A trend that is becoming more and more popular are boudoir photo shoots. Nothing says body positive and confident like posing in your panties to let someone take photos for you. If you have had one of these photo shoots done have you ever wondered what it is like being a boudoir photographer? Or how one becomes one? Well for this Article I got to get to talk to Kelli Marie Connor, the owner of Boudoir by Kelli Marie, to learn what it is like in the day of the life of a boudoir photographer.
How did you get started in boudoir photography?
Kelli originally went to college for Marine Biology with a minor in photography. The dream was to work for National Geographic as an underwater photographer. Soon after starting she realized her workload consisted of trigonometry and calculus, she quickly dropped her major and actually ended up transferring colleges to one more equipped for a photography major.
Once enrolled in an art school a few friends began to volunteer to do photo shoots naked outside because that’s what you do in college at art school. Draw, paint, and sculpt the naked human figure. For Kelli, the natural leap was to photograph naked people in the landscape. She loved it. A few of her friends and sorority sisters started to ask her to take “sexy” pictures of them for their significant others for holidays, and she happily obliged.
At this time she never realized boudoir photography was a “thing” until long after she graduated. Out of college she really wanted to be a wedding photographer, and she was for a long time. The brides she worked with would ask her to create boudoir images for them, so she did. It was like the universe was trying to push her in the direction of boudoir all along and she just kept ignoring the signs. After nearly 10 years of doing weddings, she decided boudoir was really my passion and now runs one of the busiest boudoir-only studios in south-central New Hampshire.
Was this always the type of photo business you wanted to run?
When starting out Kelli didn’t have much of a vision for her career as a photographer. Early on, she was told by an ex-boyfriend that she would never be successful and that this wasn’t a real career option. She would love to be able to chat with him now and tell him just how wrong he was. It wasn’t until later that she had the vision that she could do photography full time until about 2014, right about the time Kelli was planning a 1000 mile move. Between the move and her wedding in 2015, her career was kind of on pause until she opened her first studio in New Hampshire in 2016. Since then, the business has truly blossomed and become bigger than she ever could have imagined in a very short time.
What is your typical day at work like?
The studio is closed on weekends, which was always her dream since she grew up working retail, restaurants and never got to have weekends or holidays off. Mondays and Fridays are used as her administrative days where she spends a lot of time on the computer working with clients, potential clients, and their printing vendors, as well as other tasks like bookkeeping and organizing.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are officially our “shoot” days. The Studio Manager shows up very early in the morning to prep the studio, the Hair and Makeup Artist arrives just before the Client. Their Hair and Makeup Artist is a magician at both making people beautiful and talking clients off the ledge of nerves they show up with. Kelli then arrives about halfway through hair and makeup, at which point she works with her Studio Manager to assist in editing and placing product orders for all of the previous weeks’ clients.
Once the Client is out of hair and makeup, together they select her wardrobe from their 500+ piece Client Wardrobe Closet and get to business. They pose their Clients, coach them through facial expressions, and tell all of their best jokes to keep them having fun all while listening to Salt n Peppa and TLC. Kelli has a blast with every shoot and thinks she has the best job. Once the shoot is done, the team will have a quick lunch and right afterward show the Client her images from the session that same day. The client gets to see all of her gorgeousness, select how she wants to preserve and present her images from the collection of sample products, and off she goes. Then they all high five and the day is over.
What are the best and worst parts about this line of work?
Working with women is both challenging and rewarding. While Kelli and her Clients have an awesome time during shoots, it is mentally, emotionally, and physically draining for her. She is so tired after each session. However, she thinks nothing is as gratifying as when a client is moved to tears during the viewing of her images, or the thankful messages the business receives almost daily from past clients telling the team how they have changed their lives.
Most times the clients walk in tired, overworked, unappreciated, disheveled, or lost. That all changes after the course of just a few hours with Kelli and her team. When they see them again it is a literal transformation. They walk differently, they smile more. It is like an awakening for their true selves. Nothing will ever bring Kelli more joy than knowing she helped another woman decide to finally love and respect herself. The biggest negative is that there is a lot of slut-shaming that still happens online, but Kelli believes her business is really making an impact to change that. Her grandmother still thinks she is a pornography photographer, no we are not kidding. But she at least she laughs about it when Kelli talks about it on the phone.
Do your clients ever need a pep talk or some encouragement before a shoot?
Some clients do more than others. Kelli has worked really hard to develop a presence within her community and online. She puts herself out there and communicates with people a lot so that by the time they come in to see her, they feel like they already know her. Being nervous is OK, it’s normal. Being nervous means that you care! But the girls at Boudoir by Kelli have a really warm and welcoming space for women of all ages and sizes. The staff is THE BEST.
When you come to a professional space and work with experienced people, a lot of that fear kind of falls away. They now have literally done over 100 sessions a year for the past 3 years running, so their reputation for making women look and feel amazing sets the tone for any new clients coming in for the first time. When women come in though they try to address a lot of the “common” issues as much as possible. Obviously, those are things like weight, insecurity, loose skin/stretch marks/scars, nerves, mom-body, not being photogenic, etc etc etc. At the end of the day, Kelli wants every woman to know that we are all beautiful but we are NOT the same, and that is ok. It is our uniqueness that makes us beautiful.