and subject comfortable and powerful (while also covering my own ass).

1. Hold a Meeting

As a photographer, many of my subjects are new to boudoir—having a formal sit-down at a neutral location (like a coffee shop) prior to shooting builds confidence for the shoot and the client’s confidence in me. It adds a validity and professionalism to the booking, so the subject knows I’m not a creep with a camera but an experienced and attentive professional. I also get to know the client’s personality so I can better direct and coach them once I’m behind the camera. Different people respond to different direction! This is also the time to build: outfits, number of images, and ways of fostering confidence.

2. Have a Contract

Now that the client and the photographer have met and discussed details, it’s important to write them down, agreeing on expectations as thoroughly as possible. I’ve found throughout the years that this step is often overlooked, or not considered as important. However, signing a contract is possibly the most important thing that you can do, especially when working within such a stigmatized medium. Just like the meeting, a contract adds a whole layer of validity and professionalism to the shoot. Important elements to spell out include:

  • Date/time/location

  • Cost

  • Number of outfits

  • Turn-around time for image delivery

**Psst. Don’t know how to write a contract or come up with an invoice? Let The Hustling Creative help!

3. Phone a Friend

Once it comes time for the shoot, always have a third-party present. If the client wants to bring a friend, let them. If they don’t have someone available, or they are shy in front of friends, have an assistant who is the same gender as the subject. This adds a layer of comfort and allows the subject to perform more confidently, dynamically, and boldly for the camera.

For the safety of the photographer, I would recommend against the model bringing their significant other—sometimes, romantic partners can be jealous rather than supportive. If the client insists, I would highly recommend including that person in the initial meeting, as well as bringing an assistant to the shoot.

4. Don’t Be Creepy

Unfortunately, in this day and age, nothing goes without saying. In a boudoir shoot, the client is in a vulnerable state, typically in lingerie or in various states of undress. Don’t touch them. Don’t be vulgar when giving direction. Do be aware of your language. Sexual conversation should be avoided on the part of both the photographer and the model. When directing a pose, use hand gestures or hell, even demonstrate the pose yourself. I would also recommend keeping a robe on site for the model to wear between shots (photographers: have one available/models: bring one). The shoot should be an empowering and respectful experience for both the subject and the photographer.

I always follow these rules during photoshoots so that my clients and I feel comfortable exploring our creativity together. Ultimately, the goal is to keep everyone safe, and to maintain a professional environment. Photography is an expressive medium that anyone can take part in. Whether you are in front of the camera or behind it, you deserve to have a positive, and fun, experience.

Like what you read? Give us a shout! Want to work with Michael? Get in touch here.

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