The term "boudoir photography" brings to mind scenes along the lines of a woman dressed in lingerie, standing near a window, adjusting her attire. Perhaps we imagine a woman who is partially nude lying on a bed. However, this interpretation of boudoir photography does not have to be the only way this genre is defined. If you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and expand your interpretation of what a boudoir session looks like, you may be able to dramatically increase your clientele and sales.
No matter how lucrative your boudoir photography business may be, you are leaving money on the table if you are not offering your services to male clients. We associate boudoir photography with women subjects, but some men love being photographed in this way as well. The proliferation of social media has made many men more comfortable sharing and celebrating their appearance with others. If you choose to add male sessions to your boudoir offerings, you may be surprised at how many of your female clients will bring their boyfriends or husbands in for a boudoir photography session after their positive experience working with you.
Photography by Lindsay Carlisle
Lindsay Carlisle is a boudoir photographer with studios in Tulum, Mexico and Los Angeles, California, who recently began offering male boudoir sessions in addition to female sessions. Adding male boudoir shoots was more involved than simply adding a few lines of text to her website. Lindsay needed to develop poses that worked for male clients and figure out how to set a mood during the session that would make men feel comfortable in the vulnerable setting of a sexy photo shoot. She also needed to understand how a male session would be different from a female session.
Photography by Lindsay Carlisle
Boudoir sessions are often marketed to women as a way of acknowledging milestones in their lives. These milestones include getting divorced or turning 50 years old. Male clients usually have similar motivations for wanting to do a boudoir shoot. “What I find with my clients is that most of them are going through some kind of transformation in their life. This can look like a divorce, leaving a relationship, entering one, or maybe they're on a weight loss journey. They're really discovering themselves in a new way or they're looking for a way to learn to love themselves more, to love their bodies more. Usually, my clients are awakening in some kind of way. And so they're looking to work on their relationship with themselves through boudoir photography to help support their personal growth journey,” Lindsay said.
My male clients usually have the same motivations when booking their boudoir session. One difference I see, though, between male and female clients is that the men I photograph are, more often than my female clients, also having photos done as a gift to their partner or their spouse. I can see this starting to shift as male boudoir photography becomes more popular. Just like decades ago, the idea of a woman doing photos simply as a gift to herself was far less common. As the boudoir industry has grown and these photos have become more normalized, many women have dropped that misconception and started booking sessions as a gift for themselves. And I think that as male boudoir photography increases in popularity, we'll see more men ready to book a boudoir session solely for themselves too.
For all clients, regardless of gender, the pre-consultation phone call is necessary to ensure that the client is properly prepared and to ensure that the client understands how events will transpire during the shoot:
My clients get a lot of prep material at the time of booking their boudoir session, and depending on their gender, yes, they will receive different types of material, helpful tips, and images within those materials. For example, typically, my male clients aren't going out and getting waxed or getting their nails done before their boudoir shoot. So, the resources that I provide to them leading up to their photo shoot are customized for their own unique experience with me.
Photography by Lindsay Carlisle
The people who are on set are an important concern for a boudoir photographer. Whether you are photographing men or women, having the wrong energy on set can make it difficult for you to set the proper mood on your shoot. Lindsay often has a makeup artist on set during her female boudoir sessions. The makeup artist is female. “I think that my female clients especially are happy to have the makeup artist there for touchups if they need it. I think that's reassuring to a lot of my clients who are like: 'well, what if my lipstick wears off or my hair starts to fall flat halfway through?'”
In Lindsay’s experience, men are more concerned than women about who will be present on set during the shoot:
My male clients are more interested in having someone on set to help alleviate any tension or nerves they might feel or to help them just feel like this is a very professional environment. They like knowing there is a small team and that they are supported. Both genders do ask who will be there during the photoshoot, but I do tend to get this question more from men.
The shot list is crucial for a boudoir photographer. Most shooters base the price of the shoot on how many images the client selects. Developing an arsenal of poses can lead to increased sales. There are quite a few standard female boudoir poses that tend to sell well. These include them woman wearing a man’s white button-up shirt, lying on her back on a bed with her back arched, and looking out of a window. Most of these poses are not transferable to male clients, so a photographer entering this genre will have to invest time in developing poses that work for males.
With females, my aesthetic tends to lean toward a dancer or yoga vibe. So, we're doing a lot of stretching, a lot of toe pointing and back arching, elongating the torso, etc. With male clients, that all goes out the window. We're not pointing any toes, we're not arching that much. It's much, much more relaxed posing. We're taking simple movements and postures that men will make naturally and exaggerating them a bit to create an interesting image. With male clients, I'm often using fewer angles, and I'm not working to emphasize curves. It's much more relaxed. So, the poses tend to be very simple. That can be good, but if you're not careful, the poses start to blend, and the images all start to look alike. And that's where wardrobe changes really help. For my male clients, I usually recommend starting with an open button-down shirt with jeans. Then, we lose the button-down and often do something similar to an old-school Calvin Klein ad look: shirtless with jeans, which I really like. From there, we usually move to fitted boxers. I advise them to wear black because I shoot very moody, so it goes best with my shooting style. By the end of the session, my male clients will almost always go nude, either implied or full.
Provided a photographer understands the subtle difference between working with female and male boudoir clients, it would be wise for any boudoir photographer to consider adding male shoots to their offerings:
It's definitely something to consider. Men deserve to feel sexy and get a confidence boost too. More and more, men are opening up to the idea of doing their own boudoir shoot, and I think this is amazing. It's been incredibly rewarding providing my service to men, many of whom have shared their struggle to even find someone willing to photograph them. I'd love to see this side of the boudoir industry expanding to be more inclusive.
For photographers considering entering the male boudoir market, Lindsay suggests photographers operate from a place of understanding when they receive inquiries from men. A female photographer may occasionally receive emails from men that she considers inappropriate or even creepy. These emails are not inquiries; they are more akin to the type of rude comments that you see posted on any forum that allows anonymous posting. This can lead female photographers to become a bit wary of an inquiry from a man, even when he simply wants to schedule a boudoir shoot for himself.
We understand that a woman does not need to have a body like Emily Ratajkowski to want to do a boudoir shoot. Photographers need to show the same level of understanding when receiving an inquiry from a man. Asking why he wants to do the shoot should only be done in the most positive manner. It should never be framed as: "what is wrong with this guy that he wants to do a boudoir shoot?"
Keep an open mind. Understand that just like women, men also struggle with how they feel about their body and overall confidence and self-esteem. Men deserve the opportunity as well to work on that through boudoir photos.
Photography by Lindsay Carlisle
For a male photographer considering offering male boudoir images, it is important that you be comfortable on your own set. Whatever you are feeling will be projected onto your client. If you are nervous, you are going to make the person you are photographing nervous. Many male clients will be more comfortable working with a female photographer, and you might consider adding one to your team. You can have an option on your website that allows a client to choose between two photographers of different genders. The client should understand that the quality of the images will be the same no matter which person from the team they chose to work with.
I think the number one thing to keep in mind is your client is always going to be way more nervous than you are. They are half-naked in front of someone they just met. They're being very vulnerable. I mean, it's normal for both parties to be a bit nervous, especially if it's a photographer or a client’s first boudoir shoot. But the client is the one in a very vulnerable position, and the photographer's job is to make them feel as comfortable as possible and to create an atmosphere that feels professional, respectful, and welcoming. And so, I think, if a male photographer is trying to get into boudoir for men, it's important for them to put aside their own concerns and nerves and just focus on making their client comfortable and taking exceptional photos of them. I’ve been hearing from men in my community, and they feel there are not many professional boudoir photographers willing to photograph them. With all the talented boudoir photographers out there, I hope more will start to experiment with male sessions. They are such a gift to our clients. There is a growing demand for male boudoir sessions, and at the end of the day, we're all just human, trying to love and celebrate ourselves.
Images used with permission.