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Tips for shooting boudoir in hotels and other locations

Shooting on location versus in studio not only provides variety, it also gives you the possibility to offer different styles and themes to clients with little effort. Whether they want something traditional, modern or unconventional, you will be able to accommodate their taste all by finding a location that fits. And the best part is you will never get bored from shooting in the same old studio space over and over.

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Location Scouting

It is a great idea to gather a variety of locations that you can use. Make a list and start scouting all the places that you think might work. Besides the obvious – hotels – there are bed & breakfasts, little inns, apartments or penthouses. I have even shot in restaurants, a vintage furniture store and in old barns. A little scouting can find you some unexpected places you may love shooting in.

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Finding the light

When I look for hotel rooms that I might work in, I look for how much space I will have, how the light is (try to figure out how the light will be at the time you are likely to shoot), I look for usable background outside the window. Most likely a higher level provides a better view and more light. Being up higher can also shield you more from onlookers or even give you the possibility to use a balcony undisturbed.

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Google it for photos

Sometimes your client may suggest a place where you have never been, or you need to travel to your shoot. In those cases you may not have a chance to look at the location first, but even pictures online or Google Streetview can help in getting an impression and you prepare.

The same is true if you need to book a location out of town. Hotel booking and travel websites as well as the location’s own website may show images that can be of some help. But be careful as many places show images that give the impression of rooms being large and with a great view, and in reality you may find disappointment with a small room with no view. My best tip for this is to look at Trip Advisor for real guest images. This is usually very helpful. Also look to see if the hotel lists the rooms sq. footage.

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Stop by to say hi!

Another option would be to stop by the hotel and ask if you may view the room. Usually they are more then happy to show you several rooms. In many cases it is advisable to be sensitive when explaining. What you are using the room for – some locations might have objections which often arise due to a false impression of what you are doing. Especially privately owned locations might want to know exactly what you are doing. I then call it a “fashion or portrait shoot for a private client”, and this will put doubts to rest. Especially since many places fear that you will arrive with a whole entourage and a truckload of equipment just how they’d expect it from a commercial shoot. Larger hotels usually don’t care what you are doing as long as you stay in your room.

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Who Pays?

I include my location fees in my packages and I typically shoot two – four sessions over the time I have the location if I book it for the night. If I just have one client I try to get a day rate to save on cost. I have shot at some locations for free and some for as little as $50 and a few as high as $1200 per night.

Whether you incorporate location fees into your packages or have your clients pay them depends on your pricing structure. You can also set a maximum location fee that you are willing to pay and have the client pay anything in excess. I had clients that wanted their boudoir session in a hotel’s penthouse that is several thousands of dollars a night. In my packages such a special location request is to be compensated by the client.

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To portfolio or not to portfolio

I have been asked before if I use hotel images for my portfolio and website and the answer is yes but I am cautious not to show anything that is signature to the hotel or mention the hotels name. Some hotels may not have an issue at all but some bigger corporate owned hotels may not want their name affiliated with boudoir.

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Ask me anything

I could talk all day about shooting on location so if you have any questions just comment below and I will answer for you.

A little Instagram inspiration

If you want to see more of what on location shoots look like check out my Instagram www.instagram.com/coutureboudoir NYC | Chicago BoudoirPIN

Critsey Rowe

International boudoir photographer Critsey Rowe of Couture Boudoir® is the best selling the author of "Boudoir Photography- The Complete Guide To Shooting Intimate Portraits". Critsey has been a guest speaker on The Wedding Planning Audiocast, Convention speaker DWF at Imaging USA, Convention speaker WPPI's Road Trip, speaker Pictage Users Group and featured on Mimika TV and many other online resources.

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  • February 22, 2015 - 2:32 PM

    Ashley Durham - This is a GREAT article! I recently had to give up my shooting space when we moved across the country, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to shoot more on location! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • February 26, 2015 - 9:16 PM

    Jen Vazquez of Elegant Reveal Photography - I’m just starting out in the Boudoir area after being a family/senior portrait photographer for several years. I want to thank you so much for this information. I used it and got a room at a beautiful boutique hotel that normally goes for $495 a night for only $100. I can’t thank you enough for the info to gain courage to make the phone call.ReplyCancel

    • February 26, 2015 - 9:35 PM

      Critsey Rowe - Good job Jen!! Keep on asking because you will be surprised at what you can get for a day rate, especially if it is slow season for a hotel. You can even ask what some of their slow dates are and plan your shoots around what’s available.ReplyCancel

  • June 9, 2015 - 7:14 PM

    Ben Eichinger - ‘it never hurts to ask’ I traded use of a room in a local B&B for photos of the building so they could use them on their website.ReplyCancel

  • February 24, 2017 - 3:26 PM

    Lindsay - Thank you for the article. I just started shooting Boudoir with a Hair & Makeup Studio. I currently shoot in the studio but I would like to branch out to hotels, to get more variety.

    So do you just email the hotel and tell them what you would like to do then they pretty much give you a yes or a no? You also said you add whatever the price of the room is, to the Clients full payment charge?

    One more thing, at the hotels you shoot at, are you able to rent the room for the day? As you know, if you are only able to rent it out as usual, you can only arrive in the afternoon where it will start getting dark or really early in the morning, before you have to leave, which is not enough time. How are you able to specialize the time?

    Thank you!

    LindsayReplyCancel

    • February 24, 2017 - 6:54 PM

      Critsey Rowe - Hi Lindsay,
      There are several things you can do. First of all you can contact the sales department for the hotel you are most interested in to do your shoot. Ask if they offer a day rate and let them know the times you would like the room. Some hotels are very open to this and some are not. You just have to ask to find out. Some hotels also charge more for a day rate rather then less and when this happens it is better to just rent the room the regular way. There are many hotels I just go by the check in check out times to schedule my shoots. I also have several hotels I have relationships with that allow me to shoot when I want to. I have also done trade for shooting in some hotels. I shot for the hotel in exchange for giving me x amount of room rentals. One of the chains I shot for allowed me to shoot in several locations for free including Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta. Most hotels are a part of a national chain so it is good to make friends with the sales staff. Note: not the front desk but the actual sales team that books events – those are the people you want to get to know. Something I did not talk about here is also looking into airbnb. It is also another great resource for shooting spaces. Xo!ReplyCancel

      • February 24, 2017 - 7:45 PM

        Lindsay E Parker - Thank you for your info! One question, when you said that you shoot for the hotel in exchange for room rentals, what do you shoot? Are you shooting real estate, events etc. for them?ReplyCancel

        • February 24, 2017 - 8:06 PM

          Critsey Rowe - One of the hotels was the rooms are architecture. Another I shot a pool event that they host every weekend and they used the images for advertising. Both times they approached me about shooting since we already had a relationship but I think you could easily approach them about doing a trade.ReplyCancel

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