First, you need a website, for that look at all the boudoir website you find, pick one who you like the most for the layout of the site.
You need to have a lease 10 boudoir images, the best of the best, it’s not about the quantity but about the quality, you don’t put all your photos in your gallery but only the best one. Theses photos need to be clean, retouched, and represent your style.
You need to be somewhat different from your local competitors.
To create a website, you can either use services like people on square space, Wix or Weebly, that offer templates to personalize, add-ons for creating a checkout process including payment processing and the service could range start at $25 per month for just a splash page.
Or you can choose a popular platform like WordPress that have a lot of template choices, and add on to interface with shopping carts, or you totally designed your own version. You can use services like Freelancer or Upwork to find freelance designers and IT help
Don’t forget to be very, very, specific about all the aspects of your website, because those guys are very technical et don’t have any idea about what you want for the creative part.
How to you price your services?
It’s better to have different levels of prices through different packages, so you can appeal to differents budgets, but within a certain range. You can’t be everything to everybody otherwise you have no positioning at all and you end up to appealing to anyone.
You need to know what type of audience you want to target. Do you want to reach fewer customers and charge more, or appeal to more customers and be more affordable?
You have to look at all your competitors’ prices and try to position yourself accordingly. If you are just starting, you will be in the affordable range
It’s also about how many years of experience you have
Quote what you are comfortable with, but don’t forget to take into account all of your fixed cost (studio rental, equipment, transportation) and variable costs (makeup artist, prints) and…your time!
If you are taking on large jobs at a low rate, you will burn out and lose your motivation.
To collect payments, the easiest way is to use Paypal or Square
Always ask for a deposit before the session (I request 50% of the package cost as a deposit) otherwise you will have customers booking and not showing up while your team and you are waiting
Both Paypal and Square allow you to request online payments on their secure page and you never get the customer credit card information and you don’t risk being hacked.
You should charge more for 2 people or several people in the shoot compared to one. It takes much more energy and trials to have 2 people look great at the same time in one photo compared to just one, and it takes more retouching time.
You can also charge more for a shoot on a weekend compared to weekdays. Studio rentals are often more expensive on weekends.
To give you an idea, the right price to start should be around $399 for a portrait session (I’m not talking about headshots). Otherwise, people don’t take you seriously and don’t really value your work and time
I don’t recommend offering your services on deal sites like Groupon and offer sessions at $30 where you try to sell additional services. With that level of prices, you can’t pay yourself, let alone your team and expenses, and do some quality work. And if you try to seriously increase the final cost by charging a lot for additional things like more photos or prints, the client feels cheated and will leave a bad review
It is much better to get fewer but very satisfied clients, who will bring you referrals and good word of mouth than a lot of clients who choose a price and not a service and will, of course, be disappointed.
What equipment should I get to start?
The lighting is the most important for me, so the best way is to have one strobe with one umbrella, to start. You can still use a window light, but don’t totally rely on it; you need to be sure each time to have the best lighting, even if it’s gray or raining outside.
When you get comfortable with one strobe you can add a second strobe for the background, and a third one to light the hair and so on.
But with one strobe properly placed, you can already have a very good result.
For the camera, it’s better to have one that connects to your computer. Otherwise, take one within your budget, the quality of most professional cameras are now really good, and taking one of the major brands is a safe bet. You should actually pay more attention to the quality of the lens, especially their f-stops
If you can have a choice, the best lens are the one who start at 1.2, or 2.8, they will be able to get more light in, which is important in lower lighting conditions.
But even with these high-quality lenses, if you shoot at 2.8 with limited lighting, you photo will be blurry unless you use a tripod, which will limit your ability to move.
This is why you need a strobe, which will give you more lighting power, and the freedom to do what you want. When you shoot with strobes, you can use a 5.6 lens.
Where to find my team, makeup artist and hair stylist ?
Your team is really important, first to build your portfolio and second to satisfy your clients.
For a boudoir shoot, your client will be thrilled to have a professional makeup artist and hair stylist to take care of them. They will feel important and pampered.
You can find a makeup artist or hair stylist on model Mayhem, on Google local, or cosmetic schools. At first, you can exchange services to build both of your portfolios, you do the photos and they do the makeup, and when you have paying customers, you pay them of course.
The rates are in general $100 for half a day and $200 per day.
Some boudoir pays 50 or 75$ per session, but when you want a good and motivated makeup artist, you pay them $100.
Your team too should be happy to work with you and your clients.
Don’t forget to the retouching part, or give it to a professional retoucher, this is also what separates amateur from professional work.
The skin is the most important, it also needs to stay natural to see the skin pores and not to blur everything.
What should I buy for my photo studio?
It’s up to you, where you want to put the emphasis.
But at a minimum you should have one background, you can find good ones at B&H and several online stores.
If you have to choose one color it should be a solid color, preferably gray. When you light it, you will be able to make it darker or lighter.
A scene background or muslin canvas is always fun, but they can be very heavy and takes up space in the studio. It can also be expensive so you have to shop around
I found great ones on eBay, the vinyl fabric is so real and so easy to carry.
The most common ones will be a gray/blue or brown, a style similar to tie-dye,
The darker the background, the more you can play with the light effect. You can make a dark gray background look white with the proper lighting.
As far as size goes, 10×20 feet is perfect, 6×9 is also ok
and 6×6 is more for portraits
If it’s a boudoir, the best is to have at least one couch in your studio, pick one in your style. You can find some on eBay craigslist…
A bed is good in a bedroom but not very practical in a studio.
You should have at least one big piece of fabric, you can lay it on the floor, or wrap the client with it if is lace
Lingerie is very specific in terms of size, so always ask my clients to bring they own lingerie, and we find accessories in the studio. You can have masks, feather fan, gloves, jewelry, shoes
You will be surprised how many stuff you can find online, even on Amazon at a very good price.
But don’t start buying clothes because you will need all sizes available. It’s very hard to get something nice and affordable, in different sizes. It’s better to spend money on different décor and accessories that work for all size, like a faux fur shall…
For example, I just bought a college room divider screen for 29 dollars, and I put wallpaper on it. It can easily look vintage if you select the right wallpaper, and it’s very cheap.
I often use a large feather fan for romantic boudoir photo.
For pinup, you can have a vintage disk recorder.
Once you start buying accessories and décor for the studio, it is hard to stop! But control yourselves or it will quickly ruin you J
For costume jewelry, eBay is perfect; you just have the patience to wait for a whole month for it to arrive from China
If you buy shoes from China, make sure to take one or preferably 2 sizes bigger. You will always need at least one very sexy pair of shoes, with high heels
Communication with the client
Be very specific about what you offer in your package. It can be logic for you but not always for the client.
The number of retouched photos needs to appear very clearly. What will happen to all the photos taken during the shoot? Will you give them to the client in low resolution, or will you add a watermark?
I would advise again offering discounts on your rates, unless it is justified (for example the package includes prints and the client does not want any). You need to be comfortable with the rate you are offering, and if you are, the client will accept them. Otherwise, they are not your clients. They are buying your expertise, not a price.
It’s good to give to the client some advice before the shoot. What they should do for their hair the morning of the shoot if they booked a hair stylist, what to bring (type of outfits, quantity)
I always ask my client to send me a simple photo or a quick selfie, to send to my makeup artist and my hair stylist. So they can see the skin tone and the hair length and bring the right equipment and makeup. If they have a precise idea of what they would like to do, I ask my client to send some inspiration photos. Otherwise, you can offer some suggestions to see what they like
When the client is. In the studio, you need to make them feel comfortable, it’s not easy to pose in lingerie in front of a stranger!
When you ask them what they would like to do during the shoot, they might tell you what they don’t like about themselves and you should pay attention! People have specific perceptions about themselves, which are not at all obvious or even justified. But you will need to take that into account during the photo shoot.
Make sure to understand what they want to do about the hair and makeup, offer suggestions and once the makeup or hair are done, get some feedback. If there is something that they don’t like, you can fix it at this stage, otherwise, it will bother them in the photos, and they might only tell you once they see the final result
You have to guide your client for the poses, give your advice about the clothes. It’s better to choose with your client, they trust you advice.
Always be positive and calm, a few jokes are good to relax your client, after all, it needs to be a great souvenir, and also fun and relaxing moment.
You always need to make sure to find the best way to photograph your client, you have to find they best angle
If you find it beautiful, you client will find it beautiful too.
Be motivated, it’s the best way to do a good job!