What It's Really Like... To Be A Boudoir Photographer
Natalie Greer established Boudoir Girls, a special boudoir photography service for women, in Headford, Co. Galway in 2010.
Natalie says that the studio caters for women of all ages and sizes who want unique and beautiful images, with a “sophisticated, chic and tailored” result.
We caught up with her this week to talk misconceptions, photo-enhancing and body confidence.
How did you get to your current position?
Though my background is in Interior Design, I have always had a passion for photography. I stayed at home for a number of years to raise my two daughters and in 2010, I found myself at a crossroads in my career. I wanted to carve out a career that combined all of my interests: interiors, crafts, my love for antiques and vintage artifacts.
After co-coordinating a business plan, I spent many long hours (and late nights) learning my craft and attending as many courses to develop the photography skills that I had. I immersed myself in photography and researched the market. I spoke to other entrepreneurs to get advice on running my own business. I wanted to create something original and exciting. On reflection, this was a very exciting but tiring stage of the business life cycle but I feel my determination and love for what I was doing kept me going.
What is your typical working day?
My typical working day revolves around my diary and no two days are the same. It varies from shooting all day to working at my home office. Like many photographers, I love to shoot but it’s vital to keep up to date with social media, answering emails, attending meetings, taking calls and most importantly, editing the images.
Running your own business entails a lot more than just being able to work your own hours and choosing your favourite tasks. It’s not as glamorous as building a brand or growing your customer base, but getting your accounts in order and making sure you’ve got a good foundation is imperative in the early days.
Why did you choose your current career?
I chose this career because in simple terms, I love it. I eat, sleep and breathe ideas for photo shoots… especially when a client requests something novel. I love the challenge of a new shoot and working with new people and locations. Receiving positive feedback from customers is very important to me.
It’s vital that everyone not just likes their photos, but loves them. Lots of women are nervous about their images so being female helps as I emphasise with them and I understand their insecurities. As a mother, I totally relate to negative body issues as I felt completely different about my body after having children.
My dream was to create a unique experience for women so they can step into another world for a little while. It’s wonderful to let women view themselves in a different light and learn to love themselves after a boudoir session. I have often been told that seeing their photos has given them an amazing confidence boost.
What are the biggest challenges associated with your work?
The biggest challenges are juggling family and work. It can be very tempting to answer that email even though you could just be sitting down for family time! It is a huge challenge to hit the ‘off’ button when it comes to your own business.
What are the most rewarding aspects?
I love the reactions from the client once they see their images and fall in love with them. It never tires to be see each individual reaction. It might sound cliché but it’s an honour to witness their journey as some women might return to me for baby bump shoots (that had originally been booked a photography session for their hen party!). I have met so many lovely people and have witnessed the different milestones in their lives through pictures.
Do you ever see your work taking you away from Ireland?
I don’t foresee myself leaving Ireland as I am deeply rooted here and my whole family unit is here. I do incorporate work with breaks away at times, like purchasing costumes and accessories, but that’s as far as I can see it going for the foreseeable future.
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?
A friend of mine once said to me ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’ and she was spot on. I feel very lucky to work in a career that I am passionate about but it’s successful due to the long hours, the late nights and enduring the disappointments and stress that comes from setting up your own business. It did not fall into my lap. I worked extremely hard to establish the business, fighting general misconceptions and building it up gradually during a recession.
What has been the one ‘pinch me’ moment of your career so far?
There are many but I do pinch myself every time I see images of models or celebrities in tabloids or publications that I have taken. The first time that this happened I was in a coffee shop and opened a magazine. I saw one of my own images and it was fantastic. I looked around the shop and smiled secretly as for me, it was a huge moment.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do?
The biggest misconception are the preconceived notions about boudoir photography. It actually means dressing room in French but some people do associate boudoir photography with tasteless pictures of naked women.
I work with each client as an individual as everyone is different in terms of their comfort zone and requirements with each client. The purpose of the shoot is to ensure that each client feels beautiful, whether that’s in their lingerie or in a gorgeous cocktail dress.
Nobody sees the images, which is another misconception. Nothing goes online without written permission and that’s only from clients who are delighted enough to want to show them. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes that no-one sees. It’s easy to take a photo in today’s world by clicking camera phones but professional photography involves a lot more work and detail. We begin the process by arranging a consultation that involves understanding the client’s requirements and designing a mood board to share and explore ideas.
After the actual photography session, the real work begins. The editing is where the real magic takes place. I use photo enhancing software to edit each image. My mantra is to make the client look like a better version of themselves rather than making them unrecognizable. After this stage, I share a private gallery of images for client viewing before they choose their images for a boudoir book or prints.
What is the biggest mistake that you think people in your chosen sector make?
Not listening to what the client wants or not ensuring that the client feels that they are special! It’s important that clients feel valuable as lack of trust can tear down your relationship with them. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are on a conveyer belt or being rushed when you are nervous. Less pressure and more fun makes for better pictures at the end of the day.
Describe what you want to achieve in your career with one sentence.
To continue to thrive in this business and keep loving it as much as I do.