Boudoir photography is a photographic style featuring intimate, romantic, and sometimes erotic images of its subjects in a photographic studio, bedroom or private dressing room environment, primarily intended for the private enjoyment of the subject and his or her romantic partners. It is distinct from glamour and art nude photography in that it is usually more suggestive rather than explicit in its approach to nudity and sexuality, features subjects who do not regularly model, and produces images which are not intended to be seen by a wide audience, but rather to remain under the control of the subject.
The nude or sexualized female form has been a theme of photography since as early as 1840. Early erotic photography such as French postcards from the late 19th and early 20th century, and pin-up girls have influenced the visual style of boudoir photography.
Boudoir photography was popularised in the millennium with the arrival of digital photography. It became popular with women seeking to create a private collection of professional studio portraits. Boudoir photography dates from the mid-1980s onwards, and is characterized by the empowerment of its female subjects, who now were typically the photographer's direct clients rather than being hired models.
It is common for women to have boudoir photographs of themselves made as a gift to a partner, conventionally on the occasion of their engagement, marriage, or before an enforced separation such as a military deployment. Boudoir photography is also sometimes given as a gift with the intention of re-affirming and encouraging the romance and sensuality between partners in a long-term relationship.
Increasingly, boudoir photography is seen as something that a person might do purely for their own enjoyment, for the pleasure and affirmation of seeing themselves as attractive, daring, sensual, and sexually-desirable.
Boudoir photography encompasses a range of styles and moods. In the United Kingdom it became popular for Brides to be to commission photoshoots as a wedding gift for the groom. Named categories of boudoir photography include so-called "naughty girl", "fun and giggles", and "provocative and sensual", with varying degrees of explicitness and nudity.
Visually the genre is characterized by diffuse high-key images which flatter the appearance of skin, short focal distances, and shallow depth of field, which together impart an intimate, "dreamy" mood. Other common styles include a low-key, deliberately grainy black-and-white, reflecting the influence of art nudes, early erotic photography, and film noir. Also common are poses and lighting setups intended to replicate the mood and appearance of classic pin-up photographs and paintings.