Becoming A Boudoir Photographer: 10 (Tough) Tips For Success
Updated: Apr 16
Hi, I'm Michael. I'm a professional boudoir photographer who gets to work with women from all over New Jersey and the NYC area. Have you been thinking about starting a boudoir photography business? Looks fun, right? Well, it is! There's more to the story, though. This "more" part is the most important, but "not-so-fun" part that people starting off don't want to hear about. Even worse, they think they can skip over steps because it doesn't apply to them. Why wouldn't it apply? Well, we'll get into that, but let's just say people starting a photography business can lack a bit of self awareness, which can really hurt them in the long run. Curious? Take a few minutes to read my boudoir photographer tips-- it may change your fortunes...
It all starts with a dream...
Great! You woke up one morning with your new found passion of becoming a womens portrait photographer. It seemed like it was only a few days ago when your friend Ashley told you that one of the photos you posted on Facebook was "so great, and you should be photographer." "Well, why shouldn't I be?" you thought. You weren't going to just be any old photographer, though, after some quick searches on YouTube you settled on becoming a womans portrait photographer... a.k.a. a boudoir photographer. What a wonderful aspiration and a tremendously fun business. It seems in boudoir photography you're not only taking photos, but you also get to change women's lives! --Or at least that's what the "experts" on YouTube said. Your sudden inspiration has you ready to go... so what's next?
Next stop: Amazon.com You break out your trusty credit card, and pick up a "Pro" camera (because now you're a Pro... you need that kind of stuff.) The only other thing left is your new web site. That's easy. **BOOM** You're now officially a "Pro" and YOU'RE OPEN FOR BUSINESS! Wow, getting all that stuff done was super easy. Barely an inconvenience.
All that's really left to do is talking your old friend Ashley into doing some sample photos for a photo shoot with you, and then the world is your oyster. After that task, it's time to crank up that new Instagram account and start posting "empowerment" posts until your fingers are sore. Let the fun begin!
The fact that you know nothing about boudoir photography sessions shouldn't be much of an issue, nor should the fact that you don't know how to photograph women-- why should it? The real goal of boudoir photography is to help women feel "empowered" and to "change their lives," -- YOU'VE GOT THIS! LET'S GET SOME BOUDOIR PHOTOS!!
...And that's the point where you're pretty much committing to failure.
You just don't realize it, yet. This story (or a version very similar to this) is, remarkably, how most people believe the start to a successful and fulfilling career in photography begins. Nothing could be further from the truth. Want to avoid that crash and burn trajectory and give yourself a fighting chance? The sad news is everything written below is pretty much stuff you don't want to hear... and (according to you) doesn't really apply to you, because you have a "calling." --Well, that "calling" and $4 will get you a cup of coffee in any local Starbucks.
Below are some real world tips on giving yourself a chance.
1. You're Not A Pro...
Great! You're inspired to change lives with your new found passion. You've found your calling! Let's play a game and swap out your desire for being a "pro photographer" and substitute "professional rock guitarist." So you race down to your local Guitar Center, walk in, and exclaim to the nearest sales person, "I'm going to be the best guitar player ever! I want the same guitar Eddie Van Halen uses..." You take your guitar, race home, sit down at your desk, hop on Wix and make your brand new website imaproguitarplayer.com and the offers from major bands should come rolling right in, right?! YOU'RE GOING TO BE RICH... AND FAMOUS!! After all-- you've just declared yourself a Pro!
That just makes sense, right? Err. Well, maybe not. That would seem a bit of an odd expectation, huh? Especially, since you don't even know how to play the guitar. If you had a friend who you told you about such a story you'd probably scratch your head.
This is exactly what "new" photographers do though, right? Wake up with their new found passion, hop on Amazon and buy a fancy Canon 5D Mark IV, buy a new website, and *BOOM* -- I'm a Pro Photographer!
What's the difference between the two? Nothing. They are both just as odd, and neither makes senses. So, there's your first tip. You are not a Pro.
Tip: Buying a camera and having a Wix website does not make you a pro.
2. ABC... 123
When you know nothing about playing the guitar what do you do? Take lessons? Or do sit around with the expectation that Maroon 5 will be calling you to go on tour this summer? (Again- knowing that you have no idea of even how to play a guitar?) Well, the first order of business is probably taking lessons. How can you play in a band-- let alone play anything-- before you even know anything about a guitar? You seek out a local guitar teacher and sign up for some lessons, or if you've really a self-starter purchase some guitar lesson books or online courses about learning the basics of guitar. Then you start to grind it out.
So, you know nothing about taking photos, but yet you're a "Pro" now, right? You, too, need to take lessons. Lessons?? OMG How boring. You're right, Mike, I don't need that. SKKIPP. Well, becoming a photographer isn't any different than becoming a guitar player-- it takes practice. The first obstacle to overcome is your lack of self awareness, that, well, you don't know anything about photography, or the photography business. Keep on thinking about that poor guitarist I mentioned above. Find a community college that has a basics class or local professional photographer who offers mentoring or workshop classes... and become their best friend. At this point there is still a long road ahead. Your "real world" chance of success at this point-- 1%. Remember-- you're the "pro rock guitar player" who doesn't even know how to play.
Tip: Start with some camera instruction and learn the basics.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
So, you've had your guitar a whole month! You've even learned a chord or two! So, are you a guitar Pro NOW? Well, that's still a long way away. Taking Spanish lessons for a month doesn't make you a professional translator, and practicing guitar for a month doesn't make you a pro. Keep yourself locked in the bedroom every day after work. You just have to practice, practice, practice.
This is the step where many people will start to fall by the wayside. --And, that's OK. After all, what does actually learning how to shoot boudoir photography have anything to do with being a professional boudoir photographer?? --Or learning the photography business!!?? After all, you're on a mission to change lives! You're destiny is to make women feel great about themselves! -What does any of this practice HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING! This is all crap, Mike, I'm not going through that... Seriously, I don't need this. My camera takes GREAT photos... its the technology.
Well, keep in mind the story of the guitar player. You think you're ready to try out for pro guitar auditions after a month of handling a guitar? At this point your shitty photography isn