You’ve decided you want to shoot boudoir… or at least dip your toe in the pool and test the waters. There’s just one problem. You don’t have a subject to shoot. Yeah, that’s a problem… but one that can be easily solved. If you’re just starting out or perhaps transitioning from another genre, you’re more than likely going to start your boudoir journey with a TFP boudoir shoot.
In this article I’m going to explain the exact steps you need to take to set up your first TFP boudoir shoot.
Step 1 — Know Where Your Shoot Is Going To Take Place
This first thing you need to do is lock down your location (to use a little movie-making lingo).
Whether you plan to shoot somewhere in your house, rent a studio, shoot at your subject’s place, a mutual friend’s place, or even your makeup artist’s place (I’ll explain how in a bit), if you don’t have a place to shoot then even if you have a willing model, it ain’t gonna’ happen.
Now, I realize if you plan on shooting at your subject’s place you’re not going to be able to lock that down beforehand, so you may be combining two steps into one here, but for the most part, you’re probably going to either be shooting at your place, renting a studio, or shooting at your makeup artist’s pad (like I said earlier, more on that later).
Let’s take a gander at each of these options.
If where you live would work with adequate light, space, and privacy, then by all means utilize it. I started shooting boudoir in the living room of my apartment. Was it ideal? No, but it was good enough and it actually turned out to be better than I thought. After a few shoots I knew exactly how to use the space to its best advantage and besides being free, it was also quite convenient.
Rent A Studio
Okay, so you have to shell out a little bit of money, but shooting in a studio can be ideal. Just make sure the space has some windows with good light if you plan on using the sun as your primary light source.
There are usually studios of some sort in most areas of the country, from small low-end types to larger more professional ones. Do a search on Google or search some local photographer groups on Facebook and post inquiring about a studio. Trust me, if you’re posting in a photographer’s group on FB, you’ll get your answer right quick. (By the way, I have no idea why I’m speaking in a southern accent today).
Shooting At Your Subject’s Place
With this option, you’d probably have to find a friend who’d be willing to host the shoot at her place. A friend works better here than a stranger (if you’re a guy, like me). If you’re a female boudoir photographer you might have better luck because there’s more trust female-to-female than male-stranger-with-a-camera to female.
Anyway, you get what I’m sayin’.
However, if you’re a guy who has a female friend that’s interested, it will be a lot easier to say to her, “Hey, I think your place would work better than mine.” She’d probably be okay with that. Besides, she’d have access to all her clothes and makeup and wouldn’t have to bring all that someplace else.
A Mutual Friend’s Place
If your place and her place are not in the cards, then you can suggest that maybe she has a friend whose place would work. She may even want someone there with her during the shoot and this would kill two birds with one stone.
Your Makeup Artist’s Place
If you find a makeup artist that wants to do makeup for free (if she’s still seeking experience), then ask her if you could shoot at her place. She might be okay with that. You never know until you ask… and just as you’re a fledging boudoir photographer, they may be a fledging makeup artist, and together with your fledging model you can all be fledging together and make it work.
Step 2 — Advertise For Your TFP Model
Once you’ve decided where the shoot will take place, you’ll want to put the call out for a model. You can do this in several ways, most of which will not cost you a dime.
Word of Mouth Through Social Media
If you have a social circle and you’re not squeamish about letting the world know you plan on getting into boudoir, you can post a request on your social media, usually Facebook or Instagram, or do it the old fashion way by talking to people.
If you think one or two people might be a good candidate, you can contact them privately. Tell them you’re trying your hand at boudoir and need a model and see if they’d be interested.
Most women would like to get a boudoir shoot. It’s just a matter of whether they trust you enough as a person, and willing to be that vulnerable in front of a camera in general.
Some will… some won’t.
Post In A Photographer/Model/Makeup Artist Facebook Group
There are numerous photographer/model/makeup artist Facebook groups just about everywhere on the planet, unless you live in some extreme remote corner of the world… and even then…
Submitting a post requesting a TFP model for a boudoir shoot will most certainly get you some interested candidates — how reliable (and desirable) they’ll be is another story — but at least you can start communicating with a few possibilities that might work.
If you have no track record, no website or social media with images of past work, it will be a bit tougher. Your past work doesn’t have to be boudoir images, just something to let them know you’re a serious photographer they can trust, will suffice for most.
Again, if you’re a male attempting to do this, approaching complete strangers in a Facebook group with no photography examples anywhere, it’s going to be an uphill climb. If you’re a female photographer, it’s a much different story. There’s more of a built-in trust factor and you’ll probably have better results.
A lot really depends on you, your vibe, your personality, your level of experience as a photographer, your past work or lack there of.
Facebook groups with photographers, models, and makeup artists are a direct line in getting to people interested in what you’re attempting to do. Whether or not any of them take you up on the offer depends a lot on the factors mentioned above.
Post On Model Mayhem
ModelMayhem.com used to be the place for posting TFP shoots of any kind… not so much today though. Facebook groups have really become more the rage and Model Mayhem has become somewhat of a digital wasteland… at least where I live. It may be more popular where you are. You’ll just have to put on your Mad Max gear and give it a test drive.
Anyway, if you’re interested in Model Mayhem create an account (they have both free and paid options) and submit a casting call. You’ll have your own account page where you can display plenty of images so people can check you out, and you can message people privately as well if you want to target specific “models”.
The site is somewhat of a mishmash of amateur, professional, and sleaze bag on both sides of the camera so beware of that and always act professional.
It may still be relevant and active in some parts of the country more than others, but MM seems to be dying a slow death to me.
I wouldn’t advertise on Craig’s List if you’re just starting out, especially if you’re a guy. It just sends the wrong signal that your intentions may not be on the up and up. If you’re female, you may have better luck but you probably won’t get anyone of quality.
I’d only use Craig’s List when you have a much better handle on what you’re doing, have more clout as a photographer, and you’re not so desperate to get anyone in front of your camera. You must also be willing to reject everyone.
Craig’s List can be useful if you’re traveling to a new city or country and need a model or two but only when you know the game and can separate the wheat from the chaff (or in plain English, the valuable from the worthless).
The important thing in acquiring a model is to properly set up expectations. Tell them you’re new at this so they’re not expecting a more professional shoot. If they know that going in, there won’t be any surprises or let-downs when they see you unsure of yourself trying to get the shot or posing them.
If everyone knows where everyone is coming from, then you can all work together in helping each other get to the next level.
Step 3 — Set A Date And Confirm
The next step after nailing down a location and getting a willing subject onboard is to set a date and then confirm both the time and location the day before the shoot.
Okay, here’s where things can get a little messy. First of all, having your TFP boudoir model show up will be hit or miss. Some will honor your agreement and show up… others won’t, and she may not even call to let you know.
I’ve had both good experiences and bad with this scenario and with TFP models in general. (You’ll want to graduate from the school of TFP model shoots ASAP in most cases.)
Anyway, the point is, you want to make contact with your model preferably by phone the day before to get a sense of where she’s at. If there’s any hesitation in her voice you should probably bring that up and say something like, “Hey, I sense a little hesitation. Is there something you’re not sure about? Is everything okay?”
Acknowledge the reality of the situation and try to find the cause of her hesitation. It may be something she didn’t want to bring up but since you did, you can both now address the issue and resolve it.
In most cases, the model will not show up because she had something better to do at the last minute. This happens more with younger women than with more mature women. It’s the nature of the beast.
Be In Constant Contact
You should probably make contact with her about every other day leading up to the shoot to discuss wardrobe, hair style, and makeup issues to strengthen your relationship. The more invested you are in the shoot with her, the more pressure she’ll feel to show up if she’s wavering or being tempted by doing something else that day.
The fact of the matter is, if you’re just starting out, have no experience shooting boudoir, and don’t have much of a portfolio you don’t have a whole lot of leverage… but you have to start somewhere and this is where it all begins.
Step 4 — Be Prepared With A Posing Guide
Aside from knowing how to adjust your camera settings to capture a proper exposure, you’ll want to be prepared with a posing guide or cheat sheet you can refer to during the shoot.
Posing is the one area of boudoir photography that is so critical in having it be a success, yet can easily be overlooked thinking you can just wing it on shoot day.
My advice to you would be to not wing it, but have images in your smartphone or a printed guide with poses you want to work on — and don’t feel self-conscious about referring to them in front of your subject.
I do this all the time still. I keep a binder of poses that I’m continually adding to that I often refer to on shoots… just so I don’t forget.
A Simple Plan
Keep it simple.
Have two standing poses, two seated poses, two kneeling poses, and two lying on the bed poses… and that’s it. Even less if that’s too much.
When starting out, it’s not about how many poses you can run through with a model, it’s about getting the poses that you do shoot, right and looking good.
And that takes time when neither of you have done it before. You’re new to guiding someone into a pose, and she’s new in getting into that pose.
If there’s one piece of advice I can give to new boudoir photographers looking back, it would be to attempt fewer poses with your first few shoots, but take your time in working to get them right before moving on.
Fully Explore Each Pose
What I mean by this is shoot each pose from a variety of distances from full-body view, to mid-range, to close-up (so only a section of the pose is in frame).
Also, shoot the pose from several different angles.
If you combine a variety of shooting distances with a variety of angles to the same pose (the woman has not moved, only you have), you can end up with 30 to 40 different images using just 6 basic poses.
So, there you have it — four steps for setting up your first TFP boudoir shoot.
— know where your shoot is going to take place
— advertise for your TFP model
— set a date and confirm
— be prepared with a posing guide
If you found this article helpful, please forward it to someone it may also benefit.
Thanks for your time!
Founder / Lounge Boudoir
Bella Mitri Boudoir