The Business of Boudoir »

Squash your studio envy

You want your images to be just as amazing as those popping up in the boudoir forums. You create mental lists of all the reasons that THOSE photographers have killer images and you don’t.  You decide that if you had a dream studio space like they did, then you, too, could have the most amazing portfolio ever.  You have studio envy. I did too.  That’s ok, actually. It gives you motivation to work your butt off to get there.

What you shouldn’t be doing is making excuses for not having the best images possible.

Yes, I do have a beautiful studio now … and it’s everything I dreamed it would be! But for 6 years of business, I did not have a space to call my own. So what did I do? I shot in my clients’ homes, and their friends’ homes, and MY home, and hotel rooms. With few exceptions, those shoot locations were far from ideal in the eye of a photographer.

Often times, I would walk into a client’s bedroom to find one tiny window, red walls, boring carpet, and clutter everywhere.  Was I screaming on the inside? Yep, for a minute anyways.  However, I decided very early on in my photography career that I wasn’t going to be an excuse-maker. There was a way to create awesome images with what I had to work with, and I was going to find it.

I know that many of you are cursed with studio envy, too. It’s in our nature as creative types.  If you just aren’t in the place in your business in which a studio is feasible for you right now, there is absolutely NO SHAME in that. A studio space is nothing to be rushed into. I’m a huge advocate of working with what you’ve got as long as you can! That said, I’m going to offer up a few tips for those presented with the dilemma of shooting in a less-than-desireable location.

#1 Look at the bright side!
Honestly, not having a studio space has its perks! Aside from the obvious financial freedom, shooting in a different location for every shoot gives you the opportunity to see your subject with a fresh eye. It allows you to be inspired by that environment at that moment. It challenges you to try new things. It gives you a very versatile portfolio. You need to believe all of these things and when a potential client asks you if you shoot in a studio, you tell them “no, and here’s why.” Be confident in your abilities to provide a killer set of images regardless of your setting.  I promise you, you will learn new things at every shoot this way.

#2 Find the light, duh!  
For those natural light photographers like me, a room with a tiny window doesn’t necessarily have to be a nightmare. Don’t be afraid to move some things around (with permission from your client, of course) to get it closer to the window. If you find yourself with even just a sliver of light, WORK IT to create ultra moody and sensual low key images.

This image was shot in a poorly-lit hotel room with dark windows and I adore it!  Shot at ISO 800 f/1.8  at 1/250th sec with an 85mm

Even if you are a natural light photographer who always shoots on-location, it’s a good idea to learn how to use some basic artificial lighting just in case (GASP!!!).  Before having a natural light studio, I always brought a small light kit with me as a last resort (one time, I kid you not, NO WINDOWS. NONE! ACK!) that includes a small softbox and off camera flash set up. However, it really was a last resort. I tried just about everything else first!  If you are exclusively an artificial light photographer, then GREAT! You have even MORE location flexibility.

#3- Shoot THROUGH stuff. 

Some really cool effects can be achieved by shooting through different things like flowers, plants, lamps, curtains, or even creating yourself a fake “wall” with reflectors or foam core.  Shoot through some sparkly tulle if you are trying to block out some ugly parts of the room. Grab a nearby plant and pretend to be a ninja. This image was actually shot in my studio when it was almost COMPLETELY BARE. Nothing but a bed and an end table. While it may have been kind of boring to shoot in an empty room, I used a piece of decor that I had sitting on the nightstand. It was an hourglass with flecks of gold in it. I placed the hourglass over a small portion of my lens to create this effect. Shot at ISO 300  f/2.0 at 1/1000th sec with a 50mm lens


#4 Fill the frame.
If you’ve got a semi-decent light source but the rest of the location is gnarly, fill ‘er up! Opt for a tight crop so that you can’t tell you are shooting in a dirty stairwell, like I was here:
Here’s another example of frame-filling. When I took this shot, I was actually sitting at my desk editing when a challenge popped up in a forum to take a boudoir selfie exactly where you were. So here I was, in my old office with HORRENDOUS lighting. I shot this at ISO 3200, f/ 1.6 at 1/200th on my D800 and 50mm lens.


#5 Bring a set with you

I’m not talking about anything unreasonable, here.  Bring some sheer fabric that you can easily drape over curtain rods or even ceiling fan blades (I’ve done this a lot!) to create some interest in the room and give your client something to play with.  Check into some really cool portable flooring options from Candy Floors that roll up and fit nicely in the back of your car (I receive no perks or money from Candy Floors. I just like ’em).  Faux sheepskin rugs make for instant comfy cozy sexiness and are easy to transport. All of these things are simple, portable, and relatively inexpensive but will give you some versatility for your shoot in any location!

So no more excuses about crappy locations! You can rock what you’ve got and STILL be a successful boudoir photographer!

  • September 11, 2014 - 10:55 AM

    Shannon Hemauer - Great suggestions!ReplyCancel

  • September 11, 2014 - 11:23 AM

    Elizabeth Zimmerman - I really love this Kara!

    I’ve been suffering from the internal struggle of “Studio Envy” lately! But you’re so right — the bright side for me has been the *challenge* of using my client’s space every time. It’s fun for them to see not only the transformation of themselves, but also of their bedroom/home! 🙂ReplyCancel

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