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Going Pro: Starting a Boudoir Photography Business


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Welcome to the Going Pro mini series. This will consist of two articles, the first will be on going professional as a photographer while the second will go over becoming a professional model. Let’s get started!


If you are interested in becoming a professional boudoir photographer I suggest you start by asking yourself a question. Why do you want to do this? It’s a simple, yet deep, question that can have a big impact on your success. The stronger your why, the higher your chances of success. If all you want to do is perv on your clients, please move along. The MeToo movement has helped expose this sort of behavior in many industries and photography is no different. Those practitioners are routinely getting called out and driven out of business.


Photography

Offering photography services will require you to be on your game. I’m not saying you need to be the best, but you do need to be able to deliver consistently good images. This is where time behind the camera in different lighting situations pays off.


Your portfolio is your calling card as a photographer. It’s a place for you to show off your skills and allow your future clients to see what they can get if they hire you. The best way to showcase your portfolio is by having your own website where you have complete control over how your photos are displayed vs social media where you don’t.


Don’t be afraid to seek out education and mentoring. There are many great photographers out there that offer education in the field of boudoir. I have taken a couple of Michael Sasser's courses and have gotten a lot of use from them, his Double Your Poses course is especially good. Two other educators I know of and can recommend are Jen Rozenbaum and Marco Ibanez.


The Business

If you are going to be running a business, then making it official by incorporating is a smart move. The one used most often is a Limited Liability Corporation or LLC. The main reason for this is in the name, limited liability. It means if someone sues your company, they can’t come after your personal assets as well. You do have the option of operating as a sole proprietorship and using a fictitious name, but in my opinion it is not the best option as it does not shield you from the business liabilities you may encounter like an LLC would.


Now that you have your business legally sorted, let's talk about your website. And yes, you will need one. There are three main components when it comes to making your own website. The domain name, the host, and the builder. The domain name is the address you type into your browser to reach it, the host is the server where the data for your website is stored, and the builder is the software that takes that data and creates a functional website. You will want to get a domain name that is easy to remember and aligns with your business name. You can get your domain through your web host but I don’t suggest it. Personally, I use Wix for hosting this website, but I’ve heard good things about Squarespace as well. Both Wix and Squarespace offer a full service of website tools which include hosting and website builders.


Next up we have one of the major questions when it comes to running a photography business, how much do you charge? Should you charge a little lower than your competition when starting out? Should you charge exactly the same? If you do start out on the lower end when do you start raising your prices? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to those questions as it depends on your own personality, risk tolerances, and location. My suggestion is to sit down and come up with a well thought out business plan that will cover at least the first couple of years. You can find all kinds of information online to help you in this regard.


You probably know the old saying, “nothing is certain except death and taxes.” As a business owner you have the responsibility to account for taxes. Seek out the advice of a qualified accountant to help you, as the IRS doesn’t play around!


Sooner or later you are going to have a shoot or client experience that doesn’t go according to plan. It’s at that moment you will be relieved you had the foresight to have a signed contract. A contract lays out all of the necessary details for a shoot and who is responsible for each one. Make no mistake, while contracts may not be the most sexy part of running your business they are one of the most important. Like with any legal matter your best and most foolproof option is to seek out a bar certified lawyer in your state.


Shooting Location(s)

Where will you be taking the photos? Do you want to build out a full studio? Set up a small one in your home? Shoot in your clients homes? Or will you rent locations on a client by client basis? Of the previous suggestions, having your own studio that you have full control over will always be your best option. It gives you the most creative control as well as the most flexibility when scheduling shoots. However, if you do need to rent space to work in here are a few options.

  • Hotels

  • House Rentals

  • Peerspace

  • Rental Studios

One final option is to shoot outdoors. This won’t be something you can do all the time, but it is an option if you do it right and if you happen to own a little land all the better. Also remember you can mix and match locations. Just because you have a studio doesn’t mean you have to use it every time.


Marketing

If you aren’t bringing clients through the door you aren’t making money either and the best way to make that happen is to ensure your marketing strategies are on point. Thankfully you have several options you can use to promote your business. Some of them might be better for you and your circumstances over others, but the more strategies you implement the quicker word of your business will get to the public. Start with a couple and expand as you are able and make adjustments based on what is working in your area. Here are a few for you to pick from.

  • Word of mouth

  • Social Media

  • Paid Advertising

  • Website SEO

  • Email Campaign

  • Booth at a Wedding Show

In my view one of the key aspects of marketing is understanding what a marketing funnel is and how it works. A marketing funnel is a process that gets people familiar with you and your business and guides them to make a purchase or sign up for a service. A common channel is Instagram>Website>Email Newsletter>Purchase.


Client Experience

A big part of boudoir for the client is the overall experience. This experience can include getting full hair and makeup done, selecting fun outfits from a client closet, having an awesome fun shoot, and ending at being shown gorgeous pictures of themselves they never would have thought possible. These things are all part of the modern boudoir experience that top tier photographers offer and they are an integral part of their business models. So what does this mean for you? It means you will need to sit down and think through the type of experience you want to offer your clients. Will you provide hair and makeup? Will you have a client closet? Will you do a same day photo reveal? Whatever pieces you choose to implement into your sessions will be a large part in the client experience and your success as a boudoir photographer.


Final Thoughts

In all honesty, I barely scratched the surface of what all you should know about running a boudoir business, but my goal is to get you on the right track and have you asking yourself the right questions. Btw, I focused this article on boudoir, but most of this information can be useful for any genre of photography.


One last thing. If you are enjoying this blog and wish to support the work I do here, consider using the Buy me a Coffee button at the bottom of the page to make a one time donation to show your appreciation.

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