• Featuring Melissa and Ray Trout

    by  • August 27, 2015 • Featured Photographer

    This week's featured photographers are Melissa and Ray Trout of Under the Garter Boudoir.
    Where do you operate your business?
    Denver, CO
    Your website

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    Technical Specs:
    Camera used :
    Panasonic GH3 bodies and APS-C Canon EOS bodies.
    Lens choices:
    Primarily a Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35 f/2.8 and an Olympus 25mm f/1.8 (24-70 and 50 35mm equivalent,) and some legacy Vivitar Series 1 35mm manual primes and zooms with a Metabones Speed Booster. Awesome for video too!
    Processing Software (just provide the names of the one's you use)
    We use Lightroom and Photoshop.
    Do you use any actions?
    Very rarely, although we have a few from Totally Rad! that can be helpful.

    Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use any plugins, etc.?
    Yes! Retouching is so important when it comes to boudoir. We love the Portraiture plug-in for Lightroom.
    What most people want to know is how you market to your clients.  Have you qualified who is your ideal client? 
    We've spent a lot of time working really hard on our SEO. The majority of our clients find us via Google or word of mouth. Our ideal client values photography as fine art and the pampering that comes with a luxury boudoir session.
    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.
    We've been really lucky in that we've had really amazing clients and have had very few issues. We always try to exceed expectations for clients and when something happens that is beyond our control, like a vendor not delivering on time, we always do something extra for our clients. This can be as easy as delivering their product with a bouquet of flowers or gifting them with a StickyAlbum.
    Do you have a "welcome" product you give the clients?
    We do! Our welcome packets come in a beautiful charcoal gray welcome folder that includes brochures on what to expect, how to care for the products, our pricing, a discount code for luxury lingerie and referral cards. Wrapped in pink ribbon and sealed with a personal message.
    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?
    It's really important to educate potential clients from the very beginning. Clients will initially approach you because they want the end product -- beautiful boudoir portraits. It's our job as photographers to teach them that it's about much more than that. A boudoir session is an experience and it should be a safe, fun and pampering one. We've even been able to book clients who were just price shopping by explaining why it's important to invest in boudoir photography. With this type of product, you get what you pay for and you don't want "cheap" associated with taking your clothes off in front of someone unfamiliar.
    By the time a client arrives at their reveal session they've developed a relationship with us and are excited to see their images. Our most popular product is our Italian leather 10x10 album and almost all clients purchase page upgrades.
    Our session fee is $399 and includes wine or champagne, chocolates, fresh fruit, a professional makeover courtesy of our hair and airbrush makeup team, a 2-hour shoot to relax them into showing their unique personality, a gift certificate for a 60-minute massage or facial and a goodie bag full of high-end beauty products. We sell our products a la carte and they begin at $749.
    What products perform best in your studio? 
    Our Italian leather albums are by far our most popular item, specifically the 10"x10" size. Albums are the perfect elegant and discreet way to present boudoir portraits to a significant other.
    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.
    We work in a beautiful studio filled with natural light. Our studio includes a meeting room for reveals and initial meetings, hair and makeup bar, boudoir bedroom, an area with white and gray seamless and a full kitchen. Our studio also has a boardroom with a long table ("Sexy secretary?" We gotcha covered!) and a very industrial-looking stone, metal and glass rooftop where we're able to take really sexy images with a bit of a grunge or industrial feel.
    AA11 AA10 AA8 AA7 AA9
    Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?
    We want to make sure that we're able to give our absolute best to our clients, so we're pretty strict about our hours of operation. We have two small children and want to make sure that we're getting to spend a lot of quality time with them as well as time together as a couple. Yes, we actually like being together after working all day in the studio together. It's also important to be strict about session times since we shoot almost entirely with natural light.
    Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles?  What's your preference?  What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?
    We strongly prefer natural light, although certain sets and time of day require supplemental continuous light color matched to daylight.
    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 hire a makeup artist and a hair stylist for every session. In our opinion, good hair and makeup can make or break your session. Most clients have no idea how to do their hair or makeup for a photo session, so it's really important to have professionals there. We have a very small pool of creative and talented stylists, each with the level of personal warmth and professionalism our brand requires.We only work with a few stylists and we've worked really hard to build a relationship with all of them. Our primary makeup artist, Ally Triolo, has been with us since the very beginning and she feels like family at this point. When she was pregnant last year, we gifted her with a maternity boudoir session and we often babysit her adorable baby girl, Ruby. LOVE that little girl!
    Building close relationships with our stylists makes for a more fun, relaxed shoot, but it also builds loyalty and trust. We know we can count on our girls because we know them so well.

    How long have you been in business?  What were you doing before you started your photo business?
    We've been doing boudoir photography for four years. We also created some incredibly popular boudoir short films, but photography is our primary passion.
    Did you go to school for photographer or are you self taught?
    Melissa trained as a photojournalist for city newspapers on 35mm film cameras and Ray comes from 20 years in broadcast journalism, TV and cinema advertising and exhibition.
    Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?
    Melissa: I wanted to be and was a journalist before the decline of the print journalism industry.
    Ray: I wanted to be a fighter pilot, speed skater, then car and motorcycle racer. All of which I photographed.
    What is your biggest struggle in this business?
    Sustaining the fine art of portrait photography in an era of iPhones. While art can be achieved with simple tools (there's a cinematographer who created a workable film short with a no-megapixel video camera that came built into particular model of Barbie Doll. . .), having a camera doesn't make everyone a photographer.
    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.
    Because the reveal is so rewarding! Our clients get so excited when they see what we see. They giggle, say "Omigod! Omigod! That's crazy!" and truly have a hard time narrowing down their selected images from our revealed set. It's a big confidence booster for them and for us!
    If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?
    "It's not the tool, it's the fool." Photography is about creativity, not the device. Express yourself. Maybe make an exhibit made entirely with "Barbiecam" images.
    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?
    Melissa has done a boudoir session previously (with a nationally-published artist!) and it was a horrible experience. It taught us a lot about what NOT to do in our business. The photos were beautiful, but we've never displayed them in our home because all Melissa can think about is the experience when she sees them.
    How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?  
    We believe that men and women each bring something different to the table, which is what makes us such a great husband-and-wife team. After having shot many on-camera interviews for TV, Ray knows how to be the calming presence on set and is able to relax clients into revealing their personalities. Ray shoots what a man thinks is sexy (and knows what women think is sexy too.) Melissa does all the image retouching from a woman's perspective. Melissa makes certain all the details are seamless from the initial consult to the product delivery and everything in between.
    What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?
    Whenever we start to feel burnt out, we know that there's something that we need to change in our business to make us more efficient. Owning a business shouldn't be a miserable experience.In the past that has meant creating more efficient workflows. Like finding a plug-in that allows for batch editing, thereby cutting our editing time down significantly, or ordering workflow software so we can automate many of the things that Melissa does each day. Making these changes has allowed us to do more work while giving us more free time. Efficient use of time makes more time to focus on creativity, client service and quality time with family and friends.
    We've also found that getting away from the computer is incredibly beneficial. We're lucky enough to live next to Denver's gorgeous Wash Park and try to start each day with a walk around the park. We're able to use that time to plan our day and seeing the beautiful scenery inspires us.
    What do you love about the business?
    The difference we make in our client's lives! We love proving a client wrong when they're convinced that we won't be able to take any good photos of them. Almost every client is convinced that they're not photogenic.
    What do you hate about the business?
    There's not really anything that we hate, but bookkeeping and paying taxes isn't exactly fun.
    Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI?  What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?
    We never stop learning how to be better at what we do, although we're not focused on particular professional organizations. We do participate in a few key groups online that share ideas, tips and different perspectives on our industry. We discuss new ways to create and refine our work and our brand. We read and tweak constantly.
    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?
    We try to compete in the AIBP contests as often as possible and submitted two sessions for AIBP's Philosophie magazine, but we don't compete nearly as often as we'd like.
    Favorite food?
    Anything served next to a margarita on a patio at sunset.
    One guilty pleasure in life?
    Melissa: Um, I play really embarrassing games on my phone. Often. I refuse to name them.
    Ray: "I don't mind being 'Rick Rolled.' It's still a decent song" (said no one ever.)
    What is your favorite piece of clothing?
    Any one of the far too many jackets we own. We're both addicted. We probably own more jackets than shirts. It's embarrassing.
    What's one song on your playlist?
    Arabella by Arctic Monkeys. "It's much less picturesque without her catching (the light.) The horizon tries, but it's just not as kind on the eyes. As Arabella oh."
    What's your favorite movie genre? Example?
    Ray: "Sci-Fi. Bladerunner."
    Melissa: Do I need to have a favorite? I love most genres. "Frida" has been a favorite of mine for years.
    Favorite shoes to wear?
    Ray: Madden leather ankle-zip boots
    Melissa: I've been reduced to wearing flats after a back injury and usually wear Michael Kors flats.
    What are you currently reading?
    We're constantly reading. Everything from photography and business books to the latest news.
    If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
    Ray: "Lisbon."
    Melissa: "I'd be happy to just have the time to get out of the country." (Ray would also be happy to have that time with Melissa)
    If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?
    Ray: "Gone 5 mph slower at turn 2 at Pikes Peak International Raceway during a motorcycle road race in May 2011. Perhaps that wouldn't have resulted in a month-long stay at the hospital and two months in a wheelchair. Yeah... that."
    If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?
    Nikola Tesla to try to understand how he perceived the world. While he created giant machines that generated lightning and earthquakes. In the early 1900s...
    What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)
    I think this is a worry for most parents -- trying to make sure that you're doing the best job possible with your children.
    Are you married, single, have kids, husband?  Is life a juggling act for you?
    We're married with two wild and crazy boys, Egan and Ryder. We also have a giant Australian Shepherd named Rocket.
    Who inspires you the most in life? Work?
    Melissa: I find Ray incredibly inspiring both in life and work. Ray has a very different (better) way of looking at the world and it's really affected the way I respond to events in my life. Every day he encourages me to be the best version of myself. When Ray taught me how to shoot video, it made me look at music videos and movies in a totally new way. I have a greater appreciation now. We're frequently on the same page when it comes to finding inspiration in film and photography and sharing that inspiration with him makes my life richer.
    Ray: Melissa is my guiding light. She's sexy, creative, truly principled and tough as nails. Killer combo. No, you can't have her.
    If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person's direction in life, what would that be?
    Ray: Laugh out loud like a crazy person at as many things as you can. Ryder (4) belts out a laugh like that. It can make people smile at 100 yards. It's the best thing ever.
    Melissa: Don't let fear hold you back! You will regret so many of the chances you never took.


    Photographer and owner of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery