Updated: Aug 13
There is a difference in boudoir photographers... When I was getting started, I was bit worried at first people wouldn't be able to see or understand photographers worked differently, but my initial worries were unfounded, and the response has been overwhelming. What transpired was the creation of a new style of premium boudoir photography for clients who truly want the best. Curious? Read on...
Hi. I'm Michael. I'm a boudoir photographer from New Jersey. Needless to say, I operate a bit differently than what you'd probably expect-- and I'm OK with that. Years ago when I started photographing women, I knew I wanted to do it a bit differently...and better.
As the obsessive type I am, before I even dreamed of turning photography into a business, I would practice...and practice...and practice again with my camera. I would set up mannequins in my spare bedroom on the bed and photograph them to teach myself how to get things right. Hey, they didn't mind laying there for hours and not moving while I toiled away in my obsession with learning how to capture the perfect boudoir shot.
Looking back at what I put myself though, it reminds of Daniel-San and the "paint the fence" from the Karate Kid... only lacking the Mr. Miyagi... I was truly out there on my own. It wasn't pretty, and it certainly wasn't glorious. It did teach me a thing or two, though. When it was finally time to get started, I took the business skills I learned from my previous companies and used that along with my evolving photography skills to get my new endeavor off the ground.
One thing I'm glad I never did when I was getting started was look around to see what everyone else in the boudoir space was doing. I didn't care, and it didn't matter. And, boy I'm glad I didn't, because if I had, there's a good chance I may not be where I am today. Although things have a improved a little bit, when I was getting started boudoir photographers were a mess. I remember getting inquiries from clients at the beginning with questions like "How many outfits do you allow?" I recall talking to one woman who was trying to do everything in her power to try to negotiate a deal with me because she spoke to one photographer somewhere in Pennsylvania who was going to give her an entire photo session, including an album for $75...and if I couldn't beat that deal...she was picking the other photographer. Oh, the early memories.
There was this awkward process in which photographers seemed to deal with clients, book them, and handle photo sessions-- and I wanted nothing to do with it. ...So I didn't. ...And haven't looked back.
There was a better way. As my business grew, it just became apparent to me that boudoir photography was a client first business. Working with clients and putting their wants & needs first while creating personalized experience was the way to go, so that's what I did. As a service business, its about more than just a sale-- it's about serving your client well. Building relationships and getting to know my clients was important, but clients also need to feel known and validated, as well. So, I worked differently than others. If you use dollars as certificates of approval for these changes, I must have been doing something right. It was an interesting time.
Fast forward several years, and it I was able to refine my own work flow and really find what worked best for my clients to build the type of business that I really enjoyed operating.
One of the things I learned was that women needed to viewing boudoir photography as an experience. It's a luxury, not a commodity. When people ask me how to shop for a boudoir photographer, I always tell them to treat it like you are organizing your wedding. Your wedding is/was special, and you understand to treat it as such. Your wedding day has a much higher value than just sum of all the parts. It's not so easy to put a price tag on the value of time spent with family and friends celebrating and being together-- and it certainly isn't an occasion that is doled out to the lowest bidder.
As my business grew, I found myself investing more and more time in each project. This was a bit of a fork in the road moment. I was spending more hours not only with the client, but working on and editing photos, creating albums, and all the other tasks associated running a photography business. I could have cut that way down, but I didn't. In my head I knew the look and experience I wanted to provide for my clients, and if investing more time is what it took, that that's what I was going to do.
I wanted the customer-first experience. I wanted the client pampering with makeup & hair. I wanted the cute locations. I wanted to create the most unique and beautiful art for my clients... so I did!
The trade off? Well, due to all the time invested I was working with fewer people and to operate in the manner the costs to my clients certainly started going up.
The idea of "luxury" photography started to take hold a few years ago, and photographers started attaching that word to their names. I'm not a fan of that word, but it is what it is. What does it mean for clients? Well, think of it this way. When you're traveling on vacation you can stay at a Holiday Inn Express, or you can stay at a Ritz-Carlton. When you're buying a new car you can grab a new Mercedes S Class, or you can get a Hyundai. There are times and places for all these things.
If you're just on the way home from a business meeting and need a place to crash for the night, the Holiday Inn Express is great. I'm a fan. They have cinnamon rolls. I love cinnamon rolls. It all works out. It's simple and gets the job done well.
On the other hand, if I'm traveling and on vacation, I'm looking for a little bit of a different travel experience and I'm more likely to stay in the Ritz-Carlton. I love the fancy bed sheets. I can get food sent up to the room. I can use the spa. The employees treat you like a king. I don't stay at a Ritz-Carlton all the time, but when it's a special trip I value that experience and I'm willing to pay for it.
Make sense? Slowly, my business turned into more of a Ritz-Carlton-type scenario. The confusion for clients with tags like "luxury" is there are photographers branding themselves "luxury" which were anything but...not on the service level... not on the product level... and not on the quality of work level. --So it can get tricky.
One aspect of boudoir photography is the lasting impact it can have on clients. I realized this long ago and seeing this I knew my mission was bigger than just photography. Although my clients receive an incredible experience, the best part about what I do-- and the real service I provide-- is the overwhelming joy and heart filling experience each and every time my clients view their images...and I'm talking five years...ten years into the future. It's a feeling that transcends words.
As you can see, boudoir is a lot more than just a photo.
So, where does that leave us? Well, what I'm doing now is working with women, mostly brides, who enjoy experiences and having fun, that are looking for a unique boudoir photographer that offers...well, a level above your typical run-of-the-mill situation.
In an absolute term is what I do expensive? Yes. Just looking at a price number on a sheet without context you certainly would think so. But just like there is a certain buyer for the S Class Mercedes-Benz who values the experience, there is certainly a market for my product, as well. I work with a limited number of women who are enthusiastic to work with me, and are willing to pay the price for the experience. At this point I understand my ideal client and the people I serve best.
The downside to what I'm doing? I'm not for everyone. And that's OK. As I mentioned earlier in this post-- I don't operate like other photographers. I don't send out price sheets. Sending out a bunch of numbers with no context is meaningless to a client. Imagine a realtor telling you the price of a home with no other details and asking you if you want to buy it... that would be a bit odd, right?
I'm super enthusiastic about what I do. This energy comes across in my photos, and for the formula to work, clients need to share the same excitement. When someone contacts me and they don't indicate they share my enthusiasm... they aren't likely to get a response from me. Have you ever heard of a photography who doesn't respond to inquiries? 😀. For what I do, it's the way it has to be.
It's all part of the formula. After I receive a new inquiry, I'm jumping on a call, or Zoom, or Google Meet first to make sure we're a good fit. It's important. I love hearing clients stories, and why they are coming to me. It's important to get to know them.
In the end it's been an amazing experience, and I'm so fortunate for the opportunity to be able to meet and work with the variety of people I have over the years. My clients are coming from not just New Jersey, but New York, Pennsylvania... and beyond. It still floors me when I receive a call from someone literally half way across the country who chooses to fly in for their session. What a unique honor!
In the end, it's about having a bit of fun, while creating something that will literally be a great memory for years. I love it.
For details on working with me and scheduling a consultation scroll down...
For information on scheduling a bridal boudoir session with me, please go to my Contact Page. I love hearing from you!