top of page

Reasons Why Your Boudoir Photography Business Is Failing

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

It's not so easy, is it? A few months ago, you were a starry-eyed budding boudoir photographer who was ready to take over the world. There's one small thing "they" forgot to tell you. It's hard...

Boudoir photography has changed so dramatically over the past ten years, and not necessarily for the better. Boudoir was once this almost "secretive" type of a thing. Women didn't really speak of it in public. Making an appointment with such a person as a boudoir photographer was, as worst, scandalous- and at best not exactly something upstanding women would want known.

There was a time when non-disclosures were sometimes requested, and the idea of a woman having a photo in a brassiere was best left under lock and key. Scandalous! --Fast forward a decade or so, and my, things have have changed.

Society has changed, and boudoir isn't nearly the sketchy fringy thing it once was. Heck, now I have women "live streaming" and posting shots to their Instagram accounts while they are with me getting photographed. Women love sharing their albums with friends and even get wall prints from their sessions for their homes. Talk about a one-eighty!

How can that not be a change for the better? Well, there's a bit more too it. And that's where it get a big more complicated. The social acceptance of boudoir has changed. The technology used to capture it changed. Your boudoir photographer has also... changed.

Today, everyone walks around with a great camera on them at all times-- called a smartphone. We're all photographers, in a sense. People take photos by the hundreds, if not thousands. What makes you so special that someone is going to pay for something they can simply do themselves... On their iPhone?

Additionally, over the past six or so years boudoir photographers, and boudoir photography both have taken a strange turn.

I think of it as the "Boudoir Boom." I guess it was like a mini version of the "poker boom" of the early 2000s. The "Boudoir Boom" sprang to life 2011-ish or so, when suddenly boudoir photographers started springing up like weeds in the summer.

High quality cameras were just a few mouse clicks away, and the philosophy was "I just bought a pro camera...therefore I guess that means I'm pro!" All you needed was that crafty Amazon purchase and a Wordpress template and *BOOM!* you were a pro and in business!

Not only that, though, your new found destiny in life was to not only photograph, but to "empower" the universe! Suddenly, you couldn't turn left or right without seeing hordes of boudoir photographers suddenly trying to out "empower" and out "fierce" the other. (Which is confusing, because that in and of itself doesn't really mean anything.)

What presumably started as someones clever marketing idea quickly spread like a cold almost everywhere. Before long, it seemed most Boomers were "all in" on this "empowerment" religion. Everyone was logging in to the same "How To Be A Boudoir Photographer" website for marching orders. It was (and still is to an extent) fever pitch! If you were not out "Empowering" your fellow photographers... you were doing something wrong! Empower! Empower! Empower!

Along the way, the Boudoir Boomers forgot one simple thing: The photography part. Its hard work. Really hard work to get good. The actual "photography" part seemed to become somewhat of an afterthought to their whole movement. I'm all for the spirit of helping people through photography, and the Boudoir Boomers hearts are in the right place, but a camera and a credo don't automatically mean great photography. And, boy, oh, boy, what fun it has been to observe!

Your good social intentions are not enough to succeed.

Just For Example...

What if I woke up one morning and decided my destiny was go become a pro golfer? That morning I got up and ran down my local sporting goods store and asked for the same golf clubs Tiger Woods uses. Now I am a pro golfer! Could I run down to the nearest PGA event walk on and say "I'm a pro golfer now...look at my clubs... I want to play in this tournament."

Doesn't really work that way, huh. (Not to mention I don't even really know to play golf.) I'd probably need years of practice to even approach that level.

To the Boomer, the concept of the 10,000 hours of practice to become that expert somehow got lost in the shuffle... This, among other shortcomings, including a fairly pervasive lack of self awareness, makes it difficult to prosper in a business that is difficult enough in the best of circumstances.

So, business hasn't been really what you thought? You followed your internet boudoir mentor's advice to the letter, bought every Lightroom action you could, and plastered empowerment phrases all over your social media... no luck, huh.

Aside from the general lack of expertise and awareness, there are some other issues which plague modern boudoir. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of these factors.

You Didn't Find Your Own Vision

Why are you doing someone else's photography? As an active member on social media I see boudoir work all the time. The one shocking thing I notice is how so many starting boudoir photographer's work looks alike... and not necessarily in a good way. I've long thought there must be an online "How To Be A Boudoir Photographer" website out there somewhere where all these people go to get their marching orders.

I understand when people are starting in photography they need to learn-- and everyone starts somewhere! (Me included.) I could, however, create a blog post alone of bad copies of photos I see online all the time. It reminds me of TV news clips where they show reporters from all across the country saying the exact same things despite them being on different channels.... marching orders!

How many poorly done shots "through" a low hanging glass chandelier (not to even bring up why a chandelier would be hanging 4ft. over someones bed to begin with...seems like I'd be banging my head on that every day. 😖) but STOP.

How many poorly done shots of milk baths.... (Pleeaaasse stop!) Dear God.

It's not cute, or sexy, or anything. It's just badddddd. The list of these shots just goes on and on.

So, why do you want to do someone else's photography? And do it poorly?

Find your own vision. Painting like another artist isn't going to make you great. Singing like Cher isn't going to make you a music star. True greatness comes in finding your own voice, and forging a unique path. Why would you want to be doing someone else's photos?

Discover your unique talent and go with it. This takes time. I understand that everyone needs a bit of inspiration to get started and pushed in the right direction, but choose your "inspiration" and mentors wisely. Modeling yourself after bad photography, well, leads to more bad photography.

A $3 online "expert" boudoir handbook, or posing guide is useless. Trust me, if they are an expert, and selling their years and years of accumulated hard-earned knowledge for just $3... well, I can pretty much tell you they are no expert.

Curating your own "style" and "look" takes time, and maybe thousands and thousands of photos. --Which can take years. --Which may be thousands of hours of blood, sweat and tears. That's how you start. Its not going to be found in a posing guide or in a shitty eBook of "secret" boudoir tips from a self-proclaimed photography guru trying to separate you from your money under desperate circumstances. Pose number 16 is not going to bring you riches.

The photography business, as a whole, is ripe with lots of self-proclaimed "experts." There are dozens of life altering Lightroom preset packs out there just waiting to magically transform your photos. A quick internet search will reveal hordes of eBooks and courses chock-full of business "secrets" which promise both riches and the allure of being booked solid. These items are making the creators money... not you.

I see all this happening, and I love it! I want more and more people to buy this crap, and fail. More customers for me!

A true photography mentor/educator who would take you on board and provide actual hands on education and training would be in the thousands of dollars. It would probably take weeks of training. It's work, no way around it. Finding your vision only comes with time.

The point is, there are no shortcuts here. If you're more the self-starter type then it begins by spending money on models (or if you have friends who'll volunteer, and you'll owe them big time) who will volunteer their time, and spend hours and hours practicing poses until you get it right. Which leads us to...

You’ve Got To Grind - Work, Work, Work.

You don't know the meaning of it. When you are sitting up till 1AM every night, writing blog posts, editing photos, updating websites, working on ad campaigns, etc., you'll start to get an idea of what I mean. Literally, I mean every night. --And none of that stuff is even practicing the actual photography. The photography business is a lot of hard work!

If I want to become that great guitarist do you think it happens without practice? Lots of practice? Like, every day?

People often underestimate what it means to "work hard." I have to admit, there are some people who have the business and marketing part nailed, and they've figured out how to bring in customers, and can get by on their marketing skills with marginal photography. They make clever ads. They're out there-- and kudos to them for being great marketers and sales people. They've got that part of the puzzle figured out. They know their customer. They know how to target their customer. --And they create messages that resonate and get responses.

Marketing, in and of itself, is almost a full time job to learn. Do you know your customer? If you had to describe her, who is she? Master that, and your train has slowly started to move forward.

The best of intentions or a new found inspiration in life is not a substitute for skill or knowledge.

If every day you even make one step toward getting better... as the old saying goes a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

You Didn't Realize It Takes Time

Boudoir photography is a super tough business. Building a clientele can take years. Literally. Boudoir, in part, is a big referral based business. Your previous clients who used you when they doing their bridal sessions, will (hopefully) refer you to their friends when it's their turn to tie the knot. They, in turn will refer their friends. --Its like that old Faberge Organics shampoo commercial