*One note before we launch into the interview — The deadline to submit your video and join me for free in creativeLIVE’S Seattle studio for my sassy Boudoir Workshop is TOMORROW Wed. Jan 18th! So jump in, record your vid, and I can’t wait to meet you!
Now on to the interview!
I was recently interviewed by the incredibly knowledgeable and generous staff at LensProtoGo.com and their readers. They asked smart questions that are on lots of newbie boudie photogs’ minds. So I think you’ll relate, and I hope you enjoy!…
LensProToGo: For those who don’t know you, can you explain what type of photography you do?
Christa: Sure! I specialize in photographing women. I love to make women feel confident and beautiful, and I incorporate fine art nudes, fashion and portraiture into my private commissions.
How did you start doing boudoir photography?
A few years ago, a friend of a friend was getting married, and she wanted to shock her fiance with sexy photographs of herself as his wedding gift. She is a self-described plain jane and told me she lives in sweat pants and no make-up and this is something he would NEVER expect from her. She said she knew I was a portrait photographer and that she felt really comfortable with me, so asked if I would do it. Of course I said heck yes! I love saying yes to new creative opportunities and challenges.
I, personally, don’t feel boudoir photography is something any photographer can just ‘do’. In one sentence describe yourself and why you you belong in boudoir photography.
First, I feel that any photographer who feels drawn to photographing women, appreciates the value of it, and has a compelling reason why they want to do it, can do so. Now, to describe myself in one sentence is difficult for me :) so, I’ll just say that one of my talents is creating intimacy quickly.
I find you can make any woman feel sexy and great about themselves without focusing on their ‘shape’. What do you like the photos to show in the end?
My goal is to capture the distinct spirit and personality of each woman, including all the glorious qualities she loves about herself (such as playfulness, bold, elegant, etc) and what she loves about her body (such as her fabulous smile, curvy hips, or the small of her back). I also like to incorporate the qualities which the woman aspires towards. That’s the ultimate success of a shoot – getting to redefine yourself as you wish with your photographer’s help.
Who do you find to be your most common client?
My most common client is also my Ideal Client, who I’ve intentionally focused on attracting. Soccer Mom’s, 40+, who’ve just had a recent transition – either breast cancer survivor, huge weight loss, about to get pregnant again, 10th anniversary, divorce, new partner, etc. Those are my ladies that I love to serve and I find the most fulfilling. Make this client feel confident and look beautiful from doing a shoot with you, and there’s no finer reward.
How do you get your clients to feel ‘comfortable’ with not only you but the shoot in general?
Comfort is over-rated. The more nervous you are the better is what I tell them. Going out of your comfort zone is thrilling and part of this experience. It feels freaking amazing once you’ve push past your fear – that’s when you feel the true reward. So I like when my client is nervous, which most are, and I tell them why. Also, I do a lot of prep work and planning before the shoot. I get specific and ask exactly what degree of nudity/modesty we’ll be capturing. I ask what they love about their bodies. I let them know what to expect. I keep in touch the weeks leading up to their shoot with a few points of personal contact via phone or text. I make sure to have about 1.5 hours of make-up and hair styling time before the shoot, so she has this transition time to get pampered and relax. It also gives me the opportunity to start shooting while she’s in the make-up chair so she’s already comfortable with being half-naked in the room with me shooting. Then, before she’s even completely done in Hair/Mk-up, I pull her out of the chair for a “make-up or light test” and we’re shooting without her realizing the session has begun. That’s important – you don’t want your client to feel like there’s a drum roll going on while you’re dusting off your camera and she’s taking her robe off to “begin” the session. I keep her moving before she knows what’s happening or has time to get self-concious. Lastly, keep your demeanor professional yet playful on the shoot. Demo every action or pose yourself first that you’d like her to do, so she doesn’t feel silly compared to how silly you just looked doing it :) Be respectful of boundaries and always give Constant Never-ending Positive Feedback: everything works “GREAT!”
Sometimes boudoir can be ‘taboo’ for people. How do you deal with those critiques?
I’m not sure what’s actually “taboo” about it, and thankfully only people open to it approach me.
What has been your biggest challenge in this field of photography?
Redefining the term “boudoir” which, in America, has an unfortunate and outdated connotation.
What has been your greatest success in the field? Personal or business.
Every client who is moved to tears by my pictures. Every client who walks taller because of my pictures.
What type of gear do you use while shooting?
The old Canon 5D, 85 1.2, 50 1.2, 24-70 2.8, and for studio: one strobe with soft box and grey seamless background paper.
Is there a piece of gear that you ‘couldn’t live without’?
Nope. I think an essential and thrilling aspect of creation is working within limitations, so give me anything to shoot with and I’m happy.
You are teaching workshops now…online and live. What is the most important thing you want to get across to the participants during a workshop?
It’s easier than they think and to stay focused on developing their own unique personal vision.
What has inspired you the most during your journey as a photographer?
Oooh, that’s another difficult question to pin down to one answer. There are thousands of things that have inspired me along this journey. Mostly, I think it was my love of fine art (drawing, painting and sculpture) that I was exposed to at a very young age.
Any funny happenings or good stories from a shoot?
Every shoot is a good story.
Do you suggest renting gear and why if so?
Heck yeah! Gear is expensive, and why lay out money that is likely better spent elsewhere to get your business off the ground? I rented those prime lenses for a very long time before I bought them just for that reason, as well as to make sure I really loved them and used them a lot during a shoot. Also, renting allows you to experiment, which I’m a huge fan of in order to continue to grow, be creative and find what’s right for you.
What is your go to lighting set up for Boudoir?
My absolute favorite lighting set up is natural light. I work my butt off to make the available natural light work, and 90% of the time it does. I love genuine, natural, unmanipulated circumstances, so working with natural light plays into that. Sometimes, I have to bump up my ISO to 1600+, or use a reflector, and/or do a bit of dodging/burning in post, and I’m totally okay with that. My style is natural, and a big part of that is making available light work for me.
When you first started shooting boudoir, how did you break the ice…how did YOU get comfortable with your clients? You can’t expect Clients to be comfortable if you’re stumbling over your own words!
Such a great question and you’re absolutely right! Your clients will not feel comfortable with you and what you are asking them to do, unless you are comfortable with yourself, your sensuality, and why you’re photographing women in the first place. If you’re not able to talk freely with your clients about showing “nipple” or other grey areas of nudity, then you may want to consider another profession. You can’t have any hang-up’s about sexuality, nudity, or self-expression and do an awesome job as a boudoir photographer.
What do you feel are the necessary items to have in my “props” collection?
Ooooh, I love this question! I love props and highly recommend that you bring some items to set with you to ensure a fun, smooth and profitable shoot. First, black panties. You’d be surprised how many times a client is bummed because she forgot her black panties. They go with everything and are a safe universally appealing wardrobe option. I buy one size fits all “hanky-panky” brand thongs. They are given as a gift to the client if she wears them :) Second, really high heels in size 7 or 8. Again, sometimes you’d be surprised what women forget to bring and are bummed to be without. Sizes 7 or 8 fit most. Other wardrobe staples that work on everyone are: Men’s white button down shirt, silk robe, fishnet thigh highs, a bunch of different gloves, hats, and jewelry. As far as fun props go: I LOVE masks and have a variety of those. Everyone loves the masks and it’s so much fun to see how different people act with the masks on. I also have nipple tassels, temporary tattoos, and a bunch of other fun stuff like that. I also have little note cards that have different sayings on them like “I’m not wearing any underwear,” and “Shut up and take off your clothes.” Props are awesome to loosen up a nervous client because the focus will shift from being on themselves to “hiding behind” a prop. It’s also a super simple and quick way to add variety to your shoot, which boosts sales. I’m always on the lookout for awesome props, and I think it’s great when a certain item becomes your signature, as I think the masks and signs have become for me.
If you could suggest one thing to up and coming photographers, what would it be?
Know why you do what you do, not just what and how. Read Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why.” Always look inward first for the answer to any question or issue that comes up. I think nowadays, since there is so much information available to us, it sometimes creates a habit of looking to others for answers to questions that are best answered internally. Go with your heart, and you’ll never go wrong. Play. Experiment. Keep it simple. Shoot for emotion not technical perfection. That will come in time. Ask yourself what’s your point of view on what you see and work on capturing that. It’s called Vision, and it’s the most important thing for you to have or strive towards.