A major concern I hear from boudoir photographers is the lack of a formal studio space for shooting. While I do have a downtown studio in a historic area of Palatka, Florida, if I am traveling there is not always that option of finding a shared area. Understanding how to create your own studio space in hotels, vacation homes, or Airbnbs can bring your boudoir business front and center to potential clients.
During a recent retreat, I was teaching in New Orleans through the Association of International Boudoir Photographers (AIBP), when I came across an Airbnb that we were able to utilize for shooting purposes. If you chose to shoot in any area such as a hotel or private residence, it is imperative you let them know what your plans are besides a place to put your head at night. Many places will not allow shooting in the homes, and it is just peace of mind if you let them know beforehand so there is not an issue mid-shoot.
Once the landlord understood the objective in mind, she was more than excited to not only allow for such a shoot, but also wanting to see the final products as well. A major concern why many do not allow shooting is liability issues. Let them know of your own insurance coverage that follows you, as well as any contract you may have releasing the owners from any claims made. Letting them know all this ahead of time will save a lot of headaches and allow you to get in there and start shooting!
Luckily for us, the travel location was in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, so the historic homes proved to be nothing less than spectacular. However, the room sizes created a reason to get low and creative on shots. You will be maneuvering around beds that you cannot easily push to the side (because this is not your home or your hardwood floors, so make sure you get that deposit back by not scuffing them up). In the image above, a four-post bed was to camera left, so getting low to the floor and shooting upwards in order to capture the length of the doors was far more interesting than shooting with only a portion of the bed in the frame.Shooting in a new location in another town also should be researched ahead of time for lighting. In this case, natural light was fading fast around 4:30. So, making the best of each room in the home can help sell more spreads within your albums due to the diversity of the images. We came in a day early to gauge how the home's lighting spread throughout the day. Moving fluidly from the front bedroom (the only one with available light) downstairs to the front parlor room and then onto a dark dining area where lights were brought in created an experience for the clients.
While it is preferred not to move the larger items around, smaller chairs and accessories can be useful for a power image. Moving the chairs and closing off the large French doors halfway kept the light on Victoria but also created a story. The curtains were taken off for just the shot itself and then promptly brought back on. Caring for another person's home will also ensure you get invited back. Creating chaos and acting like a rock star will just make it harder for future bookings. This can be especially true if you are using local spots in your town. Creating a positive and professional relationship with the owners will pay off far more than one money shot.
The image below was shot in the same space as above but on the side wall. In this look, I am backed up as far as possible against a wall to allow for her entire body to be in frame without the distraction of a wide angle that might not be suited for this type of shooting.
Once the lighting started to fade, my trusty Lume Cubes came into action. Small and portable, these lights were the perfect fit for my travels. When I travel, I prefer not to carry large modifiers or lights, so the handheld cubes give the light I am looking for when away from the studio. Shooting through the two doors, one light shooting upward toward Victoria's legs while my assistant, Jake, provided lighting from above on her face. As for myself, I was tucked under a glass table in the middle of the room, shooting from the ground up. The idea of moving a glass table gave me enough anxiety, so I just preferred to lay down to shoot. A simple setup and a few shifts in posing allowed for a three image album spread.
Creating a space does not always mean you need large open areas. As long as you understand your surroundings and feel comfortable in the space, you will be able to create a wide selection for your client. If you are utilizing hotels, keep in mind that you may only have one room to work with unless you have booked a master suite that has a side living area. For these types of shoots, bring in a few backdrops to block off areas in order to create the illusions of another area for her album.
I have found in my travels that the least amount of extra hands on board in the home, the more likely the owners are willing to allow shooting. Be sensitive to them! They may have had a bad experience with a prior photographer, and it will be your job to get on good terms with a few owners in your local area or even in each city you shoot. You never know when you may be back in that area, so having a local contact is a solid way to book more clients if you can show images of the shooting space prior.