Change Your Angle for Better Intimate Portraits – Sensual Vs. Sexual

One of the things I enjoy most about our Phoblographer team is the constructive conversations we have. We were recently discussing how we can tell what boudoir images were photographed by a man based on the perspective of the photos. Men are usually taller than women, and they tend to shoot from up above. The camera angle is generally gazing down at the woman. They also tend to photograph their models straight-on. On the other hand, women tend to get lower and focus on elongating. They often choose angles of observation with the subject’s body angled away from the body. Editor-in-chief Chris Gampat then shared a post of our interview with boudoir photographer Kat Grudko for inspiration. Our team discussed how imperative camera angles are when shooting sensual vs. sexual imagery.

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There are a few basic poses where a shift in angle will change the mood of an image. This is especially apparent when shooting more intimate boudoir images. Below are a few tips to keep the overall mood empowering on set. Empowerment keeps clients coming back for more and referring you to new ones.

Utilize Empathy for Intimacy

If you search for intimate photography images, you might be surprised at how many results are of people having sex. The intimacy I am referring to is when you connect with your client and work harmoniously together. My favorite photo shoots are when we begin communicating without uttering a word. They are always my favorite images from the set.

This moment happens once you build a rapport and establish trust. It’s magical when models let their guard down. When this happens, you are no longer directing them, and you begin celebrating the essence of that person. The best images are captured when they connect with themselves and are in that moment. It requires a bit of give and take, and that’s only possible when you turn to empathy.

Observation Vs. Participation

Boudoir is empowering for both men and women. There is something compelling and beautiful about raw vulnerability. Photographing your subject head-on creates strong images when they’re making eye contact with the lens. Think of a woman pulling up her lace stockings or a man removing his shirt with direct eye contact. Power poses with minimal clothing work well here and create strong, impactful portraits. These images are captured from a participatory stance. The set of images can easily cross into sexualization in more intimate moments if you aren’t careful.

I like to choose an observational vantage point when directing the most intimate and steamy moments. The subject often has their eyes closed or tilted away from the camera. The moment is about them and the experience. A lot of the poorly executed intimate images you find on the likes of Flickr are when the photographer chooses to participate.

Shift Your Angle for More Captivating Images

Many poses in boudoir necessitate being shot from above at a slight angle. One of the most popular poses to arrange is to have your model lie on her back with her eyes closed. Direct one or both arms overhead with the legs slightly bent and elongated. Asymmetry works very well here.

Shooting from a head-on angle also works well here when you are going for a strong image. It’s more fashion forward and editorial feeling. You can shift your angle slightly, so the face becomes the focal point. Using the legs as leading lines through the image is a great way to push for more sensual content.

A centered, head-on angle with your subject creates strong portraits when clients are barely clad or in a state of undress. It’s never a bad idea to get slightly lower when photographing women to elongate them. Conversely, shooting down on your subject or from an angle is a more subtle, observational frame. Shooting from eye level risks the photographer crossing into voyeuristic territory awfully fast. This is especially true with the more intimate poses. Subtlety and sensuality is always best.

Final Thoughts

Camera angles matter when shooting boudoir and capturing more intimate portraits. Empathy is a priceless tool to create memorable and impactful imagery. It’s the best skill set to have when creating a rapport and building trust on set. This is what it takes for subjects to let their guard down and tap into their raw vulnerability. Those are the boom images (as I call them) that will empower your clients and keep them coming through your door.

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.