Fine art nude photography and classic boudoir photography are both genres that celebrate the human form, sensuality, and self-expression. I specialize in, and love doing, both! However, they differ significantly in style, intent, and the overall approach to the shoot. I’ve had clients reach out and think they want one, but then it turned out the other was actually a better fit for them. I know for me personally, I’ve always done more the “fine art nude” approach to my in-studio self portraits because it felt more in line with my personality. Though I do want to challenge myself to take more boudoir-style self portraits in the future. In this article, I want to talk more about the differences between the two and in general clarify what Fine Art Nude photography means to me.
A Little Background
I grew up in a very art-centric household. My mom had an advanced degree in art history and, when I was a child living in St. Petersburg, Russia, she worked as a tour guide at the world famous Hermitage museum. This was my first introduction to fine art, and I am sure this had a huge impact on my desire to major in painting and drawing later on when I attended UC Santa Cruz. I’ll tell you more about all that later – my mom and are co-writing a blog about her own fine art nude session with Bay Area Boudoir :D. In any case, I am certain that all that led me here, where I can exercise my love for classical art with my own twist.
When I do a fine art nude photo session, I really focus on creating timeless images. I want you to be able to hang them on your wall and feel proud enough to share them. In a lot of ways, your body tells the story of your life – I would venture to say, especially so as a woman. We bear our burdens and our blessings on our skin and in our bones. There is nothing to be ashamed of here.
The same is true of boudoir. Boudoir photography is more about sexuality / sensuality than merely an appreciation of the body. It is more about emotion, and in some ways more vulnerable. Most women I have met have a complex relationship with their body and perhaps even more so with their sexuality. This is true for me too. A boudoir photo shoot allows you a safe space to share and capture that element of yourself – whether for your own enjoyment or to share with someone else.
I love photographing both genres and working with both types of clients. However, when picking what type of shoot is right for you, it is helpful to know the difference. I will outline some of those below.
Style and Aesthetic:
Fine Art Nude Photography
- This genre emphasizes the aesthetic aspects of the human body. Think about a college life drawing class, where you have a nude model come in and everyone draws them. The focus is on the form of the body and using light and shadow to highlight its beauty. In photography, one can also include abstract or artistic compositions, creative lighting, and unique angles. The focus is on creating visually striking images which really celebrate the human form that may not necessarily be sexually suggestive. The artistic elements are paramount, and the subject’s identity may not always be a primary concern. In my own work, I am drawn to inspiration from painters, and often utilize soft lighting to create shapes and shadows while highlighting the beauty of your body as it is today. I often (though not always) minimize distractions and prefer to edit in black and white to create a more timeless image. As with any art form, I like to get creative and explore While there are themes I will often employ, I also really enjoy playing with different techniques and styles.
- Boudoir photography, on the other hand, is more about capturing sensuality and story. “Boudoir” means a woman’s bedroom or dressing room, which suggests a certain intimacy and voyeurism. In her bedroom a woman is often in various states of undress and could be entertaining (or planning to) a visitor. From my perspective, a boudoir is also a place where a woman doesn’t have to hide or perform – she can be her true lovely self. Therefore, this genre often includes the use of lingerie, clothing, props, stylized hair and makeup and suggestive poses. This helps make the shoot more personalized to the client while also setting a sexy scene. I aim for the final images to be both evocative and provocative. For me, the primary objective is to create images that celebrate not only the subject’s body and sexuality, but also brings out some element of her authentic self.
Purpose and Audience:
- Fine Art Nude Photography: Fine art nude photos are often created as art for art’s sake. They may may be displayed in galleries or collections, hung on your walls at home or appreciated by a broader audience. They may or may not necessarily have a personal connection to the subject. The intention is to create images that evoke emotion and appreciation for the human form and, by extension, the human herself.
- Classic Boudoir Photography: Boudoir photos are typically created with a personal purpose in mind. They are often intended as a gift for a partner, to celebrate a personal milestone, or to boost the subject’s self-confidence. The primary audience is often the subject themselves or their partner.
Wardrobe (or not):
- Fine Art Nude Photography: For obvious reasons, these shoots usually have the subject fully nude. However, it’s not necessarily about explicit or revealing images. It’s not uncommon to incorporate loose drapery, fabric, or other elements to add texture and interest. The emphasis is on the artistic representation of the body, and the subject’s strength in vulnerability is often celebrated.
- Classic Boudoir Photography: This type of photography typically includes lingerie, partial clothing, or suggestive outfits. While it may involve partial or implied nudity, the focus is on the sensual and intimate aspects of the subject’s wardrobe and poses. We’re trying to enhance or flatter the body while also telling a story.
Setting and Props:
- Fine Art Nude Photography: Fine art nude photography often features minimalist settings and abstract backgrounds. when I use props, I typically choose them to complement the theme and add visual interest.
- Classic Boudoir Photography: Boudoir photography sessions often take place in a setting meant to represent a bedroom or similar location. The focus is on creating a romantic or sensual ambiance. I often use creative lighting and props such as mirrors, furniture, and fabrics to enhance the story (which is often the story of a sexy bedroom rendezvous).
In conclusion, the main difference between fine art nude photography and classic boudoir photography lies in their artistic intent, style, and purpose. When I do a Fine art nude photo shoot, I am more focused on creating artistic and occasionally abstract representations of the human form. When I do a boudoir photo shoot, I am trying to capture sexy photos of the subject with a focus on their self expression through their sensuality. Both genres, however, are beautiful expressions of the human body and experience. You can see more of my boudoir photography here and here and my fine art nude photography here. And of course reach out if you want to talk about what kind of session would be right for you!