Tips + Techniques

Break into Boudoir: Tips for Building a Profitable Boudoir Studio

March 26, 2024

By Liz Hansen

Boudoir is the hottest genre in photography right now! Many wedding and family photographers are finding business success and artistic fulfillment as they discover the beauty of boudoir.

Boudoir is a French word that means “a woman’s bedroom,” but boudoir photography is much more than that. Boudoir photography is a celebration of the sensuality of the human body.  Boudoir provides an opportunity for people to feel confident and empowered through an intimate photoshoot experience. 

Boudoir clients can be photographed fully clothed, wear lingerie or be fully nude. They can wear makeup or no makeup. Boudoir clients can pose with furniture and beds or against a simple backdrop. Boudoir photo sessions can be for men, women, couples or groups. 

With boudoir, the world is wide open. You can make boudoir mean whatever you want it to mean. Your boudoir photos are going to be fantastic because you will personalize it to your style and your clients.

I’ve been a full-time boudoir photographer since 2018, and I have photographed nearly 2,000 clients at my studio. Here are some of my top tips for you to break into boudoir!

[Read: The Boudoir Photography Empowerment Movement]

© Liz Hansen

Why Shoot Boudoir?

Boudoir is Fun!

When I was a family photographer, I often had clients who were grumpy or unhappy. At family photo sessions, the kids rarely wanted to be there. Mom was stressed because the kids weren’t smiling. And Dad was mad about wearing a blazer. Similarly at weddings, almost everyone involved was at a max stress level the whole day. But with boudoir, no one is mad. Even if a client is nervous or shy at first, they are at my boudoir studio because they want to be there! That makes my job as a boudoir photographer super fun!

Get Your Weekends Back

No one gets married on a Tuesday morning, but it’s easy to schedule a boudoir photo session at that time. I only take clients on weekday mornings, and I love having my evenings and weekends free. 

Boudoir is Profitable

A boudoir photo session is a luxury experience, so it’s easy to attach a luxury price tag to it. A high-end boudoir album is also an easy sell. It’s the natural product for clients to purchase from their boudoir photoshoot.

Enjoy Less Competition

There’s less competition in the boudoir space right now. In my area, there are approximately 200 family, kid and wedding photographers for every one boudoir photographer. That means it’s easier for me to stand out and book more photo clients.

© Liz Hansen

Where to Shoot Boudoir

If you’re ready to fully commit to a boudoir business, I recommend renting a commercial studio of your own.

But if you’re not quite ready to step into a commercial lease, here are some other boudoir location options for you:

  • Your home. Shoot in an extra bedroom, your basement, your living room or your garage.
  • Client’s home. Many people will be happy to invite you into their home for their intimate photo session.
  • An AirBnb or hotel room. Check everything first to make sure it’s ok to hold a boudoir photoshoot in the space.
  • A studio rental. Look into renting a local space such as a yoga studio, dance studio or another photographer’s studio. Many spaces are available on Peerspace.
  • Outdoors. Yes, outdoor boudoir is a thing, and it’s totally amazing! Find a secluded area at a forest preserve, a beach or a lakefront. 

Boudoir Sets

You do not need to have fancy sets to get started with boudoir!  It’s okay to use just a few simple set pieces. You can always get more elaborate as you go. I love shopping at my local home goods stores or on Facebook Marketplace to find great deals.

Here’s what I suggest to get started with a boudoir set:

As you develop your personal taste and style, you can continue to add to your sets with couches, backdrops, plants, mirrors and artwork. 

My studio set up is quite simple, but many photographers get super creative with their sets and use bathtubs, candles and feather angel wings. Check out Pinterest for boudoir set inspiration.

[Read: Create Perfect Boudoir Outfits with Everyday Clothing]

© Liz Hansen

How to Build Your Boudoir Portfolio

To get started in boudoir, you are going to need some sample images in your portfolio to show off your skills and attract new clients. I recommend doing a few boudoir sessions for free in exchange for portfolio images. It is worth it to hire a professional hair and makeup artist for these shoots so that your portfolio images look fabulous. 

Start with Your Personal Network 

You likely already know some people who would be eager to come in for a boudoir session with you. You just need to ask! You can also send personalized emails or DMs to local people who you want to invite to your studio for a portfolio-building shoot. You might be surprised how easy it is to find people to sign up for a free boudoir photo session. You are offering something that is very valuable.

Get Your Ducks in a Row First

Before you take any boudoir photos, you want to make sure that you are legally and financially compliant. This includes business liability insurance, a commercial bank account and lawyer approved client contracts and photo releases. Never share any boudoir images online or in print without a signed photo release from the person in the images. Your boudoir business must be built on trust.

Get Paying Boudoir Clients

After you have a few portfolio building clients under your belt, it’s time to have paying clients in for boudoir photoshoots. There are lots of ways to get the word out that you are now offering boudoir services. Here are some of the most effective marketing techniques I have used to grow my boudoir photography business:

  • A VIP Facebook group dedicated to my mission to empower women in all areas of their lives
  • Google and Facebook ads targeted to local women
  • Word-of-mouth referrals
  • Text and email automations that warm people up to the idea of boudoir
  • Partnering with other local businesses, including bridal boutiques, med spa, pole fitness studios

Treat Every Client like Royalty

When your client arrives for their boudoir photo session, treat them like royalty.  Make them comfortable and keep conversation focused on them. Explain every step of the process so that they know what to expect. Show them exactly how to pose and what to do. They are most likely nervous, but your calm guidance will help them feel confident.

© Liz Hansen

Boudoir as Empowerment

When you step into the world of boudoir photography, you must be prepared to offer a safe and empowering experience for your clients. Because of the intimate nature of boudoir, your clients will expect a lot from you

Boudoir is much more than taking sexy photos. A boudoir photoshoot is a moment for people to express themselves and their bodies in an authentic way. Every person who steps in front of your camera deserves to look and feel confident.

Providing an exceptional boudoir experience starts with your own personal love and acceptance of all body types, sizes, shapes, colors and ages. Because we live in a world that often promotes a narrow set of what is considered attractive — typically young and thin — you may need to reframe some of your thoughts about bodies and beauty. This may require you to work on your own body acceptance. If you can’t love your own body, it may be hard for you to help your clients love theirs! 

[Read: The Boudoir Photography Empowerment Movement]

© Liz Hansen

Boudoir Products

Your boudoir clients are going to have an amazing experience on the day of their boudoir photo session. They are also going to want to enjoy their boudoir images for years to come. I offer three types of products to my boudoir clients:

  • Digital Images. I offer password protected digital galleries and private phone apps.
  • Albums. My most popular boudoir product is a beautifully printed, leather-bound heirloom album. I use a professional lab to print custom albums.
  • Wall Art. Some clients want to see their art hanging in their home, in a closet or in their bathroom. I offer wall art in canvas, metal and matted frames.

Practice, Practice, Practice

As you continue to photograph boudoir clients, always strive to improve your process and artistry. Mastering boudoir photography is a lifelong process. For me, the journey has been full of joy and fulfillment as I have watched my clients feel empowered in front of the camera. Welcome to the world of boudoir!

Liz Hansen’s Chicago Boudoir Photography Studio is a boutique studio that empowers women to feel confident in their bodies. She has appeared on NPR and TEDx, and she runs the Million Dollar Studio, where she coaches other photographers to be wildly profitable. Follow her on YouTube and Instagram.