Updated: Mar 20, 2020
Hi. I'm Michael. I'm a little bit of a geek, but more importantly I am a boudoir photographer. Boudoir is my thing! I totally get it that people can feel uneasy getting in front a camera. I'm that way, too! Good news, though, I'm an expert at making people relax. I think its a necessary skill for any successful boudoir photographer-- and I think it's an ability you either have... or you don't. I guess I got lucky.
What does that have to do with boudoir parties? Well, a lot, actually. Let's take a few steps back... Let's face it, boudoir is really a bit of a party, anyway. Whether there is one person, or six, it's all about having a bit of adult fun.
Boudoir can be a bit nerve wracking for any women. You're there to do something that society has pretty much warned you not to do your entire life-- take your clothes off! Not only that, you're doing it in front of someone (your photographer) you really don't know, and they want you to do whaaat? Act Cute? Hmmm... See what I'm driving at here? It takes a pretty good coach to get past all that, and let the sexy vibes flow.
One thing that has helped throughout the years is a bit of moral support. I've always had women ask if they could bring along a friend, and my response has always been to encourage it. Having a friend along really makes things easier for the client. So, if one friend is good, can four friends be even better?? Of course!
More is better in boudoir. The nerves seem to dissipate, and the women tend to focus more on having fun.
So, How Did Boudoir Parties All Come About?
Well, I certainly didn't invent boudoir parties, but let me tell you, I certainly turned it up a notch! As I recall, my first requests for parties stemmed out of bridal groups, and that still seems to be the number one group that comes in for a boudoir party. Bachelorette parties are a great occasion for boudoir. Other occasions may be a birthday group, or I've even had ladies celebrating a divorce.
Boudoir parties aren't a big part of my business, but they are fun. Usually, its a situation where I would be contacted by one of the bridal party (who typically seems to arrange everything) and it all starts from there. There are so many variables involved, its difficult to tell you there is one right way to arrange everything, but I'll cover some of the important points to help you guide your way through the process.
How To Throw An Amazing Boudoir Party
Now what you're ready to start, here's where a bit of work will come in. With a little organization though, you'll group will have a great time.
Decide Who Your Boudoir Captain Will Be.
Aye Aye, Captain! Every group needs a Captain. It's best to have one point of contact with your photographer, and in turn its the Captain's job to disseminate all the info to everyone in the group. If there are six ladies all going out independently trying to arrange a session, it can be a bit of chaos. Once your group agrees to having a group boudoir shoot, nominate someone to be the "lead."
I know from my experience, having several people from a group contact you can certainly lead to mix ups in details. It's a big responsibility to be the Boudoir Captain, so choose wisely! It's a tough job.
Get Your Group Together.
Although opinions may vary, a boudoir party can get too large. How many people want to take part? Remember, the larger the group, the less time each person within the group will have for a one-on-one photo time. As fun as boudoir parties are... things needs to keep moving! People aren't going to want to sit around for hours waiting for their turn.
What's the perfect size? I'd say the dead-on perfect size is four to six women. Remember, the bigger the group the less camera time (generally) each person will have. To get through a dozen women is possible... but you'll be moving pretty quick through each person. Even if each women only gets thirty minutes... I don't think you'll want to be there six hours! We'll go over this a bit in the technical details below.. but keep this in mind!
Here's another reality: Not everyone in your group (bridal or otherwise) may be super keen about taking part in a boudoir session. --And that's OK. Don't force them, because well, people who don't want to take part... really look like it in the final photos. (Meaning: they'll look grumpy in your big smiling group of women.) You can always bring these people along if they want to hang with the group on that day, but keep in mind everyone may not want to participate in the photos.
Once you have a good idea who will be participating (Good job, Captain!) you can move on the hardest part...
Find Your Awesome Photographer
I'm going to try to cover as much as I can about a super important part of the whole process-- finding an amazing boudoir photographer. This is actually hard work. The world of boudoir photography is a bit of a mess over the past six or seven years. A big mess. You are living in the midst of the "Boudoir Boom" which isn't exactly as fun as it may sound.
What happened? For some reason, starting about six or seven years ago, there were seemingly large groups people that woke up in the morning and suddenly decided they wanted to "make women beautiful." They set off to Amazon and bought a camera, and plopped down a few bucks for web hosting and *BOOM* labeled themselves as "pro" photographers. Imagine, just two weeks earlier they had an at home cupcake business, and now they are a pro photographer! Amazing.
You can spot one of these Boomers because they make a lot of noise about "changing lives," but often offer little in terms of technical skill. Somewhere along the way, the 10,000 hours of practice to become that "expert" fell by the wayside here, and the photography part is often lacking. --And after all, isn't that what it's all about? Many of these Boudoir Boomers have faded away, but it's still worth mentioning. If you get one on the phone, you'll know... they will be less concerned with their skill, and more concerned with telling you how they will "empower" you.
I've written a lot about How To Shop For A Boudoir Photographer, so as time allows, you can read that article full of juicy tips on how to successfully find the best photographer for you. To summarize up the process:
Discover your local options. Do a comprehensive search of available photographers in your area. Decide your travel radius, and stick with boudoir specialist
Immediately discard photographer with low quality and "shady" work. Stick only with high quality boudoir photography.
Get rid of the "Cupcake Queens" and "Boudoir Boomers." Stick with only the highest quality experienced professionals in your area. Avoid photographers making "life altering" claims.
Understand what high quality work sells for in your area. Plan for and expect that to be your budget.
Shop Smart. Price should never be the sole deciding factor in your decision. Price without any other context is meaningless.
Avoid making baseless comparisons on session packages or products. Photography is not a price comparative industry. There are too many quirky packages, such a huge variety of products, and vast range in skill levels of photographers that this practice is meaningless. Don't try to play the Audi dealer against Joe's Used Cars.
Meet your photographer. This should be the easy part. By now you've cut out most of the bad choices. Be certain you have a good rapport, feel comfortable, and get your session scheduled early.
Be super ultra picky about who you select, but if you follow my tips in the article above, you'll know how to find a few qualified candidates, and review their work with your boudoir group and get opinions.
What Does Your Group Want?
Not all groups are created equal! Not all boudoir parties are the same! Boudoir photography can be expensive. If you've been doing the homework I've assigned above (I hope!) you've probably seen that all the photographers you really like may not necessarily be the cheapest. That's exactly what we want! THERE ARE NO BARGAINS HERE!
Would your B.S. radar go off if you were shopping for wedding venues and one venue boasted a complete gourmet five star meal for $12 per head? Probably... It's a bit too good to be true. If most gourmet venues are $120+ per head your spidey-senses should be tingling when you hear $12. You certainly don't want to feed your wedding guests TVP rubber chicken... and you don't want to bring your group for really horrid boudoir work.
For some reason when people see really low photography prices they want to see it as a "deal," when it's anything but... it's that rubber chicken (but for some unknown reason people choose not to see it that way.) Avoid! Avoid! Avoid!
One thing you can do as Captain, and it may be a bit awkward, but you're all buds-- is to talk about money, and what the group wants to spend. Not everyone may have the same money to spend, so you'll need to get an idea of what available so when you do wind up talking to your photography pro, you'll have an idea of what the group has available for the session.
Not only that...what does your group want out of their party? This may take a bit of work, too.
Does everyone want a cute little photo book to take away? Or Just a few digital photos?
Is everyone chipping in to pay for the bride? Or is it every women for herself?
Does everyone want to get their hair & makeup done? If you plan on having your party before a night out, getting hair & makeup is a blast-- that way everyone is all good to go for a night out partying!
If everyone is chipping in for the bride, is she getting a longer session? So she can have a cute book for her wedding gift?
Are you taking any group photos? Or is it all just singles.
How long does everyone plan on staying for this session?
Do you plan on doing your party earlier in the day? Or later as a bit of a prequel to a night out.
The decisions are numerous...but you can do it! Sometimes this part comes down to what the photographer offers, but I think you'll find most pretty accepting to working with your group.
When it comes to boudoir parties, in my experience they are so varied, it's tough to have "standard" packages for groups. Now you can see why!
Here's what you do. As Captain, ask your group what they prefer. Does everyone want hair & makeup? Do they prefer a tangible takeaway- like a book or album... or do they prefer just digital shots? Does everyone want group shots?
In my experience, my groups do want the hair & makeup (which is part of all my sessions.) When people are getting the hair & makeup done, its a great time to chat talk, and have a glass of wine with the girls. When it comes to products, again, I think people prefer something tangible, like a photo book, they can "hold" and share as a memory of their event.
See, I told you that was the hard part! Once you've held your meeting with your boudoir group and have a good idea of they all want and are expecting, you can meet with your photographer...
Discuss Your Plans With The Photographer
You've got this! At this point you have all the info you need to present to your photographer candidates. You know the number of women, what they want, how long they plan on shooting... everything! Perfect.
Having all this information makes things soooo much easier. Ideally, you'll be able to pay some kind of group session fee-- which will cover the session and makeup, and each women may be able to pay for their own product as their budget and needs dictate. Be careful if a photographer charges on outfit-based or time-based system. Remember what I said earlier-- not all photographers charge for their services using methods that make sense. Charging by the bra is a bit dumb, but believe it or not you'll find people charging this way. Be careful of photographers who charge based on time, as well. Although this may work out for some scenarios, in photography you are paying for a result-- not a unit of time. Imagine going down to the salon to get your hair done, and the receptionist asked if you'd prefer the 10 minute cut or the 20 minute cut. That would be weird, right? Well, in photography it's the same thing. Your paying for cute results.
If you get stuck in some time based system, be sure to do the math... If you have six girls, and the photographer is giving you 90 minutes... that's ain't much (only 15 minutes per person.) The boudoir party is about having fun, kicking back, and enjoying time with friends... it's not about watching the clock.
Once the details are settled, and you have a photographer whose system work best for your group, you can start arranging a date that works best for everyone...and BOOK!
Make Time To Prepare
Once all that hard work is taken care of, the fun begins. If possible, give yourself a few weeks from booking to session date. This gives you adequate time to prepare. Whether its having time for a manicure, scheduling a wax, or hitting your favorite tanning salon to get a bit of a glow, you won't be rushing.
The fun part of a boudoir session is the shopping! The key to a successful wardrobe in a boudoir party is quality over quantity. Generally, in a boudoir party the sessions are shorter, so you most likely will not need as many outfits for a solo session, so stick with the basics. Buy things that you'll feel comfortable wearing. You simply cannot go wrong with cute bra sets. They can be worn alone, or paired with a pair a jeans. Fish net stockings are always cute. If your feeling really fancy you can go the whole stocking & garter route... The choices are really endless.
Don't know where to start? Typically, your photographer may have an idea list for outfit suggestions-- so ask! Can't get one? In a pinch, hit me up and I'll send you a copy of mine.
For Session Day
Get your rest the night before! Photoshop can cure a lot of ills, but looking tired isn't one of them. Also, don't wait till the morning of your session to put all your outfits together. I can't tell you how often women forget things because they are rushing.
Everyone will probably be well aware of session day, but as Captain be sure coordinate the travel plans. Whether you're all driving together or separately, be sure to arrive on time.
Is it just photos... or more of a party? In my world its definitely more of a party. I know in my gigs we often have wine, music, snacks. If you are going to BYOB, make the arrangements with your group about who is bringing what. (And don't forget the glasses if they are not provided.) Boudoir parties and glasses of wine to together hand in hand.
Typically, the first hour or so will be everyone getting hair and makeup done. This can take a while... depending how large your group is vs. how many makeup artists are working your party. That's OK. This is a great time to talk, relax, and have some of that aforementioned wine.
Your photographer by this point has gone over the itinerary for the day, and its time to have some fun with the girls.
Need Some Party Games?
Well, odds are your group gathering is a bit of a bachelorette party! Right? If your group is looking to have a bit of fun you can zazz things up a bit by playing the Boudoir Bachelorette Party Prop Game. I introduced the Party Prop Game years ago, and its always been a hit. How to you play? Easy.
The idea is simple. A grab bag of boudoir "props" is created, and every one picks one from the bag and has to use it as a prop in a few shots in their photo session. These props are typically of more of a sexual nature... but hey, you can choose props that best suit your group. Let's face it, in my experience some looking to be a bit wilder than others.
What kind of props? Well, I'll tell you typically what may be in the bags I create for my clients... Handcuffs, Ice cubes, fish net stockings, whipped cream bikini, vibrating undies... you get the idea!
Have A Great Afternoon!
After all the planning you finally pulled it off! A boudoir party really is a great way to spend an afternoon with the girls, and the truth of the matter is everyone will enjoy the photos (and the stories) for years to come.
Well, I hope this guide will be a help in leading you to a successful boudoir party. It does take some work to get a party set up and get organized properly. The boudoir photography world can be a bit tricky to navigate-- but following these steps will help you be a successful Boudoir Captain.