Featuring Jillian Todd

Featuring Jillian Todd

This week’s featured photographer is Jillian Todd of Jillian Todd Portraits for Women in the Sacramento Valley California


Where do you operate your business?

In the Sacramento Valley

Your Website

Your Facebook page

>Your Instagram account

>Your Pinterest account

Your Twitter account



Technical Specs:

Camera used

Canon 5D mii

Lens choices

Canon 50mm L or 24-70 L

Processing Software (just provide the names of the one’s you use)

PS5, LR6, Alien Skin and Portraiture

Do you use any actions?

Julia K’s retouching actions

Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use any plugins, etc?

I used a combo of Julia K’s retouching, mainly frequency separation. A light touch of Portraiture if it’s needed and AS to convert to the yummy black and white films I used pre-digital age.





What most people want to know is how you market to your clients.  Have you qualified who your is your ideal client?  

 My clients find me on the web and by referral. When they visit my website, I want them to feel like they’ve found their best, most flattering mirror. Clients have told me they felt beautiful just reading it, and one recently said she couldn’t figure out how I got Reiki to go through a screen. I loved that.

Yes, my ideal client is going through a transition, values luxury and is over 27 years old. I attract a LOT of medical professionals and they are some of my favorite to work with. They don’t get to dress up or get glam very often and scrubs aren’t particularly sexy.

I’d love to add into the article any inspiring client stories you might have.  Also have you had any issues with clients that you would like to share how you resolved them.  That is always something that can hugely benefit the readers.

Most of my clients come to me in a time of transition: impending wedding, a recent divorce, big birthday, huge weight loss, etc. All of their stories are moving in some way. One that was very impactful recently was Ms. S, who has been married for 25 years and recently lost over 100 pounds. She had been through so much: a family who taught her beauty and self were things to be rejected, a feeling that she would never feel, let alone BE beautiful. A hubby who didn’t really disabuse her of that notion. She left her session walking on air. She sobbed through her slideshow and bought every single image. She is literally a different person than I met at her consult.

Do you have a physical or digital “welcome” product you give the clients and can you share that if you do. You can give me a link or email. Thanks. .

I send a few different emails with virtual magazines at different times in the process. First is a welcome guide with all pricing and a FAQ, after booking, clients receive a series of emails with prep tips, wardrobe ideas and what to expect during their shoot. Surprisingly they read all of it!





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.  I’d like to be able to provide numbers on what you charge for a session and what your range is for your products, like albums for instance, but if you don’t feel comfortable sharing to much, just give me what fits your comfort level.

I separated booking and image fees to make it simple. The session is $295 and includes a design consultation, pro hair and makeup services, the shoot, any use of my wardrobe if they need it, full editing, their ordering session and album design. Image collections and albums start at $500 and go up to a full collection of $2700. My average is $1800 in my new location; I’m quickly gaining ground on my old location average of $2200.

After their session, I do full edits and have them come back for an in person ordering session. Clients come into my office and see a slideshow on a big screen TV first, then row by row in Lightroom. We narrow down their faves and maybes first, then talk about what products they want exactly. Based on their preference for album, we may narrow down from there or go right to processing the order.

As far as sales “techniques”, I let them lead the discussion and I shut up when they are figuring out how to pay or mentally processing what it costs. This one technique has gained me thousands over the years.

What products perform best in your studio? 

 Floricolor Albums with digital add-ons





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.

I started out at home, but when I moved from the Bay Area to the Sacramento Valley, we lost a shooting space in the new home we chose, so I have a studio now. It’s 1400 sqft in a business park with floor to ceiling windows, an office space and a large bathroom/changing room.

The challenges were the huge windows and the wide open floorplan. For the windows, I had to figure out a way to cover them for privacy without compromising the light. I made huge window covers with softbox materials and velcroed them to the frames. Next I had to figure out a way to separate the space without building walls. Solved the problem by getting transform rods and super-strength magnets with different curtains. I can control light *and* background well with my MacGuyvered system and it is relatively inexpensive.

Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.

I have another two years on my lease, so no short term plans to move. I’m always changing furniture and accessories, so the space will continue to evolve and change.

Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?

 Yes, I do not answer calls, texts or emails before 9:30 AM and after 5:30 PM. I found that when I answered at all hours, my business boundaries weren’t respected and clients would become more demanding and high-maintenance, not less.

Mostly natural light, but I do have a set that utilizes studio lighting for darker images and nudescapes.

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?

 I used to do hair and makeup myself, as I have a past professional life in esthetics/makeup artistry and a long history in the salon/spa industry. I found that swapping roles during a session was sapping my creativity and focus, so I hired makeup artists to take over. I pay them $125 per session, and I pick people to be on my team as much for personality as for skill. They have to be able to represent my business well and have the same goal in mind for clients.






How long have you been in business?  What were you doing before you started your photo business?

I have been catering to women exclusively since 2010 and shot everything and anything for fifteen years before that “on the side”. I have worked in all kinds of jobs, from a fish cutter in Iceland to an Esthetician in Beverly Hills. Throughout it all, I wanted to have my own photography business. I’m grateful every day I didn’t die with my dream still inside me.

Did you go to school for photographer or are you self taught?

A combination: I took every class in high school and minored in college, took workshops at Brooks Institute and watched what seems like thousands of hours of instruction online.

Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?

Always, always, always. I “ate around the craving” until it literally became unbearable. I have a couple blogs about it:

The challenge was that my family was vehemently against me being in a “trade”. I had retail and clerical jobs, pursued esthetics because it was my second love and did that for many years. I had sales jobs and dabbled in real estate. All that time I was shooting shooting, shooting, and dying inside at my day job. My last corporate job almost killed me and that’s when I said *enough* and stopped working any other job.

What is your biggest struggle in this business?

 Marketing consistently. I will do the panic-and-market-like-crazy then get busy and it falls by the wayside.

Is there a reason you shoot boudoir and do you shoot any other genre?  If you’re excusive, 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.

In esthetics, my absolute five thing to do was to heal acne and give Reiki treatments, as I could see how it transformed my clients. While shooting everything and anything, I saw the stress in mom’s face at family portrait shoots: she desperately wanted beautiful images of her family, but would usually hide behind them. Same with the mother of the bride. Too often I would hear that she has no images of herself.

I started to explore the possibility of just photographing women back in 2005, but couldn’t see how that would work. I took a workshop at Brooks with Joyce Wilson and the seed started to grow. In 2010 I was mentored by Sue Bryce and all my doubts disappeared. Convincing hubby that such a narrow niche was possible was a bigger struggle. Poor guy, I told him I’d leave him if he kept raining on my photography parade. I finally left corporate after a work accident (my sign from the Universe) in August 2010.

With photography, I’m doing the same thing I did with esthetics: *healing* but with different tools.




If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?

 Learn absolutely everything you can from whomever will teach you, and not just photography: learn marketing, study psychology and fashion and art history. All of that will percolate in your brain and push you to be successful and develop your own style. You have to be willing to be a student for a looonnnngg time and be humble. Getting a camera doesn’t make you a photographer any more than an oven makes one a chef.

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?

Yes, I have, and while *I* think it’s an important step to understand the amount of trust given and the level of vulnerability felt by our clients when they come to us, and being able to say we’ve been there, I can’t really say every photographer should go through it. Energy matches energy (see the next question) and your matching clients will find you. I find that the women that come to me have the same feelings I did getting photographed. Other photographers may not find the process as uncomfortable and thus attract clients who don’t to the extent mine do and I did.

How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?  

In the words of my father’s greatest mentor: There’s a butt for every seat (nicer: a lid for every pot!), so if you can market yourself and get your message out there your clients will find YOU. Energy matches energy, put out your vibe and your tribe will follow.

What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?

 No, never. I know what it’s like to bust my ass for someone else’s dream and I can not go back to that no way no how.
If I find myself getting bored or burnt out, I’ll have a friend or previous client come in and do a lot of experimental shooting.

I also find a lot of cup-filling going to the movies, usually by myself. I love the visual artistry, the costuming, everything: it revs me up creatively.

What do you love about the business?

 I love being the master of my own destiny, healing women, seeing them transform during their shoot and after, and talking to different people every day.

What do you hate about the business?

 Bookkeeping, so I outsourced it. BEST.DECISION.EVER. John Assaraf tells business owners that their goal is to fire themselves from as many jobs as possible as quickly as possible in order to grow. Firing myself from bookkeeping opened up a lot of energy to put into my business and brought more joy to it. I’d like to fire myself from retouching and phone calls next!

Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI?  What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?

 Right now, just AIBP

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?

 I submit for the weekly contest and the daily choice, but not the bigger competitions.





Favorite food?   


One guilty pleasure in life?

 Roller skating. It’s not the skating, it’s the number of hours I do it every week!

What is your favorite piece of clothing? 

 Dresses; I can be lazy (no matching!) and still look put together.

What’s one song on your playlist? 

 Matt Nathanson “Come On Get Higher”, that hip sway is to die for

What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?

 Superhero / SciFi-Fantasy

Favorite shoes to wear?  

 Sparkly flip flops, high heels or roller skates

What are you currently reading? 

 Fiction: Michael Connelly’s Bosch series (again).
Business: The Answer by John Assaraf. I go back to it constantly.
Soul: Desire Map, this has transformed my “goal setting”.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?   

 I lived in Iceland as a foreign exchange student in high school and went back 9 years later after my divorce from my first husband. It is the most amazing, healing, exhilarating place I’ve ever been. I cannot get enough of it, so if I had to pick one: that’d be it. If I had to choose somewhere I’d never been it’d be Ireland.

If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?

Stand up and tell the photography naysayers to shut up earlier. I spent way too much time deferring my dreams because of others’ doubts.

If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?

 Christina Hendricks. That luminous skin, beautiful curves, everything.

What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)

 Self-care and giving too much: up until recently I would be there for everybody for every need, no matter what was going on with me, and very rarely were people there for me. When I stepped back, many of those people disappeared from my life. It was painful and felt isolating, but I now have more energy to focus on those relationships that are more balanced.

Are you married, single, have kids, husband?  Is life a juggling act for you?

 Married to my high school enemy for going on 17 years (we met 31 years ago September) and have two wonderful girls, 14 and 10.
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?

I never know what single thing is going to inspire me: Movies, TV, photos of couture gowns, novels, you name it. I’m most inspired by recreating the *feeling* evoked by these things. Even my Pinterest collections reveal the feeling I’m drawn to, and if I can identify it and connect to it, I am moved to create it around me.

If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person’s direction in life, what would that be

Listen to what you love. Don’t sacrifice your dreams for someone else’s limited view.

An example: my kids had a swim teacher who was going to college and studying what her parents wanted her to. She was engaged to a guy who was very limiting. She was terrified to tell them she just wanted to chuck it and go to beauty school, and break up with the guy. I kept telling her to listen to her dreams, that I had spent way too much time living that way and not to follow in my footsteps.

Finally she told her parents what she wanted, ditched the fiancé and now she is a passionate, amazing, skilled stylist who is in incredible demand so recently out of school. She is also crushing it in fitness competitions; reading her posts telling others to go after their dreams is very satisfying. She’s passing it on and an inspiration to so many.



Cathy Nance
Cathy Nance

Photographer and Owner of Cathy Nance Studios - Intimate Editorial Art


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.