When Should I Start Charging For My Boudoir Photography?

When to charge for boudoir photography

So, you’re getting into boudoir and you’ve shot a friend or two, done some trades shoots and you start to wonder, “When should I start charging for my boudoir photography?” I have two criteria I think are good indications that will tell you when you’re ready. One is when you’re receiving only minor critiques on your work, and the other is when you feel you’re giving a lot more value than what you’re getting back in return. 

One has to do with your photography, the other with your confidence. When you’re getting a green light from both, then it’s time to start charging.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Criteria #1

You’re Receiving Only Minor Adjustments From Your Critiques

One big green light that your boudoir photography skills are where they need to be in order to start charging is that you’re getting your work critiqued and receiving only minor adjustments back that you understand and can be quickly and easily fixed.

Examples of Minor Feedback

If the critiques coming back are like, “Don’t forget to tell your model to point her toes” or “Looks good but have her weight on her other leg”, these are relatively minor adjustments that you know how to fix and are quick and easy. You just have to remember to do them. 

Some other minor feedback might be, “Her expression might look better if you ask her to part her lips and take a deep breath” or “You may want to drag your shutter speed a bit more to allow more light into the shot”. 

If all you’re getting are these tiny nuanced comments, things you understand and can be fixed quickly and easily, then you’re probably doing pretty well in general on the big things like posing, lighting, exposure, and expression.

These are little tweaks that will improve your image overall by about 10% or so. It’d be great if you included them, but your images are still pretty good even without them.

The Flip Side

If you’re getting comments back that you don’t quite understand, involve areas of weakness in the fundamentals of photography and can’t be quickly or easily fixed, then you need to step back, take some time to learn about these elements, and practice.

Examples of Major Feedback

Let’s say you photographed someone with dark skin, African American, and someone remarks that your white balance is off because your subject’s skin looks orange. 

I bring this up because I was just on Facebook today and a woman I’m friends with had some new headshots taken (I’m assuming by a friend with a camera) and she looked like she was from another planet because her skin was orange. 

I’m not talkin’ a little orange, I’m talkin’ Oompa Loompa, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory orange. I mean this girl was O-R-A-N-G-E! And my friend couldn’t see it. She thought she looked great, but she doesn’t have a trained eye so that’s understandable. She’s not a professional photographer… and neither is her friend by the looks of it.  

So, if you receive a comment about white balance and you don’t know what white balance is or color temperature (these affect skin tone by the way) and you can’t even recognize that your subject’s skin tone is grossly off, then you have a major gap in your photography education that needs to be filled in before you start swiping credit cards for boudoir shoots with your smartphone.

Attaining proper skin tone when shooting boudoir is vital and something you need to learn about and understand and be aware of so your client doesn’t come back to you with her album she already paid hundreds of dollars for (or more) and says, “Why do I look so orange in all my pictures?” 

That’s going to hurt your reputation and destroy any confidence you do have, especially if you don’t know the answer to her question. Something like this will set you back even more, especially if she gives you a bad review online. 

This is the kind of stuff you want to avoid happen because you were too anxious to start charging people.

You Can’t Run Before You Learn How To Walk

Boudoir can be deceptively easy from the outside looking in. 

There is a lot to photography that many people just getting into it are not aware of, let alone boudoir photography. So, create a situation for yourself where you don’t have to earn money from your boudoir business until you’re confident you can deliver the goods.

How do you do that?

You keep learning and practicing until you’re confident you can create great images and you don’t have any major gaps in the fundamentals of both photography and shooting boudoir.

There are no shortcut to success… in anything. 

Another Example

If you get a comment back that your lighting is not good or needs improvement but you don’t have any idea how to go about that, then you have to learn more about lighting. You have to be able to see light, and understand how to use it to create better images. 

That’s another big area of improvement that probably can’t be fixed in an afternoon because you need experience working with light and that just takes time and more practice.

Okay, so those are big things. If you’re getting comments like this then I would advise you take some more time learning, understanding, and practicing.

Getting Your Work Critiqued

You need to get your work critiqued by other respected boudoir photographers. You need to be open and vulnerable to comments and criticism from other boudoir photographers whose work you admire or want to be like.

The Best Place To Get Your Images Critiqued

The best place to get your images critiqued is by having another professional boudoir photographer, whose work you like and wish to emulate, critique your work. 

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We all have other people’s work swirling around in our heads that have a strong influence on us… at least starting out. 

That’s only natural because that’s part of the learning process. We see something that inspires us or stirs something in us creatively and we want to manifest that ourselves somehow.

Now, the beauty of this is that no matter how hard you try to copy someone, you won’t be able to exactly because you’re a unique individual living within your own unique circumstances which will naturally produce a unique result. 

That’s my belief anyway.

This process, however, will probably cost you some money because most successful boudoir photographers’ time and experience is valuable, so they’re going to charge for that. 

Some advertise this on their websites as private mentoring or coaching. 

Is It Worth The Cost? 

That’s something for you to decide.

How do you like to learn? How much disposable money do you have available? 

How fast do you want to learn. 

There’s one caveat to that saying above (There are no shortcut to success) except paying for accelerated learning. And then it’s not really a shortcut. You’re just compressing the amount of time it will take you to learn something by getting the right information quickly and applying it instantly. 

Working one-on-one privately with a mentor or coach like this and having them critique your work is probably the fastest way to improve but also the most costly. 

A Cheaper Alternative

A cheaper alternative would be to buy a course on photography or boudoir photography and try to figure out what you’re doing wrong by going through the lessons. 

That’s probably what most people do if they’re serious about improving, and there are plenty of courses out there that do an excellent job. 

Just ask in some private boudoir photographer’s group on Facebook and you’ll start to hear the same names pop up. Check ‘em out and see if they are something you want to invest in. 

A Free Alternative

A free alternative for feedback and critiques would be to join a private boudoir photographers Facebook group, post your work, and ask for constructive criticism on your images. 

These are groups you have to request to join, made up primarily of boudoir photographers of all caliber from those just getting started to seasoned pros. 

Just type in “boudoir group” or “boudoir photographers group” and results will pop up you can read about and join. Make sure you select a group made up of boudoir photographers and not women seeking to get a boudoir shoot.

There are both kinds.

Constructive Criticism

Once you’ve joined a group and gotten a feel for how they do things, post some images and ask for constructive criticism if they allow that sort of thing, because some do not. Explain that you’re new to the genre or to photography in general and are trying to improve and would greatly appreciate any feedback that would make your images better.

Accessing the Feedback

Once you start receiving feedback it’s a good idea to not take everything suggested on blind faith.

If the comment makes sense to you on its face value, then great. That was totally helpful. If, however, you’re unsure what the person is trying to convey or their comment isn’t ringing true with you, then check out their work and see what level their work is at. Is it something you admire and wish to aspire to in some way… or is it something you’re not that crazy about?

If their work doesn’t excite you or inspire you or make you want to imitate them in some manner but instead is just downright (let’s just say) not good, then take their critique with a healthy dose of skepticism. 

If, on the other hand, you’re receiving a critique from someone who’s work blows you away or inspires you, then it’s a safe bet that their advice is on point. 

You have to evaluate the source from which these comments are coming from.

Why A Boudoir Photographer and Not Just A Photographer?

You want to get your work in front of photographers who specialize in boudoir, as opposed to those who don’t, because those who specialize are going to have a deeper insight into the genre than someone who may be a great photographer but who doesn’t shoot boudoir.

They’re going to see things on a deeper level and have knowledge of all the nuances and details that someone who doesn’t shoot boudoir, won’t (even though they may be a great photographer). 

Criteria #2

Okay, the second indication you want to be getting a green light on has more to do with your confidence level. You need a certain amount of confidence not only in your photography skills (creating images) but also in knowing how to conduct a successful boudoir shoot.

That includes understanding the fears and trepidations a lot of women have in getting their picture taken half-naked in front of a complete stranger. 

You have to be able to direct them into poses you know are going to make them look good and get the right expression from them to boot. 

Side Note: Knowing how to do this and getting the result you want comes with a caveat. You can give great direction and be as helpful as possible but you’re going to be faced sometimes with clients that are just unable to carry out your direction.

Whether it’s in regard to a pose or trying to get them to convey a certain expression, there will be people (from time to time) that are only capable of so much. With these clients, know they’re doing the best they can — accept that, and do your best with what you have to work with.

Okay, back to our topic.

All this confidence comes from doing practice shoots and trade shoots when you have the luxury of not having to deliver like you would with a paying client. 

So, when you start hearing that voice inside your head say, “Hey, I should be gettin’ paid for this”, that’s a sign that hey, you should probably be getting paid for this. 

At that point you will have gone through the routine of conducting a successful boudoir session many times over and are now ready to charge someone money for doing it. 

That was sort of my own process.

I remember a point when I was shooting a subject during a TFP trade shoot and I thought to myself, “You know, I should be gettin’ paid for this.”

It felt as though I was giving a great deal more value than I was receiving.

That’s when I started charging. 


Okay, to quickly review the two criteria I feel you should be getting a green light on before you start charging are:

1.  you’re mostly receiving minor adjustments from critiques that you understand and can quickly and easily fix

2.  after numerous practice and trade shoots you begin to hear a voice inside your head say, “I should be gettn’ paid for this” and you feel the value you’re giving is way more than the value you’re receiving

And that’s all there is to it!

Thanks for your time!

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

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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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