Tips + Techniques

How to Incorporate a Bed into Your Boudoir Posing Routine

May 12, 2022

By Shawn Black

What is the first thing you think of when talking about a boudoir studio? One of the most common answers that comes to mind is a bed. Another is boudoir poses. As a photographer shooting in the same space day after day, session after session, using the bed in your posing routine can become cliched and tedious very easily. As a result of this, many photographers will hesitate to utilize boudoir poses on a bed as a tool during their sessions. To our clients, though, these poses are new to them no matter how many times you may have shot them.

How do we keep creatively fresh with a key element in the studio which generally takes up a good amount of your overall space? You have two options. First, remove the bed entirely and move forward without one, which is entirely a viable option. There are numerous photographers that do not have a bed in their studio setup and do just fine. Option two, for those of us who don’t want to spend hours with an Allen head wrench disassembling their bed, we need to get creative in how we approach using this studio staple.

[Read: Dynamics of Boudoir Photography Posing: 5 Key Elements]

Boudoir Posing: Two Beds Are Better Than One

Personally, I have two beds in my studio. I incorporate at least one of them into every session regardless if it’s a first time client or someone who has been in before. In fact the initial pose that I do with first time clients is on a bed. I use the bed first because it allows for a feeling of security at a point when they are most nervous. Not having a client stand in 5-inch heels out of the gate but instead doing something that feels familiar, like laying on a bed, will do wonders for their confidence in those first shots.

boudoir pose on a bed.
All Photos © Shawn Black

The image above is how you’ll find any of my first time clients posed at the beginning of their session. After I show that first back of camera is when clients have three realizations. Number one “Holy shit I can do this!” Number two “Holy shit I look good doing this!” Number three “Holy shit this is work, not just jump on the bed and look sexy!”

Those 3 reasons are why they love it. For me this pose is successful because it flatters any body type and is versatile. This is a simple one light set up, a Geekoto NLX280 strobe with a Westcott 1×4 strip box on a boom stand, which allows me to move around and shoot from different angles without worrying about lights getting in the way. Shooting from a low angle allows focus to remain on her face with highlights on her bust and her legs. In pre-session discussions many clients tell us their midsection is the area they don’t love as much and want to de-emphasize during the session. The hand placement along with where the shadows fall create the desired effect of using the pose and light to shape the body.

Keys to the boudoir pose on a bed:

  • Placing the light above and at an angle to provide a split light pattern.
  • Head tilt and turn towards the camera.
  • Bending the near side leg and driving the knee across the other narrowing their profile and adding dimension.
  • Hand/arm placement can be moved for multiple looks.

Raise the Bar: Use a Canopy Bed

For those of us fortunate enough to have a canopy bed in our studios, it provides an opportunity to get up off the mattress while still incorporating the bed into a posing routine. I am a big fan of being able to generate multiple images quickly with only small adjustments. It seems like every woman who comes in to my studio wants a “Tushy Tuesday” worthy image and the set of images below illustrates a set of poses we created to utilize the canopy aspect of the bed to do just that.

[Read: Boudoir Photography Posing Guide: How to Flatter Every Client]

The variety in these poses came about after we quickly realized not every woman can reach the crossbar, for those that can they have four dramatic, wall-art images to choose from while still allowing options for those that are more petite. This image set is lit with 2 NLX280s with 1×4 strip boxes approximately 45 degrees past the client that provide the rim light defining her body as well as an LS-20 LED tube directly in front of camera on the floor to provide a tiny bit of fill on her shot and back of her legs.

Another reason to use a canopy bed in this manner is that you can create frames within the frame and dramatic leading lines that add visual interest to the image. These elements combined with the beautiful poses make for desirable images that your clients are going to have a hard time not choosing for their collections.

Keys to the boudoir pose on a canopy bed:

  • Angle of the light placement to create a subtle or more pronounced rim as well as to highlight the inside of the off side arm.
  • Arching the pelvis back as much as possible to accentuate the curves.
  • Legs centered on the bed, tight together, with the bent leg driving the foot behind the other.
  • For the frame within the frame effect, lighting must fall evenly on the canopy rails otherwise it will look lopsided.

upside down boudoir pose.

Use Jumping on the Bed Or Upside Down Positioning

Here we are not only going to use the bed as a posing tool, but also as a shooting assistant to give us an elevated position. Using the bed like this will also allow you to shoot from a couple different angles with only one change in lighting. The above image is lit to create a Rembrandt pattern and is achieved with a NLX280 with a 1×4 strip box camera right on a boom stand angled down onto the client and a LS-80 at her feet to add a little fill and define her lower legs and feet.

[Read: Advertising Boudoir Photography: Ten Ways to Promote]

The key to lighting someone who is, in essence, upside down is not to over complicate things, try to imagine the pose if she was in a more traditional orientation and place your lights accordingly. A lot of times I will have the clients hands in motion starting at their thighs and running up their body all the way into their hair shooting as they move which creates a wealth of images to choose from.

boudoir subject posing up against against.

Below you will see a similar pose from the clients perspective as above, but I have moved the light to the opposite side and above. Changing my shooing position also allows me to incorporate the ambient lighting in the studio as part of the image.

lower shooting position on bed.

Lastly, below, just moving my shooting position again gives yet another perspective on the pose and opportunity for a unique image based on the same pose.

Keys to the boudoir pose on a bed:

  • Pay attention to the hair. Shooting from above can very easily make it look like Bride of Frankenstein.
  • Lingerie with a detailed bust work best and add interest to the shot.
  • Bend one knee and drive it across to create a dynamic line with the legs.
  • Sharp focus on the eyes at this angle they really draw you in.

Boudoir Poses on a Bed: Get a Leg Up

Depending on the height of your bed you can also use it in place of one of the most common portrait posing tools, an apple/posing box. For me, the style of my studio using traditional apple boxes just wouldn’t fit the esthetic so in order to change heights to create dynamic poses I needed to find other elements on the studio to substitute. This particular bed is low profile so it works perfectly as an anchor for this powerful stance that she has created with the leg up in the image below. This is lit with a NLX280 with a 48-inch octagon above and approximately on axis with the client as well as an NLX280 with a 1×4 strip box 45 degrees behind at waist level to bring out detail in the robe.

woman with leg up on bed for boudoir pose.

Keys to the boudoir pose on a bed:

  • Camera angle, shooting up on the client enhances the feeling of power
  • Not having the bend in the leg much past 90 degrees or it will look forced
  • Slightly pushing the upper body forward and the booty back engages the leg muscles

Aside from the several poses I’ve discussed, there are so many ways to use a bed in your posing routine so that it does not become routine. Before your next session suggest you channel your inner child and go jump on your bed, literally! Half the poses I come up with develop either from rolling around on the furniture myself or in those in between moments during a session when a client starts to move out of the last pose and you see something magical. Have fun, play around, and see what you discover before you decide to remove the perfect place to nap between sessions from your studio.

Shawn Black is an award-winning wedding and boudoir photographer in Boston, MA. Couture Black, his boudoir brand, grew out of his established wedding business with a focus on body positivity and female empowerment, helping all women see themselves as beautiful and confident, hence his business tagline: #BeBoldBeSexyBeYou! When teaching other photographers how to establish successful photo brands, Black is focused on educating them on the dynamics of boudoir posing and what works best for each individual client.