Updated: May 20
Wonderful! You're getting married. Somewhere in the countless hours of wedding planning and research you stumbled across the idea of a boudoir session as a gift. As you recall, your friend Ashley did it for her wedding and she had a blast. Hmmm, that seems fun. I've always want to try that, you thought. You're right! It is fun, and a great wedding gift, but it takes a bit of planning to get things done right the right way-- just like your wedding.
Boudoir is a great gift for weddings-- and becoming more popular every year. Not only is it an amazingly fun gift idea, its possibly the best time you can have creating a gift. Women tend to walk away from their sessions walking on air, and the session is definitely a welcome escape from the hectic wedding schedule.
So, now that you're seriously considering the idea-- What's next? About a hundred questions just popped in your mind. How far ahead do I need to get this done? Do I have to get naked? And how much does all of this cost, anyway?
Those are some valid questions, and well worth investigating. All boudoir photographers are not created equal, but with a bit of knowledge and some homework you can come out on top in your hunt.
Boudoir isn't as straight forward as you may think, so let's take a look at some great tips to help make your bridal session a success.
You Spend Lots Of Time Planning Your Wedding... Do The Same For Your Boudoir Photographer
Just because there is a wedding venue nearby, doesn't mean its the right (or best) one for your big day. Likewise, Googling "boudoir photographers near me" isn't necessarily going to give you the right photographer for the job.
Boudoir photography has exploded over the past six or seven years... and not necessarily for the better, Here's why--
Let's say I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to become a PGA Golf Pro! I set off to my local golf store to buy a set of the same golf clubs Tiger Woods uses. Just because I bought the same clubs he uses doesn't qualify me as a pro golfer. Right? I can't walk on to a local PGA golf event and declare myself a "pro" because I'm sporting some new fancy golf clubs.
In this recent "boudoir boom" over the past few years many self-proclaimed "pros" have done just exactly that-- woke up one morning and decided it was their destiny to make women beautiful and hopped on Amazon to buy a camera...and suddenly proclaimed themselves a "pro." --Be prepared to do a bit of investigation.
Just like you've investigated wedding venues, a bit of research goes a long way toward finding the right photographer. You don't find the best person for the job because they are the closest, or the cheapest. Someone who is selling themselves as a "pro" may have only picked up a camera for the first time a few short weeks ago. (And let me tell you this-- boudoir photography is hard. Very hard. It takes years of practice to do well.)
You must look a bit deeper. Learn a bit about what good boudoir photography is. Study a photographers galleries to see if it is quality work. What is the social media world saying? How long has she/he being doing their job? Do they have a following? Are they mentioned on any popular photography blogs? Additionally, use friends as a guide: Maybe a friend of a friend went for a session and you can use her experience as a guideline. Word of mouth is an invaluable resource.
These are a few of things that may be worth considering as you start your search. Think you may have found a contender or two? Great. You may want to send them an email to set up a call.
Even though I keep loads of educational info online, and my pricing info freely available on my website, I often still get requests to set up a call with a potential client to answer any questions they may have about booking with me. No problem. Ask away!
This step if vital. If your unsure if what you're looking at is top quality, don't hesitate to send me a note and ask. I'll help you out.
Would You Think A Wedding Venue At $6 Per Head Is Going To Give You A Gourmet Experience?
Probably not. The lowest price doesn't win. (And probably doesn't get you a edible meal, either.) Likewise, shopping for your boudoir photography by the lowest price is also likely to get you the boudoir version of processed TVP rubber chicken.
A word of advice here: Like a wedding venue-- Good photographers aren't cheap, and cheap photographers aren't good.
Would the fanciest, marble clad wedding venue in the area with unbelievable gourmet chefs most likely be offering a rock bottom price per guest? Definitely not. After touring the venue and tasting the food, you can understand why they charge the rates they do. That type of venue isn't for every budget, nor are they trying to be.
Similarly, boudoir is mostly a once-in-a-lifetime type of activity. That being said, its best to save up a bit and get it done the right way. Do you have to select the highest priced option for beautiful bridal boudoir? No, but I can tell you with great certainty that choosing the lowest priced option will leave you, well, a bit disappointed. I've heard the story more times than I care to remember...
It's not easy to give an exact price point where the sweet spot will be because boudoir pricing can vary depending on your geographic location. Not only that, photographers can use all kinds of quirky packages that make it nearly impossible to compare one to another. --And you shouldn't. Boudoir photography is not a comparative industry.
Let's use another example: Not knowing anything else-- if I told you I knew of two homes for sale and one home was $150,000 and another was $275,000 and asked which one was the better deal-- What would the correct answer be? Well, not knowing location, home size, neighborhood, or any other information about the homes, the question is impossibly to answer correctly. Likewise, comparing two prices between photographers is meaningless-- not knowing any other data about the sessions.
You're going to have to do something completely unnatural here-- and suspend your innate American duty to bargain shop. (Keep that rubber chicken in mind if it helps!)
People shop strange. You would be a bit suspicious at a claim of a gourmet weddings at $6 per head, right? Especially if other gourmet events came in at nearly $95 per plate. Something isn't quite right.
This kind of logic, sadly, is not used by people in every buying situation. People will see a $49 Groupon for a boudoir session and think "What a deal!" when in actuality they should be thinking "something isn't quite right..."
Just like there is no $6 gourmet wedding, there is no such thing as a $49 "Fine Art" boudoir session.
Everyone has a budget and needs to work within it, of course. In photography, however, you will get what you pay for. For $49, I can assure you will get rubber chicken. Take the time to shop smart. --And use a bit of your critical wedding planning abilities to make the right choice.
As I stated earlier, prices for quality photographers across the country can vary, but you can certainly expect to spend $500-$600-$750+ on your session if you are including a high quality album to give your groom.
You Spend Hours And Hours Shopping For The Perfect Wedding Dress
How long did it take you to find the right wedding dress? Probably quite a while.
Take care to put some of that same energy into picking out the outfits for your bridal boudoir session. What makes you glamorous? Beautiful veils, white lace bras and undies, stockings, garters... think pretty!
Picking beautiful well thought out outfits will help lead to beautiful results.
Do you have to only wear white in your bridal session? Absolutely not. It's your session, and you can wear what you like. If you are planning on doing bridal shots (and you should!)-- be sure to leave the white cotton undies at home!
Yes. On more than one occasion, I've had brides come in sporting a veil and white cotton discount store briefs. I understand not everyone is a lingerie fanatic, but don't dress like you're lounging on your couch for a Sunday Netflix binge. You're a beautiful bride. Dress like one!
Think pretty, and be pretty. Your boudoir photos will be around for yeaaarrssss. Be at your best. Another big sin I see these days is plenty of cheap Amazon lingerie. Although you don't need to spend a lot to look cute, be mindful of what you're buying.
Some items people purchase on Amazon, are, well, a bit cheap looking. I understand they were inexpensive, but as we stated in the section above, invest a bit in your appearance, because those photos will be around for a long time.
Another little secret about boudoir is that you don't need tons of things for a successful session. I understand people like variety, but opt for quality instead of having tons if different choices. I can shoot an entire album with a cute white lace bridal bra and stocking outfit and make it look amazing.
And finally... If you're not a lingerie person (and I understand everyone isn't), get help! Ask a friend. The time you invest in making great choices for your session will really pay off.
You Can't Host A Barn Wedding At A Beach
What does that mean? Well, the next few sentences will reveal one of the dirty secrets of boudoir photography-- so take note. Photographers all over the land blatantly sell sessions as boudoir-- which are not boudoir! Whaaa?
You've always dreamed of a barn wedding, right!? How cute. How rustic. So what type of venue do you need for that to happen...well, a barn, of course! That would seem to be integral to the whole scene.
Likewise, you need one key thing for your photo shoot to be an actual boudoir shoot. Bedrooms. Sometimes several bedrooms. If your session is taking place anywhere other than in a bedroom...it isn't boudoir.
This is such a major issue these days, I've written another entire article on how to shop for a boudoir photographer to help spot fake boudoir. You can read more about that by clicking the link in the previous sentence.
Part of it is lack of knowledge on the part of clients as to not understanding the definition of boudoir photography. The other part is a large pool of photographers who really don't understand boudoir, either. Don't be misled by tricky/uneducated photographers. (Remember what I said a few sections back about newbie boudoir photographers...)
Boudoir doesn't take place in a dark photo studio or a velvet couch. Boudoir doesn't happen in someones dingy basement. Boudoir doesn't take place outdoors. (Contrary to what you may have seen, there is no such thing as outdoor boudoir.) The "setting" is one of the three primary elements that defines real boudoir. Be sure to find out where your session is taking place.
It can be a bit tricky. Clients generally lack the knowledge about boudoir and put their trust in inexperienced photographers and may potentially find themselves in a photography situation which isn't quite what they expected. For the most important day of your life, don't settle for inexperience.
Study any potential photographer's galleries-- where are those photos taking place? If you see a bunch of people on velvet couches in front of backdrops, well, it may not be what you expect. Just because someone is wearing underwear doesn't mean its boudoir.
When you talk to the photographer, as him/her where they work. Some photographers rent hotel rooms for boudoir. Others may have a studio, but have bedroom vignettes they use for boudoir. Do your research here to make sure your actually getting the "barn" wedding you're paying for...
You Wouldn't Marry A Man You Just Met A Week Ago.
Here's another little tip to be really aware of when shopping for your photographer. Boudoir photography has gone through a bit of a "boom" over the past five years or so. Before I go any further with this, I'm going to interject here and tell you that boudoir photography is hard... real hard. (Remember that point. We'll circle back to it in a bit.)
Boudoir photographers are popping up everywhere. This is typically what you will find: He/She woke up one morning and decided it was their destiny suddenly to make women beautiful. They roll out of bed and and buy a camera on Amazon, plop a few bucks down on web hosting and *BOOM* now they're a pro photographer! To make their transition "official" they just need to sprinkle in the word "empowered" 50 - 100 times on their website and Instagram account (because it seems that's what every boudoir photographer is doing) and use a bunch of jargon about how they are changing lives.
...Well, in reality its a bit more complicated than that. As my earlier example: If I woke up one Sunday and decided my life's goal is to become a PGA golfer-- rolled down to my local sports mega-store and bought the same golf clubs Tiger Woods uses, that doesn't mean I can walk on and sign up to play on the PGA tour. --Even if proclaimed it was my life's dream.
It takes work to become a pro golfer-- Years of hard work and practice before you'll be able to build up the skills to play your way into an event. In the boudoir photography business, this is one small part of the equation that has been left behind by most.
Boudoir photography is hard. It's really hard. It can take years and years, and thousands of hours of practice before a degree of expertise is attained. There are no shortcuts. In reality, its a combination of hard work, and a bit of natural ability. Some people have the talent and work extremely hard to develop their skills. You don't wake up one morning and decide you're a pro golfer (having never golfed), and likewise you don't wake up one morning and decide you're going to change the face of womens beauty.
Everyone has to start somewhere. I get it! I did too. These days, though, starting photographers seem to want to cut their chops on YOU, which is not a great situation-- because many of these starter photographers are not advertising themselves as neophytes with little to no skills or experience. This may be not the best situation for a gift on the most important day of your life.
Before I started taking paying customers I essentially did practice sessions for free for years because I knew I didn't have the skills to operate at a high level yet. I practiced on friends, friends of friends, and hired models and tortured them with practice sessions more times than I want to remember. Heck, I even had a plastic mannequin I used for practice!
As an active member on social media I see lots of boudoir photographers displaying work that is really sub par. In due time the processes of natural selection tend to weed out these marginal photographers, but clients still need to use a big of vigilance to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Just like you wouldn't marry a man you met a few short days ago, you shouldn't be investing in one of the most important events in your life with a boudoir photographer who has been at it for a few short months. Be sure to investigate how long their "pro" career has been in relation to how long they've had a camera in their hand.
As a busy bride, you have a lot going on! Choosing to do a boudoir session as a gift for your groom is a great idea, but just like other decisions you are making for your wedding, it involved a bit of work to assure things come out at their best. Remember the tips:
Do your planning and search for photographers based on ability and style.
Don't base your photography decision based on the lowest price. Everyone is always on the hunt for a bargain, but this is one area to choose quality over savings. Shop smart.
Pick beautiful, well made outfits for your session. You are a beautiful bride. Dress like one!
Boudoir takes place in a natural light bedroom setting. Be sure you're actually purchasing boudoir-- don't be fooled by tricky photographers.
Stick with high quality pros who are the best at their job in your area. You may have to travel a bit, but the results will be enjoyed for years to come.
As always, I'm here to help. If you have any questions about the boudoir process send me a note.
All the best,