Should You Tan Before a Boudoir Photo Shoot?

Who doesn’t love a great tan? Most photographers encourage you to get a spray tan a few days before your photo shoot, but boudoir photography is a different story! 

Tanning before a boudoir photo shoot can lead to some awkward moments. I’m sure you can imagine the worst – from orange skin to awkward tan lines, maybe even streaky spray marks. It’s important to listen to your photographer, but there are some general things to think about if you’re considering a tan before your boudoir pictures.

So, let’s talk about it.

Should you get a spray tan before a boudoir photo shoot?

Should you tan before taking boudoir photos?

Tanning is a topic I cover with all my clients. And for good reason! You want to look and feel beautiful when in your intimates in front of the camera. That’s why I provide all my boudoir babes with a pamper session of hair and makeup. But having glowing skin doesn’t hurt your self-confidence. I get it. 

My general rule is to come as you are. I believe you are beautiful and sexy in your skin – as is – and I work hard to make sure you feel like a Queen when you’re in my studio. (My secret involves some music, twerking, and a lot of laughing!) I’ve had women who were still apprehensive when they showed up at the studio dance and completely comfortable in their skin by the end. Then once they saw their pictures, they couldn’t believe they had that vixen inside them. It’s my favorite part of boudoir!

All this to say – you don’t need to get a tan, especially if you don’t normally go tanning, to look good in boudoir photos.

You’re enough. Don’t let Google search tell you otherwise.

to tan or not to tan before a photoshoot

Spray Tan vs. Self Tanner vs. Sun Tan

But I know you’re going to do you. If you get regular tans, it could seem unnatural not to tan. And if you just want to feel a little extra dolled up – you may want a tan. If that’s the case, let’s at least talk about the difference between getting natural sun vs a self-tanner vs getting a spray tan.

Because one is definitely safer than the others!

Do I recommend getting sun before the photoshoot?

Sorry, Queen…no. I’m all for laying around the pool (with sunscreen) but getting a natural sun tan is not ideal for boudoir. The main reason is that it’s harder to control your tan lines. 

When we’re doing a boudoir session, you’ll be in various stakes of lingerie and bare skin. You don’t want to be sporting tan lines. Even if you wear a bandeau bathing suit top, they’re usually wider than bra straps and bands.

self tanner before boudoir photos | Pompy Portraits

And you don’t know how dark you’re getting. I’ve had women come in with sunburns and extremely dark lines because they forgot not to go out in the sun before their session. I do my best in editing but if you come in looking like a lobster, chances are you’re still going to look unnaturally burned after editing.

We’re photographers, not magicians!

tanning before boudoir | Pompy Portraits Boudoir Photography

Don’t do self-tanner!

That leads up to self-tanners. Again, don’t come for me. But if you take one thing from this post, let it be this: never do a self-tanner before getting photos taken! Ever. I can’t stress this enough. 

Self-tanners are the most affordable way to tan but they can be streaky and leave darker color patches in natural crease areas like your elbows, armpits, and knuckles. Even my experienced self-tanning babes can’t guarantee an even coloring every time.

self tanner

Plus, self-tanners aren’t as stable as professional spray tanning chemicals. That’s bad because if you sweat during your session, you run the risk of the tanner staining your outfit. This is especially important for my bridal boudoir babes – you run the risk of ruining your veil or white wedding lingerie.

I’ve seen it happen!

self tanners ruin self tanners ruin bridal boudoir lingerie
should you tan before a photoshoot | Pompy Portraits Boudoir

No bride wants to walk down the aisle with a stained veil. So, it’s best to avoid self-tanners if you’re going to be bringing meaningful props or wedding pieces.

Should you get a spray tan before a boudoir photoshoot?

Ok, that brings us to my most recommended tanning choice – spray tans. (Please know I say “most recommended” very lightly.) 

If you’re going to get a tan before your session – get a professional spray tan. Professional spray tans look better and are often less streaky. Your tanner knows how to control the level and can even make recommendations.

Plus, spray tan professionals know how to spray elbow, armpit, and knuckle creases to leave minimal to no color variation. You can also ask your tanner beforehand for their best preparation tips to ensure great results.

Plus, spray tan professionals know how to spray elbow, armpit, and knuckle creases to leave minimal to no color variation. You can also ask your tanner beforehand for their best preparation tips to ensure great results.

Key things to remember when considering a spray tan for your photoshoot

If you’re going to get a spray tan before your boudoir session, opt for a natural spray tan. A natural spray tan means the color will only be one to two shades darker than your natural skin tone. This prevents the dreaded results Ross had in that Friends episode where he got a spray tan and ended up looking like burnt ends.

Not a cute look on anyone!

You can also help prevent tragic tans by asking for tips to prep and care for the tan afterward. Some professionals recommend exfoliating X days beforehand and others say no showers within 2 hours of your tan. Your spray professional will be happy to give you tips.


The last tip I have for you when getting a spray tan before your photos is: do not tan any less than 4 days before so it can set into your skin. This is crucial! If you don’t give your spray tan enough time to set into your skin, you could still end up sweating it onto your white outfits.

Tanning changes what colors suit you

You heard me! If you’re going to tan, you need to consider what shade your skin will be when buying lingerie and outfits for your boudoir photos. 

Tanning often changes how colors look on us. So even if you look great in orange when you’re at your natural skin tone, an orange-based tan may make you look like an Oompa Loompa in your orange teddy. In this scenario, while orange is out, a coral color may make you look hot, hot, hot!
So before you buy lingerie for your session, keep your color in mind. (And if you need help finding lingerie, I have a blog with my favorite online lingerie shops!)

Final thoughts on tanning before your boudoir photoshoot

The whole point of a boudoir session is to show off your confidence and skin. I want you to feel as hot as you look through my lens. I would never tell you to tan or change anything about yourself. That’s why my policy is always to come as you are.

However, if you’re going to tan then please consider a professional spray tan. There’s nothing worse than getting a sunburn or streaky self-tan and having to rebook your session a month and a half out.

And if you have other questions on how to prepare for your boudoir session, check out any of my blog posts below!

MORE BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS:

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