Let’s face it– being a boudoir photographer can be a fun career. I’ve had a blast growing my business and have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of people throughout my career.
As a boudoir photographer with years of experience, I understand the challenges and rewards that come with starting and running a successful boudoir photography business.
As we know, boudoir photography is an intimate and personal experience that allows clients to feel confident, beautiful, and empowered.
As a boudoir photographer, you have the opportunity– or should I say the duty– to capture these moments in a beautiful manner and create a lasting memory for your clients.
However, starting and running a boudoir photography business requires more than just a love for photography.
You need to have excellent photography skills, invest in quality equipment, set up a comfortable and inviting workspace, create a strong online presence, offer high-quality products and services, and market your business effectively.
There’s a lot to learn, and these topics can take years to master.
In this article, I will provide you with some tips for starting and running a successful boudoir photography business.
These tips are based on my years of experience in the industry and can help you to create a profitable and fulfilling career in boudoir photography.
Whether you are just starting out or looking to take your existing business to the next level, these tips can help you to achieve your goals and succeed in this exciting and rewarding field.
6 Tips for Starting a Successful Boudoir Studio in 2023
Tip #1: Develop Your Skills and Style
Before you start your boudoir photography business, it’s important to develop your skills and style. This is the number one fail of most people who want to get into the business.
Notice that I said “before you start your boudoir photography business.” The career path of most people who want to get into boudoir photography goes like this… They wake up one morning with the sudden inspiration that they are going to “change the world,” and decide to start a boudoir photography business.
They order an expensive camera, go purchase their website janedoephotography.com and *BOOM* now Jane is suddenly a pro! How simple! –Meanwhile, Jane has never used a camera and has no photography experience.
Even though Jane has no photography skills she believes being armed with the common boudoir narratives that she’s “changing lives” or “making women beautiful” will be enough. It’s not.
This is the number one downfall of boudoir new photographers and what causes most to fail. The narrative isn’t enough.
Imagine this scenario:
Waking up one morning and deciding you want to be a pro golfer. You run out and max out your credit cards to get the most expensive set of golf clubs money can buy. Does this make you a pro? Especially, since prior to your big purchase you’ve never so much as stepped foot on a golf course.
Does this mean it makes a lot of sense to start telling your friends you are a “pro golfer” now? Of course not. That would be a bit odd. –But yet, this is exactly what people do in many instances when starting a boudoir photography business!
It’s admirable to be motivated and want to learn about photography, but many people do not want to put in the time to actually learn the art of boudoir photography before they start their “pro” careers.
You should have a good understanding of lighting, posing, and composition before you even start advertising yourself as a “pro.” Moreover, it’s crucial to have a unique style that sets you apart from other boudoir photographers.
Spend time practising and experimenting with different techniques until you find your style. How long? It may take a year or more until you can adequately produce good images.
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I can’t get across to you how important this step is and how so many people simply want to bypass the actual step of learning technical photography.
Other than practice, one way to improve your skills is by attending workshops and conferences.
Many industry leaders hold workshops and conferences throughout the year, providing valuable opportunities to learn new techniques and network with other photographers.
Attending these events will also give you insight into the latest trends and styles in boudoir photography.
Tip #2: Invest in the Right Equipment and Software
As a boudoir photographer, your equipment is your lifeline. Once you are at an accomplished level don’t be afraid to spend on the right cameras, lenses, lighting and equipment.
The good news about boudoir photography is that it is photographed in a simple organic manner, so a lot of gear isn’t needed to get the job done– just the right gear.
As your boudoir skills improve you’ll start to understand how to better leverage these tools, and the subtle differences one piece of gear may provide in a certain situation over another.
It’s also crucial to have backup equipment in case something fails during a shoot. (It can!) Moreover, consider investing in software and tools that will help you streamline your workflow, such as Lightroom, Photoshop, and studio management software. They are essential.
When it comes to the choosing the best camera for boudoir photography, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each photographer has their own preferences and needs, and the camera that one boudoir photographer prefers may not be the choice of another.
To be honest, all major brands can produce outstanding images. As I noted in my earlier example– it’s not the oven that makes you a good baker… An expensive camera isn’t going to help a bad photographer.
The truth is there are such minor technical differences between high end cameras that these differences really only factor into a small percentage of circumstances where a pro can grab a shot with one camera better than another.
For a vast majority of boudoir photographers, the difference between a $1500 camera and a $6000 camera makes no difference. Don’t get hung up on it.
There are, however, some features you may prefer in your camera as you gain experience that will help you create your boudoir photography images easier and better.
For me, ISO performance has always been important. As someone working with available light indoors, it will allow you to capture high-quality images in low-light conditions.
Also, a camera with a high megapixel count will allow you to crop and edit your images without losing detail.
When it comes to lenses, there are a few options that are ideal for boudoir photography, but like with our camera story the best lens is probably the one you already have.
Spending $2800 on a lens in and of itself isn’t going to make a better photographer. What do you need to get started? A 50mm lens is a great option for full-body shots, while an 85mm lens is ideal for isolation shots and portraits. That’s all I’ve ever really needed.
Tip #3: Set Up Your Location
Once you have developed your skills and invested in quality equipment, it’s time to consider setting up your studio or location. This can be a big capital (and time) commitment.
Depending on your geographic and economic area, this step may be more feasible for some than others.
You should choose a location that is easily accessible for your clients, with plenty of parking and most importantly– good lighting. Your studio should have a comfortable and inviting atmosphere, with plenty of space for your clients to relax and feel at ease.
You may need a makeup area, a changing area, and restrooms.
In addition, you should invest in high-quality furniture and decor to create the perfect environment for your clients. Remember: boudoir photography is shot in a bedroom environment, not a dark studio.
Pay attention to the details and ensure that your studio reflects your unique style and personality while staying true to boudoir photography.
Here’s the good news. The financial commitment to a commercial space is not a requirement. Using local hotels, bed & breakfasts, or a studio rental is also a great option for those who do not want the multi-year commitment or expense of their own commercial space.
You can even get started if you have an appropriate space available in your home!
When it comes to lighting, there are a few options that work well for boudoir photography. I have never been a fan of hauling around and constantly adjusting big lights.
To me, all that stuff just gets in the way of the client experience. It does.
I’m a lighting minimalist– and that’s just the path that has worked best for me, and my style. I spent a lot of my career using nothing (ambient light) or a simple speedlight. That’s all I ever needed!
A few years ago, I updated to a Flashpoint eVolve 200 and I’m happy as a clam. That’s just me, however. Softboxes and umbrellas are great for diffusing light and creating a soft, even glow.
Moreover, strip lights can be used to create dramatic shadows and highlights if that turns out to fit your style.
I never found any of that necessary in most situations as I wanted my photography to be soft and natural without harsh shadows. As with most things in photography, however, it boils down to preference.
Start small and once you figure out your look, purchase the equipment that best helps you realize that style.
Tip #4: Create a Strong Online Presence
In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is crucial for any business, including boudoir photography. Your website and social media accounts are often the first points of contact that potential clients have with your business, and they can make a lasting impression.
Therefore, it’s important to create a strong online presence that showcases your work and provides information about your services.
To create a strong online presence, you should start by building a website that is easy to navigate, visually appealing, and showcases your best work.
Your website should include information about your services, pricing, and contact information.
It’s also important to optimize your website for search engines so that potential clients can find you when they search for boudoir photographers in your area. Unless you are a web expert, pay someone to do this for you.
Your website is often a vital first impression of your business, and if the design and copy aren’t in alignment with your brand you can potentially be losing a lot of business without even realizing it.
Social media is another important aspect of creating a strong online presence.
You should create accounts on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and use them to showcase your work, engage with potential clients, and share information about your services.
By using social media effectively, you can increase your visibility, attract new clients, and build a loyal following. The downside to being a boudoir photographer is that social media platforms aren’t exactly very friendly to our business– but that’s another story for another day.
Be prepared to have your accounts restricted from time to time because of the perpetual breaking of platform “community guidelines,” a.k.a. your content is not “family friendly.” It’s just the cost of being a boudoir photographer. Get used to it.
In addition to creating a website and social media accounts, you should also consider investing in search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
SEO involves optimizing your website so that it ranks higher in search engine results pages, while PPC advertising involves paying for ads that appear at the top of search engine results pages.
Both of these strategies can help you to attract more clients to your business, and are also an area better left to pros to manage.
Finally, you should encourage your clients to leave reviews and testimonials on your website and social media accounts. Positive reviews and testimonials can help to build trust and credibility with potential clients and can be a powerful tool for attracting new business.
By creating a strong online presence, you can increase your visibility, attract new clients, and build a successful boudoir photography business.
It’s work, and as you’ve probably seen by now, the actual taking of the photographs may turn out to be the smallest percentage of what you are actually doing!
Tip #5: Offer High-Quality Products and Services
As a boudoir photographer, it’s important to offer high-quality products and services that meet the needs and expectations of your clients and that are in alignment with your brand.
This includes providing professional hair and makeup services, high-quality prints and albums, and digital files that can be easily shared with family and friends.
Professional hair and makeup services can make a huge difference in the final result of your shoots. Your clients will feel more confident and beautiful, and their photos will look more polished and professional.
I highly recommend partnering with professional hair and makeup artists in your area to provide these services to your clients.
When it comes to prints and albums, quality is key. Choose a printing lab that produces high-quality prints and albums that will last for years to come.
Offer a variety of printing and album options, including canvas prints, metal prints, and flush mount albums, to meet the needs and preferences of your clients.
All of the available product options can be a bit overwhelming at first. I’ve always been more of a “keep it simple” type person, but you can choose to offer as many or as few product types as fits your style.
Digital files are also an important aspect of your business. Photographers offering digital files can be a bit controversial, but they are certainly something to consider.
Unlike twenty years ago when a boudoir session was a dark secret, today, clients are eager to share their boudoir experience… So why not let them?
Consider using online galleries or cloud-based storage solutions to deliver digital files to your clients. In my business, these things are necessities.
Many of my clients are traveling to reach me, and it isn’t practical for them to travel back and forth to meet with me.
Again– you have to do what’s easiest for your client to enhance their experience.
Moreover, you should consider offering unique products and services that set your business apart from others.
Custom framing, retouching services, and online galleries are just a few examples of unique products and services that can help you stand out in a crowded market and attract more clients to your business.
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It’s also important to set clear pricing and package options for your clients. Don’t confuse people. Boudoir photographers have a history of creating wonky pricing methods and packages that make little to no sense.
Make sure your clients understand what they are getting for their investment, and provide them with a range of pricing and package options that meet their needs and budget.
By offering high-quality products and services, you can provide your clients with a premium experience that exceeds their expectations and helps you to build a loyal following.
Remember to always strive for excellence in everything you do, and don’t be afraid to invest in quality products and services that will help you to achieve your goals.
Tip #6: Market Your Business
Marketing your boudoir photography business is essential for attracting new clients and growing your brand.
Entire university degree programs are based on marketing, so it’s impossible to go into all the aspects of marketing your boudoir business in a few paragraphs.
There’s enough information to write an entire series of blog posts on the intricacies of marketing, and yet, it doesn’t garner the attention it should by many new photographers.
In addition to creating a strong online presence, you should also consider other marketing channels, such as networking events and collaborations with other businesses.
Networking events are another great way to market your business and build relationships with other professionals in the wedding and photography industries. Attend local events and conferences to meet other professionals and promote your services.
Every area has its own little network of bridal shows, which are a good starting point for new photographers. You can also consider partnering with other businesses, such as wedding planners, makeup artists, and lingerie boutiques, to offer package deals and cross-promote your services.
Social media can also be a powerful tool for marketing your business. Create engaging content, such as behind-the-scenes videos, client testimonials, and sneak peeks of upcoming shoots, to keep your followers engaged and interested in your services.
You can also run promotions and giveaways to attract new clients and reward existing ones.
Finally, consider offering referral incentives to your clients. It’s an underrated and underutilized method of building your business. My entire business was built on referrals. Encourage them to refer their friends and coworkers to your business by offering discounts or other incentives.
Word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most powerful marketing tools available, so make sure you take advantage of this valuable resource. I still use referral cards to this day! Your happy clients can be the best promoters of your business.
By marketing your boudoir photography business effectively, you can attract new clients, build your brand, and grow your business. Experiment with different marketing channels and strategies to find what works best for your business, and don’t be afraid to try new things.
With dedication and hard work, you can create a thriving boudoir photography business that helps your clients feel confident, beautiful, and empowered.
Starting and running a successful boudoir photography business requires hard work, dedication, and a passion for capturing the beauty and confidence of your clients.
By following these tips, you can develop your skills, invest in quality equipment, set up a comfortable and inviting studio, create a strong online presence, build relationships with your clients, offer high-quality products and services, and market your business effectively.
Remember that building a successful boudoir photography business takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it.
With dedication and hard work, you can create a thriving business that helps your clients feel confident, beautiful, and empowered.
In summary, to start and run a successful boudoir photography business, you need to have excellent photography skills, invest in quality equipment, set up a comfortable and inviting studio, create a strong online presence, offer high-quality products and services, and market your business effectively.
By following these tips, you can create a profitable and fulfilling career in boudoir photography.