Friday, May 1, 2009

Why Is Artistic Photography Soooo Expensive?

Frugality is on all our minds these days. In these tough economic times, we prudently take extra steps to economize wherever possible. Where we would like a Lexus, perhaps a Toyota will do. We cut back on eating out or downgrade where we eat out in the interests of trimming costs, yet still living and enjoying our lives to a reasonable degree where possible.

For a high quality service such as custom artistic photography, there are real costs incurred. A physical shoot location such as a brick and mortar studio or a high value parlor suite is a heavy cost adder. The other main component is the cost of skilled labor, or what should more accurately be called "talent". Dedicated hair style and make up staff are a critical component of a successful shoot. And finally there is significant time invested with a client during the consultation, the photosession, and on retouching and creating the final products.

The time factor is an important element of the shoot. We often find that clients relax into their true personal style 30-45 minutes into the shooting part of the session. The most dramatic shots usually come after this initial period. Moreover the shoot is constructed around the style you want to achieve. Everything from austere bodyscape art through Victoria's Secret style images and beyond. Capturing images that are beautiful and flattering to your form usually takes effort and time to tease the inner beauty out to complement the outer beauty.

In general, mall photography is a time limited affair designed for a high volume market. Actual shooting times in such establishments often range around 20 minutes, barely enough time to start to feel comfortable let alone get compelling, communicative shots.

Their marketing often relies on low entry price lures to bring the customer in for a session; the revenue is then increased on the back side of the session through upsell/upcharge sales techniques. Moreover, as a volume oriented business, the studio is designed around tried and true props and shooting styles. While this does create a studio consistency in the look and feel of the work, it also tends to limit the uniqueness, variety, and innovation that is possible when working individually with a client.

Surprisingly, the average sale from a mall photo session experience is not always markedly different from the cost of a custom photo session. Whereas the balance between studio expense and talent costs are weighted in favor of talent with a custom photographer, they are instead weighted in favor of studio expenses for the mall studio, necessarily because of the exhorbitant costs of retail sales space.

What this means is that while a client ultimately pays similar prices for either experience, it is the custom artistic photographer that will provide the better quality and service because that is where the greater share of the revenue is going.

The difference in quality also comes from the custom photographer spending far greater time with the client as well as the caliber of the experienced staff's artistic talent.

Boudoir Photography Provides Custom Options You Can't Find at a Mall Photography Studio
Why is it expensive? Because it costs a lot to deliver this service. And it is mostly a service. The value of the delivered product is in the time, effort, and skill it took to create and capture the images, not in the actual prints. In my business model, I prefer to be honest about costs so my clients dont have a surprise bill when they try to leave a session with a few finished prints.

For me, its a matter of integrity and a part of the ethics with which I conduct my business.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Female Boudoir Photographers - Right for You?

There are some female boudoir photographers who market themselves or their teams as specifically female, playing to and emphasizing the concerns of those clients who harbor reservations about boudoir photography. I dont begrudge them their attempts to leverage any particular area to marketing advantage; this is a business after all. And I have indeed seen a small minority of clients who do suffer a legitimate personal phobia in posing for a male photographer. However for the average client who entertains the normal apprehensions about it, I can say that though I cant relate in any meaningful fashion, I certainly sympathize with those concerns.

With today's technology that allows anyone to purchase a powerful though relatively inexpensive digital camera and call themselves a "professional photographer", the industry is indeed rife with practitioners with little or no vision, questionable talent, and less than a solid sense of ethics and appreciation for human dignity. There is little outright criminal behavior in the industry, any more than any other. But feeling awkward and uncomfortable is a legitimate complaint that no customer should have to contend with.

The most important aspect of differentiating those who take their craft seriously and those who view it as a tool of questionable intent is to examine the quality of their work. One can check references as well and though that can be an additional tool of consideration, just about anyone barring hardcore criminals can find one or two people willing to vouch for them. Quality on the other hand is unmistakable. A boudoir photographer with an extensive portfolio of quality work provides three important indicators:

A) that they know what they're doing,
B) that they've been doing it for a reasonably long time, and accordingly and most importantly,
C) that they are not likely to jeopardize the career and livelihood they've built up with criminal and/or questionable acts.

Of course there are always exceptions; you will find them in all professions -- dentists, doctors, even sadly, the clergy. Nevertheless, some sense of confidence in your selection of photographer will help put you at ease and get the best results for your money.

How can you tell what is a "quality" portfolio? It is similar to the difference in detail between a scam/spam email offer and a legitimate request from a friend. Almost invariably, scam emails are replete with poor punctuation, sentence structure, and an improbable storyline. Those are surely bound for the delete folder, not that all legitimate email is written in the King's english. But you can have a strong sense of what's real and what is highly suspect.

When evaluating a photographer for your employ, examine his body of prior work. Does it show magazine quality aspects? Does it show a command of lighting that flatters the subject rather than look like it was taken with a snapshot camera? Does it show an ability to compose a shot that arranges the subject in her most beautiful, feminine lines and curves? This is not an accident but a directed skill. Even a supermodel can be made to look unseemly and awkward if posed incorrectly. Does the photographer's website indicate a sense of credibility, of establishment, and continuity?

Finally, when considering the gender of your artistic photographer, include in that consideration who these images are for. While many women have boudoir photographs taken for reasons of their own fulfillment, and this is perfectly fine, many do have the intent of giving them as a gift to a special significant other, likely male eyes. It is clear that not only are men and women different physically, but their psyches work in different ways. While a woman photographer is perfectly legitimate and may be entirely talented and skilled in her craft, one should account that we as men and women see and appreciate with different sensibilities.

When one thinks of the celebrated renaissance masters of art who painted the iconic masterpieces of their time, it is unavoidable to consider Rembrandt, Raphael, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Boticelli. Of course it would be disingenuous to overlook the influence of their respective paternalistic cultures, and that women are without doubt, strongly represented in the arts, nevertheless, there is something to be said for being photographed with a male perspective.

Ultimately, if one cannot under any circumstance consider posing for a male photographer, then it is of course out of the question. It is better to have pictures taken well than to be uncomfortable during the entire session as that would undermine the whole point. However in all other circumstances, what should be the overriding decision is not the gender of your photographer, but the quality of their work.

Which is why we market INFINI Boudoir as photography for the discriminating woman.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Boudoir Photography as Therapy

"I cannot thank you enough for this experience it was absolutely amazing for me."

So she wrote to me in a thank you note. She later expressed that I would never know what this experience meant to her. And I think she is right, I cannot know. I am only the photographer. Charged with the task of sculpting and teasing the individual beauty from each of my clients. I am not a psychologist or licensed therapist of some kind.

But what I do know is that there is an unintended second order reaction to a boudoir photography session. A reaction that may in fact be more powerful than just receiving a handful of beautiful images. I have often been advised by many a client how the experience has been a fulfilling one, one with deep meaning, reaching into and filling a void in self-confidence, self-worth.

Women become interested in boudoir photography for a variety of reasons, and their concerns number almost as many. Our society finds itself in a raging hurricane of images of feminine beauty, blasting from every form of media. While intellectually, the mind knows the imagery is manufactured and carefully tailored to sell a product; emotionally, women compare themselves to the impossible perfection found in these images and wrestle with terrible self-doubt.

Yet, they know that they somehow must compete. While they have the attention of a special person, yet they know he is blasted with the same ubiquitous imagery. And so they come, interested, and harboring a great deal of trepidation for their perceived shortcomings, yet they come. To see if they too can be held in such esteem by their loved ones. To give them a special gift, the visual feast that conveys desire to crown the affectionate relationship that they already have.

To this end, women show great courage as they do in all their great endeavours. Seeking to become mothers because they have so much love to give, but at great pain and danger to themselves. Seeking out boudoir photos because they have so much love to give, and yet engaging the scrutiny of personal vulnerability.

They arrive to the photosession not knowing what to expect, unsure of themselves, unsure of the process. And because of this, we go out of our way to make them comfortable, welcoming them, helping them select their best outfits, talking with them, laughing with them. The make up staff is as personable as your best friend, asking about your husband or lover, your background and interests, and your hopes for this shoot, all while pampering you with the attention lavished on a 5th Ave. Supermodel.

Preparing the Makeup for a Boudoir Photography Session
As supermodels dont typically walk around looking like supermodels (ever see the before and after shots of models in their every day lives and during a shoot?), so through the magic of make up, hairstyling, lighting, and expert camera work, we transform our every day clients into supermodels for a day. And they truly look stunning; even I am amazed every single time.

We want this to be an enriching experience. For our purposes, we need them to be engaged, to communicate what they came to say to their loved ones. In our images, they must let themselves go, to be able to impart through body language and facial expression, an earnest and genuine affection and desire. And to this end, we encourage them during the process of the shoot in a non-judgemental atmosphere so that we can achieve what they came to do.

We find that after 30-45 minutes, their initial concerns melt away and they are encouraged by the sample images they see and our exhortation to do even better. By the end of the session, they are physically sore (posing is hard work! -- modeling is not a trivial exercise!), but emotionally they are recharged and gratified.

And even still they harbor a twinge of self doubt. Until they see their photos. And then the tears start flowing. Yes, tears. Its that powerful.

Me, personally, I like to create beautiful images. The world is a weary place, filled with corruption and misery. And so I wallpaper my life with beautiful images. But I am deeply touched by how this simple visual craft is able to so powerfully affect my clients, as if I was a counselor or special friend. It makes what I do that much more meaningful. Its not simply boudoir photography anymore, its

'Chicken soup for the soul'