Styling And Accessorizing For Better Portraits: Sensual Vs Sexual

Styling and accessorizing can make or break a photoshoot. It can be your dear friend or one of your greatest adversaries. Focusing on sensuality over sexuality is a great place to start. Your client will build and exude confidence on set when they look good and feel incredible. Tapping into that feeling of sensuality is powerful.

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Everything plays a pivotal role, from the overall styling to the chosen accessories. Even the subtlest of details have a lasting impact. Mastering the art of styling can be overwhelming, and it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few tips to help get you started.

Timeless Layers

In the beginning, it’s all too easy to go for the less is more approach. And this can be a mistake. A midi coat can be worn, draped around the shoulders, or casually thrown over the shoulder. Pair a long dress that has a deep neckline with subtle hair and makeup. Choosing layers that flatter the body is beautiful and timeless.

You can never go wrong with a pair of jeans that gently accentuate curves and a classic white blouse. Keep it from feeling frumpy by unbuttoning the blouse in a way that flatters the chest or tying the the bottom. Flare the collar and fold the cuffs for a powerful feeling or fold up the sleeves for a more relaxed look.

Bare Minimum

Barely-there styling with minimal clothing can be both sensual and sexual. Both can elicit a sense of being undressed and desire. Subtle clothing choices can lead to whether it evokes a more provocative approach or a subtle, connection-based approach.

For example, a simple blouse can be completely unbuttoned and expose most of the chest. It can also have one button secured at the ribcage. Both options will pull the viewer’s focus primarily to the chest first. It is easy for the viewer to focus on the body first in this scenario. Choosing coordinating accessories can mitigate objectification and bring the focus back to the styling.

Another example is having your subject be utterly nude with arms and legs covering up a good portion of the body. Gently draping a jacket or blouse across the shoulders usually will be more successful in evoking sensuality. If they have beautiful long hair, use it. Most viewers will be looking at the face to understand the overall mood and then move throughout the frame.

Hair And Makeup

A good hairstylist and makeup artist are incredible creatives to have in your circle. They will know how to bring the overall look and mood to fruition successfully. Most clients think they look their absolute best when they see an elevated version of themselves. Natural feeling hair and a less is more approach with makeup rarely goes wrong.

Slicked back hair can be more sensual when paired with both layered and minimal clothing and neutral makeup. It can also be more sexual when it’s messy while paired with nothing else but a pair of panties and patent leather high heels.

It’s In The Details

Pin-up was created when women still relied on male approval to feel sexy. It will always be on the sexual side, even if it feels mild and downplayed by today’s standards.

Accessories are what bring the overall mood of the styling together. The minor details have a massive influence and can elevate the entire mood. Choosing bare feet with barely-there clothing swings the pendulum to the sensual side. A pair of thigh highs with pumps and red makeup is takes it to a pin-up feel. Pin-up was created when women still relied on male approval to feel sexy. It will always be on the sexual side, even if it feels downplayed by today’s standards. Some boudoir photographers embrace heavier makeup and perfect hair. Their chosen environment, lighting, camera angle, posing, and emoting are successful in maintaining a sensual mood.

Simple, understated jewelry accompanies almost every look quite well. A longer delicate gold necklace paired with a mostly unbuttoned blouse brings the attention away from the body and back to the styling. Chunkier statement jewelry is easier to be more sexual, although a sensual mood can easily be created with the right pose, lighting, and expression.

Choosing to unbutton an extra button on a blouse to show a little bit more skin is sexy, and can remain sensual. Adversely choosing to unbutton the pants often insinuates sex. The overall placement of the hands, pose, and facial expression will cement whether it’s a sensual or sexual image. We’ll be diving more into posing and emoting in our next installment.

Final Thoughts

There are many moving parts when it comes to fully styling clients. Knowing how to utilize the subtleties of the minor details and elevate the overall mood is a priceless skill to have. Styling your client in a way that makes them feel good will resonate on screen. Their confidence makes it easy to tap into that feeling of sensuality, which yields beautiful images.

Brittany Smith

Brittany is a commercial fashion and portrait photographer working in Montana and NYC. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local artisan coffeeshop, writing for photography education sites and publications, teaching fitness classes, or baking something fabulous.