As a boudoir photographer, I’ve had more than my fair share of OMG moments. Most of them involving conversations with my clients during a session; it is amazingthe personal details a woman will spill to a complete stranger. At first I was confused by these “confessions,” but somewhere in-between hearing stories of wedding planning, having family members in the mob (I’m not kidding), infidelity, family drama, boy drama, body issues, and how it feels to finally have someone put a ring on it, I began to realize that in this profession, I wasn’t just taking pictures; I was also playing therapist.
At the end of the day, it’s really very flattering to have someone trust you with their innermost secrets. Most women will not just volunteer intimate details of their lives to a complete stranger with an expensive camera—communication, in its most honest and pure form, requires trust. When a client opens up to me about her life, I know it’s because she feels she can trust me, and if she trusts me, I know that she is feeling comfortable and relaxed (two things required for a successful session to take place).
So what’s the secret? How do we connect with a client in a way that establishes comfort and trust? Every photographer has his or her own method of communicating, but below are some tricks I always use when closing the gap between being a photographer and being a friend.
Ask Lots of Questions
I find that the moment I introduce myself to a new client, I turn into some type of “20-questions” machine. It’s important to not rapid-fire questions in a way that overwhelms a client; instead, ask questions that provide you with information you can draw on later during the session.
Being able to recall the information a client gave you during the first “20-questions” phase requires active listening. Don’t just smile and nod with every response she gives—make sure you are actually receiving the information your client is passing along. An easy way to do this is the ask-listen-repeatmethod: for example, if my client is engaged, and she says her fiancé’s name is Brad, I will respond with something like “Oh, your fiancé’s name is Brad? How did you and Brad meet?” Reiterating the information a client gives you not only commits it to memory, but also helps ease into other questions that will get a client communicating.
The response is crucial in showing a client not only did you hear her answers, but you were actually listening to what she had to say. If a client mentions that she is getting married in the fall, follow up with questions about the day; where is she getting married, what are her colors, what does her dress look like (I can’t even tell you how many excited clients have insisted on showing me cell phone wedding dress pictures, but I love it!) The key point is to avoid one-word responses at all costs. Ask questions, make comments, and always be an active participant in the conversation!
Flatter and Praise
A boudoir session is a prime time for a client to feel self-conscious, which is why, both as a photographer and a new friend, we have to provide the gentle encouragement one would expect to get from a trusted confidant. One tactic I always use for genuine flattery is to recall why the photographs are being taken. If a client is taking the pictures just for fun, remind her how awesome it is that she is taking time to pamper herself and how she is going to love the way she looks in the images. If she is taking them for a fiancé or significant other, play up how much he is going to love a certain outfit, or how surprised he is going to be when he sees the images for the first time. The majority of clients who feel self-conscious really just need validation; you don’t have to be a supermodel in order to look gorgeous in revealing photographs. If you sense a client needs a little pick-me-up, don’t be afraid to give it to her!
Open Up About Yourself
Communication is a two-way street where you can only ask for so much before you’re expected to give something in return. For this reason, I am always very open about my own life when chatting with a client. I am happy to answer any question, and I always look for opportunities to relate to a client on a personal or professional level. Determining a professional standard in boudoir photography is a tricky thing—unlike most sessions, boudoir professionalism doesn’t necessarily mean formal. In a session where photography and therapy seem to go hand-in-hand, being a professional in this niche also means becoming a friend.
Author Bio: A former full-time professional photographer, Alyssa enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with those looking to break into the business. A proud resident of the PNW, Alyssa can often be found pursuing thrift shops, taking pictures, or enjoying a venti pumpkin spice latte. You can keep up with Alyssa’s latest adventures via Twitter
Interested In Starting a Boudoir Photography Business?
These three books will get you started the right way. If you are already in business and are struggling, you will be able to ramp up your business once you understand how boudoir photography differs from regular portrait photography.
Be sure to get all these books in the paper or hardcover version. Photo books are just NOT the same on Kindle. These books deserve to be on your business bookshelf. You will refer to them again and again and again!
Body and Soul: Lucrative and Life-Changing Boudoir Photography
If you are in the BUSINESS of boudoir photography or are thinking about boudoir photography as an add on to your regular portrait business you MUST get this book. It is specifically about the business, starting with YOU … why are you interested, why are you doing this, what would your focus be? Once you establish your own motivations, the book moves onto your CLIENTS. The author spells out in detail your clients motivations for getting intimate photography shots, and how you can establish a base of clients who come back again and again. This book is INVALUABLE and will help you get started in the business, or help you ramp up an existing boudoir business.
The Art of Boudoir Photography: How to Create Stunning Photographs of Women This is a fabulous resource for any photographer taking photos of women … covers all aspects of photographing women, including boudoir shots.
Photographing Women: 1,000 Poses Every pose imaginable. You will never run out of ideas. The author talks about how to get your customer or model to flow from one pose to another. In addition to showing how to do it, the author also shows what NOT to do … which is as or more educational than just showing the right way!