If you drew a Venn diagram of the booming wedding photography industry and the rise of glamour shoots and social-media powered portraits, boudoir photography would fall neatly in the intersection. But, these professional glamour shoots (mostly of women, but sometimes of couples), aimed at capturing intimacy and sensuality through implied nudity or racy outfits and positions comes with one very important caveat that neither the wedding industry nor social media seems to care for -total privacy.

Over the last few years, boudoir photography has been slowly making its way through the country’s bedrooms, growing almost entirely through whispered word of mouth. The trend first caught on with brides wanting to gift their fiancés a little secret something, or couples wanting to do just one thing before their weddings that didn’t have to be shared with the entire family. But, according to leading photographers in the field, it’s also become a way for women to express their love towards their bodies. “Boudoir photography is a sensuous, intimate photo shoot that a woman can get done to celebrate her unique beauty, style and personality,” says celebrity and luxury photographer Ronicka Kandhari. “I feel that every woman is beautiful in her own unique way, and if I can help her harness it through my photography, it’s a deeply satisfying moment for me.”

While Kandhari says she’s had a terrific response to the concept from her luxury wedding clientele, fashion
photographer Munish Khanna says we’re far from putting the two together. “Let’s not mix it (boudoir photography) with a pre-wedding shoot kind of scenario. Most of the couples have a lot of reservations. It will take years in India for boudoir photography to blend with a photography session before marriage. We are still very conservative, or at least pretend to be for the world. Sometimes women go for it as an experience, and sometimes it’s a mutual decision between a couple after the marriage.”

As a trend, boudoir photography hasn’t quite defined itself yet. The photographers who do offer it are learning
as they go, picking up insights on the way. The process is obviously more delicate than a wedding or fashion shoot- clients usually have zero prior experience in front of the professional lens and are also working to overcome their own nerves or shyness. Neeraj Agnihotri, who’s been practising boudoir photography for the last five years, allows his clients the first half an hour to get comfortable and thinks that the best pictures are captured in the final hour. Kandhari is careful to push clients only as far as they’re comfortable, keeping her studio uncrowded and uncluttered so that the focus can be on the play of light and body language. On the precautions he takes, Khanna says, “One has to be careful before the shoot, and the terms and conditions should be very clear. The outfits need to be discussed, and, most importantly, the objective needs to be discussed. I do not earn my bread and butter from this category, so I turn down a lot of inquiries, where
I do not get the right feeling. One gets an idea.”

The clients, on the other hand, seem to only have one concern. “Nearly all the clients don’t want me to publish their pictures,” says Khanna. “Some of them even want me to delete the pictures once I am done delivering it to them.” Agnihotri says, “Not to share the images and to maintain anonymity is the very first condition of the shoot. The prospective clients are also not able to see previous work.” Most photographers hire a model instead to build a portfolio they can show to clients. Interestingly enough, Agnihotri adds that the gender of the photographer seems to be an issue only for men, particularly when they’re not the ones being shot. “Husbands
are usually fine if the wife is wearing revealing outfits or posing erotically but [only] in front of a camera with a woman behind it. However when women take a decision, it’s based more on the talent of the photographer irrespective of their gender.”

This talent refers to each photographer’s ability to create an atmosphere of sensuality in which the client can let go and explore their sexual side, with shoots ranging from a play of shadows on bare skin to raunchier S/M-themed shoots. “Brides have certainly become more experimental,” says Kandhari. “They love to glorify their beauty and are expressive about it, which makes boudoir more fun. Women enjoy doing this when the men are
actually not around, as they can focus more on themselves, and that brings out the real and sensual part of them.”

Though hitching on to the great Indian wedding bandwagon has certainly helped the trend grow in India, we still need to shed a lot of conservative notions before we shed our clothes. “It’s one of the major segments abroad
while it’s still coming up very slowly in India,” says Khanna. “It’s very private, confidential and anonymous in India. One can say it’s still very much taboo. Trust and confidentiality are major issues, and for many people eyebrows can be raised at [even] a slight hint of flesh. Most unfortunately, the [person’s] whole character in our country is decided by the kind of clothes one wears.” Perhaps it only follows then, that when choosing the kind of clothes not to wear, we do it in private, and we do it for ourselves.

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