Hi, Thomas! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What was your road like to becoming a photographer?
Photography has been a part of my family for some time. My grandfather picked it up during WWII and continued afterwards by documenting his travels with my grandmother. My father also documented his time in the military with the occasional sunset photo, haha.
It wasn’t until my sister-in-law entered the picture that I thought it could be something I could seriously pursue as a career. I was 15 when I first met her and she was dating my brother in college. I had seen some of her work and the one image that stood out to me in her portfolio was a black and white image of a nude model. I thought, “Hey I could do that but better… or at least in my own way.”
Fast forward 8 years to when I was working with AmeriCorps. I had a basic HP point-and-shoot camera, and I was snapping away left and right just documenting what I saw. When I returned home after my service I decided to dive deeper by purchasing a beginners DSLR just to learn more about photography and how everything works. It wasn’t until a book publishing company in Germany contacted me about one of my images I’d taken in New Orleans to use for a book cover that I thought I should take this photography thing a little more serious.
I was living in Ohio for a year working with Habitat for Humanity when I started photographing people in a makeshift studio within my studio apartment. It wasn’t great, but it was a start and the beginning of my transition from photographing nature to people. In 2012 I moved back to Montgomery, AL and decided to pursue editorial/fashion photography. There wasn’t much of a market for that kind of thing here unless I moved to a bigger city. I started working at Indie Film Lab in 2014 and I saw all this amazing work coming from all over the world and I knew I needed to make something happen. I had my Nikon D600 stolen and it was at that moment that I had to make the decision of continuing photography or quitting. Clearly I didn’t give up.
How did you get into boudoir photography?
I dabbled in boudoir photography here and there, but it wasn’t my best work. I could feel that something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I told myself that I wasn’t going to do another shoot until I did more research into how to create boudoir images that were more evocative than provocative. In October of 2015, I traveled to California to visit a friend of mine to do some styled shoots in the desert. She asked me to do a boudoir session and it just felt like it was the right time to try again. After her session, I felt good about it and once I got the film back I was blown away.
Was boudoir photography something you always had in mind to add to your business? How do you go about marketing this very intimate style of photography?
My main focus was, and still is, editorial and fashion photography, so boudoir was never something I wanted to actively pursue. However there was a gap in my local market for boudoir photographers, so it made entering the business and marketing quite easy. It’s the booking part that poses a problem because it’s such a niche and invasive field of photography. Most of my marketing happens on Instagram or via word of mouth from clients. I have really great relationships with the wedding photographers in my area which has helped because most of them don’t offer boudoir sessions in their packages… That’s where I come in!
It’s taken a little over a year for people to recognize my work because it’s not your typical light and airy look. But I feel most potential clients have begun to recognize that having a more dark and moody aesthetic brings out more emotion and mystery.
In addition to shooting boudoir, you also photograph weddings. How do you balance both genres?
Since I shoot 100% film at all sessions and also work for Indie Film Lab, it’s easy to balance everything with all of the resources readily available. For me, boudoir is much harder to edit and deliver than weddings because the selection of images is so small and has to be near perfect.
Because I shoot film, I don’t have to do much editing at all and I try to make sure I frame the shot right the first time so I don’t have to spend time cropping or adjusting. Measure twice, cut once. Lightroom is where I do 99% of my work while using Photoshop just to remove dust, dirt.
Boudoir photography seems to be a female-dominated area of the industry. Did you ever encounter any challenges or obstacles because of this? How do you differentiate yourself?
That’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to face thus far - the stigma of being a guy taking photos of a half naked woman. Not a lot of women in the south are comfortable with that idea, and I get it. But I’ve used that as a catalyst to improve my work and to make something more than just a typical lingerie shoot. Now, I let my work do the talking along with the help of past client testimonials.
Boudoir by nature is very intimate. How do you get your clients to relax and feel comfortable with you?
Three things: music, communication, and location. I usually play 90’s music mixed with some of today’s hits since a majority of my clients grew up with that music it helps trigger memories and makes them focus on something else. Communication before a shoot is probably the biggest factor in breaking the ice and creating the best experience for the client. Getting to know your client a little more personally helps create emotion and it’ll come through in the final product. Lastly, I typically suggest using the client’s home or somewhere they feel comfortable with being in because of the familiarity.
What is the most rewarding part of a boudoir session?
Delivering the images and prints, hands down. With today’s media being relentless with messages about what a women should look like to feel beautiful, it’s nice to see and hear a client’s reaction being one of empowerment. Every client’s session is unique from the other because every woman posses something that sets them apart from another. Another thing I love about boudoir sessions are the stories my clients have to tell. They usually open up more during the shoot and what usually will start off as a shoot for a spouse’s gift becomes even more.
If someone was hoping to pursue boudoir photography, what advice would you give them?
I don’t want to discourage anyone, but I’d have to say don’t do it unless you are passionate about the empowerment and positive message of women and their body. If you’re in it just to make a little more income, you’re in it for the wrong reason. A boudoir session can go sour quickly if it’s not approached properly and can have a lasting negative effect on your client. Boudoir is sexy and intimate by nature and you can still achieve that look without creating objectifying or demoralizing images.
What would you say to someone who is interested in getting boudoir photographs done but is hesitant to take the leap?
Just like with any other field of photography, do your research to find the photographer that you feel matches what you’re looking for and cares about the over experience. Reach out to others that have also done a session with the photographer you wish to take your pictures to hear about their experience.
I am a film photographer based in Montgomery, AL. My passion for photography started in 2012 and since then I have fallen more in love with the art. I have been published both locally and internationally in various forms of print. My work is deeply rooted in evoking the emotions of both the viewer and the photographed. My specialty is in boudoir photography, however, I do photograph other branches of the field from time to time.
When you are finished with your photo session or wedding, do you feel a bit like that guy that was recently dragged off the airplane, semi-conscious and bleeding? Because that is basically what it feels like when you’ve lost control of your clients.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. You just need to reclaim the power.