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Featuring Melissa Adams

Featuring Melissa Adams

This week’s featured photographer is Melissa Adams of Crimson Boudoir Photography in Jasper, IN

 

Where do you operate your business?

Jasper, IN is my primary studio in a large colonial style home with all original wood floors and two original tile fireplaces. You’re greeted by a beautiful chandelier in the foyer as you enter my studio.


Your Facebook account

https://www.facebook.com/CrimsonBoudoirPhotography/

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Technical Specs:

 
Camera used

Canon 6d

Lens choices

Sigma 35 art and Canon 100mm Macro – Sometimes just the nifty 50 1.8 is great.

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

Creative Suite (Photoshop and Lightroom)

Do you use any actions?

I use some web resizing actions and frequency separation but I really prefer hand editing now. When I started out, I was all about actions! I think they can be used creatively, but I just feel like they restrict my creativity a bit too much. I do use Florabella for some light retouching and skin smoothing but it’s rare.

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

I usually don’t retouch the images too much. I smooth skin and remove bruises/birthmarks and stretch marks upon request (via my questionnaire through my client portals) but I really don’t like to alter things too much. Tan lines can be a beast at times so sometimes I have to use Florabella and frequency separation.

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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 myself, honestly. I want the women who don’t value makeup and products that are marketed to us women every single day of our lives. I want the women who never understood why Barbies were so fun to play with. I want the women who don’t get dolled up – ever. I want the women that never look in the mirror before they leave the house and don’t feel beautiful. I want to show them just how beautiful they truly are. I don’t like to dress up or wear makeup, or do my hair. I’m kind of a minimalist and a hippie. I value connections with people and I’ve always been intrigued by the beautiful variations in others’ souls and physical appearances. I remember my mother and I standing in line at the grocery store at a very young age (maybe7/8?) and whispering to my mom that I thought the girl behind us (who was maybe 20) was so pretty. My mom was a bit worried and told me it was weird to whisper. Looking back, I think she was worried I was maybe gay because I was always so fascinated with other women’s looks and how beautiful they all were. It’s a huge internal struggle for me to see my beauty, so I think that’s another reason I really love making women feel beautiful. It’s selfishly something I get a lot of enjoyment out of, too. I’ll tell a client “I love your eyes! You have the best lips! Man, your smile really lit that picture up!” and they’ll blush and thank me but it frustrates me so much when clients don’t see what I see. I can only imagine how my husband and family feel when I don’t see what they see in me. I’m hoping to use my gift to help people embrace who they are today – not 15 pounds from now, not 50 pounds from now.

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 most memorable moments with clients that weren’t as prepared as I would like involved a client that booked over a year in advance. At the time, she was married to a man she thought she loved. He was military and everything was great. Unfortunately, it quickly became an abusive marriage and she ended it. When I touched base with her the weeks before her session, she told me this but didn’t mention that she didn’t have anything to wear now, because she had wanted to mainly focus on his military background and their marriage. I always encourage women to focus on embracing themselves more, and we can do some personal marital things as well here and there for this very reason. When she came in for her session, she was already dating a new man and wanted to embrace this new rebirth of herself. She had thrown out all the lingerie from her marriage and was now openly available to love herself. It was beautiful. We did some simple shots without a bra in a white tee and some shots of her in a few of my boudoir closet pieces. She just wore a g string underneath my pieces and they were washed as soon as she took them off in my studio with All Free and Clear. When she received her custom album, I could immediately see a sigh of relief, and her new man was extremely happy to see her so refreshed. I could tell this was the start of something beautiful and they quickly conceived their first child into the world.

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 prefer to talk to my clients over the phone and really get to know them, then I follow up with an email with my contract and boudoir questionnaire.

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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 

I really like my clients to feel like they’re getting more than they’re asking for. I try to give my clients my best work, custom for them. Each client will be different and I try to honor that by seeing what their needs are.

All of my clients receive the full pampering day – hair and makeup from a professional, board certified makeup artist. The session is about an hour to an hour and a half, on top of an hour of pampering. I require this of my clients, it’s not an exception I make. I want them to feel pampered. I want them to feel celebrated.
My session collections range from $600-$1,500 and up. Most of my clients choose the payment plans I offer. I have prepayment plans and post session payment plans.
Many of my clients purchase my 16×24 Fine Art Metal. It comes in my top package, but they really love that it’s something they can put on the inside of their closet door. Just think about it. As women, we wake up, go to our closet, and spend about 15-30 minutes looking at our closets like a full fridge with nothing that appetizes us. “What do I wear?” “Ugh – I look fat in that.” “It’s too cold for that.” “It’s raining – I don’t want to wear that in the rain.” By the time we’ve picked out something to wear, we’ve already come out of the war of self hate with a sore body and mind. Bruised and beaten, we continue on with our mediocre day.

I hate that. HATE that.

I want my clients to start that daily battle and see this fine art metal of themselves and say “Nope – I got this. I look amazing in anything.”
Imagine starting your day with THAT attitude.

My Hepburn Albums are my favorite to gift my clients. They’re thick pages and offer many different looks. I use Fundy to design these albums in less than a few minutes and the best part is even if a client comes from 4 hours away for their session, they can still see what their album will look like via Skype’s screen share. I can’t count the number of times I’ve done this kind of reveal with my clients. It’s maybe the most fun of the whole process – designing their album and going over their favorite images.

What products perform best in your studio? 

My Hepburn Albums and 16×24 Fine Art Metals are probably my best sellers. Everyone loves my skeleton key USBs that come gifted with each album purchase.

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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.

My studio is in downtown Jasper, Indiana in a large colonial home. I love the tall ceilings and staircase, as well as the chandelier we hung in the foyer to create an inviting space. I’ve filled my studio with antique tufted couches and headboards.

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

I’m definitely growing in my space, but my biggest challenge is just finding organization in it all. I’ve hired a professional cleaning lady to clean the floors and bathroom twice a month just because I don’t want to use something that may hurt the building or floors. I love the place, and I know my strengths lie elsewhere.

Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?

I try to keep strict hours of operation with my clients, but I have such a passion for it, that I really struggle with this. Everyone’s schedules are different so I’m pretty accommodating.

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

I’m a combination shooter – I shoot natural lighting and studio lighting with many different modifiers. I have a ring light, a beauty dish, a PLM, a soft box, and a strip light with a grid. I love using different things to get different looks and I have learned a lot by traveling the US and meeting other professionals and discovering how they work. My biggest photography influences include Jen Rozenbaum, The DeMint Family, Craig LaMere, Dave Doeppel, Jordan Chan, Dave (who’s last name is escaping my at the moment but he start After Dark), Brooke Shaden and Dave Brosha. They don’t all shoot boudoir, but I’ve learned so much from them all as an artist.

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 only work with board certified professionals in my business. I feel it’s very important to communicate with them on your needs and your client’s desires for their look. I know literally nothing about makeup itself, but I know what kind of look I have in mind for my clients based on their personalities.

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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’ve been shooting boudoir since 2012. I took a class online with Jen Rosenbaum and I just really connected with her personally (through a computer screen – haha.) I love her heart and once I heard her story, I really connected with that. I remember the first time I saw boudoir photography, I thought it was WAY out of my comfort level. “Who would DO that?” “Why?!” “No really, WHY would you do this?” I was quickly diverted to other parts of photography. It didn’t make sense to me. After a few years of testing myself every other week to only find out we still weren’t expecting, I ran across the boudoir stuff again. This time, my thoughts were more open. I wanted to feel that pretty just once in my life. I wanted to see myself as sexy, and not as a sexualized object of another’s affection. I wanted to embrace myself.

After having our first child, I decided I would do a boudoir session. I wanted to do it when I was pregnant but I didn’t want to sexualize my pregnant state of being (and I still connect with that though process). I don’t feel like being pregnant is something that should be sexualized but rather embraced in an artistic way. This can be done with nude work, but I just don’t connect to the sexualizing of maternity boudoir. I digress, but anyway – I put this session off for EVER. I remember going to book this session with the photographer I found for months, and not emailing. The anxiety. She would see me in such a vulnerable state! Would she understand me? Would she use the images the way I hope and not share them anywhere else? Did she understand my feelings? I finally sucked it up and emailed her. Then made another excuse, and finally I booked it three months out (to lose that weight, right?). I didn’t lose weight. In fact, at that session I was at my heaviest weight yet. We killed it. KILLED it. Never felt sexier. I hired a professional makeup artist, who was my friend from grade school and crazy talented. I had hired one of the most talented boudoir photographers in Indiana, and I was curvy.

I walked out of the session and a guy stared at me so hard he almost got in a wreck and hit this car in front of him that was at a stop light. I was so excited. Someone thought I was pretty. The first person who saw me leave my session thought I was so pretty I almost caused an accident. How cool is that?!

I began to reaffirm my interest in boudoir work. After an educational class with my biggest influence (Jen Rosenbaum), I had to dip my toes in the boudoir pool. I set up my first mini sessions and shot 13 women in a high end hotel suite that was just stunning. It was a success. I loved it. I was sold. This would be my life.

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

I’m mostly self taught, but I continue my education throughout the years by traveling to meet more amazing photographers and learn under them in conferences. The real turning point in my career and life was After Dark Education. Not only are they the most welcoming people, I genuinely felt that they changed my life completely. Dave Junion (I finally remembered his last name!) and Jordan Chan were just the most caring, honest and hilarious people. Brooke Shaden and Dave Brosha were crazy inspiring and I made friends like Kimberly Love and Jen Shu. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was to meet people like that. Craig LaMere and I had breakfast and dinner together in one day. WHAT?! I miss After Dark so much, and I heavily encourage and support it’s comeback. I will never forget that experience and the people I met.

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

No, I definitely didn’t want to be a photographer. I thought it was neat, yes. I even took a class in high school, but I just didn’t think it was something that really interested me. I couldn’t see past the awkward man behind the lens of our family photos who thought he had the best sense of humor. I didn’t want to be that person. I never knew there were so many turns you could take in this business and how many ways you could differentiate yourself. I honestly just bought a “pro camera” (entry level Canon Rebel DSLR) and people told me I was great. It was definitely the American Idol experience. I was “great at photography” according to everyone – until they had to pay me. It was hard because once I found my passion, I didn’t feel like people supported my dream. Why was I shooting “porn”? You’ll never be successful like that… it’s a cute hobby, though. My self doubt turned an open ear to the people who wanted to pour more doubt in. I fed the wrong thought process for way too long. It wasn’t until After Dark that I realized this.

What is your biggest struggle in this business?

 Niching yourself. There are a lot of photographers, but only one me.
I love meeting other photographers and I love working with them. I have a few close friends that shoot boudoir and we are completely different photographers, but I love their work too. I go to them to open my creative boundaries. I know my limits – I would never take an image I would be embarrassed to show my daughters and I would never take an image of my clients that I wouldn’t take of my own of age children. I don’t ever want my clients to look back on this and be embarrassed. I want this to stand the test of time and I want them to look back and think “Man – I was something special!”

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’ve been exclusively shooting boudoir and babies (newborns and babies up to a year old) since 2012. I also offer nursing sessions and glamour maternity sessions, but I generally focus on my babies and boudoir. After my concerns with my fertility, I was thrilled to have children and become a mother – thus reinforcing this desire to capture this for others.

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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?

 Find yourself, and embrace the Hell out of it.

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 think it is definitely important. I don’t understand how people photograph women and not get on the other side to feel like their clients.

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

I personally think that men aren’t going to understand things like us women do, but just like a white person doesn’t understand things like ethnic or foreigners, do – it’s all about perspective. That being said, there are men I would love to shoot with.

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

YES! I go through this way more than I should, I think. When I find myself in a rut, I call a friend and we shoot/get together. Sometimes we shoot each other, sometimes we just get coffee and critique each other.

What do you love about the business?

I love using this business to teach people the importance of photography. When you’re going to the old people’s home – you’ll be throwing out all that other stuff and just gathering together the photographs. Hire the right person the first time. Get to know your photographer and let them capture you. When people are missing or become fatally injured and I see only selfies at their viewings, my heart aches. The most healing thing for me when my grandparents passed were the photographs. Their parents even hired amazing photographers to capture the fun and unique parts of their lives and I can never put into words how much that helped me grieve. The pictures are for you for a short time, but after that, they’re for your loved ones. And yes, that means boudoir work too.

What do you hate about the business?

 I wish people understood that it’s a real job and I have bills to pay. I was recently asked if I “made money ‘doing that'”. I was baffled but I just smiled and answered honestly that my clients usually invest about $1,400 a session and left it at 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’m a member of the AIBP (of course) and I am an affiliate photographer for the non profit Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I feel that NILMDTS has helped my soul grow and I have learned the true value of life through this organization.

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 haven’t participated in many competitions – mainly just due to my anxiety.

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SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:

 
Favorite food?   

I love supporting local, so I try to find things that are local. I love watermelon and ice cream for my every day favorites. I would never turn down either of those.

One guilty pleasure in life?

 Cold Stone Ice Cream and Decaf Lattes.

What is your favorite piece of clothing? 

 I love Strawberry Revolution. I am NOT stylish at all. My husband seriously has to approve my clothes almost daily.

What’s one song on your playlist? 

Sublime – What I got
I love 90s alternative – Goo Goo Dolls, Jack Johnson, Spice Girls and BSB and Nsync. Don’t judge. You know you love them.
Usher, Nelly, Frickin’ A, Britney Spears….
System of a Down – Any of their songs

What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?

 I love comedies and thrillers. I really don’t like chick flicks. I cry enough as it is. I don’t like horror movies or scary movies – but I love intense movies like Disturbia. Any movie where the good guy wins. If kids/animals are hurt in the movie, I immediately don’t like it.

Favorite shoes to wear?  

 I love flip flops, sandals, etc. I hate buying shoes and I only have a few pair, really. I don’t buy brand name things.

What are you currently reading? 

 You are a bad ass. I love business books and books that offer a new perspective in life, like Eckhart Tolle.

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

 If I could go anywhere, it would probably be my grandparent’s home. I made a lot of great memories there and I miss them dearly. I wish we lived in the same city because I would buy that house in a heartbeat.

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

I would encourage the younger version of myself to care less about my exes. I was way too worried about finding the right person. My biggest aspiration in life was to be happily married and have a family. I wish I would have had the confidence in myself enough to know that happiness started with me, and no one else.
 

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

 Leonardo DiCaprio. He is not only probably the ONLY person on my list of sexy men, his heart is just… amazing. What he’s done for the environment and for the world is something that I applaud beyond words. I wish I could just have dinner with him and listen to his story and really get to know him for a few hours. He’s so interesting to me. #Leo2020

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

 My anxiety. I have really bad social anxiety and self confidence issues. This whole article I’ve been questioning my writing style and how I’ve been kind of off topic. Sometimes I get really worried about it, but then I step back and realize if someone doesn’t like it – that’s a reflection of them and not me. I need to remind myself it’s okay to be myself, unapologetically.

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

 My husband and I have two beautiful girls and my life is kind of like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole and she’s doing things as she’s falling. That’s what my life feels like with my anxiety.
 
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?

I’ve covered this in the other questions (whoops) 😉

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

Be yourself, and don’t apologize for it. If you’re not hurting someone else, just embrace everything you stand for. I’d rather die standing than on my knees.

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Jen Swedhin
Jen Swedhin

Jen Swedhin is a natural light and studio photographer in Denver, CO. Jen specializes in intimate portraiture for men, and is one of the only photographers in the industry to focus on this niche. Jen is also the owner of Jen Gets Shit Done, a retouching, web design and mentoring service for boudoir photographers.

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