© Nomi Ellenson May, Boudoir by Nomi
© Becca Murray

As I’ve learned more about boudoir photographers in recent weeks, one thing that sticks with me is the experiences that brought these artists to where they are today. Emma Christine, for instance, was a nurse before she ventured into boudoir photography—a career she credits with teaching her to celebrate and care for women and their bodies. 

Nomi Ellenson May, the artist behind Boudoir by Nomi, started out as a full-time nanny so she could take photography classes; later, she shot celebrities on the red carpet before building her own studio. “Since 2016, I have photographed over 900 women who have walked through my studio doors,” she reflects. “Each time, I cultivate a space where every shape, size, age, and sexual orientation is welcome with no judgment.”

As a follow-up to our Tips and Tricks of Boudoir Photography article, we asked four artists to tell us about some of the misconceptions people have about the genre. In this guide, they’re sharing some common mistakes that unfortunately still happen from time to time in the industry—and explain what they do instead. 

© Emma Christine

Mistake #1: Not prepping your client

“It’s important to set the tone for a session before the client ever sets foot in the studio—from the language that you use to the outfits you suggest, to the guidance you provide,” Becca Murray explains. “It’s all going to inform the energy that the clients bring into the space, and you want them to feel as open and comfortable and trusting as possible.”

Make sure your client understands how you work and what the actual shoot will look like. “Lead with curiosity, assume good intentions, and treat your clients (and potential clients) like humans,” Murray adds. “Being friendly does not make you unprofessional, and having boundaries does not make you mean.”

Mistake #2: Not setting boundaries

Speaking of boundaries, these are especially important in a field like boudoir photography, May says. If you’re not comfortable with a client, a request, or a situation, it’s okay to say no

“Stay true to yourself and keep your own firm boundaries, even if it means passing on a client,” Stephanie Bordas, the photographer behind Brooklyn Boudoir, adds. “Get as specific as possible with clients about what they are comfortable with and what you will or won’t do. You can even ask them to put together some photo references via Pinterest or Google search with images they like, since people have different definitions of what ‘demure’ or ‘NSFW’ means.”

© Stephanie Bordas, Brooklyn Boudoir

Mistake #3: Focusing only on 20-somethings

“I’m trying to break the stereotype that you need to be in your 20s for this kind of shoot,” Bordas tells me. “My clients range from their 20s through their 60s. I love to give more mature women the opportunity to be more than a mother/businesswoman/wife/grandmother and find that spark within them again. 

“I believe that boudoir is for everybody and every body—regardless of age, relationship status, or body size. Every person deserves to feel seen, and I’m honored to have a career that helps women feel seen every day.” 

Mistake #4: Over-editing  

Your boudoir photography clients should look like themselves—not Photoshopped versions of themselves. “I describe my style as body positive boudoir, but I think of it more as body-affirming,” Murray tells me. “I create a space for people to show up as their whole, authentic selves. I don’t pose people to look smaller or alter their bodies in Photoshop. I don’t come in with an idea of what I want people to look like. I allow their energy, the way they move, the way they relax into their body, to guide the session.” 

Heather Ann © Becca Murray

Mistake #5: Not getting a contract

“Have official contracts from the get-go,” Murray urges. A contract protects you and your client, so have one in place each and every time. 

Mistake #6: Sharing images without permission

This one is a major red flag. “When I hear from some of my clients that their first boudoir photography session with someone else didn’t go well, it’s sometimes because the photographer shared their images without their consent,” Emma Christine says. “I always offer to keep my clients’ images totally private. This is such a priority for me, and I would hope other photographers try to respect their clients’ privacy during one of their most vulnerable moments as well.” 

© Emma Christine

Mistake #7: Doing it for a quick buck

“I think there are a lot of people who see boudoir photography as a way to make lots of money with photography, but if someone is getting into boudoir for the money, they’re doing it for the wrong reason,” Emma Christine admits. “Boudoir photography is unlike any other genre. It’s not something you can casually pick up if your bookings are slow. 

“Many of my clients view their session as a day of healing for themselves, a day to renew their self-image. I recognize I have an immense responsibility every day that I’m in the studio, and it’s never lost on me that this could really impact the way that they view themselves.”

Read this next: How One Photographer’s Sensual Portraits Kickstarted Her Business

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