This is how I began as a boudoir photographer: creating little black books filled with pretty pictures for brides from my wedding brand to give as gifts to their significant others. There was very little marketing needed and, honestly, no real brand identity at that point. There didn’t need to be because it was more of an add-on than a separate brand. It wasn’t until I shot my first non-bridal client that I realized I needed to do things differently. Seven words changed everything for me: “You have no idea how this feels.” Hearing this from my client made me realize how naïve I was in thinking that it was only about creating pretty pictures. It saddened me that I had discounted an entire aspect of this experience—the fear, joy, confidence and empowerment that comes from it.
Uniquely personal in its nature, a boudoir session requires a photographer to be more than technically adept. We need to be a mix of photographer, therapist and cheerleader, no matter the client’s initial reasoning for booking a session. Milestone celebration, gift or bucket list item, we as photographers need to remember it’s more than just a pretty picture. What is your client’s deeper motivation? I’ve found that due to life’s responsibilities, my clients have a hard time making themselves a priority. Most of the time when a woman books a session, her underlying reason is that she’s looking to step out of her everyday life, to be pampered and see beauty in herself that she hasn’t seen in ages or at all. I wanted to provide an environment where she could be comfortable in her own body—an environment where she thrived. Shooting with this intent dramatically increases the impact of the images, resulting in larger sales because of the client’s connection with her images. Most clients leave their session already talking about booking their next one without having seen an image. Why? Because of the experience.
Evolution Beyond bridal
A boudoir session is a luxury purchase. No one needs a boudoir session, although I wholeheartedly believe everyone should do it at least once. So, why should a woman book with you? Shift from focusing on the end result to the experience as a whole. Understanding the psychology behind a woman’s motivations in booking a session is key to defining your brand identity. Create an experience that not only produces stunning images, but also creates an environment that allows women to feel safe, beautiful, sexy, confident in their own skin, and you will have no problem filling your shoot schedule. This shift in thinking allowed my brand to evolve into what it is today. This brand allowed me to grow my clientele base beyond the bridal client.
Anatomy of the experience
The most important aspect of the boudoir experience is the human factor. Clients are coming to us with fear, anxiety, body confidence struggles and an incredible amount of vulnerability. Overcoming these hurdles is much easier when the majority of the experience is handled face to face.
• Pre-session questionnaire: Upon booking, every client receives a questionnaire asking everything from why you booked and what level of nudity you are comfortable with to what your favorite body part is and why.
• In person pre-session consult: The first time you meet your client face to face shouldn’t be an hour before they undress in front of your camera. During my consult, they have a chance to see the studio, discuss their session ideas, ask questions and, most importantly, start to get to know me.
• Product, product, product: When my clients see the beautiful wall art from CG Pro Prints I have throughout the studio or flip through the luxurious Floricolor albums on display, they get excited and begin to imagine their images displayed like this. Always show the “wow”-sized sample; they may not buy it, but they will likely want it. Never assume your client’s budget—they determine their financial priority, and you explain why what you offer is worth the spend.
• Session day: This is their day, so make them feel special from the moment they arrive. They receive a branded spa robe as a gift, their personal playlist is plugged into the sound system, and my stylists relax and pamper them until it’s time to rock out in front of the camera. From that point on, it is about building their confidence and pulling out the sparkle. For most of my clients, my biggest role is to show them the beauty others see, as they often cannot see it themselves.
• Reveal day/sales session: The reveal is your last chance to wow them, so do it! My clients get to see their images for the first time as a high-energy Animoto slideshow, creating excitement before they look at them individually. Make them fall in love and they will need to purchase them all.
• Hand delivery of final product: This personal touch allows for one last interaction where you separate your experience from those provided by other photographers.
I tell everyone I photograph that while they may start out as clients, they will end up as longtime friends with me. I let them know I pour my heart and soul into what I create for them. This is extremely important with boudoir clients where they will show their friends their pretty images. It is when they tell them how they felt during the entire experience that their friends decide they want to experience it too.
Shawn Black is an award-winning wedding and boudoir photographer in Boston, MA. Couture Black, his boudoir brand, grew out of his established wedding business with a focus on body positivity and female empowerment, helping all women see themselves as beautiful and confident—hence the tagline: #BeBoldBeSexyBeYou!