Shooting boudoir outdoors is considered a no-no by purists in the boudoir world. They believe boudoir can only be done indoors and given the original definition of a boudoir was a ladies private sitting room, this perspective makes sense.
However, I say you can absolutely do boudoir photography outdoors if you do it right. In my view boudoir is about everyday women getting sexy yet classy photos of themselves. With that in mind, I see no reason why you can’t move outdoors if you wish to do so. To that end I wanted to give you some tips and considerations to create a successful experience.
Pick a Good Location
What makes a good location? That depends in part on what you want. Are you wanting an epic landscape, secluded forest, deserted beach, or a private garden? Depending on where you live you might have some of these nearby or only one of them. Some good places to look include:
Public Land: Public land is a great option, you can use National Forests, Conservation Land, and larger public parks. National parks and Monuments can be too crowded for the seclusion you need unless you go far off the beaten path which is frowned upon or illegal in some parks.
Vacation rental: You can find a lot of places featuring nice private backyards on AirBnb.
Private Property: You would be surprised how many people would allow a photographer to use their land if you ask nicely.
You will want to scout out the area you are planning to take pictures in. This means going there on a similar day and time you plan on visiting to see what it’s like. While this may not always be possible it is a best practice. Here are some things to take note of while you are there.
How busy is it?
How secluded is it?
Is there a good place to park?
How far will you need to walk?
Any poison ivy nearby (or other undesirable features)?
How is the light?
One last aspect I want to talk about is public nudity laws. You will want to be aware of the laws for the location you want to shoot at and decide if you are going/willing to run afoul of them.
For outfits you can use most of the same outfits you would shoot indoors and some of them would be even better outside, such as a cowgirl outfit. One tip with lingerie is to make it bright in color so it contrasts well with the natural environment.
You can also introduce outfits that wouldn’t have worked as well indoors. Examples would be:
Robes or lace dresses that flow in the wind
Another thing you need to be aware of is the clothes she will be wearing before you arrive and when you leave. A wrap or sun dress are good options for this to prevent clothing marks and they will also come in handy if she needs to cover up quickly during your session.
Be Aware of Your Light
When shooting outdoors your ability to use natural light will in large part determine your success. If you need some help with that you can check out my article on the subject here. I do have a couple of specific suggestions for you though.
Golden Hour is your friend. If you are going to be outdoors why not make the most of it. Golden Hour light is some of the best lighting there is. Add in a good sunrise or sunset for your background and it can be down right magical.
If you are unlucky and can only shoot during the middle of the day make use of whatever shade you can find. If you can’t find any shade, have the subject turn her face towards the sun. This will help to reduce the harsh shadows that strong direct sunlight produces.
Use the Environment
One of the perks of shooting outdoors is getting to incorporate a little bit of nature into your shots. You can use these elements as a prop, to help with your posing, or as part of your composition. Depending on where you go you could have a variety of options at your disposal.
Rocks or Fallen Trees
Beaches, Ponds, Creeks, or Waterfalls
Paths or Trails
Interesting Plants or Trees
What to Bring
One of the drawbacks to shooting outdoors, unless you use your backyard, is that you will need to bring everything with you for the shoot. My advice would be to make a packing list including items such as:
Camera & Lighting Gear
Hair and Makeup
You will also need to bring some things that will make your time outdoors more enjoyable.
Other Things to Know
I have a few more tips for you that didn’t fit above.
If you are going somewhere remote, tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
Have a lookout. This could be an assistant or you can enlist the help of her chaperone.
Use makeup setting spray to help with keeping your subject's makeup looking good.
Take some oil-removing face wipes with you.
Bring a pair of sandals or flip flops to slip on between photos.
Leave the kneeling and lying down poses for last or use a picnic blanket. You don’t want her to have indentations on her knees from the ground or leaves in her hair.
With careful thought and preparation you can have a great boudoir shoot outdoors. Always remember that it is still the outdoors and mother nature can be unpredictable. If you think I missed anything or have a tip of your own, please share in the comments below.