No longer is it enough for engaged couples to commission awkward, contrivedly posed engagement photos and force them on friends and family. A new trend in wedding photos has arrived, says Michelle Ruiz at The Daily: The boudoir photography session. Brides-to-be are stripping down either partially or completely and paying to have soft-porn photos taken of themselves as a gift for their grooms. Some critics cringe at the prospect of future generations looking back at these supposedly treasured photos of their parents, but boudoir photography specialists say it's an empowering form of body art. A look inside the divisive new trend:

What is boudoir photography exactly?
The word boudoir dates back to the Victorian era when it referred to a lady's private rooms, which she used for dressing or bathing. By extension, boudoir photography describes shots that capture a woman simulating such private activities. The photos show women in lingerie, or without lingerie, posing coyly or provocatively. Brides, who represent the bulk of boudoir clients, "often bring veils, garters, and wedding night lingerie, but their future spouses' favorite sports jerseys or work shirts are also popular," says Ruiz at The Daily. In the past several years, and especially with the recent explosion of daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social, boudoir photography has become increasingly popular.

Is it just straight, childless brides who commission boudoir photos?
Not at all, says Brooklyn photographer Amber Marlow at her blog. Marlow, who specializes in boudoir photography, says she has "done boudoir shoots for lesbians, for gentlemen, and for ladies who are glowing and bursting at the seams with a soon-to-be-born baby." The assumption that boudoir sessions are just for "hetero ladies" is dead wrong. Marlow also takes offense at comparisons between boudoir and porn, adding that the steamy pics are "a celebration of beauty, sexiness, and sexuality, and [they're] a whole lot of fun." Sure, boudoir can "take some of its cues — even a lot of its cues — from a hardcore porn shoot, but the purpose is not the same."

So this isn't porn?
No, Boston wedding photographer Amy Haberland has said in defense of the practice. "Boudoir is about art." It's not about getting undressed, but rather "you're getting ready to show your best self." Although many boudoir clients give these photos as gifts to their partners, "you don’t do a boudoir shoot for someone, you do it for you," adds Marlow. The person posing has taken a bold action that's "made them look and feel amazing." Tell that to the people who may unwittingly find the photos in the future, says Doug Barry at Jezebel. "A whole generation of middle-age adults" will be tasked one day "with sorting through their recently deceased parents' secret box of stuff," which could include "a flipbook of mom in various stages of undress and pleasant drunkenness."

How much do the sessions cost?
Unless you snag a deal, clients could pay anywhere from $500 to $1000 a session, depending on the length of the shoot and the number of outfit changes. Higher-end photographers can cost more: Dallas photographer Lynn Michelle tells The Daily that she does 60 to 80 boudoir shoots a year, starting at $1000 each, and they can take place in the client's own bedroom or at a studio designed to make photo subjects feel comfortable.

What if the photos end up in the wrong hands?
The job of boudoir photographers is to be "very discreet," says Haberland. They aren't supposed to show your photos to anyone without your permission, and reputable photographers will "offer you a contract stating such." Be sure to get that in writing.

Sources: The Daily, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, Amber Marlow blog