As a wedding photographer, I know that there are only 52 weekends a year that I could possibly work. Usually, they’re one wedding weekends with the occasional smattering of a double or triple header, but all in all, the amount of opportunities are pretty finite, especially if you’re a one man show.
Through the years I’ve come to realize the patterns and know that Summer and Fall will afford me no free time, Winter will make me bored to tears, and Spring will get me energized again to do it all over again.
Now, it’s great to know these things and to manage finances accordingly, but I always ask myself what can I be doing to still generate income in the “non-wedding season”? A natural addition is engagement sessions, and as much as I enjoy them, I know most everyone does that and it doesn’t make me stand out among the crowd.
Anniversary sessions are fun, but many couples aren’t as “in” to being in front of the lens now that their special day is over, (especially now that the budgets were spent). I’ve flirted with adding family & baby work as my couples come back to me when they hit their next life milestone of starting a family, but my heart isn’t attached to that. Then, I saw one of my photographer friends offering boudoir sessions.
I didn’t really know what to think at first. There are lots of preconceived notions that go on in peoples’ minds when you start talking about boudoir. For some, it’s a way of reviving the classic pin-up model, a way to celebrate womanhood, a gift for a loved one, a gift for themselves, or even a way to push the envelope. When I saw my friend’s work, I felt inspired. Her photos were graceful & elegant, not risqué or awkward. I was so moved I even tried a session out myself and in doing so, something clicked for me. There was a sense of empowerment that came from doing something for myself. After seeing the photos and not being able to believe that was actually me, there was finally and inkling of believing that I am beautiful.
In that moment I decided that I had to bring this feeling, this incredible experience, to my clients. Weddings are such a celebration of love for your spouse to be, for your family, for your friends, that it’s only natural that brides take a minute to love themselves, too! Plus, it’s a bit of an easy sell to remind brides that their future spouse will likely be completely awestruck and surprised if they choose to give them the small, personal album that comes with the session as a wedding gift.
Offering Bridal Boudoir has been super successful for me. In the dead of winter, there is nothing but time to schedule these fun sessions, and holidays like Valentine’s day, are a great opportunity for bringing up the conversation and converting to sales. Another great reason to push these sessions in the off season is that it doesn’t matter what the weather is because they’re always shot indoors.
Don’t waste good weather on studio time! Winter also happens to be a time when many couples get engaged, and while I’m simultaneously closing wedding day contracts, I’m making sure I drop a few keywords about the sessions we offer.
As successful as my boudoir sessions have (eventually) become, just like every other aspect of my photo business, I’ve had to learn what works for me along the way. Here are the highlights that could help you as well:
Plant The Seed & Follow Up: Most brides just nod and smile, almost giving the session a brush off when I mention it at our bridal consultation, but when I follow up in a personal email they’ll express interest in learning more about the session. It’s rare to get the bride that will admit to wanting that session in front of her fiance so following up is key.
Hire Pros: Knowing amazing hair and makeup stylists is a huge bonus. I can’t express enough how important it is for women to believe they’re beautiful in these sessions. Without fail, every time a client looks in the mirror after my stylist is done with them, their eyes light up, their body language changes, the practically radiate. It’s an amazing moment to capitalize on and one that no girl is going to feel if they do their own hair and makeup.
Comfort: Make her feel safe. Us women photographers inherently have a leg up on this point, but I know plenty of male photographers who shoot boudoir as well, so it can be done! Ultimately, you must create an environment where she knows she’s respected and she believes that you know how to connect with a woman’s beauty. I’m very open about making the session fun, she can bring tons of outfits and we can go through them, how we have snacks and champagne for her, and how she’s more than welcome to bring a friend along for support. I’m also very open about asking her what her comfort level with nudity is prior to the shoot and during the shoot because often it can change one way or the other. My style never has a full reveal of any area, but some girls are uncomfortable even suggesting it. Asking her, openly, at strategic times reminds her that I’m queued in to her comfort and that I value her comfort.
Research Your Costs: Stylists cost money. Locations cost money. Your time shooting and editing cost money. Don’t think you can do these sessions in any old “boudoir”. And not every hotel is keen on “day rate” rentals (besides check in and out times are hugely inconvenient). Look around your area for studio rentals. In my market an excellent stylist runs me $180-$220 and a location rental can run $150 – $500. Price accordingly.
Think Outside the Box: Hotels and photo studios don’t have to be your only location options. Think of other properties you might be able to rent. Once, I rented an entire historic house for the day. It was for sale and vacant so I contacted the realtor, faxed him my proof of liability insurance, and signed a one day agreement.
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