So you’ve decided that you want to build your outdoor boudoir photography portfolio. Maybe you’ve done one or two outdoor boudoir sessions and fell in love with the way it felt for you and your client and you want to shoot more. Maybe you’ve never done an outdoor boudoir photography session before and you are dying to try it. Or, maybe you have some amazing ideas in your head but are unsure how to bring them to life. Either way, you want to build your outdoor boudoir photography portfolio, but you’re not sure how to make it happen. Trust me, I get it.
My Portfolio Building Journey
After I photographed my very first boudoir session outdoors, I knew I needed to do more. I knew that boudoir photography was my calling and I needed to make as many outdoor sessions happen as I possibly could. Photographing outdoor boudoir left both my clients and I feeling invigorated in a way that regular boudoir did not. However, I had no idea where to find women willing to model for me, so I got creative.
Over the years, I used various methods to photograph outdoor boudoir sessions. Sometimes, a client would approach me with the idea. But more often than not, I had to make it happen myself. At first I photographed sessions for free, and paid for props and permits and other necessities myself in order to make a vision come to life. I attended shootouts and workshops to grow my portfolio and gain knowledge and experience. Eventually, as my business and my talents grew, I became known for my outdoor boudoir and I started getting paid for my outdoor sessions.
Free shoots vs. paid shoots
In my opinion, your first handful of outdoor sessions are trial runs, and there is no shame in doing them for free. But, you want to make sure you don’t train your audience to think that you regularly work for free, otherwise they won’t value your time. So, if you’re a new photographer who has been shooting for less than 1-2 years, I suggest doing between 3-5 outdoor boudoir sessions free of charge. If you’re more established in your profession, I suggest doing doing anywhere from 1-3 free of charge.
Shooting for free is not always a popular opinion, so let me tell you why I believe you can and should do free sessions when you first begin with outdoor boudoir. There are a multitude of things that can go wrong with outdoor boudoir, and there is a learning curve. If you’re a boudoir photographer that primarily shoots in your studio, there will be a larger learning curve than if you are a portrait photographer that primarily shoots outdoors, but regardless you will likely learn some things the hard way.
When you charge a client for a session, there are certain expectations you have to meet. You need to be comfortable with different lighting and weather scenarios, you need to be comfortable with boudoir posing, and you need to know how to keep your client comfortable and safe. In short, not only do you need to feel comfortable that you can deliver quality images, but you also need to be able to provide a great experience in the face of unknown challenges. The more you charge, the higher your expectations will be. So, I suggest approaching your first couple of outdoor boudoir sessions with curiosity and fun in mind.
5 free ways to build your outdoor portfolio.
1. ASK A FRIEND
The easiest way to get started in this genre is to ask a friend to model for you. Think of the people you already know and consider who out of your friends seems to be down for anything. Make a list of at least 5 friends to ask; chances are at least of of them will be interested. Once you find a friend who is willing, ask them if they’d like to invite a couple of their friends! My very first boudoir session I ever photographed, I reached out to one friend of mine and she invited two of her friends. We had a fun little boudoir marathon with snacks and champagne and music and no expectations. Then a few years later, the two friends that she invited returned to me for their own sessions!
2. ASK A CURRENT OR PAST CLIENT
Is there a current or past client that you really jived with, or one that you think is up for a little adventure? If you’re a wedding photographer, you can ask a current bride if they would be interested in a free or reduced price boudoir session. Be clear with them about your expectations. Let them know you’re offering this for free or at a discount because:
- It will take place outdoors (invite them to help you pick the location or theme).
- You will be sharing the photos on social media, your website, etc.
Open communication is key here. There should be no surprises after the session is complete.
3. ORGANIZE A GROUP SHOOT
If you have a following, even if it’s small, you can organize a fun group shoot. Schedule it for a time when people are available (a weekend or afternoon) encourage your followers to RSVP. Pick a theme that your audience will be interested in and will be easy for them to participate in (for example, don’t require them to put together a steampunk outfit, instead ask them to wear white t-shirts). When they’re there, shoot each of them individually on top of the group shoots. Again, make sure everybody is aware that you will be sharing the images. I highly recommend having each participant sign a model release ahead of time.
4. ORGANIZE MINI SESSIONS
Some people have great success with mini sessions. I personally don’t like doing mini sessions, because I find them to be nearly as much work as full sessions, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to share any of the images. However, this is a great way to get lots of content in a short period of time. You’ll want to center these around a cool location, like a waterfall, a flower field, or a rooftop with a cityscape. Here are a few tips for your mini sessions:
- Make them easily accessible to your clients. Hold them at a location that anybody can get to despite their abilities. Hold them at a time of day when most people aren’t working.
- Look for a location that has multiple ‘sets’. For example, a sandy beach with a rocky area nearby, or a river with a forest nearby. This will help expand your portfolio even more.
- Make sure to take anonymous and close-up shots of your clients as well, so that those clients who don’t want to share all of their photos may still let you share anonymous photos.
5. TAKE SELF PORTRAITS
Self portraits are very tricky, and I have yet to master them myself. But what I’ve found to be the key is to have something to put your focus on when you’re behind the camera. Then, either by setting a self-timer, or using a remote (I suggest a remote), replace that object with yourself. If you don’t want people to know it’s you, take photos where you’re facing away, or wearing something that covers obvious giveaways. But to tell you the truth, potential clients won’t care that its a self portrait, and some may be extra impressed with your multitasking abilities!
What happens once you found a model or models for your first or next outdoor boudoir session? Then you need to prepare for an awesome session! You can check out my other resources on outdoor boudoir on my FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS PAGE.