Ashleigh Taylor Asks, ‘Are You Boudoir Curious?’

March 2, 2023

By Jacqueline Tobin

Boudoir photographer Ashleigh Taylor says that boudoir is a powerful photo genre to shoot, but that “due to it’s intimate nature, it’s imperative that photographers be intentional when crafting their shoots and client experience.” Here, she answers ten of our questions on how to build a boudoir brand from the ground up, what her most challenging shoot was, takeaways from her WPPI 2023 class, and much more.

Ashleigh Taylor Henning boudoir portrait of client.
© Ashleigh Taylor

1. What is your WPPI 2023 seminar about? 

Ashleigh Taylor: My talk, “Boudoir Curious? Building A Profitable Boudoir Studio From The Ground Up”, is for the photographer who is either curious about transitioning full-time into boudoir photography or would simply like to add boudoir services to their current list of offerings. It’s important that your clients feel safe, seen and of course empowered in their body. This class will cover everything from understanding your style, your mission and your why as a boudoir photographer, to crafting an empowering client experience. I will also talk about pricing and marketing. 

2. What main takeaways will attendees leave your class with?

Ashleigh Taylor: Attendees will learn how to create an empowering client experience. They will understand how to discover their boudoir mission statement and then how to craft an aesthetic out of that mission. This will help them find their voice and their style. I’ll also share how I create desirable images in a small, minimalist space, why it’s important to embrace professional pricing and how to find your first paying boudoir clients!

3. What is trending in your genre right now?

Ashleigh Taylor: I think culture is really beginning to embrace in a mainstream way the idea of self love. With Miley Cyrus’s new song, “Flowers”, women are realizing that heck, yes the relationship I have with myself is the most important one and I will never let myself down even if romantic partners do. Why am I mentioning this? Well it’s inextricably linked to my WHY as a boudoir photographer.

[Read: Boudoir Photography Location Ideas: 12 Alternatives to a Studio]

This genre used to be all about getting women to give these photos as gifts to romantic partners, but for 12 years I have been marketing these shoots as a gift to yourself first and foremost. A boudoir shoot is about embracing your body, seeing yourself in a new way and appreciating your inherent beauty and sensuality. Hey ladies, we can buy ourselves flowers, lingerie and a beautiful boudoir portrait session, too. That’s the trend I am seeing now but I hate to call it a trend. Because loving yourself will never go out of style. 

4. What do consider to be a game-changing photographic technique or marketing tip that helped changed your business? 

Ashleigh Taylor: In 2015, I began learning Facebook Ads and in 2020 I began learning Google Ads. I employ both in my business and both have been invaluable to me. Ads allow me to scale my business and get bookings without having to be constantly doing networking meetings, handing out business cards, and hitting pavement. While I am so grateful for the relationships built through my networking, it’s nice to know that if I am busy in my studio, I can have leads coming in through ads (rather than everything slowing down because I haven’t been networking).

[Read: 4 Strategies to Promote Your Photography Business]

Ads get a bad name  in this industry and I’ve heard a lot of educators over the years brag that they’ve never had to run ads! That’s honestly great if you don’t need ads, but I don’t think photographers should be shamed for running ads either. There is so much value to getting leads from ads—and most businesses big and small rely on advertising. So why is there so much shame in using them in the photography industry? I will say, there is a learning curve to ads but if you have the patience to learn them they can pay off in dividends. 

5. What’s something that very few people know about you?

Ashleigh Taylor: I used to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday Night at midnight as a teen! Yes, I snuck my scandalous outfits/costumes under a coat so I could get out of the house without my parents realizing. I was a nerd—a musical theater nerd–and a weirdo who loved that Rocky Horror culture so much. I also loved hanging out and being accepted by self proclaimed outcasts and freaks. I look back at this time and laugh as I was sneaking out to fill my life with lingerie, feathers, glitter, red lipstick, corsets and fishnet stockings. All the things I still love as a boudoir photographer. I was a weird kid and I guess I was destined to be a boudoir photographer. 

6. What do you think photographers in your genre aren’t doing but should?

Ashleigh Taylor: I don’t think boudoir photographers understand how marketing is not just about the pictures you create and show but also about how you communicate the experience to potential clients. If you want clients who are looking to do this shoot for themselves, you need to educate them first (with copywriting and images) about how this shoot will transform their lives. 

7. What advice do you have to keeping one’s work fresh?

Ashleigh Taylor: Always learn new techniques and always find mentors that inspire you! No matter what level in your career you’re at, there is always something new to learn. And there is always someone to learn from. I think it’s really important to be a forever student and realize there is no point of arrival. The more we learn from others and try new techniques, the more we grow as artists. 

8. What piece of gear or gadget can you not live without?

Ashleigh Taylor: I do love my spider holster! I have had one for over 8 years and it changed my life. It saves my neck and shoulders and allows me to demo posing with free hands then quickly get my camera. 

9. What was your most challenging shoot and why? 

Ashleigh Taylor: I have recently started incorporating an optical spot into a lot of my client shoots. Even though I know what I am doing with it, my studio is so bright with natural light (even with the shades drawn) that it can be really hard to see the modeling light. The optical spot requires a lot of precision, so I do find using it to be a bit stressful when I am with clients and I can’t see the modeling light. However, I always challenge myself because the results are so killer. 

10. If not photography, what would your career be?

Ashleigh Taylor: I used to want to be a television writer and filmmaker, and sometimes I still see a great episode of TV and think, “Damn! Maybe I should have followed that path.” I have always loved storytelling, cinema and visual arts. I did work in the film and TV industry briefly after graduating film school but I quickly discerned that the culture was not for me. That is ultimately when I realized I’d rather run my own business and create portraits for people than deal with the Hollywood politics that come with screenwriting and filmmaking. I am so happy with my choice, but I suppose if I went down the ‘what if’ path, a career in film/tv would have been the alternative. 

[Editor’s Note: Ashleigh’s WPPI 2023 course, “Boudoir Curious? Building A Profitable Boudoir Studio From The Ground Up”, takes place Monday, March 6, from 10:00 a.m. -11:30 a.m. Register at wppiexpo.com.]

Ashleigh Taylor has been a full-time photographer since 2010 and is an accredited Master photographer and Mentor with The Portrait Masters. She started out photographing weddings but in 2013 opened her Boudoir & Portrait Studio in Santa Barbara. In 2016, she transitioned to shooting portraits. She currently has two courses in The Portrait Masters Store—how to book more clients using Instagram and the ins and outs of getting fully booked using Facebook Ads