The Business of Boudoir »

I’m Starting Over. Again.

Spoiler Alert: starting over is hard.

I’m starting over, again. Two years ago I decided that photographing weddings and children was slowly killing me and completely wiped the slate clean and dove into boudoir. Overnight I switched from natural light to studio light, photojournalistic style to fully posed, and easy income to a major challenge. No one expected me to be able to make it in my tiny town as the ONLY boudoir-specific photographer, but after a lot of work (and many many months of feeling like a complete faker) I got there. I was making a good average sale for the area, was producing quality work for quality clients, and was loving life.

Then we had the opportunity to follow our hearts to a bigger city. A city that is fully covered for boudoir — Denver is full of fantastic boudoir photographers. So the question became, what do I want to shoot? Do I want to spend another two years rebuilding my business to compete with these women? Or should I find my own niche?

So, I’m starting over. Who likes an easy life anyway? There aren’t any photographers specializing in men here, and very few across the country. With Denver being the fittest city basically in the universe, the streets are flooded with gorgeous, ripped, hunky men. And, as luck would have it, I happen to really enjoy men. Especially the naked ones.

denver mens portrait sexyPIN

The Hurdles

Here’s my story. I’ve been married for nearly 9 years to a wonderfully hilarious and supportive man, and we have three small kids ages 7, 6 and 4. I became a photographer to be able to work from home and raise them up … then I happened to get good at it. On top of being a full time-ish photographer, I also run a virtual assistant business, sit on the board of a non-profit art foundation, and have a husband that works out of town frequently, sometimes for 2 weeks straight, and one kiddo still at home full time.

I am telling you these things to shine a bit of light behind the scenes — my hurdles lie not only in starting over and carving a new path, but also in the very concrete roadblocks of life. Living in a new city without a babysitter or family and a husband who is gone does not make for easy shooting conditions.

What the frick do I do next?

So where to start? That’s what this series is all about. What do I do? How do I start over in a new city where I know virtually no one? How do I market to men specifically? I have never marketed to men.  How do I learn how to pose men, light them, interact with them, stay safe, and create sellable images when there are no men-specific colleagues to bounce ideas off of, or mentor with? And on top of that, what the hell do I sell them?

The scary part: I won’t be following in footsteps. I’ll be making my own. The trick is to grow bigger feet.

Jen Swedhin dudoir photoPIN

Jeremiah, Naysayers and Rebranding, Oh My.

So far, what works: an excellent spokesmodel. My guy, Jeremiah, is not only sexy as hell and excellent in front of the camera, he has an amazing reach and brags about me constantly. He also gives me neck massages and listens to Backstreet Boys with me.

Also, trading shoots to rebuild my portfolio has been very helpful. Jeremiah sent me several guys, all with a variety of looks and experience, and all were willing to do whatever I wanted.  Most I will end up shooting over and over again. This is a great way to try new things, make mistakes and create brand evangelists. My goal is to make a handful of gorgeous images for my portfolio and marketing, but also a ton of shitty images — I have to learn what works and what doesn’t, how to work with the male figure, how to coach them, how light them. If you aren’t screwing up more than you nail, you aren’t trying hard enough, right?

What hasn’t worked for me: listening to anyone else’s opinions. There is no reason to care what anyone else thinks of my new market, my new approach or my new job of rubbing baby oil on man abs. There is also no reason to listen to naysayers. I am going to be successful, that’s all there is to it.

What’s next: a full rebrand. My pretty pink and gray splatter branding just isn’t going to carry over to the male market, I’m afraid. This means a big investment when I’m not bringing any money in, but high-end business cards will be a crucial part of my guerrilla marketing efforts, which basically means I will be handing them to every hot guy I see. I also need to start interviewing men to gain insight into what sorts of client gifts, packaging, prep guides and perks they would like. See what I mean about starting over? It’s ALL different!  I will also be hitting the marketing calendar to create a plan.

So stay tuned for all the tids and bits I learn, and the mistakes I make while carving out this new path. Oh, and sexy photos, there will be those, too.

Tune in next month for another chapter in this whole starting-over-dudoir business. I’m excited!

Sexy man after a shower with loose towelPIN

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  • April 18, 2015 - 12:21 PM

    Leslie - I’ll be starting over this fall in a new state with all the same hurdles… except I’m not switching to dudes. Ha. That’s all you, girl. Good luck. I can’t wait to see where it takes you. Oh, and thanks for adding some men to my instagram feed instead of just ladies.ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:49 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you! Good luck in your new adventure!ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2015 - 12:33 PM

    Danea - Jen, you are awesome and I believe from your work, that you are a natural with the fellows. I am a total fan of your switch and thus I need to say thank you. No really, THANK YOU! HahahaReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:50 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thanks, Danea! Glad I can entertain 🙂ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2015 - 2:02 PM

    Petra - Best quote ever: I won’t be following in footsteps. I’ll be making my own. The trick is to grow bigger feet.

    Excellent article and wishing you the all the success you hope to achieve!ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:50 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • April 21, 2015 - 3:33 PM

    Sue Broderdorp - Super excited for this next adventure for you, Jen! I’ve been loving your images (as always)! If anyone has the business acumen to pull this off, it’s you! Go get ’em!ReplyCancel

    • April 21, 2015 - 3:51 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you Sue!ReplyCancel

  • April 22, 2015 - 9:32 AM

    Jennifer - Amazing article. I love watching the change and can’t wait to see what you have next month!ReplyCancel

    • April 22, 2015 - 8:56 PM

      Jen Swedhin - Thank you!!ReplyCancel

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