Learning Boudoir: The Building Blocks

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Thinking about starting a boudoir business? You probably have a lot of questions, concerns, and doubts. Relax. That is completely normal. But to be honest those things never go away completely since your business is always growing and evolving. So best to just get used to that! :) 

I began shooting boudoir when I started college and became obsessed with it. I realized it was the only type of photography that I wanted to pursue. I had shot fashion, family portraits, pets, and assisted on weddings prior to my decision to fully focus on boudoir. Fast forward to when I was twenty living in Florida and deciding where I would want to open my studio. More or less on a whim I decided on Boston, without knowing the city or anyone in it. It was one of the hardest things I had or have ever done in my life. After years of being in the business, I have established my place in this city, my ideal clientele, and doing only shoots that inspire me. It took many years and a lot of long hours to get to where I am. It would be incredible if my current knowledge of the job can make the experience for another aspiring photographer easier than my own was. With these blog posts I will share a variety of information, videos, classes etc with tips for how to start and succeed at your own boudoir business.  

Each of the learning boudoir lessons will be step by step build ups, designed to give you time to try all tips before moving onto the next lesson. 

Before going into building your portfolio and logo designs, start thinking about what inspires you about boudoir photography. What images have you seen that you wish were part of your portfolio? Are they close up shots, B&W, nudes, do they show a specific location or scenery? These are very important questions to start asking yourself, but even more important is staying true to yourself when answering them. It is easy to start liking and wanting to re-create all professional images one sees, but in doing so you are losing sight of yourself which in turns makes you lose sight of your ideal client. Boudoir photography is a niche market and therefore should be treated as such. Focusing on a particular style or feel to the images will make people book you because they want your vision for their images.  To achieve your ideal vision I recommend doing the following: 

  • Research images or photographers who have a style that you like. Print out photos or start a folder of inspiration on your desktop (I keep a binder of images that I have fallen in love with over the years, and will often look at it for inspiration before a shoot!) 
  • Make a list of reasons why these photos speak to you
  • Write down several words that you would like your future clients to associate your studio with (many people suggest keeping your company close to your own personality or words you would describe yourself with, but personally I think it is fine to have a business that is not an exact representation of yourself- it gives you room to explore and grow!)  

After that, take into account where you live or where you will have your business operate. Is it in a city or rural area? Is the area considered more conservative or fairly progressive? What is the yearly weather like in your city? When is the most popular time for weddings/ tourists? Are you planning on having a studio, shooting in hotels, or in client homes? Through the exercise listed above, you now have a clearer understanding of what look and feel you want your images to have and can now make adjustments to that style based on your location, weather conditions, and personal shooting set up. 

We will discuss these matters further in later posts, but it is important to already know the answer to some of the questions, or at least which direction you would ideally like to go. Of course these factors can always change as your business grows, and that is the great part of working in a creative industry!

When I started my studio, I began with a love for using bold colors, statement accessories, and dramatic lighting to create moody images. I chose that as I was inspired by very high end fashion photography (my primary focus in college actually!). I loved the attitude, lighting, and glamour that went along with it. At the same time, I had a great appreciation for french architecture and furniture and wanted to mesh the two looks. My studio name and logo resulted from my french inspirations, as well as many of the patterns and fabrics I used during shoots. But I kept the lighting and feel of the images primarily dramatic. Below are some images from my first few boudoir shoots :) 

Can you see the major role my inspirations played on the images I created? 

Of course the style that you start out with can change and further develop over time, which is perfectly natural. But the purpose of this lesson is to give you a jumping off point of what area you would like to start in. If you do not establish a base for your art to develop from, you may find yourself struggling in unnecessary ways. It might be harder finding clients that you click with, since they may have a completely different image in mind of the end result and what the overall look should be. If you are going to be having a studio of your own, a vision will make decorating the space that much easier. Or even in finding hotels that will compliment your brand image. Also, when it comes time for marketing having a clear vision and direction for your brand will be very helpful in the wording and images to use. 

Personal Critique via Skype
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If you need help in establishing a look or answering these questions for yourself, contact me for a Skype chat (up to one hour private chat where I will ask questions to get you to critically thinking about your business). These Skype chats work great too if you already have a portfolio/ website that you would like me to critique. Don't miss out on the limited introductory price! 

 

 

Next time we will be covering how to build an attractive and desirable portfolio, including my top five best selling poses with easy to follow instructions! 


Annika is the owner & photographer of Ma Cherie Studios. She is originally from Germany (where she also studied photography) and now resides in the Boston area. 

Photo Credit- Katherine Henry