The popularity of boudoir photography has exploded over the past few years. It’s not only become a fashionable wedding gift for brides to present to their grooms on their Big Day (or the night before), but it also makes a great anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and “just because” gift. Along with the tremendous increase in demand, there’s also been a huge increase in the number of photographers offering boudoir as part of their services. Some are even specializing in it. If you’ve been thinking about breaking into this lucrative market, here are some things to consider.
What Exactly Is Boudoir?
First, let’s start by defining what boudoir photography is all about. Boudoir might easily be classified as a subset of glamour photography. Both genres typically feature a female subject and have an emphasis on sensual, sexy, and flirtatious looks and poses. But while glamour photos tend to feature women in sexy outfits, exaggerated poses, and slightly unrealistic situations, boudoir is more about lingerie, seductive looks, and relatively plausible scenarios.
Boudoir, as the name implies, typically depicts a private or bedroom atmosphere where lingerie, or less, is the only dress code. However, this is only a working guideline as the glamour and boudoir genres tend to overlap. After all, if your client wants to include some swimsuit pin-up shots in her session, who are you to say no?
There is no one “type” of woman who commissions a set of boudoir images. And there are many reasons clients will come to you to have pictures made, other than those mentioned above. Many will acknowledge they are reaching a turning point in their lives and would like to mark it with beautiful photographs of themselves. Some will tell you they are thinking of starting a family, and would like to capture the look of their pre-baby body before it changes. Some will say they have started seeing themselves in a new and liberated light and wish to explore this side of themselves in pictures.
Whatever the reason, you should know that virtually every client will be at least a little nervous. Your client will know she’ll be center stage, attempting looks and poses that she’s not quite sure she’s even capable of. Her goal is to look beautiful and come away with amazing pictures, but she’s going to be nervous at the thought of being undressed and directed by a relative stranger, or even a familiar photographer, in front of the camera. If that weren’t enough, she, like most of us, would probably change a few physical characteristics about herself if she could.
If you’re good at putting people at ease, and projecting a friendly, confident, and professional demeanor, you should have no problem working with boudoir clients. The next question is whether or not boudoir photography is something you’d really like to offer.
Is Boudoir Right For You?
Before adding boudoir to your list of services, you should consider the implications it will have on your business, and whether or not it’s a good fit for you as a photographer. Boudoir can certainly be a very profitable addition to your package offerings, and also as a stand-alone service. And there are few other types of portraiture that can have such a positive impact on a client’s self-esteem, which can make it very rewarding to you as a photographer. However, if you have moral or ethical objections to this type of imagery, or feel uncomfortable with the idea of working with clients who are wearing little or no clothing during their sessions, shooting boudoir is probably not right for you.
The availability of a studio (home or otherwise) will certainly come into play, as this isn’t the type of portraiture you would normally do out at the park. Boudoir clients will expect some type of private studio or location where they will be comfortable and not have to worry about uninvited or unknown people having access during the session. Many photographers will arrange hotel room locations for their boudoir sessions, although this will add considerably to the overall cost to the client. Many clients are okay with that and understand that they might want to invest in hair and makeup, new lingerie items, and accessories, too.
Adding Boudoir To Your Current Offerings
Once you’ve made the decision to offer boudoir photography services, you’ll want to let people know. If you’re a wedding photographer, chances are you’ve already been asked by a few clients if you offer boudoir sessions as part of your packages. New brides are typically looking to present a book of sexy pictures to their grooms either on, or around, the wedding day. It might be a good idea to design a boudoir package add-on similar to your bridal, engagement, or other wedding products.
With or without that built-in clientele, I suggest you educate yourself about the business and techniques involved in modern boudoir. You’ll need to actually shoot a few sessions in order to gain the necessary experience you’ll require to provide the quality of photography your clients deserve. You might want to start off by offering free or low-cost sessions to a select group of clients. The benefits of practice are so important, but so is getting your subjects’ permission to display some of their images for self-promotion.
Make sure your initial subjects agree that in exchange for free or low-cost images, they’ll sign a simple release to allow you to use their photos for this purpose. Then post your best boudoir photos in a “boudoir” section of your online portfolio, blog, or at the very least in your offline print portfolio. This will be key to eventually attracting paying clients by showing that you can legitimately and skillfully provide this type of portraiture.
It’s possible that it will also become a selling point for your other photography. Some brides would rather hire one photographer to handle all of her wedding-related photography. I’ve also had women start off as boudoir clients only to come back to me for every other type of family portraiture as the years go by!
If you are considering offering boudoir photography to your clients, I suggest you read my primer on the subject, 10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now, which discusses everything from the details of working with clients to best-selling poses, and the followup, 25 Amazing Boudoir Photography Techniques, which gives you detailed info on how to recreate some of my best boudoir looks. These books will help you jump-start your boudoir work.
Photos © Ed Verosky