Boudoir Photo Cost & Price Range Expectations | What To Know
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Luxury vs. Economy Boudoir Photography

Diamond Moon Boudoir | Lexington, Kentucky

girl in light blue lingerie kneeling on white bed linens

If you’ve been looking into doing a boudoir photography session, you’ve likely checked out a few photographers. After clicking around and comparing, perhaps you’ve begun to wonder what the cost will be, and how the experience may differ from one photographer to the next.

While not all photographers share their prices and packages publicly, as you do your research you will find that the difference lies not simply in the cost, but in the experience and artwork produced from each session.

Photography is not all that different from other product and service related businesses. For example, you can choose to dine out for the evening, with a wide variety of options, from budget friendly choices like McDonald’s, to mid-range establishments, to high-end experiences like Ruth’s Chris. At every one, you get fed. But each alternative commands a different price…because of what it delivers.

So, the question is not how much you want to invest, but what kind of experience do you want to have…McDonald’s or Ruth’s Chris? Here are the main areas that differentiate luxury and economy boudoir photography brands:

1. Paying for studio time vs. investing in the images you love

2. Editing of images outsourced to low-cost retouchers vs. editing done by the photographer/artist.

3. “All-Natural”/”no Photoshop” approach vs. subtle and flattering edits

4. Quick, heavy-handed skin retouching vs. elegant, realistic skin retouching

5. Budget-friendly albums and prints vs. luxury albums & museum-quality wall art

This post may seem as though I am revealing the inner workings of my industry, but in helping you to make your decision, I feel it is important to put things on a level playing field. In the end, you’ll see that a luxury boudoir photography experience doesn’t cost more. It delivers more, and that costs more.

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1. Paying for studio time vs. investing in the images you love.

It’s common to see photographers list packages with a specified session time. You’ll see it as you shop around, and while there is nothing wrong with setting guidelines and expectations, I find that the session duration advertised by budget studios is too short to get quality images and provide a luxury experience.

Two hours of shooting time is pretty typical, and can be sufficient for seasoned professionals to get you at your best, but I’ve seen some photographers advertise a base package with as little as 30 minutes in front of the camera. Would you expect the best pictures you’ve ever seen of yourself from that photographer? Add to that, intimate portraits, and it’s not likely.

It’s pretty simple — inexpensive photographers are cutting corners, and the first step in this process is to take a volume approach to their business. The shorter the session, the more clients they can see in a given day. Based on what they charge, volume is required to achieve profitability. With 6-10 sessions each day…think about the feeling of that type of photo shoot.

Now, consider the luxury experience at Diamond Moon Boudoir, where every photo shoot is my only client appointment of the day. I book just three client sessions a week, and on the day of your session you are the only client I will photograph.

An ideal day starts at 10am, when you take a seat in the hair and makeup chair. Each makeover takes about an hour and a half, and you can choose to contract with my stylist or to bring your own. Additionally, you’ll have the option of some fabulous add-ons to make your photo session and images even more special.

While you’re in the chair, I devote 30-60 minutes with you before your session (not to mention our pre-shoot consultations), getting to know you and helping you to feel comfortable in our work space. (Contrast that with the limited photo sessions mentioned earlier.) 

As your hair and makeup are progressing, we’ll lay out your wardrobe and discuss how to pose for your specific body type so that you look your best. We’ll also play around with ways to help your expressions on camera convey confidence and sensuality. Just the pre-shoot makeover and time spent getting to know each other can be 2-4x longer than the entire time for some budget boudoir sessions I’ve seen advertised.

Once you are out of the chair, we’ll photograph you for 2-3 hours – as long as it takes to get everything we planned to capture in our pre-shoot consultations. I generally work with my camera tethered to my laptop, which gives me the opportunity to share images as I capture them during a session. This runs contrary to the practices of most boudoir photographers – they like to keep the “reveal” for your ordering session. (and I do, too, when it comes to your finished images.) But I’ve found that by sharing some image captures in the moment, my clients see how amazing they look and it boosts their confidence during their shoot. It also helps to guide and fine-tune posing to get the best images for each client.

Session times can vary – some are longer and some are shorter, depending on how my client is feeling and what we are striving to capture. I endeavor to give each client the time they need to get the most compelling set of images possible. So, the cost of your session doesn’t vary depending on the time we spend in the studio. (I do find that after 2+ hours, clients tend to get tired…don’t be fooled, this can be work!)

As a practice, I don’t charge my clients for the time I spend with them during our photo shoot – though I do require an up-front retainer fee to secure my time and talent for the date they’ve chosen. I much prefer my clients purchase only the images they love from their sessions. This way, when I do an incredible job of capturing a client’s images, they choose to buy a lot of those photos. This inspires me to do my very best for every client.

Compare this philosophy to boudoir photographers who charge for session time. Most have packages for which you pre-pay, and generally, more time with the photographer means a more expensive package. On the surface that might seem to make sense, but since you’re paying the same amount whether or not you like your images after the shoot, the photographer has less financial incentive to do the best they can for you.

With my ordering model, each client is in full control of the investment they ultimately choose. Each time I meet with a client for their ordering session, I’m betting that they are going to love ALL of the images that I show to them, and purchase the majority. Conversely, pre-paid packages based on time with the photographer don’t guarantee that you will love the images produced. In fact, I’ve had clients come to me after spending thousands of dollars on a previous session without loving their finished images. I find this unacceptable and something that I have never experienced with any client.

BOTTOM LINE

Find a photographer who allows you to purchase only the images that you absolutely love from your photo shoot, instead of buying limited time in front of the camera.

girl in red and black lingerie on white sofa

2. Editing of images outsourced to low-cost retouchers vs. editing done by the photographer/artist.

Gorgeous finished images take time and expertise to achieve, and retouching is an area where you will see photographers sacrifice quality in exchange for time. Just as some will constrain your session to a short time period, they do the same in short-cutting their post-production processes.

The fact is that editing for anything larger that what you see on your smartphone is a fairly labor intensive part of any photo shoot, if your desire is high-end, magazine-quality images. The larger the final print size, the more finesse required in editing. To save time and keep costs low, some photographers try to economize by outsourcing their image editing to low cost retouchers. 

To be fair, not all third party retouchers are bad, but most economy boudoir photographers aren’t hiring high-quality artists for this step. Most choose companies or free-lancers from less affluent countries to retouch their photos for between $2.50 to $5 per image. As a result, these edits are often of lesser quality, as retouchers are paid a flat rate per image, regardless of the quality of their work.

There was a time when I wondered if I could outsource some of my editing to help to reduce my workload – skin retouching, in particular. As it turns out, when I outsourced such things, ethically, I still needed to inspect the work before it was delivered to my client. This meant opening each file to view the final image. In the end, I have chosen to keep my editing in-house and I hand retouch every frame for my clients.

BOTTOM LINE

Find a boudoir photographer who edits their own images, and make sure that you check full-resolution files and finished, physical artwork from past clients to ensure quality. Also, make sure that the person who edited the images displayed in portfolios and finished art pieces is the same person who will be editing your images.

3. “All-Natural”/”no Photoshop” approach vs. subtle and flattering edits

You will find that some boudoir photographers offer photo sessions with no retouching. They even try to sell clients on the idea of no retouching with the claim that any level of editing is trying to make you into something that you are not. If this approach feels initially refreshing, you will likely change your mind when you look through their portfolio and find it to be light on certain demographics – like moms of 3 and women over 30.

The majority of my clients are moms, wives and women ranging from 30-65, and they ALL want some level of retouching – for the very same reason that they wear makeup. Retouching is not about making you into something that you are not, but rather, it’s about enhancing your features to help you to look your best.

For each client, my goal is to produce high-end, magazine-quality images. To achieve this level of professional artistry, retouching is required, even among those clients who take the very best care of themselves.

All of this said, I am a HUGE fan of the edits I can achieve simply by using Lightroom. They tend to leave things more natural, but glowing and perfectly enhanced. Both Lightroom and Photoshop are fantastic tools, and each has its place. But a highly polished, magazine look is a labor intensive undertaking, which means that it costs more to achieve.

BOTTOM LINE

If you want the best photos you have ever seen of yourself, some retouching will be required. Be sure that you see full-sized, finished albums and wall art from your photographer to ensure that your visions are aligned.

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4. Quick, heavy-handed skin retouching vs. elegant, realistic skin retouching

As I have stated, I hand retouch all of my clients’ images and invest considerable time to their final photos. By contrast, some photographers use a number of techniques to speed up skin retouching. I’ve personally tried lots of ways to get a good result quickly, and I can easily spot “budget friendly” edits, even as small, thumb-nail images on mobile devices and social feeds.

Without getting too far into the weeds about how quick edits are done, let’s just say that these techniques rely on blurring skin texture and tone so that imperfections are “smoothed out”. All you need to know is that these methods look fake and plastic when you zoom in or enlarge the image beyond the size of your phone’s screen.

Quick methods can look good enough to the untrained eye scrolling a social media feed, and can be done at a much lower cost than hand retouching. Some boudoir photographers use these methods to mass-market themselves, so they can post regularly and feed their social algorithms with fresh content.

The desire for more eyes on their work further incentivizes economy photographers to lower the quality of their images and edits, or to outsource their retouching, as previously mentioned. Quick edits allow photographers to generate a continuous stream of new content faster and cheaper, while sacrificing quality.

While most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between high-quality edits and super-quick, low budget edits when scrolling their social feeds, if they were to look at finished albums and wall art, side by side, I have no doubt that everyone reading this would notice the difference in quality immediately.

BOTTOM LINE

High quality editing is fundamental to creating timeless images that you will cherish for decades. If, however, you’re just looking for someone to create quick images to send to your significant other’s phone, this might be an area for compromise, if you want to save some money.

5. Budget-friendly albums and prints vs. luxury albums & museum-quality wall art

As discussed, cutting corners when producing and editing images are some of the ways that low-end boudoir photographers reduce costs. Another common practice for lowering expenses is to have your final artwork printed at a low-end lab.

Since the bulk of the cost difference between a high and a low quality photo session and artwork comes from the labor for the photo shoot and the editing of the images, I find little reason to opt for producing lower quality albums and wall art from my clients’ sessions. For me, it’s counterintuitive to put in all the work, only to deliver budget-based products. I do see many photographers doing this, so exercise caution, ask to see samples, and be aware of this when comparing artists.

When comparing the final artwork offerings from photographers whose work interests you, consider the following:

Is wall art coated for UV protection?

Are prints pre-mounted to help prevent warping and wrinkling over time?

Does the artist offer fine art/Giclee prints?

Does the artist offer lay-flat albums?

Are albums printed on archival quality photo paper?

Do album cover options include high-quality genuine/vegan leathers and acrylic covers?

These questions are a good place to start when trying to determine the level of quality your artist is offering. That said, this list means nothing if the quality control of the lab your artist is using is questionable.

When I started my business, I spent thousands of dollars buying artwork samples from numerous labs to determine the best vendors to produce my wall art, albums, folio boxes and retro viewers. After a lot of discovery, I found not only the labs that were making the highest quality final artwork, but those with quality control so exceptional that I could trust them to send pieces directly to my clients, without my review.

BOTTOM LINE

You should always meet your photographer before booking your session, to check out some of the artwork they’ve created for past clients and to tour the space where they shoot. Getting to see everything is person will give you a VERY good idea as to the quality you can expect from your own session. 

Is Quality Important to You?

I hope that this post helps to shed some light on the differences between a luxury boudoir experience and economy options. If you would like to learn more about how I help my clients get amazing photos from their boudoir sessions, please contact me by email at hello@diamondmoonboudoir.com or call me at 859-429-7766.

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