Creating the Boudoir Experience

Creating the Boudoir Experience

Creating the Boudoir Experience with Amber Jones

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I remember my first boudoir client. I had previously photographed her wedding, and she wanted to do a shoot for her husband as an anniversary gift. My studio was awkwardly laid out, and it had almost no natural window light, but I did my best to create beautiful images.

From that session on, I wanted to continue with boudoir photography. I knew I needed to make some big changes to create the experience I wanted for my clients, an experience that starts before I ever take a picture.

The Preshoot Consultation

I ask all potential clients to come into my studio for a meeting. It lasts about 30 minutes, and sets the tone and expectation for the rest of our time together.

When someone inquires about a boudoir session, I send a template email message that includes the session fee along with product starting prices.

This first contact does a couple of things. It helps weed out those people who aren’t really interested, and also lets a potential client decide if we’re compatible on price. I mention in my message that I have more examples to show in my studio, as most of my clients don’t want their images online. It’s extra encouragement to set up an in-person meeting, which then becomes the preshoot consultation.

We talk about why they want to do the session—is this a gift for a fiancé or husband, a personal project or a celebration of reaching a fitness goal? My clients come to their boudoir sessions from many different places in life, and the more I learn about them, the better I can tailor the experience to them.

One of the most striking differences from client to client is the woman’s comfort and confidence about her body. Each woman comes to this process with her own insecurities, related to age, a specific body part or simply the fact that she doesn’t stand in front of a camera every day.

With every consultation, I learn more about identifying and minimizing those anxieties, while also discovering what she considers her best asset.

Women come to my studio with the goal of giving a beautiful gift at the end of the process, but they leave saying they have renewed self-confidence and appreciation for their body.

Creating that experience begins with this conversation.

She’s a Teacher, Not a Model

What I didn’t fully appreciate about my first boudoir client is how foreign this process is to the normal person. Imagining yourself during a glamorous photo shoot is a lot different than getting in front of a camera in your lingerie.

Putting them at ease starts at the preshoot consultation, where we talk about the items they already own and any non-lingerie pieces their significant other might enjoy (button-down shirt, tie, sports jersey).

There is no model release clause in my contract, since 80 percent of my clients are teachers, lawyers and other professionals who don’t want their images shared. Building that trust is a lot more important than building a large online gallery.

Once the contract is signed, they register for a series of automated emails with more information to help them prepare. The emails cover topics like the different types of stockings to buy, how to purchase the right size and “Don’t forget to shave!”

Women arrive with all sorts of preconceptions. Put those aside to make them feel more comfortable. This isn’t the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. There’s no right or wrong here; it’s about finding clothing and poses that make them feel beautiful and confident.

Those automated emails save me time, both before the session and during editing. They also give the client confidence. Having their questions answered before they ask (or knowing that someone else had the same question) allows them to relax and enjoy the experience.

In the Studio: Hair & Makeup

Once my client steps into my studio, it’s all about her. It’s about creating the experience she’s always imagined, and that means focusing on her without distractions from email or phone calls.

Even the most outgoing client can get nervous on the day of her session. As much as we’ve done to prepare, she’s still likely on unfamiliar ground, and I want to make sure she doesn’t feel that it’s her responsibility to make this session successful.

We start with hair and makeup on site. I offer her champagne, which can help ease nerves, and it’s also a fancy touch that adds to the “supermodel” experience.

I take photos and video of the hair and makeup process while we talk to diffuse any stress and warm her up. When we get to the post-session viewing, these are wonderful images to include in the slideshow along with those from the shoot itself.

Once hair and makeup is finished, I ask my client to look at her transformation in a full-length mirror. I’m fortunate to work with some talented hair and makeup artists, and clients are consistently blown away by what they see.

The confidence and joy this moment creates is one of the biggest discoveries I’ve made working with a wide range of women. The right hair and makeup artists have just as much impact on your clients’ experience as you do, but it’s critical that they’re working to create the same atmosphere of comfort and confidence that I am. (Ever since I had a makeup artist explain to a client the best way to ensure getting pregnant, I’ve had a conversation with every hair and makeup artist about my expectations of professionalism and appropriate conversation.)

In the Studio: Creating Images

Everything up to this point, from consultation to email to makeup, has been done to prepare my client to enjoy her hour and a half in front of the camera. I’m amazed by how many women arrive for their consultation unsure whether they can do this, only to end up loving the process from start to finish.

Walk them through the poses, keep the conversation going and maintain a positive atmosphere. If she’s having a hard time with a pose, move on to a new one or get into the pose yourself.

With every session, I appreciate the risk I’m asking my clients to take. It’s the risk that comes with doing something for the first time and having someone capture it on camera. I reward that bravery throughout the session, both with verbal encouragement and by showing them photos from the back of the camera. There’s no substitute for their seeing how wonderful they look with their own eyes.

The In-Person Viewing

It took me a couple of sessions to realize that an in-person viewing was a critical final piece of my boudoir product.

I spend weeks shaping a specific experience for my clients. If I sent them a link to an online gallery, I would lose the chance to create the best possible sales environment.

I love the connection I have with each client, and my enthusiasm about their images plays a big role in the way they see themselves. By the time we reach the viewing, I’ve sung the praises of an album at both the consultation and the photo session—“This white-sheet series will be amazing as a full-page spread in your album!”—so concluding their boudoir experience with an album seems only natural.

Since that first boudoir session, I’ve learned that I’m selling an experience—an experience that I continue to refine with every client.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the January issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

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