As full-time wedding photographers in Wisconsin, we do almost all of our weddings between the months of May and October. We may occasionally get a wedding in the off months, but it’s very rare. So we not only have to be good at photography, we have to be good at budgeting our income so that we can still feed our kids and pay our bills during the 6 quiet months of the year.
Even if you have a studio and just do portraits, you’ll likely be busier during the nicest times of the year and before holidays, but there will still be slow times when you could be making more money if only you could get more clients.
Adding boudoir sessions to your photography business is one of the best ways to get extra income during the slow times, and it fits in well with both portrait and wedding photographers because it relates to both and it is easy to market all year long.
Boudoir is unique, however, and needs to be marketed differently than your existing business. So this post is going to give you a step-by-step blueprint for things you need to consider and do to start a profitable boudoir photography business and add boudoir sessions to your business to book yourself solid year-round. I’ll also discuss how to market boudoir in a very conservative area, and share exactly how to start a boudoir business step-by-step to make it as easy as possible for you. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy.
The Beauty of Boudoir
If you aren’t familiar with boudoir photos, they are sessions for women that showcase the beauty of their body, most often wearing lingerie and taken as gifts for their husbands. Some of my favorite boudoir images come from my friend Molly Marie, which you can see by clicking here (Not Safe for Work!)
Boudoir is amazing because often women book these sessions for their husbands or husbands-to-be, but then end up having such an amazing experience and feel so beautiful that they end up loving the experience more than they expected and start telling all their friends about it. You can help a woman feel beautiful and confident in herself and her body, which is a gift more valuable than almost anything else you could ever give them. If you do in-person ordering, have some kleenex available as it’s not uncommon for women to cry when they see how beautiful they really are.
Boudoir Photography can easily be offered by wedding photographers as an add-on to a wedding package and marketed as a groom’s gift that he’ll absolutely love.
Boudoir can also be easily added to a portrait photographer’s business as it’s a type of portraiture, so it fits there as well.
Boudoir is especially popular amongst military families where the husband is deployed overseas for long periods of time. If you live near a military base, you’ll find women will jump at the chance to do something like this for their spouse.
Also, since it’s growing in popularity and it’s not offered by everyone, it’s relatively easy to rank for in search engines, getting you more clients who are looking for this type of session specifically. It’s a really great time to add this to your services.
The Difficulties of Boudoir
Let’s face it: Boudoir is unlike any other type of photography and is much more private in nature, so to get a profitable boudoir photography business off the ground you’re going to have to overcome several hesitations that people will have.
Body Image Issues
Many women will put off scheduling a session because they feel overweight or want to wait until they hit some sort of weight goal which they may never get to.
Solution: Learn how to pose women in flattering ways and share with them some of the techniques you use for making them look their best RIGHT NOW. Boudoir posing is unlike any other kind of posing out there, so it’s definitely something you want to study before doing it or you might make the mistake of making them look bigger than they are, and that’s an instant sales killer. I’ll share some great posing resources later in this post, so keep reading.
You don’t have a studio
Because you can’t do boudoir photos in most public places, you’ll have to be a bit more creative about where you do them if you don’t have a studio, but there’s no reason this should keep you from doing boudoir.
Solution: Rent a hotel room for the session. Make sure you collect a non-refundable retainer fee that will cover the hotel costs in the case that they cancel, but this is an easy place to do boudoir. You could have certain days available for boudoir sessions so that you can do several sessions all in one day and cut costs. You might also consider partnering with a local bed & breakfast to rent rooms by the hour during weekdays, as many places are booked for weekends but sit open during the week and you could pitch it as extra income for them.
No one will let you show their images!
Boudoir is a very private thing, and many people will not want to have their images shown to anyone. You’re going to have to accept this as a reality and not let it get you down.
Solution: You really don’t need that many images to show the quality of work that you can do, and I’ll talk more about how to build a portfolio of images below. Keep reading.
It will hurt my other business lines
If you also offer a lot of senior portraits or do mostly children’s photography, you may come across clients who are turned off by the fact that you do boudoir or have other similar hesitations.
Solution: Have a separate website or division of your website where you send people to view and learn about your boudoir photography sessions. OR, don’t put any images online at all and only talk about what you offer online. As a super-conservative person myself, I actually think that you could run a very profitable business without having any images easily accessible to the public.
People think boudoir is porn and would never want photos like that of themselves
This is a valid concern, as some boudoir photographers who do nudes, topless photos, or more sexual posing may not do anything to differentiate themselves from basically being a porn shooter and just calling it boudoir. I know this may ruffle some feathers, but I honestly don’t believe that there should be any full nudity or topless images included in a boudoir session and that certain poses do look just like porn.
Solution: Learn tasteful posing that beautifies a woman and doesn’t just objectify her. Avoid full nudity. Make sure that you are differentiating yourself from porn and that you are providing an experience that makes a woman feel safe, beautiful, and comfortable. You’ll also need to do a lot of expectation setting with your clients to know what their comfort level with the shoot is.
How to get boudoir clients in a very conservative area
I’m giving this it’s own big section because I have so much to say about it, and because I’m super conservative myself and can speak from experience about what would work and what would not work when marketing to me.
If your location is super-conservative, you’re going to have to accept that and adjust how you market your business accordingly.
The mindset of the conservative woman
I’m making broad generalizations here, but I’m going to go with it anyways. Not everyone will be the same as me, but understanding where I come from should help you understand where people of other conservative beliefs are coming from as well.
I’m a devout believer in Jesus who honestly doesn’t believe any boudoir images should be online and available to the general public. I don’t want my husband seeing any other women this intimately, and I even have a problem with many commercials and things I see on television being too revealing for my comfort level as well.
That being said, I believe there’s absolutely nothing wrong with women giving images of themselves to their husbands, and in fact that this is a precious gift that you can give that’s just for him. Many different conservative people have similar beliefs, so I think that you can easily get conservatives to book you. You just have to approach your marketing differently. Sex is to be celebrated within certain bounds, and so if you’re inside of those boundaries there’s no reason why this should be viewed as wrong.
Adjusting your online marketing for conservative areas
You’ll want to make sure that your boudoir is not mixed in with your regular website, as nothing turns me off more than going to check your regular blog only to be shown boudoir images when I’m not expecting them. This was especially annoying when I was on the internet at work, and sites were immediately dropped from my “check at work” list if that ever happened.
I’d actually suggest not putting any revealing images in a completely public place like on a public gallery online or on facebook. I’d recommend showing a few images that focus more on eyes and don’t show anything revealing (think like a conservative who will likely find something that looks like lingerie too revealing even if everything is still covered) or showing legs in heels, etc. Then have a password-protected gallery that you can send to clients that inquire only, or do in-person consultations with a printed portfolio that you show people when they meet with you. This will help conservative women feel like their privacy is going to be protected if they work with you.
I’d also make sure that you make it clear that all the images you show have been shown with permission and that you’d never show anything without permission. Give people the option in your contract for full privacy and they’ll be more likely to book.
Instead of focusing on images on your website, talk about the experience, what to expect, how to prepare, all sorts of content-related posts instead and get testimonials from women you’ve worked with so they know what it’s like, and highlight those instead.
Encourage word-of-mouth advertising by giving discounts or incentives if a woman can get X friends to also sign up for a session on the same day (at different times). It’s a great way to get someone who loves the idea of it telling their friends about it for you while still keeping it relatively private.
Adjusting your sales methods for conservative areas
Instead of doing online galleries at all, do all in-person sales with printed proofs. You’ll make more money doing in-person sales anyways, and super conservative women like me feel better knowing that there’s absolutely no chance that my images are going to somehow get seen by someone they shouldn’t in an online gallery (even if it is password protected).
Step-by-Step Guide for Starting a Boudoir Business
So, despite the fact that there’s a few hurdles to overcome, I think anyone in any area could start a profitable boudoir photography business that will bring them more money year-round. Here’s exactly how I suggest doing it, including the resources I believe are worth investing in to make it easier for you and really get your business off to a profitable start. I’m a firm believer in investing in educational materials that will help you get more money and more clients quicker (they pay for themselves almost immediately), so I’ve shared which ones I find to be the most helpful.
Step 1: Learn tasteful boudoir posing
Boudoir posing is completely different from any other type of posing you’ll do, and women are going to be even more self-conscious with boudoir sessions, so it’s important to know what kind of posing will appeal to women the most. I highly recommend using Molly Marie’s 3 posing guides as they are tasteful, they tell you exactly what to say to the client to get them into the pose, and they are proven sellers. The first volume is free, although I’d also pick up the other two volumes as you’ll need more than 10 poses per session and they’re fabulous. You can also put them right on your iphone or ipad to reference as you’re learning posing, so they’re convenient and easy to use and very reasonably priced.
Sue Bryce also has amazing glamour posing workshops that you can purchase through Creative Live that are super helpful and highly recommended. These will cost you more, and you won’t be able to reference them in the middle of a session, but it’s a great learning tool as well that you’ll love, especially if you want to watch someone work. Most of them would work great with boudoir and all of them are tasteful.
Step 2: Build a portfolio with women of all sizes
The best way to do this is to offer a few sessions for free for friends or of models of all sizes that will allow you to share these images with other women to see. Make sure they sign something that gives you this right or it won’t be worth doing the session for free. This will both allow you to practice your posing as well as create a portfolio so that when the size 24 woman comes to book a session, you can show her your images of another woman of a similar size and how amazing you made her look. Only showing images of tiny buxom women will hurt your business, as most of us do NOT fall into that category.
Step 3: Decide how you are going to tell people about your business and get this ready to go
Whether you take a more conservative approach to your boudoir business or simply put it all out there (with permission) for everyone to see, you’ll still need to get this ready and I still suggest keeping it separate in some way (even if it is just a separate section of your website).
Think about the hesitations people are going to have, and create pages or blog posts that address these hesitations to share with them. The list above is a great place to start.
Create pages or blog posts about what to expect, how to prepare, what products you offer, where they will take place, etc. The more information you can have available to help them feel prepared, the more likely they are to love the experience.
Also, optimize your site for search engines so that people who are looking for boudoir in your area will find them. If you’re not sure how to do this, I highly recommend checking out Tofurious’ brand new ebook called “Found” that tells you everything you need to know about how search engines work and then walks you through implementing it step-by-step. This is how we get almost all of our wedding clients, so I think learning about this is of the utmost importance! Normally the ebook is $89, now on sale 50% off through October 9th by entering coupon code “cookies” at checkout. Click to learn more now.
Step 4: Get boudoir-specific contracts ready to go
Because of the extra privacy you need to address with boudoir clients, your normal contract will need to be modified. My favorite place to get contracts is through Rachel Brenke, a photographer and lawyer who has amazing photography contracts that are relevant for any US resident.
Step 5: Make a marketing plan
Because boudoir is so different from other types of photography, I’d recommend buying Molly Marie’s Boudoir Marketing Packet and working through everything she suggests as she’s a marketing genius and is making a ton of money shooting boudoir. She sent me a copy to check out, and it includes marketing templates, a few amazing bonuses, and a 28-page ebook. You’ll discover:
- The best times of year to market to boudoir clients
- What to say to entice them to book
- How to create and implement a boudoir marketing calendar to book yourself solid year-round
- How to get other businesses to send their best clients to you (with a word-by-word template with exactly how to approach them!)
- 14 marketing templates in 2 different branding styles that you can easily edit and use with your own business (and tips on how and when to use them)
It’s a steal right now, and I highly recommend it. The word-by-word template for getting other businesses to partner with you would be worth it alone, as you could easily use it to get other businesses to promote your other portrait sessions to their clients as well. I was honestly most impressed by this, as it’s brilliant, and can’t believe she included that in here. It’s golden and worth the price alone.
As an added bonus, if you buy both the marketing packet and her posing bundle with volumes 2 & 3 in it, you can get them all for $159 by using coupon code BS60 when checking out. This deal is only going to be available through October 16th, so it’d be a great time to invest in this. The marketing packet alone will be $179 thereafter, and the posing guide bundle is normally $149, so this deal is a great way to get started now and save you almost $170! Click here to learn more now.
Step 6: Order sample products for showing clients
People will not buy what they cannot see and hold. Because people most likely won’t be putting large canvases of their boudoir images on the walls of their home, you’ll want to get more discrete types of products to offer. I’d suggest gift prints, proof boxes, and albums (both larger albums and mini albums). Get a few samples using the images you created for your portfolio and have them ready to show clients and explain why they are perfect for displaying boudoir. I’d even post about this with photos of the products or videos walking the client through the products on your website.
Step 7: Launch the boudoir line of the business!
Spread the word, create some buzz, and let people know that you’ve got a new offering with your business. Do some sort of promotional deal at the start to encourage people to book right away, and then follow your marketing calendar thereafter.
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