How Much Should I Charge For My Boudoir Photography?

In this article we’re going to explore value… yes, value… and how that is directly related to how much one should charge for their boudoir photography. The two are intimately related. We’re also going to look at where you’re at as a photographer (skill-wise), as an artist, and how much confidence you have in yourself… because how much you should charge is wrapped up in all of that.

So, how much should I charge for my boudoir photography? You should charge what you feel comfortable charging and then increase that amount as your skill and value as a photographer increases. 

Have you heard the name Peter Lik?

Peter sold his photograph “Phantom” for $6,500,000. Yes, that’s correct — 6.5 million dollars. He sold “Illusion” for 2.4 million, “Eternal Moods” for 1.1 million, and “One” for 1 million.

Go ahead, Google it. 

I’ll wait. 

See? 

Not bad, and more power to him. Those sales promote photography as an art form and help professional photographers everywhere. But do you think he started out selling photographs for seven figures? No, probably not. In fact, there was a time when Peter Lik didn’t know the first thing about photography. Sound familiar? It does to me, because we’ve all been there, or are there currently.

A Lot of What I Know About Photography I Learned By Writing Screenplays

screenplay page

I used to write screenplays. I never sold any, but I did make the final rounds of some fairly prestigious screenplay contests with more than one script back in the day. I wrote about eight or nine. I can’t remember. That was another lifetime ago. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with that world, writing is a craft. There are certain principles and conventions that are the building blocks of a good story. These are mostly hidden from the reader (or audience if it’s made into a movie) because you’re so absorbed in the story. 

Writing is also really, really, hard. Like, really hard. People don’t just sit down and start writing a story off the top of their head and win an Oscar for Best Screenplay. That doesn’t happen. It takes a lot of training to learn the fundamentals, plus, one’s own unique imagination and creativity. 

Everyone can learn the first part, the fundamentals. In photography it would be learning how your f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO work in relation to one another. How lighting works, both natural and artificial. How to pose your subject along with composing a shot within your frame, post-processing, and printing (which is an area that gets far too little written about and is an entire science unto itself). 

For more on printing check out my article, “15 Critical “Need to Know” Steps Before Printing Your Boudoir Images”.

Photography is hard too. There’s a lot of stuff we have to know and keep up with because technology keeps advancing. That’s a lot of stuff we need to cram into our brains just to stay current and on top of things. 

It took me a long time to where I thought I had a handle on the fundamentals of screenwriting… and it took me a long time before I had a handle on the fundamentals of photography… but with all that came a growing confidence. 

What Should You Charge Starting Out?

If you’re new to boudoir and feel you have a reasonable understanding of the fundamentals of photography and lighting (at least the kind you’re going to be using), you should charge however much will get you shooting a lot of people. 

If that number is zero dollars and trade shoots, then so be it because believe it or not, this is still part of learning the fundamentals — putting into practice everything you’ve been studying with a real person when it counts. 

Your focus should not be on making money right now but on gaining experience… which will help you make money in the future.

Your goal here should be to shoot as many people as you can to gain as much experience as you can because this is the next level of learning, and making real everything you’ve been practicing and learning about. 

The great advantage of free or trade shoots is that they allow you to work without the pressure of having to get amazing results that a paying client would expect. You can mess up, make a stupid mistake, or take more time than would be permissible with a paying client to figure out why your images are coming out so dark. (Oops, my thumb accidentally hit the shutter-speed dial on my Nikon. I’ve done that… and it took me a while to figure that out.)

Having a paying client wait… and wait… until you figure that out brings on the flop sweat and your mind reeling into panic mode, and you want to avoid that when possible. Shooting as many people as you can at this stage will show you where you’re really at with your skill set as a boudoir photographer. 

I know when I first started shooting headshots, my mind was so wrapped up in my camera settings and the lighting that I barely had any time to really work with the person sitting in front of my lens. I learned that I had to know my camera better, and my lighting set up better, but it took that free or trade shoot experience for me to come face-to-face with that… and it made me a better photographer because I learned and grew from it. 

I remember one time when I first got started shooting headshots outdoors with assisted flash. It was a trade shoot (thank heavens) because I had a major technical glitch I could not figure out.

My flashes were firing erratically. They would go off, then I’d snap a few more shots and they wouldn’t fire. Then I’d try again and they’d fire. This pattern kept repeating itself and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I ended the shoot earlier than expected and had to apologize to my subject but all they lost was some time, and I still managed to salvage some shots I could send to him.

I finally discovered what was happening when I got home. Since I was new and unfamiliar with my flash and triggering gear, I had accidentally put my receivers onto my speed-lites backwards, so the contacts weren’t aligned properly. Sometimes they’d fire, sometimes they wouldn’t. I didn’t know my gear, or rather, hadn’t worked with my gear long enough to immediately recognize that in the field. 

When I began shooting boudoir I had to learn a new set of fundamentals — posing being one of them. I knew my camera and lighting pretty well by then, but now I was dealing with having the responsibility of posing my subjects and working with people who were unfamiliar or new to a boudoir shoot. I had to know all that. I was supposed to be the expert.

Getting Past Free and TFP Shoots

Once you’ve gotten enough free and trade shoots under your belt and you’re starting to feel like, “Hey, I should be getting paid for this.”, then it’s time to start getting paid for this. And the thing that prompts that feeling is confidence — a natural by-product of applied learning to experience. 

You’re at a point now where that confidence has been built organically inside of you because you went through the proper steps for it to be nurtured and to grow.

“So, How Much Should I Charge Now?”

6.5 million dollars!!!

Hold on, we’re not there yet, but how does…

$6,000 sound?

Or how about… $3,000?

Yeah, $3,000 sounds great, right? I’m worth it, right? I know what I’m doing and I’m offering women a valuable service, right?

Well, some boudoir educators may advocate this one-size-fits-all price list, but I don’t think that’s wise. In fact, I think it can actually be destructive for you. Let me explain.

Your prices should rise as your skill level, confidence, and value rises. If you feel you’re at a level where your skill, confidence, and value warrants $3,000 then great, charge $3,000.

But if you’re not quite there yet… you feel you still need to improve in some areas… but you’re feeling pressure to charge more because so-and-so told me I should be charging X amount of dollars but they really don’t know me like I know me, then you should probably not charge $3,000.

You should charge what you feel comfortable charging and then increase that amount as your value increases. I’ve seen some boudoir photographers whose work (in my opinion) is sub-par with what they expect to get paid and wonder why they’re not booking clients or the ones they do book aren’t following through with their ordering. 

This can have a damaging effect on the photographer because it discourages them and they start to feel less than, or start blaming the client. They say to themselves, “Well, I should be getting $3,500 for this shoot because so-and-so is.” 

Well, so-and-so has been at it for seven years. 

How long have you been at it?

Does your photography warrant $3,500?

They need a professional outside opinion to help them take an honest look at their work and the services they provide and the personality behind all that and come to an honest assessment of their value… and then charge appropriately. 

I know, it’s not easy, but that’s the process. 

You see, boudoir photography (like screenwriting) is a skill… it takes time to learn the basics. It takes time to become competent. It takes more time to achieve being above average. It takes even more time to start mastering the craft.

And everyone is at different points along that journey. In other words, it doesn’t happen overnight, so allow yourself time to learn, mature, and to grow. 

Constructive Criticism Is the Key To Getting Better As a Photographer

The key to me getting better as a screenwriter without a doubt was getting my work professionally critiqued by those who knew a lot more about the craft of screenwriting than I did. 

The same holds true with your photography. You need honest and professional feedback in the form of constructive criticism. 

In order for that to have an impact on your photography you have to be willing to put your ego aside and to listen and absorb what real pros in the business have to say about your work.

And then make adjustments to get better, and when you get better your confidence grows and you’ll feel your photography warrants a higher price. It’s a gradual natural progression.  

Are there people out there charging high prices when their photography is just plain bad? Yes, I suppose there are but that’s just a case of the blind leading the blind… or the ignorant selling to the ignorant. It doesn’t contribute to elevating the art of photography in any way. 

My Personal Credo

I personally believe my clients should feel they’re getting more than their money’s worth when they’re done with their whole boudoir experience — that they got more value than what they paid, or at the very least, equal value for what they paid because what’s the opposite? They got less value than what they paid? Nobody feels good when that happens, right?

It doesn’t feel good when it happens to you. So, don’t let it happen to your clients. This is how word of mouth spreads because people had such a wonderful experience and felt they got more value than what they paid. 

But How Do I Determine My Value?

That’s a great question and everyone coming to this point of self-analysis will be arriving with quite an assortment of Louis Vitton. (“Baggage” being the key word here.)

One way to feel you have value in the first place is to get really good at what you do. When you get really good at what you do, you’ll feel you have value… and the confidence to charge more for that value because you’ll feel you’re worth it. But it takes study and learning and practice and experimentation for that to happen. It doesn’t happen overnight. 

Determining your value should feel organic to you. You should know by comparing your work to the work of others where you stand in the pecking order. 

How Can I Increase My Prices?

hand covered in multi-colored paint

Create a style all your own that only those who want that style, have to come to you to get it. 

Joel Grimes is a photographer who talks a lot on this topic and if you’re unfamiliar with him, I’d suggest checking him out.

Don’t just be someone with a camera who shoots boudoir, become an artist with their own unique style and vision that shoots boudoir. Get well known for that style and you can charge a premium. This gives you leverage because where else are they going to go to get what you alone are offering?

There’s no where else they can go. They have to come to you and pay your price.

Does your work stand out from others in your genre? Can you look at a boudoir image and know right away who shot that image? Are people willing to pay a lot of money for that style and look?

If people can’t say that about your work then you have no style. It’s not an insult, it’s just the next level. If you want to charge a premium, like Peter Lik, you have to develop a unique style, but that’s a topic of deep discussion for another time.

Another Way To Add Value

Perhaps the experience your clients get during their entire boudoir shoot and ordering process is unique and spectacular and worth more.

People will return to a restaurant where the food was just okay but the service was amazing, more so than to a restaurant where the food was amazing but the service was abysmal. 

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure if I answered the question that the title asks… at least not in a numeric way. I hope, however, I’ve given you something to think about when you do settle on your pricing for whatever level you are at. 

If you found this article helpful, please forward it to someone else who it may also benefit.

Thanks for your time,

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

Bella Mitri Boudoir

Charles Mitri

Charles Mitri is an award-winning boudoir photographer and also founder and writer of LoungeBoudoir.com, an educational blog and resource website for boudoir photographers worldwide. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

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