I’ve been thinking a lot lately. See last week I got an email that attempted to shame us for teaching boudoir workshops. This photographer claimed we should have been more proprietary and guarded our secrets about our business rather than sharing them. Then I did an Facebook rant about this angry email. I don’t usually do that. But, whatever, I did. And what happened was kind of eye opening. So many past workshop attendees, both in person and online responded.
These now boudoir gurus all talked about how much they had grown after our workshop. It got me all fired up thinking about how much knowledge about the boudoir industry was in that one little group of Facebook rant commenters. SO much knowledge. From what they had learned from us, but more importantly how they had applied it and what had worked well. What hadn’t work well. What made the biggest difference in their boudoir photography business.
So much boudoir wisdom in a group that it invigorated me. I asked everyone to please share some of the biggest things they had learned from our workshops or from their boudoir business.
This is obviously a topic that we could go on and on about. I mean our Online Boudoir Workshop alone is something like 8 hours long. But if we were all going to talk about the MOST important things we have learned, what would they be? I was eager to find out, here is what we all came up with….
1. Understand how to make the client feel and look incredible.
I, Marissa, am going to start with mine first. I know it sounds obvious, but maybe that’s why sometimes I think it may be a bit overlooked. Because it seems so obvious. The most important thing I have learned about running a boudoir business is that it all starts with how you make the client feel, and understanding how to make them look their best. To be clear here. Feel their best is more important than to look their best.
And feel their best is easy. It’s about being a cheerleader, a body positivity coach, and having FUN with them. Your energy and confidence as a photographer is more important than even the photos themselves.
The next part doesn’t come easy. The next part takes practice and study. It means planting yourself in a chair and watching instructional videos, investing in workshops, doing test shoots with friends that are sick of doing test shoots because you’ve asked them 100 times. Learning how to truly make anyone look better than they ever have in a photo is a serious skill set. And it requires dedication. But my God, when it all clicks for you as a photographer in a boudoir photo shoot. Man. It’s the most fun and rewarding job. Here’s what I mean…
I hope that didn’t intimidate you. I didn’t say it was hard, I just said it takes study. And I would start with posing. The right pose on the right body, from the right angle is everything. Posing for boudoir is a serious craft, but the good news is that’s it’s one that can be easily learned. Here is an example of what I mean by knowing your poses….
2. Be a business owner first and a photographer second.
Being a business owner isn’t glamorous all the time. It means putting in long hours and doing the admin things to put all your ducks in a row. It means budgeting and sticking to it. How unsexy is that?
Robyn Buyskes of Bubbles and Berries mentioned the business topic when we asked her what had most influenced her boudoir studio. And I thought it was brilliant that she brought it up. This talented boudoir studio owner said this, “I think the thing I took away that had the most impact on me and lite a fire under me was the Divas saying ‘I am a business woman first and a photographer second’ that was huge for me. I knew I wanted a brand and a business that I could be proud of and taking stunning pictures for beautiful people was how I wanted to do it. Years later and I still have so much thanks for the Divas for all they gave me in that workshop, it gave me the knowledge and inspiration to come back to my home town and kick some ass lol. Fast forward to 2017. I started to feel like I was in a creative rut a creative stall almost. I was feeling a bit defeated and so I need a refresher. I bought the Divas online workshop, and while it took me a while to actually do it, it helped me relight that spark in me. It gave me even more knowledge into the things I struggle with, such as marketing ideas and ways to succeed and stand out. ”
3. Understand how to price yourself.
4. Purchase a session from a photographer you admire
If you haven’t had a boudoir shoot as a boudoir photographer, this is a MUST. Natasha Mendoza said this and we completely agree, “One of the things that helped me the most was actually booking a shoot with you guys and going through the experience first hand (from booking to the consult to the shoot and then seeing the pics)! That’s how I learn the best so I always try to book a service before taking a class from someone. The second thing for me was watching you shoot someone– listening to what you say, how you act, how you use your camera (finding the right settings, etc), finding the best light, positioning, etc. I would have loved to have watched you shoot for hours and then discuss everything after. I actually really enjoyed watching the other girls in the workshop’s shooting styles and learned a lot from them too! When people watched me though I got really shy and nervous. Lol However, the most important thing I learned was how to make sure you are making a profit- numbers and formulas! How to add up your expenses and COD’s to create your packages and albums. That was the best thing I learned as just taking a good photo means nothing if you can’t make a profit and a living for your family.”
So we are seeing a theme here with really understanding your numbers. But I think Natasha makes a serious point with suggesting you have your own boudoir shoot. Guy photogs I’m guessing this isn’t probably something you are eager to do. And that’s fine. BUT you still need to have some sort of extensive portrait session. What I believe is the biggest take home from being in front of the camera for a long session is empathy. Empathy for how uncomfortable it can be. Physically and emotionally. How awkward you are feeling in front of the camera and how much you have to trust the photographer. That’s why as photographers we need to experience that vulnerability so that even on our worst day we will never stop being a confident and kind leader during our professional photo sessions.
Italy’s Veronica Maltoni flew into San Diego for a workshop and she had this lovely insight, “but you know, lighting and posing is seriously nothing if you don’t use empathy and kindness and continue appreciation with your client. This is what I live with everyday since that magic February 2011.”
5. Start in person sales
Kimberlee here now – I’m going to jump in and share a few more tips for you, from all that we’ve learned along the way. One of the biggest things that affected our business model was when we switched to doing In-Person Sales (or IPS) for all of our boudoir clients. When we used to do online viewings, we took one week to process images, upload them to an online hosting site, and then sent the link to our client so she could choose her favorites. That’s one way to do it – but we discovered that we were losing out on a LOT of potential income by doing it this way. And the time it took to go back and forth. We then started doing in-person sales sessions one week after the client’s session… but THEN we decided to do something even more crazy. We asked ourselves: “What if we could do IPS the very same day, right after a client’s session?”
Yes, I know this sounds crazy – but I’m telling you guys, we tried it – and it worked! It worked so well, in fact, that we continued to do same-day in-person sales sessions for each and every client, from then on. Our clients LOVED this. Rather than having to wait a week, now they were able to see their images (and place orders for additional products) right then an there, after waiting only about an hour after their session. Crystal said: “I also changed up my method of IPS and do most of my sales sessions same-day. This saves me time in the long run and my ladies love seeing their images right away.”
6. Use free marketing
We used to believe spending big money on marketing and ads meant big return. No sir. Not true. But here’s the catch. The free or far less expensive takes time, effort and when or if it fails it’s hurts almost worse than if you just spent money. Back in the day (aka 5 years ago) before we all spent so much time on social media, we had to pound the pavement to get our name out. Which we still kinda do.
But more so we take advantage and try to stay consistent with our social media. It can be hard when you are starting out and you feel like you are posting to an audience of one (thanks mom!). But stick with it and the audience will grow. We find Hootsuite can relieve the burden of trying to post every other day by helping you plan it all out and schedule them. We talk for over an hour on our online workshop about what those different more effective marketing options are.
Lindsay Nickel of Lindsay Nickel Photography sent us this via email, “your marketing skills are second to none. You have me hooked on your website, Instagram, and Facebook page, and you gave me the tools to do the same.” (With the workshop).
7. Create systems that work for you
But first before I talk about that, please look at Kimee’s flip phone on the desk. Lol.
The last tip we have for you is all about systems. And for the creative artist I’m sure you are like “systems?”…. barf. But hear us out. Systems for business reduce wasted time, help with efficiency and minimize stress. We have systems for our production, and we even have systems for most of our shoot to insure we are consistent and help with our sales. Posing is a little bit about maximizing time to get an incredible about of photos and increase your sales. So that’s a system too.
Systems for booking can and will keep you sane when you start to scale your business. And systems for your workflow after the shoot will save your butt more times that you will like to admit in your years as a photographer.