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Featuring Lynn Clark

Featuring Lynn Clark

This week’s featured photographer is Lynn Clark of Lynn Clark Boudoir in Denver, CO

 
Where do you operate your business?

Denver, CO

Your Website

Your Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/lynnclarkportraits

Your Pinterest account

https://www.pinterest.com/lynngclark/

Your Instagram account

https://www.instagram.com/lynnclarkportraits/

Your Twitter account  

https://twitter.com/lynnclarkphoto

Technical Specs:

 
Camera used

Nikon D750

Lens choices

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Series

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

Lightroom, Photoshop

Do you use any actions?

Floribella on occasion, but lots of custom ones and custom presets in Lightroom

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

I outsource my retouching to Jen Gets Shit Done (Jen Swedhin)

 

CLIENTS:

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

 My ideal client is a woman age 35-65 who is at a point of redefining who she is, who already invests in herself and who values photography as art. In my market, most of my clients live in the south and northwest suburbs, so I’m beginning to look at a more location-focused marketing plan. Metro Denver has about 3 million people, and we’re the fastest-growing city in America. We also have a ton of boudoir photographers here. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd, even with excellent SEO, so I’m looking at more in-person events and positioning myself as an expert to give talks, and to create personalized events at small women-focused businesses and organizations. I’ve tried Facebook ads (we all know how those go) and some Instagram, but most of my clients are not on that platform (and I’m lazy about uploading). My best paid source has been targeted Google ads. I recently changed my website from WordPress to Squarespace, and my old blog did not transfer over. I know that as I’m reworking that–July is my time to do that stuff–I’ll have better traction on my site.

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.

My favorite inspiring stories are the same as everyone’s–the client who comes in, unsure of herself, and the experience and photos cause her to step into her power in some way. I have a ton of them. But I think understanding those problem clients is more informative.

Here’s what I know: Every client problem stems from a communication problem. Even if you’ve documented everything you can think of in writing, you can’t be sure that the client has read it, or understands it. I’m careful to go over all of the important points of my studio policies and procedures at the appropriate times. For example: cancellation/rescheduling policy at booking, styling approval before we start shooting, editing style and permission to share photos at the end of the shoot, album approval and timeframes at the ordering appointment. All of my written communication is friendly, precise and detailed. I’m constantly tweaking the language in my studio policies.

Still, shit happens. For example, I recently had a client who did not want to drive 30 minutes to pick up her order. It’s clear in my studio policies and in my communication at ordering appointments that I do not drop ship unless they’re more than an hour away. (1, I want to quality-check everything and 2, it completely complicates my sales tax and 3, I want to have that final contact with the client) We planned to meet halfway, and she stood me up … twice. I had her album for 2 months before I finally conceded and shipped it to her. In-city FedEx ground cost me $30, and by that point I was completely annoyed. It sullied my experience with her, and it surely sullied her experience with me. Had we talked about it more at her ordering appointment, I would have offered to ship/courier it to her for a fee, and likely she would have accepted because for her, convenience is more important than money. I’m starting to offer in-city delivery for a fee, and a couple of clients have taken me up on it.

Do you have a “welcome” product you give the clients and can you share that if you do.  Thanks.

 I don’t do this at all, because my main type of communication with my clients is voice-to-voice. Their appointment confirmation links to my studio policies and my product/pricing pages on my website. Everything else happens in a 40-minute session planning call or a 90 minute in-person meeting. The difference between the two is the call focuses more on what to wear, and the meeting focuses equally on that, a studio tour and products. I just started offering the in-person meetings, and I really like them because I get to know my clients even better.

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SALES:

 
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.

In person sales all the way. It only took me 2 clients to understand that women pick themselves apart and therefore make smaller orders (if at all) with online galleries. The reveal is fun for me. I love figuring out what they really want, and helping them display their portraits in the most meaningful way.

I actually start my sales process during hairstyling at the session. I show her every product from most extravagant to simplest, including pricing. I have a pretty pricing menu that they can look at as we go through it. I want clients to start thinking about how they’re going to display their portraits before we even start. If I hear she’s interested in wall art at all, I make a point to shoot for it. If I know that her budget is going to include fewer than 35 images, I actually shoot less and show fewer images. It’s still enough to allow them to add more, but I rarely will show this group more than 45 images.

At their reveal, I start with a slideshow of all of their photos set to music (I use Windows Movie Maker–it takes me about 3 minutes). Then I use Lightroom and Smart Collections to pick their favorite images. I show all of their images in color and black and white because it almost guarantees a larger sale by giving them even more control over how they display their portraits. I use a keep it-skip it method (keep yes/maybe, skip no). Because I shoot in somewhat of a storyline, I’m able to encourage clients to keep more images for their album because without that image, there’s a hole in the story. I generally share 48 images (16 images per set), and I sell an average of 40 images. After we pick everything, we talk about how to display the portraits. I’ve found that by waiting until the end to talk about products/collections, the client’s focus stays where I want it to be: on the art itself.

I offer both a la carte and Collections. I started just a la carte, but I am so much more comfortable knowing what I’ll be making at base on each sale.

My collections each have an album with a base number of photos, a piece of desktop art and a StickyAlbum app. As you go up, the collections include wall art, printable digital images and more. My basic collection is $1000 (12 images in a 4×6 Finao playbook and album images in an app, no other art) and my ultimate collection is $4100 (base 42 images in a 8×12 Floricolor album with box, 800 toward wall art, desk art, full digital collection, 2 apps and a complimentary gc for another session). My average investment including session fee in 2015 was $2800. So far in 2016 it’s been a little less, but I’ve had more clients.

Everything is offered a la carte too, but the prices are higher. I do this because some clients want what they want … and that’s my goal. My biggest upsells are wall art, additional images and album upgrades. My a la carte is offered by the image, starting with a minimum of 12. Then, they pick an album (upgrade fees). Again this keeps them focused on the art.

What products perform best in your studio? 

 Albums and desktop art perform the best. In 2014, 25% of my sales were digital collections, either as add-ons or as a solo purchase. That’s decreased, and I think it’s because my clients tend to appreciate things they can hold in their hands. Also, I only talk about digitals off-hand.

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STUDIO:

 
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 have a residential studio. We purchased this house specifically for the space. It’s a 1980’s style home with a formal living and dining area, with a separate office and powder room, all which are my business space. In total, I have 387 square feet for shooting, and about 120 square feet of office. I work the hell out of every inch of my space. I have 2 permanent sets in the dining room area plus my client changing area. It’s 11×13. The living room is 12×20 and I move everything around in there. I have a bed set that I put in 4 different places depending on the light and what the client is wearing. I have a couch, a chaise, a sheepskin rug and several chairs that I also move around. And I have a stellar window ledge, plus black velvet curtains for low-key art nudes.

My biggest challenges are boredom with shooting in the same space for 6 years, jealousy of other people’s studios and lack of storage space. Also, it’s really easy to just keep working. Or pretending to work while playing on Facebook. But, rent in Denver is ridiculous (thanks, legal pot!), and I have a hard time stomaching giving someone else $40k a year for commercial space.

Oh, also, we have pets (we run a ferret-sitting service and have a cat) and my teenage daughter lives with us part time. My family is incredibly conscientious about being quiet when I have client in the house. My husband bear-crawls up the stairs and avoids the squeaky ones.

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

I just made some changes over the summer, painting a couple of walls, changing curtains and creating 2 new sets. I traded with a woman who used to be a set designer in Hollywood, and she was tremendous in helping me get my vision into reality.

Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?

 Yes. I only shoot on Thurs., Friday and 1 Saturday a month (more weekends during Christmas rush). I do ordering appointments on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Product pick ups and styling consults are more fluid. I’ve also started offering minis at lunch and happy hour on a few Tuesdays. I try to take at least 2 days off each week. I don’t do any work on Sundays–that’s a family day.

Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles?  What’s your preference?  What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?

 Both! My studio is set up with the main room as a natural light room (main bed set + an amalgam of things I move in and out). I also use my black velvet curtains with a single strip box and my AlienBee 800 for low-key nudes. My back room is all strobe. I sometimes use more than 1 light, but rarely. I like being able to offer the variety to my clients. I struggle a little with my strobe still, getting my preferred lighting patterns down, but the more I shoot the more confidence I get.

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 have one lead hmua and have a list of 22 others. I’ve worked with about 10 of them. I pay about $125 for hair and makeup and $75 for makeup only (which is available only for mini sessions.) Unless I’m in a pinch, I’m certain that my hmuas are on board with my studio values, and that their personalities are in line with the experiences I want my clients to have in that first segment of their sessions. There have been a handful that I’ve only used once because they don’t fit my environment. I do have to say that all of them on my list are recommendations from other photographers or from hmuas who I trust.

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BUSINESS IN GENERAL:

 

How long have you been in business?  What were you doing before you started your photo business?
 I started my photo “business” in 2010 as a volunteer shooting events and headshots for my writers group–think parties and readings. One of those headshots turned into an engagement session, which turned into a wedding booking. At the wedding, the bride asked me to do some sexy photos of her before she put on her dress. When I saw her reaction to those photos–she told me she never had felt more than one of the guys before–I was hooked. I’d already done a boudoir session myself, so I knew it was a “thing” … but I didn’t know how big of a thing it was until I started looking.

I officially registered my business in January 2011. I focused on boudoir, maternity, newborn and headshots, plus nonprofit events. I ran it part-time around my upper-management public relations job until April 2012. I’d been bored / dissatisfied with my career for about the previous decade, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I’d always defined myself as a writer, and had been working professionally as a reporter or in non-profit communications since I was 17 (1986). My last job was my “goal” position–communications director for a large cancer research organization. I found that I was doing more meetings than I was creating things, interviewing people to get to know them, and learning. I hate politics and red tape, and that’s pretty much what that job is, especially in higher education and medical research.

In 2012 I went to WPPI. The last platform talk was Sue Bryce, and I felt so inspired and “I can do this” that I came back with a goal of leaving my communications career in June 2013. That would give me enough time to really establish myself and save money to live on while I built my business to full time. Then, I opened my work email to find 500+ messages and a huge issue that was the same-shit-different-day. I told my husband that I didn’t think I could go back, and he said we’d figure it out. I talked to a good friend about it, and she pretty much pushed me out of the nest. I gave notice on Feb. 29, 2012, (Leap Day!) and worked my last day on March 31, 2012.

I left behind a 6-figure job, 10% 401(k) match, rich health care benefits and 2 months of paid vacation a year. I took on more stress about money than I’ve ever felt in my life. I gained more happiness and freedom than I’ve every felt in my life, too.

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

 I took photography classes as part of my journalism degree, but for the most part–especially where this level of photography is concerned–I’m self taught or I learned from mentors/workshop, and YouTube.

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

 It never crossed my mind to be a photographer until I was 41.

What is your biggest struggle in this business?

 I have 2 equally large struggles 5 years in. First, keeping my pipeline full. I feel that my market is forever changing, and every time I think I’ve figured it out, something changes and that plan stops working. It’s very frustrating. Equally, feeling like a fraud. When I left my career, I was a platform-level speaker. I was co-chair of a national professional organization, and I was sought-after for my expertise throughout my organization. I started from scratch, and even though I’ve been successful here, I sometimes feel like I’m faking it and someone is going to find me out. I have huge hang-ups around safety about “being seen” and abandonment, which I’m constantly working on my own and with coaches and therapists. I think I’d feel this way regardless of what business I’ve started over in. It’s really ego-busting to start over.

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.

 I shoot boudoir for a few reasons. First, I’m much better one-on-one with people. Second, boudoir helps me heal my own issues with expressing sexuality and loving my physical self. Third, one of my values is healing others through holding up a mirror, and this genre definitely can fulfill that. I’m not exclusively boudoir, because about 20% of my business is headshots. I love them because they’re fast, easy and the total opposite of boudoir. No relationship building is necessary. I also still shoot 3 nonprofit events a year.

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ADVICE:

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

 Learn how to run a business first, and quickly accept that fact that if you want to have a small business, you are a business owner who offers photography services, not a photographer who happens to make money. Without looking at this in the business-first order, you will fail as 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’ve done 6 boudoir sessions: 2 before I fully jumped in and 5 since then. I’ve had the pleasure of being photographed by Craig LaMere, Petra Herrmann (at least 3 times, I’ve lost count) and Critsey Rowe. When I go to the AIBP retreat in November, I want to be photographed by Miranda Parker because her style is so much different than the others’. I have a bucket list of boudoir photographers I want to be shot by, including Jennifer Williams, Stacie Frazier, Elizabeth Zimmerman, Cate Scaglione and Kara Trombetta. I’d also like Nino Batista to make me into a supermodel, but I don’t have that body type of his usual glam models. Maybe I should challenge him.

And yes, my belief is that if you’re a boudoir photographer and you’ve never done a session, you’re fooling yourself that you can connect with your clients on a vulnerable level. This goes for guys too. (See Shawn Black’s post on The Business of Boudoir http://thebusinessofboudoir.com) If you’re thinking that you can’t afford it, trade. Stop getting in your own way.

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

 It was valid about 5 years ago, but now it’s as invalid as any sexist argument in our culture.

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

 Well, yes, of course. I get burned out when I shoot more than 8 sessions a month. I avoid it more by valuing my time and outsourcing my editing and bookkeeping. I spent 15 years working 50+ hours a week, and I have no desire to work that much. So I try to keep my time limited to about 35 hours a week, sometimes less (July) sometimes more (October/November). Part of my burnout comes from being an extrovert in an introverted business. When I spend too much time by myself I get depressed and want to just do something else. So, I try to have coffee or lunch with people several times a month, and I have a rich Facebook life. Don’t knock it :).

What do you love about the business?

 I love that what I create can flip the switch in a woman’s mind to put her on a path of self-love about her body and her sexuality. I love that I control my time (and my income). I love that I’m still telling stories, just in a different medium. I love creating art. I love helping women (and myself) push boundaries.

What do you hate about the business?

 I hate the rollercoaster of income and the uncertainty in what works to market. I hate the snarky nature of so many other photographers in Denver, many of whom I’ve blocked for being assholes or stealing my stuff, such as language off of my website. I hate how expensive my business is to run, even with a residential studio.

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

 PPA for the insurance and legal help. That’s it.

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?

 Part of my work on fear of being seen is entering work in the AIBP contests. They’re low-risk. I continue to enter Daily Choice, and I will enter at least 2 images for the Philosophie cover contest each time. I was a finalist for the spring 2016 cover contest, and that was pretty awesome.

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SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:

 
Favorite food?   

 Sushi.

One guilty pleasure in life?

 Foot massages at this quirky Chinese massage parlor near my house.

What is your favorite piece of clothing? 

 Yoga pants

What’s one song on your playlist? 

 Big Girls Don’t Cry by Sia

What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?

 Anything zombie

Favorite shoes to wear?  

 I generally only wear Sam Edelman ballerina flats and Tom’s, unless it’s snowing and then I wear my snow boots. I don’t wear shoes while shooting.

What are you currently reading? 

 A book on bipolar disorder to understand more about my illness, and the last book in Justin Cronin’s trilogy about a vampire apocalypse.

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

 Tanzania.

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

 My first response would be nothing, because I think I would have had similar experiences in different form regardless. I decided to be on this planet at this time to work through stuff, and whatever lesson I chose will show up. But, if I had to pick one, I would have taken the full ride to Middlebury College instead of following a boy to Colorado State to find out he was cheating on me after the first week of school.
 

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

 Meh. I’d rather photograph a regular person.

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

 I have bipolar II disorder. That means I have lots of mood ups and downs, but I never reach the level of psychosis. I’ve struggled with it since I was a teenager, but was not formally diagnosed until I was 41. Because of the medication I’m on, and because I also have a seizure disorder that affects the executive functions of my brain, deciding on things and trusting that my judgments are sound are both tricky. I have a hard time staying on task unless I can hyperfocus, and this causes the business side of my business to suffer. Sometimes I suffer deeply and experience panic attacks, especially when I perceive I’m being abandoned or am actually being abandoned. I can experience deep anger and resentment, and I definitely find it hard to forgive and forget. I tend to be more depressed than elated, so sometimes I have a really hard time getting out of bed, and a harder time connecting with my clients and creating at my highest level.

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

 I’m married since 2009, and I have a stepson who is in college and a daughter who is a high school sophomore. Life was a juggling act when I was working full time. Life is much more fluid because I have complete control over my time.
 
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?

I don’t find inspiration outside of myself in general. That may sound weird, but when I spend time looking at others, I tend to feel jealous and dissatisfied.

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

Leave room to change your mind.
Cathy Nance
Cathy Nance

Photographer and Owner of Cathy Nance Studios - Intimate Editorial Art

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