There’s a lot to love about boudoir photography: It empowers your subjects. You get to hang with awesome women and give them a confidence boost. It makes your clients (and their significant others) gasp with delight when they see the stunning results. Really, you’d think everyone would want to be a boudoir photographer.
But the truth is, boudoir photography presents some unique challenges. It requires a different level of preparation, marketing, technique, and -- excuse the pun -- bedside manner than other specialties. But if you’re willing to go the extra mile, you can sustain a successful boudoir business. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Get ready to hustle.
In other areas of photography, your business will thrive on repeat clients. Maternity bellies turn into squishy newborns who turn into cake-smashing one-year-olds and then adorable toddlers. Boudoir, on the other hand, is often a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence. And while clients are quick to post family portraits all over Facebook, they may be shy about sharing boudoir photos where their boss/neighbor/grandma can see. This doesn’t mean imminent doom; it just means you can’t rest on your laurels when it comes to attracting fresh clients. Keep a gorgeous portfolio online. Promote your services at bridal shows and on wedding websites. Be consistent about blogging to keep your SEO on point. And always provide your clients with an experience they’ll want to rave about -- because even the most modest clients will probably brag to a few friends. “In the boudoir business, word of mouth is like gold,” says Kylene Cleaver of Simply Beautiful Boudoir in the Philadelphia area. “The way you make a woman feel is paramount -- she takes that experiences and tells her friends.”
Make primping part of the package.
Team up with a handful of talented hair and makeup artists who can help your clients look and feel picture-perfect. Wrap their services into your package, so clients don’t have to worry about setting up their own appointments (and aren’t tempted to skip the pampering for frugality’s sake). Even if your client just wants bedhead waves and a natural glow, no one can pull it off quite like a professional -- and that just-left-the-salon confidence will shine through in the images. “The number-one reason we offer hair and makeup and wardrobe styling is because we want women to receive a full-on luxury experience from us,” says Alyssa Andrew, a boudoir photographer in the Philadelphia area. “They look in the mirror and are shocked every time they see the results -- not because they look like another person, but because their real beauty is enhanced. Boudoir is all about the experience.”
To specialize or not to specialize?
The ceiling is high in glamour photography, and you’ve probably seen rock-star photographers commanding fees that could pay your mortgage for months to come. And while nothing is stopping you from reaching that level, you need to make sure your current prices reflect your experience and are realistic for your market. Otherwise, you may end up stalling out before you get a chance to realize those long-term ambitions. If you’re having a hard time finding boudoir clients, take on families or weddings or headshots to supplement your income while you build brand recognition. It’s possible to sustain a boudie-only business, but there’s nothing wrong with branching out -- you may even find another genre you love just as much. We recommend creating a completely separate website for your boudoir work, whenever possible.
Don’t forget the business.
The more rewarding your work is, the harder it is to think of it as work. And since boudoir definitely falls into that category, it can be easy to overlook the administrative nitty gritty. But the basics still apply: Your website needs to be professional and easy to navigate, and it should include an info page explaining why boudoir photography is such an amazing investment. Make sure your portfolio is flawless and filler-free. Build up an arsenal of flattering poses. And don’t fall into the trap of shelling out a ton of money to present big, framed prints or a huge wall of retouched, printed and matted images at your sales session -- this is a huge gamble that can drain your bank account and throw off your client.
“I’m geared towards selling albums, so I show digitals on my laptop,” says Jen Rozenbaum, a top boudoir photographer in NYC and teacher for CreativeLive. “If I show images large, I think it’s confusing since the images are on the smaller side in an album. Plus, showing them on a laptop allows me to sit in close proximity to my client, which is nice. I’m right there if she needs help choosing or if she has any questions -- or if she wants to hug me because of how amazing she looks!”
We think a bespoke 12x12 or 10x10 album is THE perfect boudoir product in addition to a collection of 3 or 4 framed prints for the client’s own boudoir at home. These two items will guarantee a large sale that will make your efforts worth their while and allow clients to walk away with art they can enjoy every day plus an intimate keepsake to treasure forever.
Perhaps your anxieties are internal? The fear of failing at that which is most dear to you? Or the terror of living with regrets that can never be remedied?