Author: San Francisco bay area boudoir photographer Jason Guy - In the past, deciding where to have your boudoir session photographed has been an overwhelming task for many of my clients. With so many wonderful location options to choose from, I’ve witnessed too many of my clients struggle to pull the trigger on a location mainly due to the sheer number of options we have available to us, here in this area.
With this post, I hope to help you narrow down some fantastic options I’ve had personal experiences with over the years, and hopefully also give you a few great ideas you haven’t thought of to spice up your upcoming session!
Hotel Rooms for Your Boudoir Photo Shoot
Hotel rooms are a pretty obvious choice you’ve probably already considered for your boudoir session. Below are some of my personal favorites here in the area that I have no doubt you will love!
This list is the perfect place to start if you’re feeing overwhelmed and need a few suggestions to get you going. I have personally photographed sessions at all of the hotel rooms listed below, and I can tell you for certain that you won’t be disappointed with ANY of these choices listed below.
Ledson Hotel - This is probably my favorite hotel room here in the area. Super beautiful room, has a gas fireplace if you want those sensual fireplace shots, really beautiful jacuzzi tub if you want some steamy bubble bath shots and just a lot of really nice furniture and decor to pose with if you're into this kind of look like I am.
Above is a small collection of images from Michalea’s session photographed at the Ledson Hotel. Seriously take a look at these images and tell me with a straight face this location isn’t stunning :-0
Occidental Guest House - Designed by some famous architect of the 70’s I can never remember the name of, this place is among my favorite venues I like to recommend.
If you want a gorgeous location you can have, sexy indoor pictures done, AND stunning outside images among the redwood trees, this place is your location. It’s located on a secluded 3 acre property for total privacy and has tons of indoor and outdoor opportunity.
The owners literally just built a one of a kind outdoor sleeping area into this place that you should definitely check out. Trust me when I say you want to have your session photographed here!!!
Mt View Hotel - You can't go wrong with this place if you get the right rooms. You’ll want to book one of the “luxury suites” with the attached seating area should you decide to go with this place. These rooms are gorgeously decorated, and each room is pretty different. Note that some rooms have strong red colors that could clash with some lingerie color choices if you aren’t careful. If you decide to go with this hotel, I would reserve a specific room and buy lingerie to compliment or contrast (in a good way) any strong colors for the room you’re booking.
Taking into account the bold colors, this hotel is another choice you just can’t go wrong with! Note that there are no fire places in these rooms and the bathrooms don’t have any photo opportunities likes some of the other rooms if those types of images are important to you. The Mt. View rooms are boldly styled and are an excellent choice if you love this kind of look.
The Ryokan Zen Suites are amazing here! Very asian feeling, this hotel has these amazing granite tubs in the bathroom if you want to leave the opportunity open for a bath and or shower images. This location has the nicest bathroom by far of all the locations listed in this post. They have a pretty good size main room with an attached seating area. The rooms are nicely decorated and you’ll love this place if you’re into this style.
Note that some of these rooms also have a center outdoor area that the room wraps around. I honestly haven’t found this feature to be super useful for sessions so just keep that in mind when weighing your decision. There is also a back outdoor area that is about the same amount of not helpful, but this is a super nice room you should consider if you like this style.
Described by one of my clients as “swanky,” this hotel is one you should definitely check out if you tastes are more modern. Just click on the link and go look at this. The best way I can describe it is it’s modern style done well. If you like sleek modern styling you’ll defiantly love these rooms!
Your Boudoir Session in Your Home
I freaking LOVE photographing boudoir sessions in clients houses! There’s definitely a personal flair and intimacy about these kinds of photos that is next to impossible to recreate with commercial locations.
The above being said, use common sense and your best judgement when deciding whether your home is appropriate for a session. Have I created some stunning images in some not so stunning houses? Yes I have. Will the quality and diversity of your images be better if your chosen location is nicer, also yes :-)
Things to think about
Obviously the nicer the decor and furnishings in your space are, the better you can expect your final images to be. That said, DO NOT feel like you need to live in the Taj Mahal to pull off an exceptional set of images. I’d start thinking of renting a location if say your mattress is on the floor of your bedroom and your shot glass collection is the center piece decoration on your wall (true story).
All kidding aside though, most women tend to think their home isn’t good enough even though it usually is. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE feel free to get in touch and send me some pictures of your space if you want my honest opinion of weather or not your house would be appropriate for your boudoir photo shoot. If for whatever reason it looks like your house wouldn’t be a good choice, it’s really not a big deal as there are TONS of other places we can do your session as referenced in this post :-)
Check out the the images above from my session with Devon. Beautiful right?!? This entire session was photographed JUST IN HER BEDROOM. Part of the reason I chose to do her entire session here was because of the opportunity she created for me here in this space. Note the string light head board thing in the first image. She made that for $30 with a curtain rod, some led lights, sheer drapes and a little inspiration from Pinterest.
Pretty much anything you can do to introduce lights in ways like this, will create epic opportunities for your final images!!!
Also note the drapes, trunk, candles and other decorations scattered throughout her bedroom. By carefully framing each shot and using a few lighting tricks we were able to create a beautiful, diverse set of images you’d probably never have guessed all came from one room in her home.
Outdoor sessions are something I get asked about quite frequently. This is a really cool option given its the right time of year and you are into this kind of thing.
Most of my clients that request an outdoor boudoir session have a private location in mind. This is honestly the best case scenario for outdoor boudoir, but it's certainly not a requirement. Some of the images featured below for instance were photographed on a weekend at a very secluded part of our Sonoma County coastline.
If you’d like to learn more on this topic, click the button below to check out my other post which has everything you need to know about an outdoor boudoir photo shoot with me :-)
Closely related to the idea of doing your photo shoot in a hotel, many of my clients rent airbnb’s for their sessions. Honestly I’ve photographed sessions at some airbnb rentals that were amazing, and some that were pretty awful. Here’s a list of some pros and cons I’ve experienced over the years to help you decide whether or not airbnb’s will be a good option for your upcoming boudoir photo shoot.
Price - If you’re willing to do some leg work, it’s possible to find some spaces here that are SUPER nice and moderately priced. Often for what you will pay for a hotel room for, you can easily find a whole house/guest house/loft which can give us tons more opportunity over smaller hotel rooms for your final imagery.
Flexibility- I have seen some clients negotiate with the owners about renting these spaces out for the day. By doing this you can sometimes lower the cost of the rental fee seeing as how you will not be staying there for the night. Fair warning, you will probably get asked what you are using the space for if you plan to try this, as renting spaces by the day tends to make owners spidy senses tingle.
Check in Times- One of the biggest draw backs to having your session photographed in a hotel room is that check in times are often as late as 3-4PM these days. Most of my clients end up booking hotel rooms for 2 days in many cases so we can get an earlier start on your photo shoot. Many (but not all) airbnb’s have a much earlier or more flexible check in times I’ve noticed which allows us to start your session earlier so we don’t have to push your photo session into the late hours of the night.
Outdoor Opportunities- If you hunt around you can totally find some rentals with both indoor and outdoor opportunities! It’s pretty easy to find full houses in urban/suburban areas with beautiful backyard pool/garden spaces. In more rural areas it’s not hard to find rentals with secluded property (often on acreage) that can make for stunning backdrops as well.
Strange Circumstances- Every rental has it’s own rules. Most are awesome, some are just downright strange. Make sure you read the fine print carefully and understand the circumstances of your rental. For instance one of my clients booked a location without knowing it was a shared space rental complete with (you guessed it) other people there while we were supposed to photograph her session. Don’t let this happen to you and make sure to take the time to understand your venue’s rules before committing.
The Unpolished Experience- Like I said above, my overall experience with Airbnb has been overwhelmingly positive. That said, I can recall more than a few instances where owners were, shall we say, overly helpful. Clearly new to the Airbnb game I’ve seen owners (more then one) come back after letting us in to “check how things were going” in the middle of sessions. Be aware that some rentals are literally peoples homes they are renting for a little extra cash and sometimes you’ll get odd customer service experiences as these individuals bumble though the process.
Airbnb | Tips & Things to Consider
Time- It’s no question you will spend quite a bit of time trying to find a place on Airbnb as opposed to just going with one of my other recommendations here in this post. In the near future I will update this article with some of my favorite Airbnb rentals, but until then, plan on doing more leg work to find your perfect space until I can get this list of venues built for you guys :-)
Quality- Often times the super low price rentals are cheaper because quite frankly they aren’t nearly as nice. Be careful and do your own due diligence when considering an airbnb for your boudoir photo shoot. Ask yourself, is this place really a nice place at a good value or am I considering a room the size of a closet that’s not very nicely furnished? I caution everyone reading this to not try and save a buck by picking your location solely on price! Lower price, low quality rooms might be a fine place to crash for the night, but it’s clearly NOT a good choice athletically for your photo shoot. Don’t skimp here! You and I are both putting in a lot of effort to capture amazing images of you. Don’t degrade what your final images could be by choosing a low quality venue.
The Superhost- Whenever possible I recommend you rent spaces from “superhosts.” Superhosts always have a good rating and a lot of them which is a pretty good indicator that you’re getting a good place run by people who’ve done this before. Search these places first and branch out from there if you’re not seeing something you like.
Outside the Box Thinking
Even though everything mentioned in this article would be a fantastic choice for your session (so long as you heed my warnings). Inevitably there are still those reading this that want something way outside of the box different.
I wish I could share the session I did for my client in her boyfriends barn (way cooler then it sounds, it had an elevator in it) or the session I photographed that one time on a yacht, or the really epic session I did in the luxury San Francisco penthouse. I wish I could share examples of all of these, but I can’t as all of those sessions mentioned are private.
Some of the coolest locations I’ve photographed at weren’t because my client owned a yacht, or that her husband did. No, it was because she thought outside the box and made shit happen. Basically her dad is a yacht mechanic and was able to pull a few strings for her. Some of the most gorgeous locations I’ve photographed at were borrowed from clients friends, family and in one notable case that comes to mind, her boss.
If you want something really outside of the box it will honestly require you to think and often do something outside of the box to make your vision a reality. Have fun with the possibilities and have the courage to ask!!! Having the courage to ask someone that can make your ideas happen is seriously the difference between most of these examples happening and not.
Finishing up this post I’ll leave you with a few images from Laura’s session which we did entirely at her work. Now if having your session photographed at your work isn’t outside the box thinking, I’m not quite sure what is ;-)