Category Archives: Training

Boudie Call!

That’s right – it’s almost that time again!

Time for a Boudie Call! wooohoooo! The calls are pretty rad, get kinda wild, spark some delicious debates, and are always PACKED with valuable information, insight, and FUN!

My Boudie Calls are free live Q&A calls for newbies and pro photographers who have some burning questions and want to join a hot conversation. There is no topic off-limit, and I’ve got some provocative issues in mind for the next BOUDIE CALL coming up in mid-November…

You do not want to miss it!

So GET ON MY BOUDIE CALL LIST, and you’ll receive early notification of my next Live Q&A with the dial-in instructions.

Looking forward to chatting with ya soon! and make sure to BYOB 🙂


***This Boudie Call recording is now available to all – you can listen in right now!

Pose of the Month & a Giveaway!

I’m such an Art Addict, and if you’re reading my blog, I suspect you are one too 🙂 I love to share inspiring art from across all media, so let’s kick off this recurring blog feature with a sculpture I think is utterly sublime. While in Paris this summer, I came upon this sculpture at the Musee D’Orsay, which stopped me in my tracks, and I think I actually gasped.

I could have photographed this woman all day long – perfection from all angles. Unfortunately, taking pics at Musee D’Orsay is not allowed, and I typically respect that policy. Til now. I just had to snap this pic to share this pose with you, and I did so swiftly and from my hip, praying it was in focus. And then I ran, hahahaa. Not graceful, but I got the shot for you to see.

I am in love with this salute to a woman’s hips! To make the hip bone the pinnacle of the artwork is such a feat, and while making the woman look relaxed and seductive is even more impressive. Her left hand is so erotic, and I love all the details from her single braid, delicate armband of her robe, and her bigger second toe! Part of me actually wants to coach her a bit more… “take your right hand up and brush it through your hair and turn your head to the left…” or is it just me?

I’d love to hear what you love/don’t-love about this pose. Do you think she looks relaxed and seductive or awkward? Would you change anything, like that right arm?

And to inspire you even further, I’m doing a GIVEAWAY!.. a GORGEOUS glass bottle of yummy Grappa straight from my summer in Italy! PLUS my latest extra hot product: THE MONEY SHOTS™ – a set of my Top Ten Bestselling and super inspiring poses and ideas for you to capture with enormous success every single time!

To win, LEAVE A COMMENT by Monday Oct. 24th 12pm EST with your thoughts regarding this pose!

***UPDATE: The Winner of THE MONEY SHOTS™ and a bottle of Grappa is… Kyle Vincent Thomas – Congrats! Our Studio Manager will email you details on how to collect 🙂

Bonne chance!

ps. winner chosen using and selected Monday Oct. 24th 12pm EST.
pps. you know I’m totally going to do this pose on my next shoot! Stay tuned… 🙂


Directing Models without Posing

People look their best when they are genuinely happy and having a good time. It’s essential that nerves, tension, and self- consciousness take a back seat on a shoot. This will allow freer movement and relaxed expressions, so you can capture the essence of who that person is in a beautiful carefree way. I like to accomplish this by focusing on fun during a shoot and by coaching actions.

When you’re coaching a model to perform certain actions, a few things happen. First, she transfers her focus on performing the action instead of trying to pose and look good. Second, you create some natural movement to capture instead of stiff static poses. Third, you begin to exhaust her nervous tension by keeping her in motion and repeating the action. This keeps her engaged, can revive expression and is one of my tricks to create emotion.

When I ask a girl to repeat an action over and over again it gives me multiple opportunities to capture something gorgeous, and it’s my secret ploy to annihilate her nervous energy. It’s hard to be tense when you’re exhausted!

Take the performance pressure off of her, and give her a quick demonstration. With my camera in hand, I will quickly just demo the action I’m asking her to do. I go way overboard with it, so she doesn’t feel silly doing it because I just looked so silly a second ago and who cared right?

The first thing a non-model will ask when she steps in front of the camera is, “Where do I look?” I give her my three favorite eye-lines right off the bat. One, look at the light source. Two, look down your body. Three, look at me. I tell her to just move between the first two, and I’ll ask her for the third, since it’s my least favorite. Eyes closed technically isn’t an eye-line, but I often ask for that one too.

I demonstrate what I call extreme posture to most of my models right up front. I want them to see that when I stand simply with normal everyday posture, it’s a bit… well, unremarkable. But when I reeeeally stretch and pull my hips and shoulders out and arch my back like I never thought I could and lift my neck up and out, then it’s suddenly a lot more flattering and significantly more dramatic. Try it yourself in the mirror – huge difference. So I often will coach her with “…more extreeeeme, keep going, keep going, more…” until she falls over and laughs (another great shot).

Some people are visual creatures and respond better to seeing the posture or action you are trying to coach. They feel safe duplicating something, and then you can coach them along to put your own spin on it. Lookbooks are also great if you run out of ideas or you are shy and don’t really want to coach, or you’re male and you’d just rather not demo a hair flip.

If you’d like to learn all of my boudoir photography tips and tricks, head on over to the brand-spanking new ONLINE BOUDOIR WORKSHOP site, and join the awesome group of photographers already signed up for this fun-filled info-packed success-focused course starting this Tuesday, June 14th!

So excited!!

x. Christa

ps. can you handle more cool free stuff and special deals? I am wheeling and dealing with each of my Sponsors & Vendors to give every single attendee joining the ONLINE BOUDOIR WORKSHOP the sweetest swag! I’m so psyched with what they are offering you guys!! So head on over to the new website to register and lay claim on your spot and the goods! I’m just sayin 🙂

5 Simple & Sensual Lighting Set-ups

My Favorite Five! is going to be a new recurring feature on my blog. So to kick her off, here are my absolute fav gorgeous go-to lighting scenarios whether I’m shooting Fine Art Nudes, Boudoir, or Portraiture… These are easy as pie, just like we like it!

Scenario No. 1
Easy & Flattering Natural Light On Location

Here’s how to do it
Model is about 6 to 8 feet from the window, so it’s not too harsh or contrasty. However depending on the light quality that day (and the weather!) you may need to move the model closer to the window. For the most flattering and easy lighting set-up, angle your model slightly towards the window (or slightly behind the window for some nice edge light). Position yourself adjacent to the window. This is my favorite look. You can try collapsible reflectors to bounce or reflect the light from the window back into shadow areas of the subject. I mostly prefer not using the reflector, because I love shadow! The above pic is without a reflector.


Scenario No. 2
Easy Studio Look with Natural Light while On Location

Here’s how to do it

Model is on a grey seamless paper backdrop or black muslin near a window – again, the distance she will need to be away from the window will depend on the quality of light that day (as well as time of day). This is a nice side-light that highlights curves! I love doing this easy set-up to help create variety while in a hotel room or other interior location. I’m often in tiny spaces, so sometimes this whole area is only a few feet by a few feet, as was the case with the above shot.


Scenario No. 3
Natural Light Backlit, Optional Continuous or Video Light Fill

Here’s how to do it
This is another favorite look – totally easy and gorgeous. The backlight is natural light from a window, and if you overexpose a stop or two, you will be unable to see where the outline of your model’s body begins and ends, so I love using this one with plus-sized women since it’s very flattering, as in the pic at the top of this post. If you need a little more light, you can add a continuous or hand-held video light turned up just enough to give you a little boost from the front – I just eyeball this and adjust to taste 🙂 The above pic was taken with just available natural light.

Scenario No. 4
Studio Strobe with Softbox, One Main Light on Grey Backdrop

Here’s how to do it
Ok, this is the easiest thing in the world, and I love all the variety you can create with just one main light using different placement. It’s important to note that you must use a grey backdrop and not black if you only want to use one light. Once you use black, you’ll have to add a second light as a hair light to separate your subject from the background. (Although honestly, I love the look of disappearing into the backdrop and do that often – see Scenario 5 below). In the shot above, the light is placed off to the side for contrast and just higher than the model because I wanted drop-off as we got lower down her body.


Scenario No. 5
Studio Strobe, One Main Light “Feathering” on Black Backdrop

Here’s how to do it
Remember when I said just a second ago to use the grey backdrop so you see separation between backdrop and model? Well, forget that! I love the look of disappearing into the background and again, this is extremely flattering to plus-sized women since you can’t see where the body ends – it just disappears into luscious shadow 😉 Place the light with softbox slighty away from the subject so they are only lit by the edges, a technique called “feathering.”

There ya have it! Simple, easy, budget-friendly and GORGEOUS –everything I want my lighting to be 🙂

I’ll be demonstrating all of these techniques and so much more as a part of my awesome new Online Boudoir Photography Workshop! Participants will join me behind the scenes during video demo’s and watch me shoot models, clients, plus-sized gals, and nudes…. ooooh how much fun is that! So sign up and grab a ringside seat to the action!

IMPORTANT NOTE: You have less than 24 hours to sign-up for the special rate! Price goes up at midnight tonight EST – so Register Now!

Tips for Getting Started in Boudoir!

Just arrived in NYC for a week of shoots and wanted to give you some vital information for those who are just getting started or need a refresher in Boudoir, Fine Art, and all female photography! I receive tons of emails from enthusiastic photographers who are catching boudoir fever and would love to know how to begin! –Great question! So in honor of my new Online Boudoir Photography Workshop, here is my best advice for a helpful approach in getting started, how to prioritize your investments, create a smoking hot portfolio, and get that first boudoir client!

As a boudoir photographer and as a woman, I live by the following three tenets: Simplify, Experiment, and Focus on Emotion. I believe these principles are conducive to creativity and success in all areas of my life, photography, and business. Keeping these in mind at every stage of building your boudoir business as well as your creative process will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and will not only result in greater success, but also a heck of a lot more fun!

Keep it simple is my mantra — it’s how I shoot and run my business. It’s especially important to simplify when just starting out and learning something new. I believe this applies to everything from gear and workflow to styling and pricing. Why overcomplicate things with a task list that seems insurmountable and will only eat up your resources and further delay your getting started? Keeping it simple will also help your first shoots go smoother.

Go on a journey to find what’s right for you. Think of this process of getting started not as an obstacle, but as an awesome experiment in finding what works for you and discovering your own style. There is no right or wrong, and as photographers, I think we always have a tiny bit of “I don’t know what I’m doing” because that’s called creativity baby! – going into the unknown and figuring it out. So, go ahead and do some research, visit the forums, go to workshops, geek out a ton on practice shoots, and make sure to keep a playful spirit and keep experimenting to see what works best for you and your clients.

Emotional impact trumps technical perfection every time, particularly in boudoir! Focus on what’s happening in front of you, on connecting with your model/client, and don’t get caught up in your gear or in your head with doubts. Strive to capture the life inside her – something honest, something emotional, some movement, some imperfection, and some sexiness!

It’s important to allocate your budget wisely, especially in the beginning when funds may be limited. You want each dollar to go as far as possible, so I recommend starting with the bare essentials in terms of gear and allocating your funds to improving your skill, getting educated, and building your business.

Don’t spend too much money on equipment right off the bat. You probably already have a great SLR or DSLR camera and a really good lens, so go with what you’ve got and invest elsewhere first. Master one piece of equipment inside and out before investing in another. Rent the lenses and lighting you want to try until you can buy, and add on as you can afford. As far as set pieces or backdrops go, my staples are a $30 grey seamless paper backdrop, a thrift store vintage chair, and a classic set of white sheets. Be creative, and you can transform any space into a simple beautiful setting.

The number one priority is developing your eye, skill, and style, so make sure to practice practice practice! Shoot as often as you can. Create your own projects. What is your dream shoot? Now go set it up for yourself. Have fun, hire models, get props, hit the streets, or photograph your neighbor. Do whatever you can to make sure you’re shooting at least a few times a week and building a body of work that reflects your true style and a complete portfolio. (More on your portfolio in a minute).

Nothing beats experience and practice, but you can shortcut your learning curve by training with more experienced professionals. Become a sponge. Seek out training, classes, and workshops from photographers whose work you admire. Check out photography forums and blogs. Go to the library and look at your favorite photography books. Again, look for what feels like boudoir to you and see what appeals to you and what doesn’t. All of this will strengthen your attraction to what works, what looks good, and what is technically sound.

If you haven’t done so already, start the business! Set up a blog or website and begin! It’s time. Take inventory of what your strengths are and lean on them. Whether it’s your charming personality, amazing composition skills, or design prowess, make sure to utilize what you have to get your business started. I’m a big believer in jumping in and figuring it all out on the way!

When viewing your photography, potential clients want to see passion for what you do, as well as consistency, quality and style in your work. Although most clients will hire you based more on your personality, professionalism, enthusiasm and confidence than on your web gallery, it’s remains vital to have a killer portfolio to attract the right clients and to set-up their expectations.

I do understand that many of you just getting started are feeling like you have a chicken and egg situation – you can’t get that first client until you have a portfolio, and you can’t get a portfolio without that first client. So I highly recommend hiring models to help round out your portfolio. Artists’ figure models from art schools and art galleries are great to photograph. They are exceptional at moving their bodies, finding really sensual and beautiful poses, and are experts at small details such as placement of their hands. Artists’ models are also much more likely to happily pose nude and sign a model release for you, even if it’s your first time. Try local art colleges and fine art galleries in your area. Model community sites, such as Model Mayhem, are also great for portfolio building. These communities consist of women who are a mixture of pro’s and amateurs, some of whom will work Trade For CD (TFCD). This is a wonderful way to get exposure to women of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and include them in your portfolio. Model sites and communities can also be good resources for makeup artists and hair stylists.

The best way to have a smoking hot port is to include only your very best photographs. Be a tight editor and remember that it’s far better to have fewer stellar images as opposed to a bunch of mediocre ones. This is why I coined the phraseA++ Images. Pick the best of the best of what you have at the moment; don’t wait for the illusion of perfection. You are going for an honest reflection of where you are right now in your creative process.

There should be a common style evident in all of your images. People who view your portfolio should know exactly who they’re hiring and what they’re getting. That is not to say you can’t have a wide breadth of variety in your portfolio, in fact you should. Just make sure that it’s consistent in quality and style.

Don’t show studio shots if you only want to do location work. Keep images in your portfolio that represent what you love to shoot and want to be hired for. If your thing is black and white fine art nudes, than make sure your portfolio represents that.

I know from the photographers I mentor that getting that first client seems to be the most difficult task of all! There are plenty of women (in fact, most women!) who want beautiful, sensual, editorial-style photography for themselves, but it’s important to take a step back and first consider your brand, your client, and what’s meaningful to you before you start seeking out your first customer. With a clear idea of the value and experience you are offering, you have a far greater chance of success of booking clients.

Ask yourself “what does boudoir mean to you?” How can you pitch a session to someone and talk passionately about it if you haven’t taken the time to consider what it is and why it’s so important for your client to experience it. Also make sure to answer “how do you stand out from the crowd?” and “what makes your style, process, products, service & experience unique?”

Who is your client?  It’s not just “females.” Is she a new bride, a young fun twenty-something who wants pin-up, etc? Or is she like my client: a 40+ mother of two, usually has just had a recent transition in life: weight loss, getting pregnant again, cancer survivor, divorce, new relationship, and she’s a woman who takes care of herself, but has never really let her sexiness come out to play (in front of a pro’s camera anyway 🙂 It’s helpful to be as clear and specific with who you are targeting and what your outcome for her is.

Some women can get a bit shy when hearing the term boudoir photo shoot, so when booking that first client, call it what you like: a fashion shoot, a lifestyle shoot, a beach shoot, or something equally appropriate and creative. I had one client tell me she would never do a boudoir shoot, but would love to do a swimsuit session! Girls are funny like that.

If you are currently a portrait or wedding photographer, I’m sure you’ve got more than a few raving fan clients who are perfect candidates for a boudoir session with you. Target the ones that gave you a million referrals and offer her a special free session. Target the ones that you could tell spend a heck of a lot of time and money on looking and feeling good. Target the sassy ones.  Target the shy ones you would LOVE to open up and that you know trusts you. You know who I’m talking about – I’m sure there are already a few women popping up in your mind.

Best of luck with getting started in Boudoir – it’s a total blast and you will soon become addicted! Just remember to shoot from the heart, and you can’t go wrong.

ps. IMHO, my new ONLINE Boudoir Workshop is a GREAT place for those who are just starting out or seasoned pro’s looking to take it to the next level. We’ve already got a huge variety of awesome photographers signed up! From boudoir pro’s to those who’ve never done a paid shoot before, we’ve got dozens of countries represented as far as Denmark, Italy, India and of course lots of photogs from your small town USA 🙂 The content applies to all levels. There is just one week left to SIGN UP for the discounted price – after that, it goes up! Hurry over to the ONLINE Boudoir Workshop page and you can Register Now and enter to WIN A FREE SEAT!

see ya online!

x. Christa


How to throw a Successful Boudoir Party!

A successful boudoir party means my women had an amazing time, LOVE their photos, and I made great money. I’m bringing back Marie Forleo‘s Rich Happy Hot ladies from our 22-woman boudoir party in Los Angeles to go with this post. Get the crazy details behind that shoot and see more rich happy hotness when you check out these posts: Rich Happy Hot No. 1 and All Heart.

Here are my top tips specific to these marathon shooting days that will contribute to your next (or your first) boudoir party being a huge success!

Be Prepared
It’s even more important to be prepared when you’re on a tight schedule. Make sure to do the prep work with each client well before the shoot day. Discuss what makes them feel sexy, what they love about their body, and discover what is meaningful for them – this way you already know your client intimately before she even steps in front of the camera, which is key when your time is limited. Also make sure to chat about wardrobe tips & ideas, let her know what to expect, talk to her about your contract/policies, get an idea of her comfort zone regarding nudity and most importantly get a clear idea of the end product she wants to purchase as a result of this shoot. All your prep work will ensure that both of you have a clear idea of what your shooting for and make each session go smooth like butter!

Style three “Sets” and Prep your Equipment
That means each “set” should be a unique location, even if you’re in a tiny hotel room. Move beyond the bed for two set ups: try gorgeous backlighting in front of the window, in front of a full length mirror, at the vanity in the bathroom, in the hotel shower, on a chaise lounge, at the hotel suite’s front door, laying on the floor or on top of the coffee table – I’ve tried it all. Find what works and looks great well in advance, start visualizing your ideas, move furniture, remove distractions, and style it up. Most of all, be creative and resourceful! Lastly, know which lens and what camera settings work best in each area, so you don’t have to burn up your session time trying to figure this out.

Set-up a Mini-studio
A studio set is always a great idea to create another look which makes it seem like we got out of the hotel room, and is an easy way to create one of your 3 sets. You can bring a $30 seamless paper roll (my favorite is grey) and one main light with softbox. Presto! If you don’t have studio equipment, a very affordable option is a black muslin (use a black tablecloth) hung up near window light. You can set this up anywhere even in the tiniest of rooms. This one was set up in the bathroom.

Keep to a Schedule.
I suggest scheduling 4 distinct blocks of time for each girl. Three of those blocks are for shooting on each of your 3 sets. And the first block is to chat, go over wardrobe (choose which outfits on which sets and in which order). I like to do 60 minutes per girl, so each block will be roughly 15 minutes each – if I steal a few minutes from one block – I make sure to make up for it in another. Have someone (an assistant, the make-up artist, or a friend) keep track of time and let you know when you only have a few minutes left in each area. If no one is around to help out, then use your cell phone’s timer.

Find ways to create variety!
Since greater variety is a big part of the equation that equals higher sales let’s make sure to create variety at every opportunity. We’ve already covered having 3 sets. Likewise, your client should have 3 vastly different wardrobe looks. Make sure to coach and capture different emotions from her, the various stages of dress and undress, various angles, details, close-ups, and full-body shots. Use different lenses, have a mix of color and black & white images, and try some photoshop actions on a few in post.

Have an assistant and a pro stylist.
I know sometimes as sole business owners, we try to do it all ourselves. Greater success lies in teamwork! Professional hair and make-up artists will elevate the quality of your work immensely.  An assistant will make a significant difference in the ease of your shoot. She will help with equipment, moving sets, communicating with the MUA, getting the next client ready, holding the fan, helping your clients laugh, keeping you on schedule, and so much more! If you can’t afford to hire professionals just yet, find an enthusiastic apprentice to be your assistant and search the modeling sites, like Model Mayhem, for hair and make-up artists that are just starting out, want to build their portfolio, and will work Trade for Prints TFP or TFCD.

Make it a Party!
Music, mimosa’s, excitement, dancing around in your underwear, a bit of chocolate, lots of laughter, being pampered with pro hair & make-up, and maybe a take-home vintage polaroid pic… just a few ideas that can add to your boudoir party being a total blast and memorable event. Be silly, be professional, have a good time, and your clients will too 🙂

So make sure to be prepared, keep it fun, keep on schedule, hire some help, mix it up, and have a blast!

What are your favorite tips for creating successful boudoir parties? Leave your success stories in the comments below! And as always, if you have more Q’s about photography, photo parties, or getting started in boudoir, leave your questions in the comments, and I’ll shoot you an answer 🙂

Best of luck to you!

x. Christa

ps. I’m thrilled to be receiving an incredible amount of positive reaction to the ONLINE Boudoir Workshop beginning June 14! If you haven’t grabbed your chance to WIN A FREE SPOT to this awesome new course for photographers interested in boudoir, get the details and your chance to win a spot HERE now! Registration begins this Monday May 2nd with a bang! Make sure you’re here 🙂

Tips for Getting Started in Boudoir

Today, I am featured on the Pictage Pro Photography Blog, discussing my top “Tips for Getting Started in Boudoir Photography.” Pictage is an incredible pro photographer’s lab, but is so much more than that. In fact, what I love best about Pictage is the tight supportive community they have created, the people they attract, as well as their exemplary customer service. The Pictage blog is a must-read for any pro photog in the portrait, wedding or boudoir business and there is tons of useful information and insight on the Pictage Forums… if you haven’t yet, you should stop by their website and check them out!

Here’s a small excerpt from my featured article…

I receive tons of emails from enthusiastic photographers who are catching boudoir fever and would love to know how to get started!  Here’s a perfect example:

“I am just starting out as a photographer and would love to do Boudoir.  There are so many things I need to do and learn, and I am working to raise the money needed for equipment, sets, and marketing. I’m not sure what to do first or how to really get started!”

To READ MORE about my best advice for a helpful approach in getting started, how to prioritize your investments, create a smoking hot portfolio, and get that first boudoir client!… head on over to the Pictage blog!

Happy shooting 🙂

xoxo, Christa

ps. more pics from Italy being posted tomorrow!…


PictageU Boudoir & Lighting, tips

It wasn’t all play at PictageU I actually did some hard work, teaching 5 separate shooting workshops… lol!  Shooting boudoir with a gaggle of workshop enthusiasts is the most fun part, albeit exhausting.  To recap and keep the momentum going, here are just a few pics that demonstrate some of the tips I covered in my portion of the shooting workshops.

We talked about how when you arrive on location how to first maximize the light in your shooting area (all of these shots are natural light only), move furniture around so it best suits your subject and the story you’re telling, clearing the set (and thus your frame) of any unwanted distractions, and when there’s stuff on the wall you can’t move… Make it work! and incorporate it into the shot…


I also demo’d how to capture one of my Money Shots™ “Landscape of the Body” making sure to really emphasize curves with “extreeeeeme” posture and kicking those hips up to create a nice little triangle of awesomeness between your girls hips and the sheets 🙂


We talked about shooting those sexy details.  I really love her hands here.  Seriously.


I also discussed a few of the simple essentials I love to bring on location: a black muslin to set up a studio anywhere, a fan to help create a feeling of sensuality and movement, and some fun props.  These shots are taken in the same hotel room just a few feet from the bed, the black muslin (in this case, a hotel table cloth) covering some seriously bad hotel art, and is naturally lit from the balcony just about a foot to the model’s right.

I also talked about creating variety both on set and in post, how to create movement by slowing your shutter speed, and how to direct a model by giving her actions instead of “poses.”  This is another Money Shot™ “The Hair Toss.”


Gotta love the fan!


One thing I stress to newer photographers is to be mindful of composition – are you centering everything?  Try experimenting with negative space – it really helps direct the viewer’s eye, tell the story, and has such visual impact.


Once again, I had a total blast at PictageU.  I loved meeting you all, geeking out, and shooting up some boudoir together 🙂  Here’s to more workshop fabulousness in the near future!

ps. Make sure to leave more of your Boudoir & Lighting questions in the comments below for an FAQ post in the near future…

Christa 🙂

Top 10 Ways to Increase Sales

Sales is not a dirty word. You could call it providing the best service to your client… or, doing your complete job phenomenally well… and how about: possessing skills and creating products that are in high-demand and highly-valued… and creating exceptional experiences for your clients that are one-of-a-kind…  Call it whatever you like, but if you have a negative association with “selling” – please lose it.  Selling is an essential part of our job – in fact, it’s what makes it a job and turns a hobby into a career.  Treat sales and selling with respect and enthusiasm, honor your client and do the very best for her and your sales will soar.

Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Top Ten Ways to Increase Sales

1. Make it Meaningful
Regardless of the genre you shoot, keep in mind that you aren’t just taking pictures — you are creating how your client wants to be remembered… and the more you nail that, the more she’ll love it, the more she’ll value it, and the more she’ll want to pay for it.  Customize each shoot so that it is unique and full of personal details and emotional elements that will be meaningful to your client.

You can start during the first phone call by asking questions like “What do you love about yourself, your body?  What do you think is sexy? What are some of your favorite things that make you happy? What does your husband love about you?” etc. and use all of those personal details to create an emotionally meaningful story told through your pictures.  I could do a whole other Top Ten list on how to make a shoot personal and meaningful – this is obviously my favorite part of my job.

2. Make it an Event
This isn’t just a shoot… It’s an event!  Give your girl a rare opportunity to be pampered, to be feminine, to go shopping, to keep a fun secret from her man, etc.   I mean how many spa days can one girl have??  This is a unique experience – make it fun and milk it for all the excitement, playful, girly-girlness you can provide for her.

Plus, make sure to honor each stage of the process: from her first phone call, through-out the exciting/nervous weeks leading up to her shoot, the photo session, that night, seeing her images for the first time, receiving her products, and the lasting memory of it all!

Lastly, keep in mind that the whole experience should also be a celebration of her womanhood.  Most clients seeking boudoir aren’t young things looking to enhance their image – they are women who want to reclaim their femininity (long-lost to motherhood),  to celebrate their triumph over breast cancer, to honor their hard work and recent weight loss, and a multitude of other significant events.

Look closer when a girl contacts you for a shoot – there’s a deeper reason why she’s doing it.  Make it a journey of self-discovery from beginning to end, and she will invest highly.

3. Capture the Money Shots™
Ok, so you’re going to make each shoot personal and customized to each girl… In addition, you can always rely on the best-sellers –  the images that every girl wants.  I call them “The Money Shots™.”  You know the ones… there are dozens, and I refer to my #1 Best-Selling Money Shot™ as “Damn my Ass Looks Good.”  Because c’mon, don’t we all want that shot!  Another couple of my favorites are “Landscape of the Body” and “It’s All About the Shoes.”

I’ll cover the rest of my “Top 10 Boudoir Money Shots™” and how to capture them at the upcoming Pictage U.


4.  Shoot for Variety
I find that most of the photographers that attend my workshops benefit most from this single tactic.  Capturing a nice breadth of variety from one shoot is what some newer photographers seem to struggle with most.  We can all sometimes get stuck shooting one thing (because, wow, it looks so great!), and we keep snapping away and burn up our whole session time on only a few set-up’s.

However, there are so many wonderful and easy ways to create and capture variety on a shoot… from slight styling adjustments (pulling up her hair, pulling down a strap) to wardrobe and set changes…. as well as how you compose shots, light a shot, what you shoot with and what you get out of the girl.

Girls have eight thousand different moods – Get each of them: sweet, sexy, bold, sassy, raw, flirty, funny, etc.  Get shots with movement, action… Get shots that are still, contemplative…  Get every stage of dress… and undress!  Get every story-telling shot: the Master, the Close-up’s, and Details.  Get a shot or two that incorporates a fantasy element or a prop.  Get a few with a different lens or a different camera.

Know when you nail a shot and when it’s time to move on and do something different.  My workshop attendee’s hear this mantra again and again during the live shoots:  “Get it and Move On!” Tape it to your camera back.

5.  Be a Tight Editor
Show the client your A++ images only.  Women are their biggest critics, and you don’t want her to go “eh” or certainly “ugh” at any of her pictures – that’ll slow her down, kill the enthusiasm and make her question your taste.  You want “WOW!” for each and every one, so that she wants to buy them all.

Think about it – would you want to see 35 amazingly awesome hot pictures of you… or 168 shots, most of which you remember were okay, a couple were cringe-worthy and maybe a dozen or so that you really like.  And that 168 included those same 35 amazingly awesome pics, but they get lost in the heap of plenty and overshadowed by the ones that she hated… and then horror of all horrors: it falls on her to separate the wheat from the chaff in order to decide what to purchase which becomes a dreaded chore of confusion for her that she never gets around to.  Sound familiar?

Editing is part of our job as photographers – to give the best service to your client.  And selecting the best shots after the shoot is just as much a part of your art as pressing the shutter – it’s choosing the shots.

6. Give Her the Gift of Photoshop
You want her to feel soooooo good while seeing her pictures – you don’t need to tell her you fixed them up a little bit in photoshop.  Give her the greatest gift here of not telling her what you’ve worked on  – do the sister a good turn and retouch the essentials.  You don’t need to go to town on each and every image – remember, you’ve kept a tight edit so you don’t have many to work on, and you don’t need to clone stamp out every blemish and sharpen each eye lash – just a little boost here and there on the things your girl is self-conscious of… we all know what those are right?

One word of caution: do not change who the girl essentially is, like take off 40 lbs or 20 years… just the slightest adjustments can make a huge impact.

Also, put some beautiful post production on your work.  Find a few actions you love working with and use them sparingly on a handful of your final images.  Just a little bit to give them a finished touch.


7. In-Person Selling
This is another must, especially when it comes to giving your client the best care and service.  It’s important that you continue to be enthusiastic and honest when counseling her on what you’d recommend she purchase.  This is the easiest and most fun part of the job, if you’ve done your work up front and already asked her needs and discussed your products during that first phone call.

Not only is in-person selling another contact with your client, who’s by now become more of a friend, it’s the best and most efficient way for your client to get your advice on what to purchase, and let’s face it – it’s a lot of fun.  You guys get together, have champagne or tea, get giggly and excited to see her pics, and then launch into the slideshow of her pictures and let the work speak for itself…

8.  Showcase Amazing Samples

Have your dream products on hand at the order session, so clients can see/touch/feel what you have available and what you want to sell.  Make them the best you can afford – to show her what she’ll be getting.  It’ll prove worthy of the investment – people usually want exactly what they see and will fall in love with what you show them.

Also, make sure your samples are of a significant size since it’s easier for people to buy the same size or smaller, but rarely will they go bigger. Lastly, make sure each product you offer has a purpose, such as “the slideshow will blow your husband away and can be put on his iphone” “the 8×10 print is a modest headshot for your mom” and “the 10×10 album that you love is for you when you’re 60.”

When you have thoughtfully considered her needs from the first phone call, through-out the shoot and while editing and prepping her order session… it’s easy to designate your products to suit her needs.

9. The Slideshow Presentation
The very first time your client sees her pictures is extremely special for her and an opportunity to blow her away that you won’t be able to duplicate – she only sees her pics for the first time once, and you want to set it up for the biggest impact.  Make it emotional, make it bigger than life, make her feel like a movie star in a magazine.

Creating a slideshow that is a hot video with a few gorgeous album spread designs thrown in and set to music that fits the tone of her shoot will have a much bigger impact than proof prints, a contact sheet, or thumbnails online, right?  Plus it’s a product that she’ll most likely want to purchase now.  Most importantly, it showcases your photos as a complete set, as a total story – she’ll be much more likely to want (and buy!) them all when showcased together.

Some tips for the slideshow: keep it short and sweet – only you’re A++ images (I use 35-55 pics), always show it with music, don’t hit the same note twice, gain her trust right off the bat and put the juiciest pic first, and make sure to tell a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end.


10.  Follow Up
Basically increasing sales all comes down to one thing: exceeding expectations. Make your client feel cared for every step of the way.  Surprise and reassure her by pre-empting her needs.  Befriend her with your honesty.  Excite her with your enthusiasm.  And make her boudoir photography experience one that she’ll remember fondly.  Following up is going that extra mile that some people just simply leave out.

The night after the session, call her – she’s probably feeling a little anxious about what went down during the shoot, maybe second-guessing how she looked, and is dying to know how the pics turned out – so let her know how much fun you had and how awesome the sneak peek of the pics look – it’s a brief call or a voice-mail message and it makes a world of difference.

After her products arrive, call her – to see how much her husband loved his gift… and more importantly, what her girlfriends thought!  Those girls are your next clients – which is the ultimate in increasing sales.

To learn more about photography, whether you’re just starting out or already a busy pro, you’re welcome to join me at the PictageU Boudoir & Lighting Conference in San Diego – I think they are near capacity and have about 5 seats left… so Register now, and I hope to see you there!

You can also sign up for one of my next Boudoir Workshops! –  June 21st and 22nd in LA – you can register by email christa (at) for more details.

Hope to see you at one or both of these events so we chat/shoot/geek-out on Boudoir Photography!



Happy Anniversary! Plus, Top 10 Things to Do on a Boudoir Shoot

The Christa Meola Pictures Blog is 1 Year old!… yay! The first post I blogged last year was a Boudoir Shoot and focused on Top Tips on How to Feel Sexy while being Photographed.  It’s been such an amazing year of growth, and the blog has just exploded with visitors from all over.  Thank you for all of your comments, loyalty, support, and generosity.  I didn’t know how this blog would fly when I first started it, but I have to say, it’s been an amazing experience to share my work and life with all of you…   Many more exciting things to come this year, and I promise you: you will always be surprised at what’s blogged next!

Recently, I’ve been slammed shooting Boudoir for Valentine’s Day 🙂  and I’ve been swamped singing up photographers for my next Boudoir Workshop, “A Sexy Affair” on April 3rd and 4th! There are only a few spots left, so register soon!

In the meantime, here are my favorite Things to Do on a Boudoir Shoot – Enjoy!….


Top 10 Essential Things to Do on a Boudoir Shoot

1.     Have champagne and chocolate on hand
The champagne marks the shoot as a celebration and an Event.  It’s a toast to sexiness and relaxes everyone.  Chocolate is definitely a girl’s best friend and an excellent mood elevator, but more importantly, it’s the sugar rush needed after a few wardrobe changes and extreme posing… Hey, boudoir is hard work!

2.     Limit wardrobe changes
Outfits are fun, and variety is the name of the game!… However, wardrobe changes can quickly get out of hand.  Make sure your girl gets enough time to “vibe” in each one.  A nice selection of wardrobe changes can be simple:  just a thong and heels, a fantasy element, lingerie, or some dress up… Just remember: 5 different black bustiers is not variety.

3.     Chat like girlfriends – even if you’re a guy 🙂
While you’re both enjoying champagne and while she’s still in the hair & make-up chair… Yes, you want to tell her how much you love those shoes, chat about dating, last night’s escapade, tell her a self-deprecating story, etc.  and start playing with those outfits and getting really excited…

4.     Begin without fanfare
…Keep talking, drinking, and shooting while she’s still in the make-up chair and continue shooting before she even knows “the shoot” is starting.  I always say that I’m just doing lighting tests, or whatever.  Meanwhile, I’m really just giving her time to warm up and get used to a camera in the room while she’s half-naked 😉

5.     Demo the moves!
Show her the exact movement you want her to do.  This will take the performance pressure off of her.  Plus, she’ll see how ridiculous you look and won’t be shy about duplicating it 🙂

6.     Be high-energy!
Keep the energy high, and you’ll get fun, lively, sassy images!…   She will play off your energy, so bring it 🙂

7.     Be silly and playful
Keep the atmosphere silly and playful, so she will be bold and experiment with new and different things 🙂

8.     Talk talk talk!
Constantly reassure her… any moment of silence will cause her to doubt what she’s doing.  I provide a never-ending litany of “gorgeous, perfect, good – keep going… yes! that’s amazing… sooooo beautiful… ok, now flip your hair – perfect!  Yes, do it again… great!…

9.     Everything works “Great!”
— even if it doesn’t… You don’t want to kill the energy and make the poor girl embarrassed.  Most of what you guys do together may not work (that’s what’s awesome about editing!)  – but she doesn’t need to know that.  So say “GREAT!” but move on swiftly to something else when it’s not really working for ya.

10.     Call Her!
Give her a buzz later that evening to mention how much fun it was and how you took a sneak peek at the pics, which look amazing!!  Mention how bold and sexy she was… and how much fun you had.  Think about it: You saw her naked – she deserves a phone call afterwards 🙂


Happy shooting and Happy Vday!



Happy New Year! 20 Ways to Reignite your Passion for Photography

I love a Brand-Spanking New Year! Every year, I get grateful for what was and get excited for what is to come!  I do a Tony Robbins exercise called The Power of Momentum, and I can’t recommend his books, seminars, and coaching highly enough – to rediscover your core self, to push past your comfort zone and to live life to it’s fullest!  I’ve taken my favorite bits from the Tony Robbins technology, mixed in some ideas from the fun photography resource Photojojo, and added my heart and soul to come up with this list:

20 Ways to Reignite your Passion for Photography

Get Excited
1. What did you love about photography in 2009?
What were the magical and extraordinary moments?  What did you accomplish?  What are some of the things you would want to duplicate in 2010?
2.  What was challenging about photography in 2009?
What did you learn by going through these experiences, and why were they incredibly valuable?  What would you need to do/be/have/change in order to overcome these challenges?
3. Separate the wheat from the chaff
. Let’s get all your best A+ photos together all in one place.  Only select the best of the best – the ones that make you feel good, the ones that remind you of a wonderful time, the ones that you’re technically proud of.  Put these all in one folder called “2009 5-Star Photos” so you know where to go when you need them 🙂

Show Off
You’ve got a ton of amazing photos now in that 5-Star folder. Get them off your computer and show them off properly!
4. Put more photos up
. Surround yourself with inspiration!  Frame and hang your favorite images, photos from your favorite photographers, pics of your family and friends. Build yourself an inspiration board or a gallery wall.
5. Make a book
. I love books! and making books online is now crazy easy because of DIY publishers like Blurb, Lulu, and MyPublisher. Make a book of your favorite subject, for yourself and to share as gifts.
6. Enter some contests
. It’s great to know your mom loves your pics, and now let’s step it up and share it with your fellow pro’s!  Check Photocompete to see what contests are running at any given time.

Shake it Up
7. Use a new technique
. Experiment with something you’ve never done and always wanted to try, whether it’s pinhole photography or shooting lomography. Or try some new effects like cross-processing or tilt-shift.
8. Shake up your process
. Shoot in new locations, shoot different subject matter, shoot from a different angle, shoot faster (or slower), shoot with the heart more (or from the head), or from the hip (without peeking at the viewfinder).
9. Get new GEAR
! Yay! Nothing like a new toy! Rent that fancy new lens you’ve had your eye on, or borrow a friend’s camera and try it out. If you’ve been shooting only in digital, play with film for a while (and vice versa).

Spread The Love
Use your talent to do some good 🙂
10. Volunteer your talents
. I think a great photo of a child being joyous is the best gift to build their self-esteem.  Photograph kids and families that are less fortunate.  Volunteer to document an event for a local charity.  Donate to Operation Smile.  Go on a mission – photos significantly help fundraising efforts for charities such as Hearts with Hope.
11. Teach somebody what you know
. Pass on your knowledge, experience and skill. Go speak at a local school, teach a friend’s kid how to use a camera, or help out a total newbie.
12. Donate your old gear
. If you’re not using it anymore, give your old camera to somebody who needs it, like kids, conservationists or your favorite charity.

Challenge Yourself
If you want to get better at photography, you have to keep practicing and pushing yourself. Just like everything else in life.
13. Go on assignment
. Assign yourself photography tasks to complete and make them fun! Such as: take an afternoon and shoot the meaningful details in your home, hire a model and do some fine art nudes, shoot a series of self-portraits, start with a title like “Dirty” and do a photo-essay, take your favorite piece of music and create 10 shots that tell the story of that song, go on a photo-safari and see where it takes you!  
14. Do something difficult
. Practice photographing subjects that don’t come easily to you, like still life’s, street scenes, or people you don’t know.  It gets easier 🙂
15. Read your manual
.  If you’re an emotional shooter like me (and not technically oriented) – review and perfect a small section of your camera manual every week until you know your gear inside and out.

Begin! a Project
The shiny new year just begs for beginnings. Start something up, be it year-long, month-long, or just for a day.
16. Start a blog or Flickr page
.  There’s so much joy in sharing with others.  It’s wonderful to create or join a community to share your love of photography and how you see the world… Your photography is a gift – don’t keep it to yourself 🙂 Check out WordPress and Flickr.
17. Begin your business!
You know you want to.  And you can do it.  Believe in yourself and just begin.  It’s time to start charging for your work – do some research, talk to as many pro’s as you can, set up a price list and have fun with it!  Don’t wait for the planets to be aligned – start now – you will always continue to change and evolve so don’t wait to be “ready.”
18. Set up an Etsy Shop.
It’s so fulfilling to set up shop and sell your work, and it’s simple and easy with Etsy.  Sell simple prints or something unique, like Polaroid-transfers, encaustic paintings, or storyboards.
19. Create a new tradition
. Do something new this year, like taking the same portrait once a year, or shooting a photo-a-day, or having your picture taken for once 🙂
20. Bring your camera everywhere you go. Even if it’s just a toy camera, make sure you’ve got it at all times. You never know when the perfect shot will present itself.

Happy New Year, everybody! Wishing you a life lived with Passion!



Photographer FAQ’s, No. 1

Inspiration and enthusiasm for photography is abound!… and it seems that my email has recently exploded with questions and requests for mentoring. What I do and how I do it isn’t necessarily for everyone (and shouldn’t be!), but I am more than happy to do what I can to inspire you, tell you all I’ve learned, and help you live your dream… whether that’s becoming a “professional” photographer (and all that entails!) or simply nurturing your love of photography.  For all of my readers who asked, Yes!.. I am planning a workshop in early January for 2-3 days – details coming soon – and yes, I do also offer mentoring one-on-one over the phone or in person.  You can contact me personally for details – I can’t wait to meet you!

Here’s my first installment of FAQ’s… I hope you find the information helpful and inspiring!

Mac asked:
“I’m curious, in your indoor shots what lights (if any) do you use?”

All interior shots for family is natural light only.  Rembrandt had it nailed – I love the single light source of an open window… so when I first arrive at the client’s home, I walk around the whole house hunting for the best light.  I also try to bump up the light as much as possible – here’s how:

  1. It’s no secret that I love shooting in bedrooms and doing my Bed Portraits, so bedrooms are my first choice and there is usually great light in there.
  2. I almost always shoot with my aperture wide-open.
  3. I keep my ISO as pure as possible – usually max at 400 or 640.
  4. I shoot RAW, so I have more leeway in post.
  5. I open every single window, door, etc. and raise every shade.
  6. White sheets on the bed and white clothing on the kids really helps 😉
  7. If I need to, I will enhance exposure in Lightroom, and sometimes will reduce noise in LR too, if that’s an issue.

For boudoir shoots in hotel rooms, I do all of the above, and I also have an assistant holding a small handheld video light.

Dana asked:
I am just starting out as a photographer.  What’s the next step?  I feel there are so many things I need to do and am working to build the capital I need for equipment, but I think I’m in a lull.  What inspired you when you first started? Any books, workshops, places to visit, etc. You’re truly an inspiration and I’d love to learn from you, even if it’s over the net!  BTW – I think it’s time for a Christa Meola workshop!

I can relate to how you’re feeling right now, and I think you’re making smart choices and contemplating all the right things.  I actually started shooting when I was a kid, so my inspiration was that wonderful childhood enthusiasm for discovering how I saw the world and what it meant to me.  When I first started as a professional, I geeked out a ton on every photographer’s book and website I could find.  As mentioned above, I actually am planning a workshop in early January for 2-3 days – details coming soon – and currently offer mentoring one-on-one over the phone and in person.  In the meantime, here are my best suggestions for you:

  1. First, don’t spend money on equipment – you’re great with what you’ve got, invest elsewhere first.  I may be the only photographer who’d recommend this… since most have the best equipment, several pricey lenses, and feel that’s the #1 priority.  I am the complete opposite.  The #1 priority is developing your eye and skill, and you can be a phenomenal shooter with a Rebel and one lens.  I did it for the first 4 years of my business – shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
  2. Stay inspired!  There is tons of free inspiration on the web – find your favorite shooters and follow them.  Go to the library and look at your favorite photog books… just a few of my favorites are Annie Leibovitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Steve Meisel, Irving Penn… Strengthen your attraction to what works, looks good, and is technically sound.
  3. Create your own projects!  What is your dream shoot?  And then go set it up for yourself – hire models, get props, hit the streets, or photograph your neighbor… do whatever you can to make sure you’re shooting at least a few times a week and building a body of work that is what you want to be hired for.  For example, I started the Boot Black project on my own just for fun and to get some grit amongst all my happy loving family shoots.
  4. Take inventory of what your strengths are, and focus on those!   Build on your strengths and lean on them… whether it’s your charming personality, amazing composition skills, etc…
  5. If you haven’t done so already, start the business!  Set up a blogsite and begin!  It’s time 🙂

Ashleigh asked:
How many pictures do you usually take during a portrait session?  and then how many do you usually deliver to your client?

Everyone is different and has their own rhythm of shooting… It’s a good idea to play around to see what works for you.  I tend to shoot a lot less than most digital photographers.  Also, how much I shoot depends upon the number of people I’m shooting (if it’s just one person or a family of 5, etc.) and how many locations we’re shooting.  Having said that, I usually shoot about 200-240 images and show about 70-80 (so a shooting ratio of about 1 in 3)… That’s for about an hour and half of shooting.  A photo party client gets 45 min’s / one location, so it’s usually 150 images taken, and 50 shown.  If there is a 2nd location and a large family, it’s more like 450 images, and about 120 shown. I try to edit down as much as possible.  For boudoir portraits, I shoot a ton more – because girls need to warm up and all 😉   So it’s more like 550 images and 150 shown.

These are numbers for “shots taken” and “images shown to client.”  As far as order and delivery, 99% of clients buy the whole disc of all images, put 24 to 40 pics in albums, and order an average of 16 enlargements and prints 🙂  and I blog about 7 to 15.

Thanks again for all of your questions!  I truly enjoy sharing my love for photography and geeking out with other photographers – so give me a holler with whatever’s on your mind 🙂

Happy shooting!