I am excited to introduce today’s guest blogger, Heather Hamilton of Undressed Imagery! I met Heather a couple of years ago at a photography conference in Kansas, and love her spirit! She is an incredibly talented boudoir photographer, and I thought it would be interesting to share some of her work and her advice for other photographers looking to get into this area.
“I’m a regular, everyday woman. I run a business, I’m no longer in my twenties, I have wrinkles, I have gray hair (that I color, lol), I have gained weight, I have lost weight only to gain it back again, I have four kids (and the stretch marks I’m proud of to prove it), & I wear sweats and big t-shirts. Some days I don’t even put make up on. I do dishes, cook dinner, help with homework, run errands, I soothe sick kids who have scraped up knees with kisses, hugs, & I love you’s. I’m a sister, a daughter, a friend, a lover….I am many things; I am a woman.”
How did you become a specialized boudoir photographer?
I think boudoir photography has come a long way in the last few years, but at the same time I believe it’s on of the hardest genres of photography to get into. I was a wedding photographer long before I was able to break into boudoir photography. It’s always amazed me that I was trusted to photograph a wedding even before I had a wedding portfolio, but whenever I brought up the subject of boudoir, I got a no with in seconds!
I lived in a smaller, old fashion town. For me to get my foot in the door, I figured out that I had to shoot someone familiar to my target market, someone somewhat well known in our small community. A model or client that no one knew would not be beneficial for my portfolio.
After some time and talking with several women in the area, I found the right person, perfect to start with. For privacy reasons I can’t really share her story, but let’s just say this session served as a huge confidence boost to her, and it was kind of a “Look at what you’re missing!” kind of session to a certain someone in her life.
According to “most” photographers’ standards, she was not the ideal client to start a boudoir photography portfolio with; but for me she was perfect! I knew she would turn heads even though she was not the size 0 woman that society says is perfect. My goal had to be to shoot within my target market. My market was full of normal, everyday women of all shapes and sizes. I knew that if I could photograph her better than anyone could, and let her and other women see just how amazingly beautiful she was, then others would quickly follow.
I photographed the session with her and posted it on the blog and Facebook the very same night. Within 24 hours I was booking new clients quickly, more than I could handle at the time! I looked for someone that people knew, someone that was not “perfect” but someone that many can relate to. The photographs were uniquely her and they were beautiful.
Now don’t get me wrong, it was not as easy as casually asking someone to model for me and just snapping away. It took time and a little prodding to get her to say yes! I had been working on my ideas for the session and how I wanted to pose and light her for weeks. In my mind, that one session was the make or break start of my Undressed business, and to this day I feel the same about each session.
I think that my business motto is much different than many other studios out there. I actually have two philosophies I shoot by. One is “Ok isn’t enough.” That’s my “photographer motto”, which means each shot has to be better than just ok. No woman wants to look “just ok”. The second philosophy I shoot by is that women can see, hear, and smell a fake from miles away. To be a successful boudoir photographer I must believe in what I’m doing and shoot and operate accordingly. I don’t see my clients as pretty things that I can make money off of. I see their stories and I hear them, I am them, and I believe EVERY woman is beautiful. I truly believe that! I believe that is another reason my clients come to me.
What drives you?
For me and my clients it’s about so much more than what meets the eye. It’s about empowering them, its about friendship only one woman can give to another, its about giving them that confidence they may have lost, and possibly raising up their self image after age and having children makes them look at themselves a bit differently in the mirror. My clients drive me. They push me to not only photograph them well, but to keep pushing to be the best I can be for them so that each shot I take can hopefully be better than the last.
What inspires your poses?
AHHH the posses we use at Undressed….many have asked me how I have learned them and/or where I get them from. The thing is, every person that gets in front of our camera is very different. We must remember that first and foremost. While one pose works for one it does not mean it will work for another. Whether it be for body type, personality, or preference, there is no one size fits all posebook.
For inspiration, I’m a people watcher. I’m always watching people in day to day life. I watch a woman as a man walks by that she may find attractive. I watch how she positions herself, how they interact with one another, when and how they flirt with one another. I watch body language a lot. LOL I’ve even learned how tell when a woman is not so happy with her spouse, which also helps me to recognize cues for discomfort or uneasiness during boudoir sessions. I spend time in the mirror with different poses to see what may or may not look good on me. Most importantly, I pay attention to the little details when photographing sessions. A little detail can really make or break an image in boudoir work. In general, women are very hard on one another but more so on themselves. So, if one little detail is missed in a image, more than likely she will notice, and so will any other prospective clients as they view your portfolio!
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
I know most would say being published or winning some award is the one they are most proud of, but not this girl! What I’m most proud of is what most people don’t even see: it’s those private emails or phone calls we get, saying thanks to us. Even months to years later they remember their experience with us, how they felt, and how they loved seeing how they looked through our lenses, empowering them in many ways just because of that one boudoir session. That’s the accomplishment I’m most proud of.
What is your advice to new boudoir photographers?
Take your time. Learn, learn, learn, and learn some more. You must believe in what you are doing and not just want to make money photographing beautiful people. Understand that some of your best work may never be seen and realize that’s perfectly ok. You must be well rounded in many areas of photography. You need understanding of lighting, poses, editing, and be able to pay attention to the details. You know those little things like: neck rolls, bra marks, hair ties on the wrist, crooked jewelry, hand placement. If you miss the details, they are often more easily noticed in boudoir images than in a set of wedding images where you are photographing emotions and the story of the big day. Remember, women are hard on themselves! So, your job is to eliminate as many of those self conscious issues as possible. Not only for her, but for your future clients. A woman will see something wrong with herself and so will another woman. So, if there is an image in your portfolio with something wrong in it (a hair tie, a bra strap mark, neck or back “fat”, etc) don’t show it and in the future, fix it. At first these things may creep into your images, but learn from them and don’t let it happen again. If you want to grow your business, that’s a must! You have to constantly remember these woman are trusting you in an intimate way and you must never, ever make her regret that..