Boudoir photography at its core is more about the experience the client feels than the reward of the album or other products. When the client steps foot in the door, they have already committed to a life changing event that he or she will be relying on the professional to create for them. One photographer is choosing to create an experience for her clients on a deeper psychological level that is proving to create not only a higher trust but also a connection for loyal returning clients.
With a master's in psychology from Columbia University, Susan Eckert is working to change the way boudoir photographers engage with their clients. There is a push to focus on providing our clients with a life changing experience. She writes that there can be a higher level of engagement, a deeper level of trust, and a greater "degree of buy-in from the client at all stages of the process." In her latest book on the psychology of the boudoir experience she explores the scenario of a prospective client.
Which scenario do you think would be most compelling to a prospective client? A. The cookie cutter photographer who learned the same series of poses as all her colleagues and whose images, in the interest of establishing her brand, reflect a narrow approach to lighting (whether only natural light or only studio light). Images in which you could swap out one face for another and not much else would be different. Or, B. The client-centered photographer who shoots each client as she wants to be captured in order to tell the story of who the client is right now, today; whose wide range of lighting styles enables her to use lighting as an important tool that conveys the exact mood her client wants to communicate; who guides her client in understanding how the camera sees so that together they might explore movement and positions that will express what the client wants to say… so that when she sees her images, she is overwhelmed by emotion because she sees herself in a powerful way… in perhaps a way she’s never seen herself before?
Turning the scenario around to see ourselves as the prospective clients, it is easy to see that option B is far more valuable in terms of the experience than option A. All over the internet we see a parade of images so closely resembling one another. With the saturation of posing guides, presets, and actions readily available, one might start to rely heavily on the artistic approach of another boudoir photographer. Eckert's insights into creating the session for the clients experience rather than the final product show just how much of a connection can be made.
From Day One, Remember to Be the Stabilizing Center Throughout Her Seesaw of Emotions
The book is many things but what it is not is a full set guide to boudoir photography on the technical aspect. It focuses past the basics of lighting or posing, and reaches into a "higher-level strategy for working with the boudoir client." The book focuses on working with the principles of psychology, the connection between having a sustainable business and the emotions involved as well as the concept of emotional intelligence.
Don Giannatti's interview with Eckert creates a connection with the author herself as you can hear the emotions in her voice rather than only reading them. Getting back through the book thoroughly again after listening to the audio interview you start to replay the scenarios with her vision in mind.
Understanding the Client as You Would Yourself
Eckert herself is no stranger to the issues surrounding confidence. "The person I feel I am on the inside doesn’t match up with the person staring back at me. I’ve taken issue all my life with that reflection," she wrote. Understanding this personally about herself, Eckert focuses her client session keeping her own words in mind.
Whatever I can provide her so that she can begin to see herself as others likely see her— her strength, the beauty of her femininity, her fierceness is what I want to give.
The idea of creating a connection between your client and yourself maybe daunting for some photographers. I myself am not an emotional person, however I have had to learn to explore deeper rooted emotions in order to connect with my clients life experiences. Eckert goes into depth about the ideas behind this subject. While many photographers are more inclined to list their accolades in a order to separate themselves from the competition, Eckert examines the higher connection created when life experiences are communicated. Confidence issues, battles with cancer, or weight struggles can connect you with your client on a deeper level and in turn create a trust with you as a business person and a professional. This is not to say to unload all of your deepest fears as this is your client time in her journey, but more so that helping your client understand that you have faced these same struggles.
While the focus of the book is to examine the connections made emotionally, it does not discount the importance of how to marry this to the technical side. Chapter 14 of the book is loaded with understanding how the client sees herself, and the technical aspects behind creating that vision. Eckert gives detailed information on the lighting choices, poses and camera details to convey the story being unfolded.
While there are many books being sold for boudoir photography, Eckert's detailed look into the psychology behind your clients journey will not only help you to become a more successful boudoir photographer, it will also have a large impact on her experience as well. With the holidays right around the corner this in depth book is a gift not only for yourself as a boudoir shooter, but also perhaps for that photographer in your life even if they shoot a different genre. While the book dives into the life of boudoir photography, the psychology behind the marketing and the business can be applied to any client based work.