Boudoir photography is a type of portrait photography that captures intimate and suggestive images of its subjects. It is often considered to be a very sensual and erotic form of photography, as it usually features nude or partially clothed subjects in suggestive poses.
But despite its risqué reputation, boudoir photography can be a hugely empowering experience for the subject. If you’re interested in learning more about this unique genre, read on for our tips on how to become a boudoir photographer.
What Do You Need for a Successful Boudoir Photography Business
Creating a Boudoir Photography Business Plan
Starting any photography business requires gear. Lighting, cameras, computer etc. But it doesn’t stop there. You will also need to work into your budget other items such as a business license, accounting software, editing software, insurance and more.
A business plan is a written description of the future of your company. This plan will explain what you will do and how you will do it over the course of the years. Making this plan does not have a criteria or special document format. If you write it down on a note section in your planner, you have begun to write a business plan.
In this plan you may want to include:
- how you will market your company;
- the structure of employees and their position within the business;
- describe your genre and any products you might be selling (such as albums or wall art).
From here you will start to see a visual of what your business will need to thrive over the time you plan to be a photographer. These visuals are a great way to help keep you motivated and on track.
If your plan changes over the course of time, you can simple update or rewrite your plan.
Best Photography Insurance for Boudoir
I highly recommend getting PPA insurance (for photographers based in the US). The very low cost will help you in most any situation from hard drive failures to legal help. In the case of a hard drive or equipment failure, the team at PPA will guide you through the process.
They will get your equipment over to data recovery. And they will also work with you in case you have a client’s shoot on that specific drive.
I’ve been in this situation myself. Everything was covered before my client’s ordering session even took place.
Insurance is an important part of running a business to protect you from any issues that may arise. You may think boudoir is less risky than a wedding photography business in terms of losing the images. But think about the possibility of your client hurting themselves on your location.
Insurance is an important part of running a business. Don’t treat it as a optional item.
Why You Need Photography Business Cards
Business cards are a great way to market your company. Making your cards stand out from the rest is important to gain that client lead. Keep the cards simple. Most people do not want to search for information in an already tiny format.
If you are going to add images, I advise to keep them true to the work you will be providing. A client might hire you based on one image you created years ago that is no longer your style.
Chances are they will then be disappointed when they find out you no longer offer that look.
The look of my own cards is very simplistic. I found when I added images some were concerned to hold onto the cards.
Many clients are keeping a boudoir shoot a secret from their significant others until the reveal of the images. Having a boudoir card in their wallet was a concern.
In this type of card, they can always refer to the underwater or mentoring section of the card.
Many photographers will give their cards an extra flair by adding texture. This type of tactile stimulus can help someone remember you from your card instantly.
When a client puts your card in her wallet, along other business cards from realtors, banks or hair stylist, your card will be easy to retrieve if it is created with some extra touch.
Websites and Marketing
Creating a website does not have to be costly but it should be easy to navigate. If your client is taking time to search for your information they may move on to the next photographer.
A few key practices are as follows:
- make sure to have your contact information on the bottom (or top) of every page on your website;
- use keywords on the images on your site to bump you up on a google search;
- keep only the best images on your site (it is better to have 20 amazing images than 50 that are from past work);
- avoid industry jargon (you and your photographer friends will understand it but your clients most likely will not);
- check to make sure your mobile version works well (most clients are searching you up on devices so if the page is very cluttered on a mobile they may move on).
When you are marketing to boudoir clients your style should be where you start. If you prefer to shoot dark and moody looks, then it is important to market towards that style.
If your ideal clientele is established business women in their 40s, marketing to the college crew is going to be a bad return on investment. Placing ads in magazines or papers can be tricky.
Sometimes it can be a great investment. Other times it does not get the return you had hoped for. This is largely in part due to the fact that most people need to see an add three times in order for it to be in their memory.
If you only advertised once in a local golf club, chances are you lost out. A great place to advertise is with local lingerie companies. You can even partner with them to create dual referrals for both parties involved.
How to Get Your Boudoir Photography Printed
When I first started shooting boudoir is was sometimes difficult to find printers willing to work with the images I sent to them. Nowadays you can find a long list of vendors who not only will print but also specialize in boudoir products.
My favorite album vendors for printing are The Boudoir Album and Floricolor. Each have a unique line of boudoir albums and displays for your clients.
When you are choosing a vendor think about your boudoir business plan. Did you write that you had a maximum one week return on products? If so, some vendors may not be the choice for you.
Did you write you were going with the highest quality products in the industry? Take a look during trade shows to see how the albums hold up and the quality of the binding.
When choosing what kinds of products you will sell, make sure to not overwhelm the client with choices. Offer a variety that meets their needs. Not every client will want an album and not everyone will want to hang an image on their walls.
Creating collections of your a la carte items is another great way to give your client an easier selection process.
Where to Photograph Boudoir Images
Now that you have all the important business issues in place it is time to get into what do you know about boudoir? The fine line of the term boudoir is on constant debate among artists.
Some prefer to go with the classic definition of photographing a woman in a bedroom. Others feel free to open this definition up to outdoor or another location. Some keep to the tradition of lingerie, while others are exploring a more intimate version of the word in full nudity.
The truth here is no one is wrong. It is the artist’s job to create what the client is searching for in terms of feeling confident.
They will find you based on your work, whether more into the intimate lifestyle version, or the fine art painterly looks. Either way, clients are all searching for a specific look. And they honestly do not care about how it is defined.
Who Is Your Clientele
Clients for boudoir will come at all stages of life. In the past boudoir has been thought to be female only. Now there are many men and couples who are looking for boudoir shoots.
They may be coming at a point of weight loss, trying to heal from trauma, or just celebrating a milestone in their lives. I have shot boudoir for clients anywhere from 21-84 years of age, both men and women.
Being a boudoir photographer requires a lot of patience and kindness to make your clients feel comfortable. They are about to do a session where they are in their most vulnerable state of mind.
You may have clients who are carefree about their bodies. Most of the time you will be dealing with clients who have been through some body shaming, confidence issues and more. Be considerate to their needs even if it means missing that shot you were dying to get.
If you truly want to try something new, hire a model for these looks before working them into your clientele. This will help remove the kinks of the look before you get a very nervous client in front of your camera.
Boudoir Photography Poses
Once you are ready to start your portfolio, posing will be a major player in the final look. Stiff harsh posing can sometimes work for high fashion looks, but rarely in boudoir.
This type of photography is geared more towards the intimacy of the session. Pointed toes and relaxed hands are important. These are sometimes the most forgotten part of the body when posing.
When posing, make the story believable. If your client is uncomfortable, your image will show the same. If your location has a bed, use it for laying poses but also for a background look. A blanket on the floor will provide the same look.
Air beds can be helpful. They can break down easily for storage and you can bring them out quickly. If you do not have a bed in your studio, think about investing in an airbed.
They’re great for those clients who cannot physically be on the ground due to aliments or mobility issues.
Moving the client to a few locations within your studio is important for a larger selection to chose from. If you are in a small space, you can still redesign each look to get more variety out of your location.
A chair against the wall can be replaced with a rug on the floor can give two extremely different looks to you shooting space.
It is a good rule of thumb to create triangles where you can. It flatters most poses and adds a feeling of movement as well. In the two images below, they are almost in the same pose with the exception of sitting versus laying down.
The pose can be re-used throughout a session, giving you a variety of looks for your client.
Details and close-up shots are a huge seller for boudoir clients. Make sure to get as much of the details of their wardrobe and jewelry as you can for those anonymous shots they love to hang on the wall.
When I do detail shots, I pose the client regardless if the rest of the body is in the frame. This helps not only her to feel confident (she isn’t just sitting) but also helps you for posture in the image.
The one below, her hands and feet were both still posed even though neither of them were in the image. The main saving in my studio is “up on pointe”. They immediately pop the toes up, which adds the slight arch to the back.
From an outsider’s perspective, you might think people see your business as taking glamorous images of beautiful women. While in part this is true, the deeper level of being a boudoir business owner is about helping people.
Boudoir photography is one of the most rewarding genres in the industry. This is due to the confidence you see in your clients when they leave with their images.
It is not only life changing for them but for us as artists as well. Boudoir can help heal clients from body issues or past trauma. It can give a new sense of empowerment to their outlook.