Updated: Aug 13
Boudoir photography is a great wedding gift. With so many things going on during the planning of your wedding, you don't want your bridal boudoir session to turn out to be one more planning headache. Ready for some great tips to help you soar through your session with nothing but smiles? Read on...
Hi. I'm Michael. I'm a fancy-schmancy boudoir photographer from New Jersey that specializes in working with brides to create amazing one-of-a-kind wedding gifts. It's my passion, and I still get super thrilled every time I get the opportunity to host a bride coming in to my building to help create her bridal boudoir album.
You see, although it may not be obvious there is a lot of hard work and time involved in what I do. It's not easy! In the end though, the beautiful results always make it worth while. Due to these efforts, and the fact that I am somewhat of a perfectionist, I only work with a limited number of clients every month. That way, I can invest the time and attention that every client's session deserves. Are there shortcuts? Sure, but I've never been much on cutting corners, and I'm really not one for compromising. It's just the way I work.
I'm not your typical photographer. I strictly work with brides who value experiences and want the best. I'm enthusiastic about what I do, and I want my clients to feel the same. You may say I work a bit differently than most! The woman contacting me who don't indicate on my contact form they are "super-excited"...typically don't get a follow up from me. It's not that I want to be mean (I'm not! I'm pretty much the super opposite) but I know these woman most likely aren't my ideal clients. I'm not the right photographer for them. I've learned along the way that a good fit is important for great results.
Despite what you may think, finding a great photographer isn't easy. It takes work. My business is run in a very client-first way, but often, this is not the case with many photographers. You'll find photographers showing incomplete or confusing information on their websites. You may find strange pricing schemes or packages that bundle items you really don't need or want. It can be a headache sorting through it all and really creates a lot of uncertainty on your part.
I understand. I've heard it all-- really. After photographing hundreds of women, you may say I know a thing or two about a successful bridal boudoir session. 😀. Not to fear. You've come to the right place. Below are some "real" tips to guide you through your boudoir search so you can come out of your experience all smiles-- Ready to go?
1. Book Early
Sounds obvious, but for many brides boudoir may a last moment decision. Probably the number one mistake is the failure to book their session early. Boudoir photography is not a great last minute project. Often, during busy wedding seasons in spring and fall many photographers may already have full calendars, forcing women to perhaps second or third choice option for a photographer.
What's "early?" Well, remember, there are two times of the year that are busier for weddings-- spring and fall. If you are getting married during an off time of the year, it may not be as critical, but in spring and fall the earlier you can reserve a session date, the better.
In my particular case, my spring is booked out yearly and I'm often operating with a wait-list. I always feel bad getting an inquiry from a bride a month or so before her wedding date, and giving the bad news of a full schedule. Just like you may reserve your wedding venue a year or so in advance, it's not unusual for brides to reserve session dates a year in advance, as well.
In most cases, that much of a lead time isn't necessary. You may want to get your session date reserved 2-3 months before your wedding at a minimum. Remember, even after your boudoir shoot is completed, there can be several weeks of photo editing, and album printing & binding time. Planning your session early gets your boudoir session out of the way, and it's one less thing taking up the few spare minutes of free time in your busy day. Get your session booked early and think of it as a little "vacation" from your bridal grind. It's a day to relax and have fun.
2. Shop With Your "Wedding" Mindset
You know how it took you months to settle on your wedding venue? You wanted it to be perfect. You spent weeks searching and visiting. You talked to friends. You read reviews. You tasted the food. Remember how much time it took? This needs to be the same approach you use to select your boudoir photographer. Nothing less.
You didn't merely start calling every wedding venue in the area and ask "How much to you charge?" and pick the cheapest option. Sadly, this is how many brides shop for boudoir. It may be their biggest mistake. Comparing pricing between photographers is a useless activity.
If you were shopping for a new home with your husband and a realtor told you she had two available and said, "I have one for $347,00 and one for $425,000 which one do you want?" Not knowing any details about the homes...how can you make a decision? Where are they? How many bedrooms? Is there a pool? Is it near the beach? Knowing a price with no context isn't enough information to make a smart decision. BUT-- this is exactly how you would shop for a photographer? See what I'm getting at?? (And if you think photographers and their products are all equal...you are sadly mistaken.)
Your wedding is an experience. It's a special occasion, and you treat it as such. You didn't really discuss the fact with your partner that Taco Bell is only $2.29/person while the wedding venue is $95/person-- so why wouldn't be we considering Taco Bell for our wedding dinner? It's cheaper! OMG!
That would be strange, right? On the surface that fact is true, but cheaper isn't always the best choice in every occasion. Your wedding gift (like your wedding) isn't really something that should be left to the lowest bidder. Let me break the news to you that this gift is something that will be part of the rest of your life. Don't go picking the "Taco Bell" of boudoir photographers-- I've talked to many brides who have gone this route and have lived with disappointment. Don't pick your boudoir photography by cheapest price.
When selecting your photographer use your "wedding" mindset. Ask questions. Get the details. You're only going to do boudoir once... make it worth it. (And don't cheap out... trust me.)
3. Tell "Cupcake Debbie" Thanks, But No Thanks.
This is a big one. I hear it all the time...
Here is a dirty little secret about boudoir photographers. Most are bad. An overwhelming number are bad. Boudoir photography is an alluring job for many, but there are only a very (really) small number that are super skilled at it. Don't be fooled. Many people get involved in boudoir photography because they believe they are "changing lives..." --and they may be "changing lives"...but certainly not for the better.
How can this be? Well, it's an occupation with a very low barrier to entry (and a corresponding high barrier to success.) Many people set off with the best of intentions and fail miserably. Let me guess, you have a co-worker who has a friend, Debbie, that just started a boudoir photography business. --And she wants to do your bridal photos! How lucky! Only two months ago Debbie was running a failed at-home cupcake business, and has since sold off her stand mixer and purchased a DSLR and has pivoted to being a boudoir photographer! Suddenly, she has left behind her dream of "being the cupcake queen of Bergen County" and has realized her new purpose was that she was born to "make women beautiful!" How lucky for her... and how unfortunate for you. Just say no... I can not express this enough.
Ever see Kitchen Nightmares? Do you think that just because someone opens a restaurant that means they actually know what they are doing? Well, with Debbie you are walking into a guaranteed Kitchen Nightmares scenario. As I mentioned earlier, boudoir photography is hard. It takes years of practice to become proficient. The number one issue with "new" photographers is this widespread lack of self-awareness about their own lack of skill and competency. Instead, they operate with a mind-numbed mindset that they are here to change to "change lives" and make you look "fierce," and it's a formula for a big shit-storm.
Just because I go out and buy a guitar tomorrow-- doesn't mean I'm a "pro" guitar player. It takes years...and tons of practice to develop that skill. Debbie is a hard pass. Your bridal memories aren't best served left in the hands of a photography noob.
4. Beware Of "Fake" Boudoir Sessions
Speaking of unfortunate boudoir photography situations, here is a another... I love boudoir photography. It's just my thing. Believe it or not boudoir photography is a very specific type of photography.
As it's name implies, boudoir photography takes place in a bedroom or "boudoir" setting. -And not anywhere else. It's about beauty. It's a bit voyeuristic. It's about a window into a woman's private world where she may, or may not, realize someone is watching her. Boudoir is photographed in a simple organic flowing manner. It tells a story. It's a simple thing that is very difficult to pull off. As I mentioned before, very few photographers do this well.
Boudoir photography does not take place in a dark photo studio. Boudoir photography does not have fake backdrops. Boudoir photography does not have banks of big flashy lights going off in your face. That's not boudoir. --No matter what you are told (or read on some photographer's website) that's not boudoir.
Look at it this way. If I took a photo of you in a bikini standing in your driveway, would that be a beach photo? Of course not! Why? Because a bikini is not the defining element of a beach photo. There's a bit more to it (like needing a beach.) Likewise, wearing underwear is not the defining element of boudoir photography. Despite what you're told, standing in your underwear in someone's basement or a dark photo studio is NOT boudoir. Don't be fooled.
How can this be? Well, remember what I said in the last section about photographers being really bad... well, there you go. This really happens? Yup. It really boils down to amateur photographers not really knowing what boudoir photography is, and clients themselves not really understanding what true boudoir photography entails. It's super important for clients to be educated about boudoir photography to help them avoid walking into mistake scenarios.
Always, talk to your photographer and find out where this session is taking place. I operate in a big building full of beautiful, brightly lit bedrooms. Be sure your session is taking place in a similar situation.
5. Holy Crap-- Don't Buy Cheap Amazon Lingerie
No. No. No. No. NO. I can't stress this enough. This is a newer scourge on boudoir, and I had to start putting my foot down a while ago with my own clients. OK. Let's again use my favorite example to demonstrate. We're going back to the example of your wedding... and that perfect wedding venue you picked. Would you come walking down the aisle in an $15 wedding dress you grabbed on Amazon? Hell no. Would be caught serving Chalupas to your wedding guests because they were only $1.29? Nope.
Likewise, that $14 body suit you are eyeing up on Amazon isn't doing you any favors. It's not a deal. It's a disaster. Remember, you are a beautiful bride. Your bridal album is going to be something cherished for years. It's not the place for cheap looking, ill-fitting lingerie. Do you really want that cheap outfit to be memorialized forever? I don't think so. We all love Amazon...and deals... but bridals albums aren't the place for some of these lingerie horror stories.
Over the past few years I've had clients coming in with those clear plastic Amazon lingerie bags, and it's never a good situation. I used to keep quiet, but I had to put a stop to it. The final straw was last winter when I had a client change into one of those ill-fitting cheap bodysuits- where there is no elasticity to it. The fit is terrible. It was sagging all over her body. There was no elastic in the crotch so every time she moved she gave herself a front wedgie... it's a mess. This is not what boudoir dreams are made of...
This is not a lecture to go spend a fortune. Your mission here is quality over quantity. You don't need TONS of outfits for your boudoir session. What you DO need are a few GREAT ones. Skip the discount lingerie. Stick with the classics like Victoria's Secret. They have beautiful classic lingerie that looks wonderful in boudoir. Treat yourself with an amazing outfit from Honey Birdette. Your boudoir session is a special occasion, treat it like one...and you WILL be rewarded.
So, there go you! Could I go on with more? Sure... Do some of these things seem fairly obvious? You would think! But so many women slip into that "bargain hunting" mindset in situations where they shouldn't.
The bottom line is boudoir photography is really a wonderful time, and such a fun wedding gift. The key is to treat shopping for your boudoir photographer with the same mindset as your wedding, and treat it like the special occasion it is.
Always chat with your photographer to make sure you're a good fit, and he/she is producing the type of images you have in mind for your bridal album. Budget your session in as part of your wedding, and treat it more like a vacation and splurge a bit to have it done right. I can't stress enough how much of a difference this will make. Trust me, five years...ten years down the road you will be looking at those photos and enjoying them.
I love answering questions about boudoir. Got one? Please feel free to reach out to me via my Contact Page. I'm happy to help.