This week's featured photographer is Tracy Malott of Blush Boudoir in Dayton, Ohio.
Where do you operate your business?
Your Facebook page
Your Pinterest account
Your Instagram account
Your Twitter account
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 85 1.2
Canon 35 1.4
Canon 50 1.2
Processing Software (just provide the names of the one's you use)
Adobe Photoshop CC
Adobe Bridge CC
Fundy Album Designer
Do you use any actions?
Several that we’ve customized including Totally Rad & MCP.
Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use and plugins, etc.?
I smooth skin and take care of stretch marks, but don’t use plugins - only actions.
What most people want to know is how you market to your clients. Have you qualified who your ideal client is?
Our ideal client at Blush Boudoir is any woman who wants to have an amazing experience where she will feel absolutely beautiful and have images that capture that beauty. We market to potential clients in many ways, including: Past Client Referrals, Google Search/Website, Social Media (Facebook & Instagram), Studio Open House events and partner-business relationships. Referrals and Google search have been our most effective marketing channels so we put most of our efforts there.
I'd love to add any inspiring client stories you might have. Also, have you had any issues with clients that you would like to share and how you resolved them. That is always something that can hugely benefit the readers.
For inspiring client stories, we have a few from the past couple years that we’d love to share:
We have started working with a fitness instructor who brings in a group of ladies she has begun training for a “before” group shot. Six months later they return to celebrate their progress with their own individual boudoir shoots. We shared this inspiring article about it on New Year’s Day 2016 and the feedback has been tremendous! http://blushboudoir.com/the-year-of-fabulous-you-anchored-by-fitness
In 2014 we met Ronda - a new client who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to do a boudoir shoot before starting radiation treatment. She immediately became a friend, and several months later (and two days before her mastectomy) she came back to Blush for a second shoot, post-treatment. The courage she has shown throughout has been absolutely inspiring and powerful, and she was gracious enough to allow us to share her story here: http://blushboudoir.com/breast-cancer-awareness-month-kicking-cancers-ass-in-high-heels
Another cancer-survivor story, Linda, did her first boudoir shoot with us a few years ago and came back in 2015 for another… at the age of 63! We’re so proud to call Linda a friend as well - her spirit shines bright! http://blushboudoir.com/staying-courageous-through-cancer-in-sunshine-chic-style
We have been very fortunate to have so many amazing clients, and we’ve had only minor issues with a tiny few. One that comes to mind is somebody who traveled to us from another state and had different expectations for the shoot than we normally do. She insisted on purchasing her digital images on flash drive before she even saw them, and we went ahead and did it since she was an out-of-town client and wasn’t going to come back for an in-person preview session. This sale was a mistake because she followed up after receiving the images, complained that it wasn’t what she was looking for (apparently something much more raunchy than our typical style) and requested additional edited images. Although she offered to pay more, I just went ahead and edited ten more that I thought she might be satisfied with and politely yet firmly let her know that I was willing to give her the additional images at no extra cost but that would be it. That was thankfully the end of it, but the lesson learned - don’t sell the images until the client has seen them!
We are constantly working on our client communication processes to ensure that there are no false expectations or misunderstandings. Any time there is, we make the change so it doesn’t happen again.
Do you have a "welcome" product you give the clients and can you share that if you do? Thanks.
We don’t have a “welcome” product but we do give clients a small box of chocolates (customized for us by a local gourmet chocolate shop) and a copy of our latest Blush Magazine as a thank you right after their session.
This is probably one of the most important things that the readers want to know. How do you sell to your clients? Can you provide info on your sales process and your pricing. Would you be willing to share with your readers what you charge for a session and what your range is for your products, like albums for instance?
I’m happy to share our pricing info - it is all listed on our website for anybody to view. I know some photographers choose not to display their prices, and if that works for them then great. For us, we want our client leads to be qualified. Our website has all of the info we have to share, and enough image galleries and client testimonials for anybody who is serious about doing a shoot to get a good feel for who we are and the kind of work we do.
Our pricing model works for us as it is a fairly even split between session fee and product price; the client makes multiple smaller payments (session retainer, session fee and then product) as a result.
Our session fees start at $399 for a mini session (specific “marathon” dates throughout the year) and $750 for our regular base session, and go up to $2,950 for our full day session that includes all extras. All packages come with professional hairstylist, professional makeup artist and add-on options like “quick edit” fees.
Products include premium leather albums, antique-style image boxes, canvas prints and digitals. Albums range from $450 for a small 6x6 5 spread album and go up to $1,550 for a 12x12 30 spread. We’re also about to add “collection” bundles for clients to save when purchasing multiple items.
If you have a PDF or a copy to your pricelist you don't mind sharing, that would be great.
What products perform best in your studio?
Our Premium Flush-Mount Art Album is our top seller, and most clients add on the flashdrive that includes all of their edited hi-res digital images.
Best describe your workspace. Do you have a studio or work from home? How large is your space? What are the challenges with it? What works really well for you? Can you please include a photo or two of it, if possible.
Our studio is a big part of what makes us Blush Boudoir - it is a historic building (one of the oldest in Ohio) built in 1829. Full of original exposed brick, wood joist ceilings and a TON of natural light from 17 windows, it is two floors and 1,800 square feet. One of our favorite sets is our private outdoor courtyard which has been very popular with clients looking for something unique.
Inspiration Shoot: https://vimeo.com/130156232
We are fortunate to actually own our studio building, so we are able to renovate and change whatever we want (something my fiance and business partner Billy sometimes curses 🙂 . We don’t have to worry about a landlord suddenly jacking up our rent (which happened at my first studio) and we take pride in this special piece of history that we own.
Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.
We have no plans to move but we’re always changing the space to keep things fresh and new, which is great for our many return clients. We do continue to grow our team, which started as just one photographer (me) and one makeup artist, and has grown in the past three years to a full team of three photographers, four makeup artists, and four hairstylists - plus studio manager/business partner/fiance Billy Pote).
Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?
We try to schedule clients M-F between 10:30 am and 3 pm, but we will occasionally do a Saturday morning session if that is a client’s only available day. We don’t normally do weekend sessions because our team is typically booked with weddings.
Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles? What's your preference? What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?
I primarily use natural light, and only use studio light when necessary. Our studio has excellent natural light, though it can be challenging on days with dark clouds and later in the day in the winter. We’ve turned that challenge into a positive by creating darker/moody images that our clients have come to love.
Do you have makeup artists you work with in your studio? If so, can you give me a run down of what the rate is you pay them and how you feel about the importance of that relationship. If you don't use them, is there a reason?
We use both makeup artists and hairstylists for all of our clients, and they are among the most experienced and talented in our region. They are as important to our business as our photographers. (I’d rather not share rates).
BUSINESS IN GENERAL:
How long have you been in business? What were you doing before you started your photo business?
After being a stay-at-home mom for a few years, I began my professional photography career in 2001, and believe it or not I actually started with boudoir in my home garage that I had converted to a small studio. At that time there weren’t many photographers doing boudoir, and those that did were not in the same style I was going for. Unfortunately, I was not getting the type of clients I wanted, and most people just didn’t understand this genre of photography that I wanted to achieve. After about a year I put boudoir on the back burner and focused on family and senior photography, and eventually wedding photography, which is where I really excelled (http://picturesbytracy.com/
). In 2008 I opened my first studio space - initially as a place to meet wedding clients, but also for boudoir photography, which I had gotten back to doing as the genre became more known and my bridal clients started to request it.
In 2010 my studio building sold and the new landlord decided to double the rent, after seeing all of the improvements that I had made (with my own money, of course). I wasn’t happy with the location and began the search for a new space. In 2010 I found our current studio and met my new landlord - Billy. A little over a year later (after we both went through our own divorces) we started dating, and eventually we became business partners, and finally, engage to be married (October 2016)! Billy now handles all of the back-end business processes, accounting, website, payroll, staff management and scheduling - plus studio repairs and enhancements. This has allowed me to focus on my photography as well as mentoring our other photographers so that we all offer a consistent Blush Boudoir style and client experience. Our partnership has really allowed Blush Boudoir to grow, and in 2015 we had over 200 clients do sessions at our studio!
Did you go to school for photography or are you self taught?
Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?
I’ve had photography in my blood since the time I was a little girl. Even back then I had a camera that I loved to use. It is truly my calling.
What is your biggest struggle in this business?
It is easy to burn out - something I definitely did with wedding photography. I’m constantly changing things up at the studio with new sets, props, etc., in order to keep things fresh and the creative juices flowing.
Is there a reason you shoot boudoir and do you shoot any other genre? If you're exclusive and/or recently went exclusive, can you give the readers some insight into why you did? If you've only ever done boudoir, again we'd love to hear why.
While I’ve done family, senior, and wedding photography in the past, I am now exclusively shooting boudoir. It is what I love to do and I’m fortunate to be able to focus only on that. I enjoyed doing weddings for many years, but like so many others, I eventually burned out working every weekend and so many long hours editing the same people all week. I prefer the schedule that I now have with boudoir, and I love having other photographers working for us so that I can take fewer clients while our studio continues to grow.
If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?
Understand that you have to put in a lot of time learning the craft - it doesn’t turn into a lucrative business just by purchasing an expensive camera and equipment. And once you’ve mastered the technical and creative sides of photography, you still have to spend a lot of time on the business aspects, otherwise you will own a job, not a business.
Have you ever done a boudoir session yourself, if you are a female (sorry guys) ? Do you think it's something that is important for female boudoir photographers to do?
I did when I first started and it is something I’d like to do again and I do think it is important for boudoir photographers to have experienced their own shoots. All of our photographers and most of our beauty team members have done their own shoots (by me).
How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?
While I find nothing wrong with a male boudoir photographer, I prefer to have an all-female staff at our studio. Many of our clients have mentioned that they feel more comfortable with a female photographer.
What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?
Burn-out is always a challenge with any creative business; as creatives we crave change. I like to constantly make changes at our studio, and I do a few for-fun creative shoots each year to keep my creative juices flowing.
What do you love about the business?
I love that what we’re doing is changing lives for the better. So many of our clients come with their own insecurities, and we help them find confidences they never had. I've been an entrepreneur ever since I can remember and love building our business.
What do you hate about the business?
I used to hate doing a lot of the accounting and other business related stuff, but now I have Billy to do all of that! 🙂
Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI? What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?
I had never belonged to any professional organization until our studio was featured by PPA/Photovision. After looking at the benefits we joined for the equipment insurance and indemnification trust. At the end of 2014 we joined AIBP but admittedly I am not very active. I’ve rarely followed other photographers throughout my career and get my inspiration from other art forms. However, I do see the value groups like this have for boudoir photographers who are just starting out or are looking for ideas to help them take their businesses to the next level. And I enjoy the funny stories that some of the other boudoir photographers share on the private board - some have been hilarious and remind me that we all face similar challenges.
Do you compete and do you have any opinions on it? AIBP runs contests regularly. Do you participate? If not, is there a reason you don’t?
When we first joined AIBP, Billy would enter some of my images in contests and a few have been chosen as Daily Choices almost a year later. While I always appreciate being recognized, it just isn’t something that I strive for… just not my thing. I do think it can be valuable for those just starting their businesses, and I think it is a good thing for AIBP to continue.
SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:
One guilty pleasure in life?
Shopping at Home Goods 🙂
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
What's one song on your playlist?
ODESZA - How Did I Get Here
What's your favorite movie genre? Example?
Favorite shoes to wear?
Boots or flip-flops
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?
I would change nothing. I would like to say "not have married my ex husband," however, I wouldn’t have my two amazing kids.
If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?
There really isn’t anybody famous I’d wish to photograph.
What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)
Life balance / making time for myself
Are you married, single, have kids, husband? Is life a juggling act for you?
Engaged to be married (second marriage) - I have two kids, he has one. Yes, a huge juggling act.
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?
Everybody that I love inspires me in life. And my clients are who inspire me at work.
If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person's direction in life, what would that be?
Don't let anyone or anything hold you back. During the beginning of my photography career I reached out to another boudoir photographer. She seemed nice at first and asked me to send her some of my work. Then she called me and said "You will never amount to anything". I cried for awhile and thought maybe she was right - maybe I should just hang it up. But then my determination took over... I knew what I was capable of! I thought to myself "I will show her". And since then, I’m very sure I have.
My favorite quote: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”~Maya Angelou