How to Choose a Boudoir Photographer
I get asked a lot about boudoir photography. What’s a session like? Who books these kinds of shoots? How exactly does it work? What do you photoshop – can you make me look smaller? What should I wear? Etc, etc, etc. I also get asked about what separates a good boudoir photographer from the rest and what kinds of questions you should ask when booking a session with a boudoir photographer. I hope to answer those questions in this post.
First and foremost, I think a boudoir photographer should be passionate about working with and photographing women. If you’ve found a photographer who shoots boudoir because they love creating an amazing experience and beautiful photographs for their clients, then you’ve started your search in the right place. I see many photographers who have begun shooting boudoir simply because it’s popular. Boudoir is more than just booking sessions for a paycheck and shooting sexy images. It’s about empowering women and celebrating femininity, our curves and our inner beauty. Finding a photographer who understands that and knows how to leverage their passion to create stunning images is super important.
If you’ve found a photographer who loves boudoir and is excited about his or her work, next you need to find out how much experience they’ve had. Shooting boudoir is more difficult than most would think and requires more skill than the average photographer has. In addition to boudoir, I also shoot weddings and I find that shooting a 90-minute boudoir session is more challenging mentally than an 8-hour wedding day. Having had years to build a portfolio and work with a variety of women and body types has allowed me to create a solid understanding of what it takes to capture a beautiful boudoir image. Still, with all of those sessions and training under my belt, I am challenged at every shoot to create a better image. To provide a better experience for my client. To make my shots more believable. To master that one pose that makes every woman’s body look amazing. I love that. Your photographer should feel similarly.
When it comes to the specifics about a photographer’s experience, there are a few important things to consider. How long have they been shooting boudoir? About how many sessions per month or week do they book? If you’ve found a photographer who is just starting to get into this business, I recommend that you continue your search. Experience in posing women is crucial to an amazing boudoir portrait. An inexperienced photographer will likely pose you in unflattering positions and shoot from the wrong angle leaving you with cheesy looking images. Posing isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not just about having a woman lying in a bed with her hair all spread out around her, or a shot of her booty or of her chest. It’s about body language and creating a believable image. It’s about creating an image that tells a story. The goal is to create an image that conveys who the woman is on the inside and what she’s thinking. An experienced boudoir photographer understands how and why to pose the body a certain way. Ask your photographer to explain how he/she approaches posing during a session. If their response sounds well-thought out and practiced, you’ll be in good hands. If the response sounds wishy-washy, or they say that they “go with the flow,” or if the tone behind the answer is uncertain, it would be in your best interest to continue your search.
An experienced boudoir photographer will also have a clearly defined style. As you browse through their portfolio, you should see a variety of images of different women, but the images should all have a similar style. If the style of images resonate with you and you can picture yourself in those images, chances are you’ve found the right photographer. If a photographer’s portfolio doesn’t make you swoon, keep looking. Boudoir is very personal and there are many different approaches to these types of sessions, so it’s important that you hire a photographer whose work inspires you and makes you excited about your shoot.
Location is also another important question to bring up when interviewing a boudoir photographer. Where will your session take place? If the response is in your home or their home, that’s a big red flag and you should move on to the next photographer on your list – unless you personally know the photographer and would feel comfortable shooting your session in their home. A seasoned boudoir photographer should have a working relationship with a luxury hotel or shoot in-studio. If booking at a hotel, you should ask the photographer if the session has been approved by hotel management. Some hotels do not allow photoshoots while others are happy to provide the room and offer a discounted rate – you want to be certain that your session is okay with the establishment and not something that’s happening under their radar.
If your session will take place in a studio, the shoot should be private. Some photographers share a studio space, which is fairly common, but you’ll want to be sure that your session will be private and there won’t be other photographers who might be working at the same time. While on the subject of your session being private, most boudoir photographers do not allow men to be present during these shoots. I encourage my clients to bring a friend along, but I do not allow men to be part of the shoot. If you would like your significant other or husband to be present for or part of your session, you should ask in advance if that is something your photographer would allow.
Most boudoir studios offer a variety of set designs and props to be used during sessions. My studio consists of a few ‘sets’ that are simple backdrops and modern furniture. I like to create images that focus on the subject and less on the surroundings, so my backrops are mostly grays and whites with a few prints. If you have a certain kind of setting in mind for your session, be sure to look through the portfolio of your photographer to see if they’ve shot that kind of image before. If their set designs don’t jive with what you have in mind, feel free to bring up your ideas or continue your search for a photographer whose studio design matches your vision.
Now that you have all the info you need to know about their experience, their style of shooting and where the session will take place you should also ask about how your images will be edited. My approach to boudoir editing is always to smooth the skin, define the eyes and make slight adjustments in photoshop to enhance my clients’ figures (tuck in that little bit of bra hangover or tighten up the post-baby tummy just a little) – my philosophy is that boudoir should celebrate and showcase how amazing we are as women and that boudoir isn’t for creating portraits that look like another person or that make you appear drastically different. Like a shooting and posing style, a photographer’s approach to post-processing is important. Their work should be consistent and it should appeal to you. If you love the look of photoshop actions, you want to look 30 pounds smaller or to have noticeably larger breasts, or if you want your images to appear as natural as possible you should find a photographer who specializes in those kinds of image treatments.
You’ll also want to ask about the products offered. Most of my clients purchase a Little Black Book. My LBBs are 8×10 with a leather cover and printed on metallic paper. They’re beautiful and a total luxury item. There are nearly a bazillion different labs out there that photographers use for product fulfillment. Ask about the products they offer and the turnaround time for delivery. If you can, try and set up a meeting so you can see some samples – this is also a great opportunity to meet the photographer in person and spend half an hour getting comfortable with them. If you’ve got good chemistry, your photographer should make you feel relaxed, ease your nerves and get you pumped up for your session.
If you’ve found the right photographer for you and you’re ready to schedule your shoot be sure to ask your photographer about privacy before you finalize your booking. My clients’ privacy and comfort is so important to me. I want my clients to feel comfortable, relaxed and confident in all aspects of working with me. Maintaining and respecting their privacy is key to creating a secure environment for them. A boudoir photographer should have a contract that outlines their privacy statement and copyright details, but they should also address in conversation how you feel about your images being posted on the internet or used in studio samples. Boudoir photographers generate business from sharing their clients’ photos with potential clients. If you do not want your images to be shared, you need to discuss that before you book your session or sign a contract. A professional photographer will always respect your privacy, provide excellent service and take beautiful photographs.