Boudoir Photography Week: Preparing for Your Shoot

Once you’ve booked your photographer and set a date, here are some suggestions for preparing ahead of time.  Once again, all of the images in the post feature some of my favorite fellow lingerie bloggers!


Now that I am 29, and therefore So Aged [sarcasm font], I’ve started to see even the littlest bit of alcohol I consume reflected in my skin and eyes.  I abstained from alcohol for a full week before each of my shoots, but whatever you choose to do, I strongly recommend avoiding booze for at least 24 hours prior to your photoshoot.  Alcohol dehydrates, can make your eyes red, interferes with your sleep, your circulation, your digestion, and all sorts of other fun stuff, and plus the camera tends to notice when everything’s not working at optimum levels.  For vanity’s sake, drink lots and lots and lots of water in the few days before the shoot.  You can have a quick nip during the shoot to steady your nerves, if you need to (read: I totally did this).  Hydrate from the inside out!


Try to get at least two solid nights of sleep before your shoot.  For me that means eating balanced, regular meals, abstaining from alcohol and caffeine, and getting at least 30-60 minutes of exercise during the day.  Whatever it takes– a warm bath, turning off the TV early, cleaning something, whatever– do what you need to do to make sure you’re well rested.  Your eyes and skin will thank you.

Model: Caroline, Curvy Wordy.  Photographer: Nicola Grimshaw-Mitchell LSWPP, My Boudoir.  Hair/Makeup: Sarah Louise Elliott.  Lingerie: Orchard Corset, Jeunique.

Model: Caroline, Curvy Wordy. Photographer: Nicola Grimshaw-Mitchell LSWPP, My Boudoir. Hair/Makeup: Sarah Louise Elliott. Lingerie: Orchard Corset, Jeunique.


Many photographers will recommend (or even require) using a professional hair and makeup artist, and if you’re feeling the least bit unconfident in your skills, I really agree with them– it can alleviate a huge amount of stress and anxiety. Lots of photographers even have hair and makeup built into their pricing for convenience.  With that being said, many women (like me!) choose to do their own hair and makeup, for a variety of reasons.  If you’re going the DIY route, practice, practice, practice ahead of time.  Fire up your Netflix queue, or turn on some music, turn on all the lights, and spend a couple of hours playing with your hair and testing makeup techniques.

Model, Hair/Makeup: Jessica, Warning: Curves Ahead.  Photographer: Silky Fisher.  Lingerie: Parfait, What Katie Did.

Model, Hair/Makeup: Jessica, Warning: Curves Ahead. Photographer: Silky Fisher. Lingerie: Parfait, What Katie Did.

I did my own hair and makeup a lot when I was an actor, and since I was on a budget this time I chose (for better or worse) to do my own hair and makeup for my photoshoots.  I set aside two nights and trialled a few different looks.  I knew I wanted something that was somewhere between “natural” and “full-face glam”, and also my hair has been temperamental lately about holding a curl, so I practiced a few different looks and a few different hair-curling methods to find the best one (ceramic hot rollers, for those who care to know).  I also learned that, contrary to practically every piece of DIY hair styling advice out there, my hair does not style well if it’s dirty.  In case you are one of my fellow people for whom the wash-your-hair-the-day-before-an-event rule does not apply, do some test runs.  This practice ahead of time will relieve a lot of anxiety on the day of the shoot– you can be confident that you’re happy with your hair and makeup, plus you’ll have a good idea of how long it will take to do.  Also, you may discover that you want to get a new product or styling tool, and practicing in advance gives you the time to track down whatever you need.

Some more thoughts on makeup: even if you prefer never to wear makeup, you might consider wearing a little bit for a photo shoot, because sometimes the camera is dumb.  It’s taking a three-dimensional object (your lovely face, with its unique coloring and bone structure and all sorts of interesting features) and transforming it into a two-dimensional object, and sometimes you need the makeup to help it see you as you actually are.  While I don’t consider myself a makeup expert by any stretch of the imagination, if you do choose to do your own makeup, here are a few tips, most of which I’ve learned the hard way:

Eyebrows: get a powder or pencil that closely matches your eyebrow color and fill them in, even if your brows are naturally full.  Sometimes in pictures even full brows come back looking scraggly, because the camera reads the light reflecting off your skin rather than your brows.  Filling in your brows with color “tricks” the camera into capturing what they actually, you know, look like.

Model/Makeup: Victoria Dagger.  Photographer: Joel Aron.  Fascinator: Pop Antique.

Model/Makeup: Victoria Dagger. Photographer: Joel Aron. Fascinator: Pop Antique.

Contouring: this sounds scary, but there are a few easy things you can do to help the pictures show what you actually look like, rather than letting the camera say “oh look, a lovely round two-dimensional oval thing.”

In the most dumbed-down basic of terms: you want to apply a shadow to any hollows or indents and a highlighter to any prominent features, which helps the camera register things like, oh, your nose or your cheekbone and brow bone.  [Confession: I’m a huge dork and still totally use my Ben Nye stage makeup kit, because sometimes Sephora overwhelms me and I get confused and intimidated and also all the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players, etc.]  Essentially you want some sort of brown shadow or creme in a shade darker than your natural skin tone and some kind of whitish or pale, often vaguely iridescent powder or cream that’s lighter than your natural skin tone (I’m super-duper pale, so some highlighters are actually darker than my skin tone; I use the Clown White that comes in my stage makeup kit).

Common places for the shadow are under your cheekbones, along the sides of your nose, and at your temples, and common places for highlighter are right along the top of your cheekbones, above your brows, right under your brows along your orbital bones, and down the center of your nose.  Some people develop highly technical personalized contouring systems, and some people prefer to leave it to the pros (use contouring incorrectly and your face can just look smudgy or dirty).  It can help to get an overhead light source and examine your face in the mirror from different angles to help to get a feel for your bone structure and where you might naturally have shadows.

You can also go to a department store (like Nordstrom or Saks) or Sephora and have your makeup done in the store– a pro makeup person can explain how to shade and contour your individual face and suggest products, and if you’d rather a pro do it, you can drop by to have your makeup done on the way to your shoot!

Model/Makeup: The Lingerie Lesbian.  Photographer: Michi Rezin.  Lingerie: Hopeless, eLai.

Model/Makeup: The Lingerie Lesbian. Photographer: Michi Rezin. Lingerie: Hopeless, eLai.

Lips: I learned this trick only recently, and I love it: if you wear foundation or powder, make sure you gently wipe it off your lips before applying any lipliner or lip color– color should only be applied to perfectly bare, clean lips.  Your lip color will be richer, more even, and more saturated, and the color will read more true in photos.  For lasting, opaque, fully-saturated red lips, outline your lips with a red lip pencil and then fill them in completely with the pencil before applying the actual lipstick on top with a brush.

Eyelashes: While not everyone can wear false eyelashes (people with sensitive skin or particular allergies among them), I LOVE THEM.  Falsies are my jam.  My natural lashes are short, thin, and super-duper pale, and false lashes make my eyes pop and keep them from getting lost in the sea of paleness that is my face.  It can take a bit of practice to get used to applying them and wearing them (I still sometimes have to stop, walk away for five minutes, and then come back and try again), but I love the way they look in pictures.  Tip: when you’re applying glue to the lash, let it sit for about one minute or so to get tacky before gently placing the lash to your eyelid. Wet eyelash glue + the urge to blink = sorrow for all.

Everyone develops individual, occasionally idiosyncratic, personal makeup styles, so my blanket rule is always to tell people to start slow and work in light, sheer layers.  You can always add more color, and you probably will, but it can be risky to apply huge globs of makeup all at once.

Grooming-type-things: IF (and only if) you are someone who feels prettiest with a fresh haircut or eyebrow/bikini wax or new mani-pedi or blowout or whatever, schedule an appointment in advance so it lines up nicely with your shoot.  I wanted to get a mani-pedi so my hands and feet would be all soft and lovely, and both times I cheaped out and did it myself.  That still meant factoring in the time it takes to polish your nails and let them dry, so think about what you want to do to get ready and make sure you plan accordingly.


I cannot stress this enough: you will look good wearing something that makes you feel good.  It’s all very well to have something super pretty that your partner/friend/bra fitter thinks you look great in, but if you don’t feel comfortable and pretty and sassy, you may not have a great time when lights are on and a camera is pointed at you.  By the same token, a boudoir shoot is not necessarily the place for you to stress out about bra fit.  I took some pieces with me that weren’t necessarily 100% perfect fits, and I still like the way the pictures look, because the pieces are beautiful and made me feel beautiful.  Wear what you love, whether it’s a lacy mesh bra or a corset or a plain white tee shirt.  You will look gorgeous and happy in what makes you feel gorgeous and happy.


Even if you have 2 or 3 specific looks in mind, bring some extra stuff– maybe you’ll be inspired by something in the photographer’s studio, maybe she’ll say “Oh, I have a great idea for a pose, do you happen to have …?”, and maybe after the first few pictures you realize you’d rather be wearing something else. Especially if you’re doing lingerie ensembles with lots of pieces, bring extra stockings (mine got a run in them during the second shoot, and it was very sad), extra hair accessories, extra jewelry, and even a few props. Do you have a favorite silk pillowcase, or a powder puff and mirror, or perfume bottle, or riding crop, or feather fan? Bring it with you!

Model: Bras and Body Image.  Photographer/Makeup/Hair: Adee Phelan Photography.

Model: Bras and Body Image. Photographer/Makeup/Hair: Adee Phelan Photography.

Also pack your makeup to bring with you to your shoot, even if you’re doing a natural look. I’ve learned through trial and error that when I look in the mirror I look like I’m wearing clown makeup, and in photos it looks like I’m barely wearing any at all.  I always bring eyeliner, blush, highlighter, powder, and lipstick/gloss with me, and if you know you’ll want to change up your makeup with different outfits you’ll need to bring your full kit, plus any makeup remover you may need. If you’re getting your hair and makeup done at the studio, you might want to bring a robe with you to wear while that’s going on. Actually, scratch that, bring a robe regardless– you’ll be glad to have it in case it’s chilly, and it can be nice to have on hand to ease you into undressing for the camera, if you’re feeling shy.

Model/Makeup: Lindsay, That Je Ne Sais Quoi.  Photographer:  Lydia Hudgens.  Lingerie: NaïS.

Model/Makeup: Lindsay, That Je Ne Sais Quoi. Photographer: Lydia Hudgens. Lingerie: NaïS, bazsarozsa


Make sure you and your photographer are on the same page.  Financially, of course, there shouldn’t be any surprises come the day of the shoot, and similarly you should feel confident that you won’t be asked to do anything (in terms of pose or outfit or theme) that makes you uncomfortable.  Know how much time you’ll have, discuss the sort of pictures you want (natural light, studio lights, cheesecake/pin-up, implied or full nudity, bedroom shoots, etc.)  It can help both you and the photographer if you have some images that inspire you– your photographer may want to share some of their portfolio with you, so you can point out clearly which aspects of their work drew you to them.  Caryn and I shared Pinterest boards (hers and mine) back and forth, which was especially helpful when we worked in her studio and could turn to the computer when I had a question about the sort of pose she wanted, or if I wanted to describe how to use my floofy robe to best advantage.

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Tomorrow let’s discuss what to do during your actual photoshoot!  Any photographers or models have prep tips of your own to share?

8 Comments on Boudoir Photography Week: Preparing for Your Shoot

  1. lauriedancer
    January 21, 2014 at 8:35 am (9 years ago)

    I had pics done by Dawn at GlamourBitch in south Jersey…Shannon, her amazing makeup artist, did my makeup as part of the package deal…my pics turned out FABULOUSLY GORGEOUS…I highly recommend GlamourBitch!!! And all at what I feel was a very reasonable price! I will be going back again since it’s been about two or three years since my last shoot.

    • Sweets
      January 21, 2014 at 9:33 am (9 years ago)

      Thanks Laurie! Great recommendation for the NY/NJ crowd!

  2. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair
    January 21, 2014 at 12:21 pm (9 years ago)

    I loved all of your tips! Have you considered posting some makeup tutorials? The only thing I do (at a purely passable level) is my eyes. Sephora sent me a free gift for my birthday which included a highlighter, and I admit I’m kind of like: What do I do with this? I read somewhere that you can put highlighter near the tear duct to make the eyes seem more alert, so that’s what I’m doing. Clearly, I need help. Share your wisdom, Sweets!

    • Sweets
      January 21, 2014 at 12:27 pm (9 years ago)

      Eek, I’ll think about it! I’m by no means an expert, but maybe even if I decide not to I’ll start posting some links and reblogs of the real pros 🙂 I’m a less-is-more beauty person, anyway, although I do love Sephora samples, because they let me play with products I’d normally never pick up. I’ve found, though, that I’m much more apt to purchase nail polish or mascara after a free sample, rather than a highlighter or some magical serum thing– I’m never able to justify the investment!

  3. Caroline CurvyWordy
    January 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm (9 years ago)

    These tips are fantastic and you’ve been so thorough in your research. It must have taken you so long to put all of this together. Before my photo shoot I read that you shouldn’t wear too much fake tan as it can give a yellowish tinge to your skin in pro photos. I returned from a sun holiday just days before my shoot but thankfully natural tan doesn’t seem to affect the final images in the same way. I adore this series of posts! xxx

    • Sweets
      January 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm (9 years ago)

      Oooh, that’s a fantastic tip! Thank you for sharing– I’d never heard that before.

  4. hair cut for
    September 13, 2016 at 3:58 am (6 years ago)

    Lingerie 101 | Sweet Nothings NYC


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  1. […] and photographers who shared their work this week.  In case you missed them, check out Part I, Part II, and Part III.  An especially huge thanks to Caryn, for being such a great artist and […]

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