It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but when I first started my career as a photographer, I had no idea what “boudoir” was!
At the time I decided to break into boudoir, I was primarily doing wedding and family shoots. Out of the blue, one of my brides asked me if I would do a boudoir shoot for her, as a gift for her groom. I was so nervous, but I loved the client, so I said yes.
Fast forward to today… and I’m now a full-time boudoir photographer at Boudie Shorts. Six years ago, I quit weddings and I haven’t regretted it for a single moment. Boudoir photography is truly my life’s calling.
But it wasn’t always an easy path to get started in boudoir. I was an established photographer, yes, but my portfolio was filled with smiling couples and happy babies. I had to essentially build up a business from nothing again, because boudoir is such a different clientele.
I want to save you some of the headaches I had when I first started a boudoir business! These tips are going to help you whether you’re a brand new photographer or an experienced photographer who is currently working in other areas.
Tip #1: Decide whether or not to segment your boudoir business.
When I did my first boudoir shoot, I fell completely in love. I knew right then and there that I wanted Molly Marie Photography to become primarily a boudoir studio. To be honest, I was already trying to think of a way to quit wedding and family photography, because I hated doing those types of shoots.
If you love boudoir – go for it! Rebrand yourself as a boudoir studio, and slowly start cutting out other types of clients.
However, you don’t have to focus solely on boudoir if you don’t want to. If you love weddings, kids, pets, fashion… whatever type of photography you do currently… you can instead segment your boudoir business.
In other words, keep doing what you’re doing, but start a second business which will be your boudoir studio. Come up with a new name, put a second website online, start second social media accounts, the whole nine yards. Now’s the time to make that decision – rebrand or segment?
Whatever you do, don’t just add boudoir to your list of services. If you actually want boudoir clients, you’re going to need to have a strong boudoir identity online, which is impossible to do if you’re also promoting all of your other services (especially newborns, seniors, families, etc.) on the same website.
Tip #2: Build a boudoir-specific portfolio.
If you already do other types of photography, you probably have gorgeous photos of beaming brides, adorable newborns, happy families, etc. This is not going to cut it to get boudoir clients!
Boudoir clients want to know that you have experience and skills to do the type of shoot they really want. Imagine if you were going to shoot your first wedding, and you showed the bride a bunch of pictures of pets. No matter how good of a pet photographer you are, that probably wouldn’t make a bride confident enough to hire you right?
Getting started as a boudoir photographer is tough. When I first started, my photography skills were good (I had been shooting professionally for several years after all), but boudoir is a whole other beast. When someone is standing in front of you in her underwear, you have to be able to direct her in the right poses, get her to give you certain facial expressions, and light her in a way that is a flattering.
Don’t get discouraged if you first few shoots aren’t perfect. You have to start somewhere. Practice, practice, practice. You can start by shooting friends or doing a model call to build your portfolio; then, as your skills improve, start raising your prices.
Tip #3: Prepare contracts and release forms for your boudoir clients.
I hope you already have clients sign a contract, no matter what type of photography you’re doing. As a boudoir photographer, you’re going to want a very specific type of contract, including a model release form (affiliate) that says you can use their images.
A verbal agreement is not enough! Sometimes, clients will be caught up in the moment and feeling good about a confidence-boosting boudoir shoot, and then forget that they gave you permission later when they see risque photos of them going out on Facebook or live on your website. The last thing you want to do is deal with a lawsuit when you don’t have a contract.
Don’t try to piece together a boudoir contract based on the one you already have. Get a contract specifically for boudoir from an actual lawyer, and have every single client or model sign it before you take a single photo (yes, even friends!) so your business is 100% protected. Some great resources to check out are the Boudoir Legal Bundles from the LawTog.
Tip #4: “Spy” on your competition!
No, you don’t have to get a black ski mask or anything like that. All I want you to do to “spy” on your competition is this: Go to Google and type “boudoir photography YOUR CITY” into the search bar. Who comes up on the first page?
When I type “boudoir photography eau claire” into Google, my studio is the first search result. With a little work from the SEO Cookbook, yours can be too. But for now, I want you to take note of who is on this first page of search results already. These photographers are your main competition.
Think about what sets you apart. Is your ideal client a different age, body type, etc.? Do you shoot in a different style? Do you have more overall photography experience? Has your studio taken on a different “personality”?
These differences are the kernels of your branding, the way you’re going to present yourself to attract the best clients to your studio. If you can fill a gap in the market by standing apart from what others are already doing, you’re going to find it a lot easier to stand out to potential clients.
But even if there are hundreds of other boudoir photographers in your area, including some who are similar to you in terms of style, don’t worry… competition is a GOOD thing because it means that there is a demand.
Tip #5: Don’t forget to revise your business plan!
You have a business plan, right? :)
If not, now is the time to make one using Zach’s Business Planning Cookbook. If you do, now is the time to revise it so it is updated to include the boudoir side of your business.
Your business plan should include a mission statement, the list of services and products you offer, financial information, short-term and long-term goals, and a marketing plan so you can execute on your vision.
Most people don’t like writing their business plans, but don’t push off this task! As you write your plan, you’re going to find areas where you need to make decisions, do more research, etc. so it really helps you find gaps in your business that could be costing your clients and money.
Tip #6: Make sure your web presence is consistent.
If you’ve decided to rebrand to focus on boudoir, like I’ve done with Molly Marie Photography, now’s the time to go through all of your social accounts and pages to make sure your name and the look/feel is consistent. I recommend having a self-hosted website as your “home base” online, then building out a Facebook page, Instagram account, and Pinterest account that all link back to this website.
You should also claim your page/username on other popular social media sites, including Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. I have found that Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are personally the most helpful for marketing a boudoir business, but you definitely don’t want someone else to impersonate you on these other social networks.
If you aren’t rebranding, but are instead going to segment your business by creating a secondary boudoir business, you’ll need to come up with a name. I recommend checking everywhere to make sure the name you choose is available as a URL and on the most popular social networks. It is very hard to market your business is someone else is already using that name, and worse, you could get in trouble if you use a name that is trademarked.
Tip #7: Attend events to promote your boudoir services.
I love marketing online, but sometimes a more traditional approach works really well to jump start a new business. Think about where your ideal client would be – those are events you should attend to promote yourself. You don’t have to just go to conferences and trade shows either. I’ve had a lot of success at women’s events run by female networking groups, and you can also host your own event – an open house to celebrate this new service you are offering.
Make sure you are armed with marketing material and business cards wherever you go, so you are always prepared to talk to people about your boudoir services.
Tip #8: Get involved with the boudoir community.
I’m a big believer that you need to work with others to succeed. Being a part of the boudoir photography community online is going to help you in so many ways. You can get critique on your work, ideas for growing your business, help with client problems and more.
These are people who are going through the same things as you are! Boudoir has a lot of challenges that you just don’t find with other types of photography. When we all work together, everyone benefits. I started a boudoir group on Facebook for exactly that purpose and would love for you to join.