The Business of Boudoir »


Anonymous asks:

“What do you say to your clients to get them to laugh? I always have a hard time with thinking of jokes, etc…”

This is where having a sense of humor comes in handy. Don’t have one? Just pretend. Seriously, I laugh at myself all the time while my friends just usually have a blank stare on their face.

There are a few things that have worked well for me to get a client to relax and laugh though if it just isn’t happening naturally. This will all depend on your comfort level and how silly you are in your everyday life as well as how you want to come across to your client. Will asking your makeup artist if she farted work for you? If not, try something a little more classy. One of my favorites is to get my client to say “baloney” in a sexy voice. What’s actually funny about this is they’ll totally do it but at the end they can’t help but crack up. It also helps relax their face and mouth – double score!


Look up a few short jokes online and memorize them.  Pinterest has quite a few funny sayings that you can easily add to a private board and draw inspiration from.  Just be yourself and think of a funny story you’d share with your girlfriends and tell it to the client.  After all, she’s almost naked in front of you so baring a little for her shouldn’t be too hard.


Have a question?  Ask Miss Know It All here.

How I get permission to use client photosPIN When I read Facebook boudoir group posts, I often see photographers puzzled about how to get more real client work on their websites. I used to be that person, until the end of last year when I completely changed how I ask clients to use their photos. It comes down to planting the seed, using the right words, putting her in control, and assuming that you will be able to use some photos from every client boudoir shoot.

Plant the seed

When my client is starting hair and makeup, my makeup artist asks if we can do a before photo. Most clients say yes. I tell them at that point that I have every client sign a permission slip that tells me whether I have permission to show some or all of their photos in my portfolio at their ordering appointment.

Use the right words

I used to call this a Model Release, and the first paragraph included the words “allow to use.” Now, if I just paid beaucoup bucks for a photo session, and I am asked to allow my photographer to use my photos to market her services, I might feel a little uncomfortable. Then I changed the name of my form to be Permission to Show Photos, and the first paragraph says, “give permission to show photos in my portfolio.” All of a sudden the number of clients giving me the OK to show at least some of the photos jumped through the roof. Note the words:

  • Permission (not allow)
  • Show (not use)
  • Portfolio (not marketing)

Assume you’ll get a yes

I used to assume I would not get permission to show any clients’ photos in my portfolio. And, of course, that’s what happened. My form reflected it. I had too many choices:

  1. No photos
  2. Only in studio samples
  3. Studio samples and online
  4. Only anonymous photos
  5. All photos

This is the order I presented the options. So, guess what response I received most? No photos. I decided to experiment with that list, and I wound up here:

  1. All photos
  2. All photos except the ones marked out on the attached contact sheet
  3. No photos

By giving two positive responses, I now have a 66 percent chance of getting a yes. boudoir-photos-weight-loss-lynnclark-8adbPIN

Put her in charge

When I was assuming I’d get a no, I just had clients sign a form. Then, I decided to select about a dozen images, print them in a contact sheet and ask for a release on those photos. Usually, they were anonymous. The problem I ran into was clients were releasing the exact same photos. So, I never updated my boudoir portfolio. Who wants different women in the same 5 poses on their websites?

Then, I decided to print out a contact sheet showing every single photo I presented in her gallery—somewhere between 45 and 60 images. I reminded her that I ask every client to note whether I have permission to use their photos. I gave her the three choices: All, these or none. I instructed her to go through the contact sheet and mark out any photos she would not like me to show.

And then I left the room to go print her sales receipt. That alone increased my percentage of clients giving permission to about half. Then, I changed the wording and title on the form and the permission to use some, if not all, photos skyrocketed.

Give her an out

The last thing I tell a client before I leave the room is that I absolutely understand that these are private, intimate photos, and that she is under no obligation to allow me to show any of them. I assure her that I will never identify her by name (I use Ms. First Initial).  Then I tell her that she may revoke her permission at any time for any or all photos by simply emailing me. I do add the caveat that once something is online, I can take it off my site but that’s as far as I can go, and if I’ve used her photos in a studio sample I’ll phase it out as soon as possible.

When I come back to her, it’s likely that she’s given permission to allow me to use many if not all of her images. Now, my problem is sorting through and again, actually updating my portfolio and blogging those images.

Ask every client

I used to pick and choose which clients I asked. When I started asking everyone, of course the number of yeses I received went up, as it’s a matter of numbers. But I was most surprised by the types of clients who were saying yes.

Making this part of my standard client workflow also took all the fear out of asking. It’s just something I do. That’s my attitude when I ask.

Thank her

When I get permission to show one or all images, I thank her in person. I thank her in a Facebook post if I make one. I thank her in the blog post (while reiterating that I only show photos if I have the client’s permission.) A little thank you goes a long way. How do you ask clients for permission to include their photos in your portfolio? What has worked? What has failed? Let us know in the comments. lingerie-photography-denver-lynnclark-8ae2PIN


  • October 26, 2014 - 10:58 AM

    Elizabeth Zimmerman - I am literally tweaking my “Model Release” as I read this post. I ask at the end of the reveal session if they’d like a blog post written about them & their experience. That’s how I start the conversation. I explain that the blog post will include photos from their session and will be used in my portfolio. I tell them that they can choose all of the photos I would use (if they want any at all). I recently had a major issue with a client agreeing for a FULL release, including nudes (signed release), then the husband found out and FLIPPED out. I removed them all but it cost us our friendship. We do not speak anymore. It was heartbreaking. I learned a lot from that experience. I have considered somehow asking if their partner is okay with them signing a release, but I’m not sure yet. I guess I’m just a little gun shy now…ReplyCancel

Hiring a professional hair and makeup artist for the shoot can enhance the client experience and help eliminate more Photoshop retouching.

Boudoir H&MUAPIN

When a pro stylist makes over your client, it will not only amp up the look of your images, it will also save you time retouching blemishes, under eye circles and uneven skin tones. They can create oh-so-sexy Victoria’s Secret hair, or a perfectly placed coif if that’s the look you (or your client) are going for. Whatever look you envision, a pro stylist will be able to help you achieve it.

Besides spending time making your client look fabulous they will make them feel pampered and extra beautiful too. What a bonus to get your client in the mood for her sexy session!

boudoir H&MUAPIN

Take a before & after shot

boudoir H&MUAPIN

If you hire a stylist or the client has a stylist hired for the shoot, be sure to take photos of the client before and after to use for your portfolio (if they give you permission to use the images). This is a good way to show potential clients how glamorous the shoot can be, and the difference between them doing their own styling compared to having a professional do it for them. Before and after photos are a great way to show the clients transition from everyday ordinary to super sexy.

The above before and after is a tad unfair since the client has no makeup on. If you do a pre-consultation with clients that may be the best time for a “before photo” since they will have their normal makeup done. If you do not meet prior you could always ask them to send you a photo.

Have a conversation with your stylist so you are on the same page and to find out how they want the client to come to the shoot. They may prefer the client to come to the session with clean dry hair so they may get started right away. Some stylists prefer “second-day” hair. My stylist asks that the client moisturizes their face and to have any facial grooming done prior to the shoot such as eyebrow waxing or facial waxing. Every stylist has her own preferences. Kf you plan to work with them on a regular basis then knowing theirs will help your clients even more.

-Critsey Rowe


For a long time I had a 100% privacy policy. Still, I have a hard time asking for permission to share client images because it is my belief that the images I’m commissioned to capture are private by their very nature. This privacy policy often made blogging difficult as I had no images to share. What I didn’t have a problem with was asking clients if I could photograph their wardrobe.

Why photograph the wardrobe?  By capturing the wardrobe selections of clients I was able to blog about what to wear. What to wear boudoir session is a highly used search phrase when our potential clients are researching boudoir photography.  So, double whammy: fresh content  to feed the Google beast, relevant content using a highly used search phrase and the sweet bonus of helping my clients make decisions when selecting their own wardrobe.


Last year I started asking permission to blog client images.  I still don’t ask everyone I photograph, but if I get the feeling they might agree, I copy a handful of less-provocative photos and ask permission once our proofing consult is complete.

ku boudoir photographyPIN

Another perk: I get to satisfy my intense need for shoe porn.


Quality of light can change your images dramatically. I am not talking about exposure. I am talking about the overall look of light in your photographs.

Shadows are just as important as light

Many photographers make photographs that are perfectly lit, which is totally okay, but shadows can add drama and make your images more interesting and have an art aspect. Shadows are just as important as light. Their placement, depth and edge sharpness is significant for any image. Their correlation with lit areas determines depth and structure. There are so many things you can do with shadows such as hide, shape and accentuate the body and set a mood to the image.

You need to be in control of the shadow portions of your images and don’t just let them happen. Shadows are determined by how you set your main light. The farther away from the camera axis it is, the more prominent the shadows will be, right up to a very dramatic mood where the shadows dominate.

NY | Chicago Boudoir PhotographerPIN

Distance and light source size add (or remove) drama

The transition from light to shadow plays a big role, causing what is considered as “hard” or “soft” light. The sharpness of this transition is based on the light source’s size relative to the subject. A light source that is small in relation, like a speedlight or a strobe that is far away from the subject, will create crisp shadows.

The opposite is a light that is large in relation such as any umbrella or softbox when it’s closer to the subject. Be careful when changing a light’s intensity by moving it closer or farther away: This will also change shadow hardness.

NY | Chicago Boudoir PhotographerPIN

Squint your eyes to mimic what your camera sees

The second important factor in the appearance of shadows is “fill light,” whether it is reflected light from a wall, a reflector or even the bed sheets or another light source. Be aware of the fact that the camera sees shadows way darker and deeper then they appear to the naked eye.

What may seem a perfectly clear detail when you look at it can turn out as completely black in your photo. Overtime as you observe and compare you will get more and more experienced in judging shadows. My trick here is to squint my eyes when I look at a scene. This will give me an impression that is closer to how my camera will render it.


Use shadows to shape and conceal

Shadows pronounce structure and they can also pronounce irregularities in a client’s skin. Watch closely to avoid problems that can increase your retouching dramatically. On the other hand shadows can also shape the female form. Shadows can hide problematic areas as well as mold the bust, back, hips and an athletic abdomen in a beautiful way.

Shadows can be alluring and sexy when used correctly. Not every situation works well with adding shadows to the mix. My best advice would be to play with the light to see what you get and if you and your client love it then you are golden!

NY | Chicago Boudoir PhotographerPIN

-Critsey Rowe


  • May 18, 2014 - 9:55 PM

    Neil van Niekerk - This is such a key idea – the quality of light. And somehow it is a concept that takes us too long to understand the importance of it. I am sure as we all started taking photos, we just shot, happy with the results … and then later, much later, do we really *get* it – the importance of grasping the quality of light. Not just snapping away, but looking at how light shapes our subject, and “flavors” our subject and scene.ReplyCancel

    • May 19, 2014 - 9:21 AM

      Critsey Rowe - Neil, I can happily say I learned so much of what I know from your books. Thanks for being such a great teacher and sharing your wonderful knowledge of light!ReplyCancel