Last year, a client asked me to incorporate a set of nude photographs of her doing yoga poses into her session. She sent me a Pinterest board of low-key photography, which is something I’d never really done before. For many reasons–including the fact that my studio has amazing available light–I rarely used my strobes. But, I was bored. And I knew she wanted wall art. So I put my 7 inch reflector on my Alien Bee B400, and practiced with a model. Also, Pinterest to the rescue for posing. For the first time doing this kind of photography, I was pretty pleased with what I got.
(Photo from my test shoot with my favorite model and makeup artist, Brittany Will.)
2nd time is the charm
When my client asked me to do these types of photos, I was clear that it would be an experiment. Session day came. I set up my lights and my client and got down to shooting. And … the photos sucked. I didn’t show them to her. In fact, I called her and had her come back to redo that section of her shoot. She was fine with coming back for 45 minutes to reshoot a few days later.
I reached out to a couple of photographer friends to get some advice about what I was doing wrong. They suggested that I try a strip box modifier instead of the little reflector. I borrowed one from a local photographer, put my client back in front of the camera and got pretty much what I wanted. She loved them, and she now has a 6-canvas collection in her bedroom. Are they perfect? No. But did I fall a little bit in love with the IDEA of them, and with getting better? Hell yes.
(My crazy-strong-and-bendy 48 year old client in 3 of the images she purchased on 16×24 canvas.)
Taking risks by getting outside my box
I’ve been a boudoir photographer since 2011. I’ve photographed more than 200 women since then. At every session, I do the same poses. Again. And again. Why? Because I’m good at getting what I want. And because clients buy them.
Doing this type of low key, art-centered photography is a big risk for me. I do not like not being great at something and putting it out in public. I don’t like being a beginner. But how am I supposed to grow personally–and grow my business–unless I take risks?
After this first shoot last spring, I decided to add a set of nudes like these to the options my clients could choose. I told them that it was a free add-on, that I was still learning, and that I might get 10 great photos or none. I also suggested that it would be a great way for them to push their boundaries a bit. To make myself more comfortable, I chose to also try these poses using natural light. And I decided it as OK to show full frontal nudity instead of just boobs. These made me happy too.
(Photos from client No. 3 in doing these boudoir nudes with natural light.)
The (surprising) outcomes
Well, not surprising–the more I shoot these, the better they get. I’ve gained enough self confidence to offer a “fine art nude” set as an outfit, rather than an add on, and a handful of clients have done so. I also offer a short set–maybe 3 poses instead of 6 to 8–as an alternative to a sheets set, and probably half of my clients have taken me up on it. And I don’t see my local competition offering this type of work, so it’s allowing me to build a niche as a boudoir photographer.
What I’m really surprised about is what offering these types of portraits has done to my sales. Clients are buying them on canvas and metal prints. They’re putting them in the little Finao folios I offer, as well as in the larger framed print that’s in my product list. More so than any boudoir detail pose, these photos are going up on the walls in my clients’ bedrooms, walk-in closets and master baths. A recent client is hanging two 20×30 metals over her king-sized bed.
That makes me so happy! And not just because wall and desktop art are great add-ons to my usual sales, but because they fulfill one of my secret missions: To give each client a piece of art that they can see every day and remember just how beautiful, brave and confident they are.
(Photo from my most recent client, who substituted a lingerie outfit with this set of photos, taken almost a year after my very first attempt at these types of photos.)