Some years ago when I went through the process of opening Studio Boudoir for business I explored the boudoir photography market and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to come up with some hints and tips for those looking to hire a boudoir photographer.
Looking at what the various existing photographers were offering and how they were selling their services made me think about what I would be looking for if I were in this position. I have therefore come up with a list of things I think you should consider when looking for someone to create some boudoir imagery as a surprise gift for your husband to be or just as a keepsake for your own eyes only! Please keep in mind that as with any photographer writing such an article there are bound to be issues of self-interest and I am bound to be biased towards the way I do things – however despite this I have tried to make these tips as impartial as I can.
When choosing a photographer start by considering what you want at the end of the day from the experience. This may sound unnecessary – but it does become quite crucial later when you start comparing packages. In my experience from listening to clients most have some or all of the following ideas when considering boudoir:
Self-Empowering experience giving a confidence boost to a woman about her body and her sexuality.
A way of having a great time playing dress up with sexy outfits and lingerie and keeping a record of the results.
A gift for a husband to be. Many women feel that by presenting themselves in a way perhaps not seen before by their lover they are giving him a unique and very personal gift that will surprise and delight.
Getting some images to compliment the more usual wedding photographs and aid in creating a timeline around recording a wedding. Boudoir shots come right at the beginning of the wedding process and could be seen as part of a complete record showing before, during and after a wedding. While the boudoir pictures may not come out for parents and relations they are a great very personal reminder of the time before a wedding especially for the bride but also for the groom. Something that both can enjoy nostalgically for many years to come.
There are no doubt many other reasons I haven’t covered here. But by considering why you want to have boudoir photographs taken of yourself you can come to a decision as to what you are looking for in your ideal boudoir photographer. For example if it is to be mainly about the self-empowerment and playing with costumes are you really that bothered about how the photographs will turn out? If that’s your motivation then you can concentrate on photographers who highlight the pampering and luxury customer side of the experience.
On the other hand if you don’t care about the pampering and want great images at any cost then you need to concentrate on those photographers who specialise on those things and perhaps offer less pampering. Or if they are all important then you need to look for someone who offers a complete package of all those things.
Once you are clear on what you need from your boudoir experience you are ready to start looking at what photographers are actually offering.
The Gender Issue
All female studios are a fantastic option for those women who are uncomfortable working on boudoir imagery with a man behind the camera or in the studio.
For many women this is essential. However, if you are open minded on the issue there are pros and cons to be considered and it’s not quite such a simple decision as it might seem at first glance. Look at your list of objectives and consider how strongly the experience itself is of importance to you versus the end result.
It can be all too easy to forget that if the pictures are intended for your husband to be – it may actually be an advantage to have a man involved somewhere in the creation of those images. All female studios sell themselves on the advantage of “no men around” – can’t argue with that – it’s a fact. But some also sell themselves on the feminine eye approach to beauty and boudoir.
There’s something to be said for that too – but it’s not something that is exclusive to female studios. In my case many of the biggest fans of my photographs are women – which I take to mean that my work has an appealing feminine touch to it. But at the same time I feel aware of what men would like to see in sexy photographs too and can’t help feeling that if the target of your fantastic photos is to be a man that must be an advantage of sorts too.
There are many women working in photography who produce great images intended for men – be it Page 3 or Playboy or any other traditionally male oriented publications. If it’s true that women can produce those male oriented images just as well if not better than male photographers it should logically also be true that male boudoir photographers can also produce feminine friendly, artistic images too. It just takes a man with the eye and ability to do it.
So taking this into account my personal view is that it all boils down to comfort zones. If you are not bothered by a man taking the pictures then do not limit yourself by thinking boudoir imagery is something only women can do and therefore start excluding male photographers. It could be a male eye is just what your images need to add the extra spice your husband to be may be looking for! However if you are uncomfortable with a man being involved in the creation of your images and think you would be much more comfortable among women then you should certainly look for all female studios.
Overall, on this issue, comfort trumps all else. Any photographer will agree if you cannot be comfortable when you are being photographed your images will suffer. I pay great attention to making sure my clients are as comfortable as they possibly can be when I am photographing them. Any other good photographer will have the same priority.
Qualifications and Reputation
Reputation of a boudoir photographer is an important factor when making a selection. Once you have a short list see what you can find out about them. Use wedding chat forums, websites and so on to see if you can find anyone that has shot with them and what they thought of the experience. Keep in mind if they are new photographers there may not be much information. Mostly what you are looking for when doing this are negative comments. If you see them then read them carefully and use your own judgement. If you see no comments however that is not necessarily a negative thing. Their business may be new. Good comments of course speak for themselves. Try to make sure you are reading genuine comments from real people (although it’s impossible online to ever be 100% certain).
Qualifications are less straight forward. Typically you may see a list of letters after a photographers name showing accreditation of one sort or another. As in any other walk of life some people take these more seriously then others. If qualifications are not important to you then you can ignore this part of the process. Personally my view would be that I would just want to see good pictures and I am less bothered by letters/qualifications. However, if you are not like me than continue reading carefully.
If you are going to take the letters a boudoir photographer puts after there name seriously you must check what the letters actually mean and what the photographer had to do in order to be allowed to use those letters. The reason I emphasize this is many photographers ‘qualifications’ are simply subscriptions to various organizations or societies. Often the requirements to qualify to use the letters are trivial – for example send in 10 photographs (to prove you can actually photograph something) and pay the yearly subscription.
As a result if you are going to weigh qualifications seriously in your selection process you need to be sure that they actually mean something genuine. There are many organisations offering accreditation. But taking The Royal Society of Photographers as an example – it is clear on their website what is involved in gaining their qualification and what the qualifications mean. You can see this written out here: www.rps.org/distinctions-introduction
If you should find a photographer you are interested in is using a qualification that is less then you would hope, that is not necessarily a reason to dismiss them unless qualifications are of key importance to you. Keep in mind that even if their qualification does turn out to be of a subscription type organisation the fact that the photographer is paying for it is an indication that they are serious about what they are doing. It may not guarantee quality or competence – but it does to a certain degree guarantee that they are genuine. It also gives you someone to complain to should you have a bad experience!
I should say – I use no letters after my name. I feel my ‘qualification’ is my work – and that’s why I am sitting on the fence here a bit. But I realize that for some qualification is all. In my career I have worked with people who are both obsessed with qualifications and those who feel a qualification means you are almost certainly inept! I suspect the truth is somewhere in between these two extremes!
Hopefully having taken the above into consideration you now have a short list of photographers you are interested in. Next, consider how important the pictures are to your boudoir experience. If you are focusing more on the feel-good aspects of doing a boudoir shoot you may not actually be that concerned about works of art being created and as long as the result is passable you may be happy. But on the other hand if quality is of key importance to you then you may want to spend longer looking at previous work the photographer has done and imagining yourself in those pictures.
Clearly if you actually hate the pictures you see then there is no point in considering that photographer further regardless of any other issues. If you love their pictures however do not be immediately seduced by the imagery (unless you have an unlimited budget). Carefully review the photographers packages to see what they offer in terms of finished retouched pictures and how much it costs.
To explain, for photographers selling shoots it is about balancing the cost of prints against the cost of the photoshoot. It is common (and makes a lot of sense for both photographers and clients) to charge little for the shoot itself compared to the photos.
A good photographic artist will take a long time retouching your photographs to make them look absolutely perfect.
Clients of the photographers will find it less risky to buy packages where they are not committed beyond the photoshoot. This way if they go on a shoot and they do not like the work produced they can walk away having lost much less then if they were paying for everything up front.
Consider again your objectives in terms of quantity and types of pictures you want out of the shoot. Make sure you are clear about the pricing – how much is being charged for the shoot – whether any prints are thrown in and how much additional prints will cost you later.
Every photographer will offer you glossy prints as an option but you need to consider what you want to do with those prints. Of course one could put them in a brown manila envelope and give them to your husband that way but unless one has a sense of humour most would prefer something a bit more luxurious.
The first decision to make is whether you want to handle presentation yourself – in which case you can just opt for glossy prints and source an album yourself to save money. Or you could purchase digital copies of the images from the photographer and publish them yourself in a self-published book – or print them on special materials using your local photo lab.
Generally though, I would not recommend the DIY approach unless you are on a strict budget. Most photographers have spent a lot of time developing their presentation options and are better placed to get you a quality result even if it does cost a bit more.
Perhaps, also rather importantly, do you really need the headache of DIY when you are likely busy with a hundred and one other things for your upcoming wedding?
With presentation options, the most obvious and basic option you should consider would be the traditional photo album – everybody is familiar with these but you should think about how you want the album to look and how much you want to spend on it. The photo album market is vast going from standard high street stick in albums which are not really very inspiring, all the way to hand made luxury Italian leather albums. Your photographer will most likely have several options to show you.
An increasingly popular option (and one I really like) is to have your photos published as a coffee table art book. The quality of high end printing of this sort is astonishingly good and the prices for this while not exactly cheap are falling all the time. Most boudoir photographers have a book option of some sort – if this idea appeals to you then check your chosen list of photographers for what they offer.
Another choice is to have your favourite photograph printed and framed. While this option tends to be used for the more formal portrait style boudoir there is no reason you can’t have a huge sexy picture of yourself made to keep your husband company while you are not at home!
So considering all these options see what your photographer will be able to do for you and whether you want to take on doing this yourself or whether you want to buy it as part of your boudoir package.
If you do want it included check carefully that your chosen photographer will do the presentation work you need.
Price and Location
Your short list should be a lot shorter by the time you come to consider price and location.
Both things are fairly straight forward… however once again go back to your original objectives. If the quality of the end result is most important to you you may need to pay a premium and/or travel to get the results you want. Overall if this is your point of view I would say it is worth making the journey. Your boudoir photos will be with you for years and it’s better to have exactly what you want than to look at them later and think “if only I’d been willing to travel 50 miles further” or “if only I’d paid a few pounds extra”. For most women these are one off occasions. While there is no reason you shouldn’t do a further shoot at a later date if you get an appetite for it – it is more usual for the experience not to be repeated and become part of the brides wedding record. As it is a special event there are plenty of reasons not to be too conservative considering price/location.
On the other hand, if your main reasons for doing a boudoir photoshoot are more to do with pampering yourself and having pure fun and the end results isn’t everything to you – then you might consider photographers who are cheaper and more convenient to your location. This will enable you to save some money and achieve what you wish to do without needless inconvenience/cost.
There are many things to be considered when selecting a boudoir photographer and I’ve covered quite a few of them in this article. But coming to a conclusion I would summarise that the best way to go about this is as follows (and in this order):
Decide what is important to you first. Once done it will guide you in the selection process.
Start to look at boudoir photographer websites – you can use the excellent directory on this site or use Google to search for them.
First look at the quality of the images displayed in the photographers galleries. Depending on how important the image is to you as the end result add/remove photographers from your list.
Next look at pricing. Decide on your budget and further edit your list removing those who are not in your price range. Consider this carefully so that you do not have future regrets for the sake of small savings.
Then try and find out all you can about the photographers reputation. Search the web, chat boards and any other resources you can find. See if anyone has had a shoot with them and how they found it.
At all stages of the process try and avoid being misled by marketing and small print. Check what any qualifications actually mean. Read the details carefully of exactly what each photographer is offering you. How many photos, when and what is included in the price as well as what is not.
Good luck in the hunt for your perfect boudoir experience and photographs.
About the Author
Henry Jaremko is the renowned photographer behind SilverCanvas Photography and Studio Boudoir. Henry has been involved in photography since 1976 and specialises in pin-up style images and female portraiture. Henry has worked with many famous models over the years and is most notable for his association with Dita Von Teese with whom he first started working with in 1999 and continues to do so to this day. SilverCanvas and Studio Boudoir are based in Market Weighton, near York.