We ALL start somewhere. Even those of us who have been shooting boudoir for years – yes, even we, were newbies at one time. We’re all just at different points in our journeys. And since we are just a little farther along on our boudoir journey than you may be, we would love to share some thoughts on how to get started as a boudoir photographer.
Alright, so jumping into the basics. These are the TOP 5 THINGS that we think are the most important in the early stages of your boudoir business. As you read these, please don’t feel overwhelmed! This may seem like a lot if you’re just getting started, but don’t worry, you’ll get there. Just stay focused and invest some time into each of these steps.
1) PRACTICE LIGHTING
Lighting is HUGE with boudoir, so that’s why we made it #1. Lighting can’t be an afterthought; it needs to be one of the primary things you master. The way you use lighting is super important with making your clients look their very best. You can keep your lighting setups simple, or go more complex – either way, the bottom line is: does my client look GORGEOUS?!
First question to ask yourself: Will you shoot primarily with natural light or studio lights (or a combination of both)?
We do shoot natural light – it is so beautiful and we love it… but we also like having a variety in the styles that we offer our clients, so we shoot a lot with continuous lights and occasionally with strobes as well. We love the control that we can have with our studio lights, and we’ve figured out some great techniques that really flatter a gal’s figure.
In our early days, we experimented SO much to come up with what we now call our ‘boudoir lighting recipes’ – and these are the recipes that we still consistently use in our studio now, 10 years later! Having these recipes is super helpful, because once you figure out what works best (with lighting), you don’t have to spend a lot of time trouble-shooting and experimenting while you’re working with a client.
If you are new with using continuous lights for boudoir, we highly recommend taking plenty of time to test it out first (see #3 below).
Or if you’d like to learn more about lighting techniques and see OUR lighting recipes, check out our Shooting Course right now! We would love to have you join us and learn some of the techniques and boudoir lighting secrets that we have created through the years.
2) KNOW YOUR GO-TO POSES
Just as we have our go-to lighting setups memorized, we also have our go-to poses memorized as well. Let’s be honest – our boudoir clients are everyday women, NOT professional models… so they need us to be their coach and tell them exactly what to do with each and every pose.
We need to make sure we don’t go into panic mode – but rather, that we can walk into a shoot with confidence in our posing, and consistently provide our clients with amazing images.
At our studio, we know which poses are our favorites (in fact, we named all of our faves), and they also our top-selling poses – which means if we do these ones, our clients are going to purchase those images more often than not. All of the photographers in our studio refer to our Posebook or 1500 Poses as a reference guide, and we run through these poses with pretty much every single shoot. When you know what poses you’re going to do, it takes away the stress and allows you to focus on your client, have fun with her, and making her feel more comfortable.
3) TEST SHOOT
Ok, so once you’ve got a gameplan and some recipes for lighting & posing, the next step is VERY important: you need to test it all out! When you are just getting started with boudoir, you really need to PRACTICE lighting & posing… and you probably don’t want to start practicing with a real client.
If you don’t have any experience in shooting boudoir, we suggest that you start by just asking friends to model for you. That was how we started out, and it was really very helpful to have someone we were comfortable with as our ‘trial subjects’ as we were figuring everything out. It’s much easier to feel the freedom to experiment and when you’re with someone you know well, and who will laugh with you if needed.
And then once you’ve had one or two ‘test’ shoots under your belt (with a friend), next we’d recommend that you find a couple of models you can work with, to build your boudoir portfolio! *SIDENOTE: We’ll add another post in the future, about how to search for models and some tips for working with models for test shoots or editorial sessions. Stay tuned if you’re interested in that!
So get out there and start shooting! I know it may seem scary at first, but I guarantee that once you’ve had a few test shoots, you will be MUCH more confident to launch your business and charge clients for their boudoir experience with you. If you’ve been wanting to start shooting boudoir for a while now, what are you waiting for?! Put some shooting dates on the calendar – grab some friends – then post a model call – and plan out your first test shoots!
4) BUSINESS MODEL/PRICING
Number four is a HUGE one, and sadly this is one that many new boudoir photographers simply skip over altogether! Please don’t skip this step. We highly recommend that you invest some time and energy into figuring out exactly what you’d like your business model to be.
Here are just a couple questions you may ask yourself at this step:
Will you be a high-end boutique studio, or will you only shoot boudoir marathons or parties? Will this be a 1-person-operation, or will you bring in a team to help you? Will you outsource anything? Will you offer hair & makeup in your packages, or as an add-on? Will you What are your monthly expenses, and what are your cost of goods for each boudoir session that you shoot? How much of a salary do you want to bring home each month from boudoir, and how many sessions will you need to book in order to know you’re reaching your goals? How much of a discount can you possibly offer when running sales and specials? When will it be time to raise your prices?
So this is the point where most photographers just tune out and ignore us. Don’t let this be you!
This stuff is definitely the ‘boring’ stuff (especially for us who are creatives and artists), but remember, it’s essential. If this stuff scares you shitless and overwhelms you, check out our Boudoir Business Course – we LOVE this side of things, and spend an hour & a half talking and sharing about strategy for business models & pricing. Come join us!
Alright. So once you’ve tackled steps 1-4, at this point you have a really solid foundation to LAUNCH your boudoir photography business! This is the exciting step… because it means that all of your hard work is paying off. This is where stuff really starts happening.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started! Put yourself out there, make your announcement that you are now offering boudoir, and let the inquiries roll in. We are so excited for you; obviously we are incredibly passionate about boudoir photography, and we know that you won’t regret breaking into this niche.
6) BONUS STEP: KEEP LEARNING!
Oops, I know we said five steps – but this is one we just couldn’t leave out. Educate yourself and never, ever stop learning and growing in your skills and knowledge. When we started out over 10 years ago, there was literally NOTHING out there about boudoir photography. We couldn’t find boudoir workshops to attend, there were no educational books or seminars, and people looked at us like we were crazy when we said we wanted to shoot boudoir.
Well, fast-forward to today, and we are so thankful that this isn’t the case anymore! Boudoir is SO popular now, and there are a lot of great resources out there for you to learn! Of course, we would love it if you choose to learn a little more from us!
If anything we’ve said here has grabbed your attention, we would love to have you join hundreds of other photographers that we’ve had the privilege of teaching through our Complete Online Boudoir Workshop!
Want to see exactly what our Workshop covers? Watch this vid for a little overview of each lesson: