Sensual Photography, also known as Boudoir Photography, is a style of photography that focuses on themes like romantic, erotica and very intimate subjects and elements. Sensual photography is different from nude or fashion photography. Nude photography focuses more on the subject’s explicit content, whereas the sensual is considered to be more private where the set-design and visuals are created in such a way that is set to make the viewers or the subject feel more personal. However, just like nude photography, boudoir photography is also controversial and but the subject can have control over its usage and publication. Sensual Photography is a part of Fine-Art Photography or Fine-Art Photography is the part of Sensual Photography? Which comes under what? It is a good question to start with.

Sensual Photography is a mix of glamour, fashion photography, portraiture, and fine-art photography. It is capable of standing out more than other genres of photography as it directly communicates with the private lives of the people. Sensual photography can be getting tricky at times. That is why, learning about certain things key elements is important like rapport with the subjects, lighting, right outfit and make-up should be the focus of sensual photography.  It is usually preferred by the photographers to be shot in high-key. There are photographers who chose to work in low-key as well. But that depends upon what type of sensual photography does the photographer or the creator has in mind.

How did it start? The History and Origin of Sensual Photography

The foundation of Sensual Photography dates back to the late 19th century, with Albert Arthur Allen as one of the renowned Boudoir photographers specializing in the portraitures as well. He used to photograph women against rich and elegant backgrounds. The primary focus of Sensual Photographs from the early times was supposed to be more for personal enjoyment until the digital takeover; it became more professional and art-oriented, pursued by many photographers as the prime genre. Sensual Photography became a subject of enjoyment for people back then. The wives of military officers used the sensual pictures if their partners were stationed to fight in the war.   

The Hollywood Culture, the pin-up glamour, 18th and 19th-century French postcards are a few factors that have influenced to form this genre. At the beginning of WWII, the US government encouraged the young men to fight in the war by using boudoir as propaganda. There were pin-up posters like “Come home to your girl a hero” or “She’s worth fighting for”. This is how the genre got promoted and was used in the advertisements. That is why, even now, it is mostly women who become the subjects of sensual photography. American actress Betty was an iconic pin-up girl in the 1930s and the 1940s. She was the first person to get her entire body insurance and became the highest-paid Hollywood actress of her time. [1]

Understanding Sensual Photography and its different types

Sensual photography has a blurred connection with fashion photography and fine-art photography. Sometimes it is also confused with the other two. The only stark difference that one can make out of these genres is that sensual photography requires more attention, and management than fine-art photography and fashion photography as it contains the seductive content. As long as one understands that, it is a good sign to start a project on the genre but if not, it might create some restrictions and obstacles to produce the desired outcomes. There are three different, recognized, types of sensual photography, which are mentioned as follows:

  1. Traditional Boudoir Photography: In traditional boudoir photography, the photographer sticks to the foundational idea of sensual photography. It is mostly shot in bedrooms or homely spaces to give more of a personal touch to it. The lighting is kept a little less bright and natural. It emphasizes the aesthetic taste and quality of the photographer which is more than higher in boudoir than in other erotica themed arts. [2]
  2.   Pin-up Sensual Photography: Pin-up sensual photography is more like a glamour shot. It defines the subject’s charisma, beauty and sex appeal. The lighting in this photoshoot is kept very bright. The bright lights are a way to capture and accentuate the natural beauty, in the number of fashion outfits which are mostly revealing lingerie. [2]
  3.   Fine-art Sensual Photography: Fine-art sensual photography mostly captured in nude photography, capturing the silhouette of human body figure, in unusual poses, different lighting conditions and in any different location. It has no such boundaries set like the other two types of sensual photography. There is only one thing that should be kept in mind and that is the abstraction and aesthetics. [2]

Sensual Photography has certain requirements that are supposed to be fulfilled before proceeding with the project. It requires more attention which should always be focussed on. And if you’re a photographer interested in the genre here are a few things that should be there in the checklist.

  • Establishing a rapport with the subject: Unlike fine-art photography, sensual photography is more of personal expression. The subject has to feel comfortable for the shot, to acquire good results. The trust between the subject and the photography has to be built and maintained.
  •     Make-up should be kept minimal: It is suggested that sensual photography is mostly shot in very minimal make-up to produce more natural and personal images. Just make sure to make the subject look more real and natural than looking at something unreal.
  •       Lighting: It depends upon the type of sensual photography. As mentioned, every type has a different source of lighting. To create that mood and feel in the image, one has to follow the principle of lighting in the image, according to the type of sensual photography.   

Styling and Management in the Sensual Photography

The planning and management in sensual photography require more attention than the other field of photography. Styling is an important part to focus on sensual photography. The comfort and ease of the subject in the selected outfit should be taken into consideration. If the lingerie is not comfortable that will be reflected in the expression of the subject. The crisp and clear images are important but clean and clear outfits are also important which defines the style of the subject. With the appropriate make-up and hairstyling, the entire outlook of the photoshoot can be managed well. That depends upon the photographer what type of sensual photography he/she is aiming for. The preferred camera lens is 35mm-55mm. Anything less than 35mm might create distortions in the images, which you can’t avoid because it is capturing the full body.

According to some photographers like Myla González of Cheeky Boudoir in upstate New York, retouching the sensual photographs should be under a limit. The model should look like the way they are in real life. The photographer also believes that ‘communication is the key to produce a collection, great sensual photographer.[3]

Conttemporary Artistic Approach of Sensual Photography

Today, sensual photography sessions are conducted for personal shoots and portfolio. The newer generation takes sensual photography in an artistic approach rather the self-fulfilment and desires. It has become more professional than personal. For example, Dabboo Ratnani’s calendar shoot which features top celebrities as the subject is the best way to explain the genre. The pictures are also a message and symbols signifying the subjects like body positivity and empowerment. The acceptance of any body type, of any colour, has become a trend of acceptance in the stereotypical society. The photographer has to ensure everything happening in front of and behind the camera. From guiding the make-up artists to guiding the models for the required project, everything is solely handled by the photographer first before any other group or party. Because sensual photography requires different efforts and management which can be unusual than the other photoshoot sets.

Collaboration with the Photographer

Chiiz collaborated with Anubhav Sood for Sensual Photography workshop. Anubhav Sood is an Indian photographer working in Poland. This was his first workshop in India. The color palette for his picture has a unique touch and is well-thought-out. He mostly likes working in low light and is specialized working in lingerie or swimwear shoot. He has mentored around 100s in Europe. His pictures are defined by various keywords holding a different meaning with distinct feelings and emotions attached to it. A photographer requires that level of understanding to create art and stature like this. And Sood has it all to offer to the aspiring learners, the viewers and the art and photography lovers. Soods’ professionalism is quite a charming one to discuss about. His professionalism is dedicated to his work and the type of art that he produces straight out of his lenses.

Sensual Photography Workshop in Delhi

The Sensual Hi-Fashion Photography workshop happened on 19th January 2020, in Delhi Anubhav Sood as the mentor and photographer. The total number of participants was around 20. The event was sponsored by the software partner Koyky and the lens partner Sigma. The make-up artist accompanying the photoshoot and the workshop was Gunjan Jaiswal. The upcoming second edition of the workshop will be mentored by Abir Roy on 14th March 2020 in Bangalore. For more details on the past workshop, please visit https://events.chiiz.com/fashion-photography-by-anubhav-sood/. A day prior to the workshop there was also a Meet and Greet with Anubhav Sood held where Sood had a conversational session with the participants and sharing his experiences as a photographer, especially highlighting the sensual photography. Please refer to https://events.chiiz.com/meet-and-greet-with-anubhav-sood/, for an overview and more details on the meet and greet.

The mood created for the shoot was like fixed colors of lingerie, that is, red, black and white with see-through tops and shirts. The make-up was kept very minimal with a shine on the face and body. However, the shining touch was to be maintained by silver touch-up, not golden. It was done to avoid high contrast. The oil was applied to the model/subject’s body to maintain the shine over the entire body. The hair was styled with waves to give a little more volume to it. All these factors were stated by Sood before the shoot. This point should be noted by every aspiring photographer.

The event covered the methods of managing behind the scenes of the photo-shoot which aimed to target the basics of color theory, technicalities of working with LED lamps, planning the photoshoot, understanding the in-camera colour manipulation and processing of low lights. Thus, helping the participants create their own portfolio. Overall the workshop was well-managed from all ends and the Sood’s professionalism was commendable, making the environment filled with different perspectives and experiences.    

Sensual Photography Workshop in Bengaluru

The second edition of Sensual Hi-Fashion Photography workshop is happening again on 14th March in Bengaluru with Abir Roy as the mentor and photographer. 

About the photographer: Roy is a self-taught photographer and artist and firmly believes in the idea of practice. The images clicked by Roy define the accentuated lines and silhouettes of the human figure with crisp and clear-cut backgrounds, giving a minimalistic touch and feel in the produced outcomes. Recently, he has conducted the fourth edition of Muses- the Fine-Art Photography in New Delhi.

The event aims to cover the learning factors, as same as the first edition of the workshop, that is, the basics of color theory, technicalities of working with LED lamps, planning the photoshoot, understanding the in-camera color manipulation and processing of low lights. Thus, also helping the participants create their own portfolio.

The workshop will be sponsored by the software partners Wacom and Stellar, the lighting partner Elinchrom, and the lens partner Sigma, taking place in Future Forward Studios. For more details on bookings, registration and participation, please visit here

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