Boudoir photography, with its intimate and empowering nature, has been gaining momentum as a popular niche within the photography industry. If you’re looking to venture into this intimate form of portraiture, it’s essential to approach it with professionalism, sensitivity, and a well-defined strategy. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start a boudoir photography business.
Step 0: Find Your “Why”
Before delving into the logistics of starting a boudoir photography business, it’s essential to connect with your purpose. Do personal experiences drive your interest in boudoir photography? Perhaps you see it as a way to empower others based on your journey. Is it the art form, the play of light and shadow, or the storytelling aspect that draws you in? Do you aspire to celebrate and empower individuals, helping them see their beauty and worth?
Understanding your ‘why’ provides direction, authenticity, and a genuine connection with your clients.
When I first started my photography business, I took every opportunity I could to gain experience. It was completely by accident that I got into boudoir photography when one of my bridal clients asked me to take some “sexy” photos of her for her husband-to-be. That one shoot changed my business, and my life. I was successful photographing weddings and family portraits, but I wasn’t happy. With boudoir photography I found what I’m passionate about, and I’m helping women feel beautiful in the process. I love how they walk out of my studio with confidence after a shoot.
Step 1. Build a Portfolio
You may know that you have the ability to create gorgeous boudoir portraits, but do your potential clients know that? Enlist family or friends to pose for you for free to create examples of your work. If you’d like to build your portfolio while making money, try a model call. I do this to get women to model for me and create marketing content while being paid. Either way, think about your ideal client when starting a boudoir photography business and have pictures in your portfolio of someone she, your potential client, can relate to.
Don’t forget to have your clients/models sign a photo release. The last thing you want is to get started with your new boudoir photo business and have someone try to sue you for using their pictures.
Keep in mind that while you’re building you portfolio, you’re perfecting your craft. But make sure you approach these shoots like actual paid ones. This includes studying up on technical skills like lighting nad posing but also soft skills like tone setting and communication.
Step 2. Create Your Boudoir Business Plan
Once you’ve built a portfolio, it’s time to create a business plan. Don’t rush through this part. It’s an important way to help you make your goals and dreams come true with actionable steps. Include the following in your plan when starting a boudoir photography business:
- Mission statement: This will help you stay on track and guide your business.
- Vision: Describe where your business is, where you want it to be in the next year, and where you see it in the future.
- Products and services: Describe what you want to offer to clients that best fits your mission and vision.
- Financials: Don’t dread numbers! This is a way to set financial goals for yourself. Be sure to include all financial information including office expenses, a marketing budget, and rent.
- Shoot goals: List the different shoots or services you’ll offer and how many of those you want to book each year. This is an opportunity to create measurable goals for the business.
After you’ve started your business, don’t forget to keep your business plan in mind and review it regularly.
Step 3. Choose Your Session Locations
When you’re just starting a boudoir photography business, chances are you won’t have the funds to buy a studio outright. Don’t worry; there are plenty of boudoir photographers who make it work without a studio. There are several places that could host a shoot such as a hotel, camp site, workout studio, or client’s home.
Everyone’s situation is different so it’s important to determine what works best for you, your budget, and your future goals (see step 2) when selecting shoot locations. If you are going to buy your own space, consider starting small because you can always expand. Don’t worry about impressing your clients with a posh studio or complimentary champagne. Focus on giving them a quality portrait service and product; that’s what they will tell their friends about, and word of mouth is a great way to earn more clients.
Step 4. Start Marketing
After you’ve built your portfolio, completed your business plan, and determined where your photo shoots will take place, it’s time to start telling the world about your boudoir photography business. Potential clients will Google your name or business name, so be sure you have a web presence, be it a web site or Facebook page, or both.
If you have an existing photography business and are adding boudoir to your services, consider adding a separate boudoir section to your web site. However, if your goal is to exclusively do boudoir someday, my suggestion is to create a separate site or Facebook page and Instagram account that you can easily switch over when you have enough clients.
One way to market your business when starting a boudoir photography business is networking. Find out about other local businesses that have something in common with you, such as an ideal client. Brainstorm different ways you can work together, and consider giving a complimentary shoot to a business owner so she can tell her clients about your service.
Another thing you can do is attend various expos and ladies’ events. When you shoot boudoir, there is no better place to go than where women gather. Don’t limit yourself to talking to guests; mingle with the other vendors as well. Don’t be afraid to venture into boudoir photography. Use the steps above to get started and your business will be flourishing in no time!
Step 5. Practice, Educate Yourself and Continue to Improve
No matter where you are in your career, continual improvement and evolution is critical to staying relevant and motivated. Here are a few ways to continue improving your boudoir photography skills and business.
Attend Workshops – Photography workshops are more than just learning about the mechanics of your camera or mastering a new editing technique. They are about immersing yourself in a community of like-minded individuals, gaining insights from different perspectives, and understanding the nuanced shifts in the industry.
Stay Updated with Trends – Trends can shift rapidly. From monochromatic palettes to vibrant and bold styles, from vintage themes to modern aesthetics, it’s important to keep a pulse on what’s en vogue. This doesn’t mean compromising on your unique style, but rather incorporating elements that can amplify your work’s relevance and appeal.
Seek Feedback – Constructive criticism is a photographer’s goldmine. Whether from peers, mentors, or clients, feedback can shine a light on areas of improvement you might have overlooked. Embrace critiques with an open heart, discern the takeaways, and apply them to elevate your craft.
Collaborate with Other Professionals – Engaging with makeup artists, stylists, or other photographers can provide fresh perspectives. Collaborations often lead to innovation, helping you break out of creative ruts and discover new dimensions in your work.
Invest in Continuous Learning – Photography, at its heart, is a blend of art and technology. As software evolves and new equipment emerges, invest time in learning. Whether it’s a new editing tool, a camera lens, or mastering the intricacies of studio lighting, continuous learning ensures you remain at the forefront of your niche.
Starting a boudoir photography business is a journey of creativity, business acumen, and constant learning. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to building a thriving venture that empowers and celebrates individuals through the art of intimate portraiture. Remember, as with any business, passion combined with professionalism can lead to great success.