Redefine Beauty with Sal Cincotta
I am a wedding photographer first and consider myself to be a bit of a hack at everything else. I believe I am a good photographer. I understand lighting, posing, exposure and all the things that go into making a good shot, but I’m not a master of all genres.
I often kid that I don’t understand photographers who work with babies. I don’t have the time or patience to do what they do. They are masters at their craft. Those same photographers would cringe at the thought of working with a bride and her family on a wedding day—not because they are incapable, but because these are just the things we love to do.
I have worked on fine-art nudes for the past two years. Not because we have a huge demand for it from clients, but because Alissa and I find it challenging and rewarding. After 12 years, I can shoot weddings with my eyes closed. Fine-art nudes, on the other hand, are not easy. There are so many variables that go into making a beautiful and tasteful portrait. And that is the point, right? I don’t want to create porn. I don’t want to create hot. I don’t want to create sexual. I want to create something that makes someone think, “I want to hang that in my home as a piece of art. It is gorgeous.”
This year, we will be introducing this type of portrait to our wedding clients. How will it go over? That has yet to be seen. I am hopeful that instead of the boudoir lingerie shots that are typical, this niche will allow us to yet again stand out from our competitors.
Here are some tips for finding your niche in the beauty market.
Define your own version of a beauty portrait.
No one should be able to tell you what is or is not acceptable. Clients will vote with their dollars. The important part of all this is to define your version of beauty. How do you do that? I guess that is the million-dollar question, isn’t it?
We all have our own version of beauty. Some people like thin, some like curvy, some believe less is more, etc. No one is right or wrong. Beauty is how you define it through your own eyes. Our job is to capture that beauty for our clients.
That is what you have to spend your most time flushing out. Sure, if a size-zero model with big fake boobs shows up in lingerie, you might be thinking, “Oh, boy, pretty girl,” and you would miss everything I am telling you and fall into the category of creeper. Let’s not do that.
Instead, take your vision of beauty and merge it with your client. What does that mean? Every person on this planet has something beautiful about them. Their eyes, their smile, their shape and curves. Our job is to figure out what that is. When I am working with my subjects, Alissa and I are creating a figure study. We are looking at their face and body structure and thinking about how we will use light and shadows, posing, the environment and editing to create the perfect portrait.
Sometimes it’s a natural-light portrait and other times it’s a full-on studio lighting setup.
The key takeaway is to spend time thinking about what you want your final images to look like and how they will evoke emotion from your clients. Ultimately, it’s your vision of the female form they are buying.
This is a recurring problem I see in almost every photographer’s business. They are all over the place with their style and editing. You cannot be everything to everyone. You are not Wal-Mart, you are an artist. People are not coming to you because you are a jack-of-all-trades. Well, if they are, I would imagine you are struggling to raise prices and make a living. Unless you want to run a volume studio business, which is fine, then you have to find a way to be consistent in your images and brand. It starts with your photography.
I recommend you not add nudes, boudoir and fine-art images to your site. This will confuse your clients and they won’t know what to expect from you. Worse yet, you will lose potentially good clients because they can’t make sense of your offerings and just get turned off.
It is important that once you know what you will be offering to your clients that your site and messaging is all tied together to drive that point home. There should be no guessing what you do.
If a client wants hot boudoir for Valentine’s Day, we are probably not the studio for them. I have no idea how to shoot that, and it’s not something I want to offer my clients.
This is hard. I am a male working with female clients. I am trying to communicate to them what I want—contorted poses—that doesn’t feel comfortable to the body, all while working with clients who are not professional nude models and have their own body issues. We are all insecure.
When I say practice, it’s not just about practicing with your camera and exposure. It is about practicing with your communication, efficiency and vision.
The last thing you want to do is struggle with your gear while a client is standing there nude. This stuff needs to be flushed out before you have your client in frame. When I am working on location, I get everything dialed in before my client gets naked. This ensures my time spent with them is focused on communication and shaping their body and not tinkering with my camera.
Don’t be a freaking weirdo.
I know this is hard for some of you, but for crying out loud, stop acting like a freak. I have seen women who are as bad as men. Yes, naked body. Yes, beautiful males and females. Hold it together and be a professional.
I am never alone with a client. That should be obvious. Having a female assistant present puts your client at ease and protects you from any claims of inappropriate behavior, which is not something you want to be dealing with.
I have always had female assistant on these shoots. Afterward, the clients tell us how comfortable we made them feel. That is huge for your business and reputation.
If you find yourself wondering if something you did or said qualifies as a creeper comment, chances are that you have already crossed the line.
Be professional. Create a beautiful portrait for your client. That’s the job.
It’s not all about pretty pictures. We have to let people know we exist and that we do this for money. We need money to run our business and buy new toys. If you don’t market it, you won’t make it. Clients won’t be posting these shots to their social media and be like, “Look at me naked!”
You will need a full-blown marketing plan. I market this to my existing clients. Marketing for nude shoots doesn’t go down well on Facebook or Instagram. My existing clients are attracted to it because they know and trust me.
If this is your main line of business, you will need a dedicated website with good SEO. Spend money on Google AdWords and other marketing to drive traffic to your site. Attend bridal shows with a booth.
Whatever you do, be creative about it. Do not sit back and hope people refer you. That is not a sales strategy at all. That hope-and-pray strategy rarely works.
I hope this gets you excited about offering your clients something unique. Hopefully over the coming months, I will be able to report back that our clients are loving this offering.