Couple’s Boudoir & Intimate Photo Sessions: Would You Do One With Your Partner?

Dustin Cantrell

June 7, 2016

san francisco wedding photographer_2

Have you heard about ‘couple’s boudoir’ or ‘intimate couple sessions’? They’re nothing new, although the media has recently been batting them around as a crazy new trend in wedding photography! Yet intimate couple sessions have been going on for years and can create some of the most special, beautiful and emotional photos of you and your beau.

Today I wanted to chat to photographer Dustin Cantrell, who specialises in these kinds of photo shoots, to ask his advice on doing one. It was also a good excuse to share some of his gorgeous photography with you!

oakland wedding photographer (37)

Why would a couple want to have an intimate photo session?

The goal of an intimate session is to capture your connection and love you feel for your partner. Shooting the session in your home allows intimacy to occur. In the past (and still for lots of couples) the point of a couple session, also known as an engagement shoot, was to capture a nice photo for something like Save the Dates, or to display at their wedding. However lots of couples don’t have engagement photos done at all because it’s just another thing on the checklist of things to do in preparation for their wedding.

With an intimate session, it’s just about the two of you. You are probably not going to send cards out to your guests with these photos on so you are able to really cherish the beginning of your lives together with no cheesiness is involved (save the date signs, fake picnics, tandem bicycle riding). Years down the road you don’t want photos to remember the time you staged or posed for photos that weren’t capturing the real you, you’re much more likely to want to look back and see who you really were.

This type of session doesn’t have to replace your engagement shoot though. An intimate photo shoot can be part of your engagement photos. You can start or end the session with some intimate photos at your place. Intimate sessions can be for newlyweds, anniversaries, a way to take reconnect with your partner.

san francisco wedding photographer_111

What would be your advice on choosing a location?

I would advice that the location is your own home because this is where you’ll be most comfortable. However if your home doesn’t have a lot of natural light or isn’t the most picturesque backdrop then I would recommend picking out an Airbnb space. If your photographer has done an intimate session before they probably can recommend a Airbnb listing or help with the search.

Some spaces in big cities can be small or lacking natural light, so before booking a place I would ask for your photographers opinion. An experienced photographer can tell you if it will work or not. Sometimes photographers have a studio space for their boudoir/ intimate sessions. If this is the case be sure to ask for photos of the space or links to past shoots to make sure its the aesthetic your going for.

How should you go about finding a photographer?

Intimate sessions aside, every photographer has a different approach to capturing their couples. First and foremost you have to like their style. I’m always looking to capture tasteful photos, however some photographers might create more erotic type of images and nudity can be involved. Neither is necessarily ‘better’ than the other, its just down to personal preference.

It’s important that during your search to look through the photographer’s blog posts and social media to get a good understanding of how they capture their intimate sessions. I always tell my couples if you can see yourself in my images than we are more than likely a good fit. I would also recommend meeting beforehand either in person or over Skype to discuss the shoot and make sure you get along with the photographer. It could possibly be a terrible experience if your personalities don’t match with the photographer you pick.

oakland wedding photographer (9)

What kind of questions should a couple ask their photographer beforehand?

The most important thing with a session like this is to discuss your comfort levels and the type of imagery you like. If they ask to see a Pinterest board with ideas, send that over too but I wouldn’t recommend it unless they ask you first. Some photographers, especially for sessions like this that are very personal, will find it frustrating if you send over a Pinterest board with too many ideas because you’ll probably unwittingly pin lots of different styles of imagery and it will be hard for them to know what you really want. Remember, if you’ve done your research properly, you will have booked your photographer for their particular style, so you should just let them do what they do best!

If you have favourite photos that your photographer has already taken, do mention those though because it will give them a better understanding of what kind of direction you want your shoot to take.

What should we wear? Do we have to be in our underwear?

Of course not! Intimate sessions can be just as beautiful and special with clothes on as they are without. As I mentioned earlier, the most important thing is that you’re comfortable. The session can end with you and your significant other being in underwear/lingerie but it doesn’t necessarily have to end this way.

The clothes you pick can depend on your comfort level and vision for the session. I tell all of my couples to plan clothes based on your lazy Sunday routine, which usually includes underwear, t-shirts, and jeans. Wear the clothes you feel most yourself in because if you feel comfortable, the photos will show that. I have a personal preference for black, and believe everyone looks good in it, so I always recommend bringing at least black t-shirts and bras/underwear.

Don’t try to match each other exactly though or it could end up looking cheesy. Think more of trying to compliment what the other person is wearing. Also, don’t contrast too much. If one person is in something heavily patterned and the other is in a plain black shirt, you might look a bit odd together. If the shoot isn’t at your home be sure to brings lots of options because the photographer can help tell you what will look good in your photos. 

san francisco wedding photographer

How do I know if an intimate session is right for us?

I believe an intimate session is right for almost every couple, no matter how shy or confident you are. As long as you stay within your comfort zone and enjoy the time with your partner it will be a positive experience.

Be vocal with the photographer if they start to direct you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. Unless you’re a model, you will feel a little awkward at the beginning of the shoot, that’s normal and it’s the photographers job to direct you and make you feel comfortable. Don’t think about it too much because after the first 5-10 minutes the worries and stress you were feeling will start to go away.

How do we know what to DO in the session?

I believe most of the time the best photos are when the couple forgets about the photographer and enjoys that moment. An experienced photographer will be able to make you feel comfortable in front of the camera and have some tricks to getting reactions/emotions out of you.

Be prepared to be doing lots of snuggling with your loved one. A good way to get a reaction out of your partner is to whisper something dirty or inappropriate into their ear. The photographer won’t be able to understand and it’s almost impossible for your partner to not have a reaction. Another trick your photographer might use is to have one of you write with your nose on the cheek of the other and you have to guess what your partner is spelling. This can be dirty words or nonsense either way it usually ends up with great candid moments for the photos.

And, if you really want to get deep. I would recommend holding hands and staring into each other eyes for four minutes without breaking eye contact right before the session to create a special moment and strong connection.

intimate oakland shoot bw_64

Do you have any final tips for someone wanting to do an intimate session?

Hire a professional photographer that has intimate couple photos in their portfolio already. You also need to like them and get along with on a personal level.

Play music you like during the session, which takes away from awkward silence that can occur.

Wear clothes that you’re comfortable in and allow you to let your guard down. Have fun and be playful with your partner. If you let yourself enjoy the experience the photos will end up being amazing.