Boudoir Photography – How To Get Started

I get a lot of questions about what we do as Boudoir photographers, and how to get started in boudoir photography, and I of course want to give a decent answer to any questions newcomers might have. After all, I was a newcomer once. Sometimes, even I struggle with a good response to one particular question, namely this one:

“What camera gear do I need to get started with Boudoir photography?”

Well, to put it simply, what you need is a camera, any camera, in good working condition, one or two good lenses, and enough film, memory cards and spare batteries to keep you going through a shoot.

I know, cop-out answer, so let’s examine that statement.

First of all, your camera. Kinda important, right? Well, yes, and no. While you can’t take photos without a camera, the actual type of camera doesn’t really matter that much. You can get amazing results from modern high-end point-and-shoot compact cameras, like Sony’s RX100, Nikon’s Coolpix A, or similar models from makers such as Pentax, Fuji, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic, etc. You can get amazing results with older 35mm film cameras, or huge medium format film cameras like the ones I shlep to shoots. You can, of course, jump into the world of the DSLR, with some of the excellent consumer cameras such as Canon’s Rebel line, or Nikon’s D3300/5300 cameras. They come with a decent lens that is good enough to get you started (they usually look great at around f/8, by the way). If you can afford to, by all means, splurge on a top of the line full frame DSLR and a full compliment of high-end lenses, but for an absolute beginner, it’s not completely necessary.


Richelle - photographed by Stuart McConaghy / La Noctambule Boudoir Photography

There are arguments for and against using auto modes (the green square or the P setting on your mode dial).

Pro: while the camera takes care of the settings you can focus on your framing, and build your creative eye as you go along. You can learn the technical side later on.

Con: You’re giving up some creative control to your camera, and your camera doesn’t know what you want, so it guesses. And it frequently guesses wrong.

My recommendation is to not spend too much time on auto modes, but read your camera manuals cover to cover, over and over again, and practice. Practice a lot, learn how your camera reacts to settings, learn how shutter speed, aperture and ISO interact (that’s the subject for another post), and you will see a gradual improvement in both your work, and your understanding of photography.

Once you’ve worked quite a lot with the kit lens, you’ll probably notice little elements from other photographer’s photos, such as that lovely shallow depth of field from a so-called fast lens, that is a lens with a wider aperture. These lenses can go all the up to f/1.8, f/1.4, or even f/1.2. What’s the benefit? You get those lovely, creamy, dreamy out of focus areas where the background just dissolves into a haze, and the eye is drawn to your subject. And you don’t even have to spend thousands of dollars/euros/pounds/yen on the super-duper awesome lenses either to get that. Most camera brands make a 50mm f/1.8 lens that usually sports great image quality, are nice and sharp, and are  usually priced around 150 USD or less. Set it at f/2.8 and you’ll have one of those “So THAT’s how they do it!” moments.

By the way, don’t disregard mirrorless cameras, as those can be excellent alternatives to bulky DSLRs. The image quality is exceptional, and when it comes to Boudoir photography their reduced size can prove less intimidating to nervous clients. Sony and Olympus make some great cameras, and Fuji has several models that are widely in use in Boudoir photography around the world, especially the Fuji X100T, a little fixed-lens camera with a vintage look that is a simply awesome piece of gear. Some, like the smaller Olympus EM models are really affordable, too. Don’t get too hung up on the big names or the clunky DSLRs, I see all kinds of cameras when I’m shooting backstage at New York Fashion Week!



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