Featuring Kayleigh Stitt
This week’s featured photographer is Kayleigh Stitt of Black Orchid Photography, and comes to us all the way from Manchester, UK.
Where do you operate your business?
I’m mostly a studio photographer, working out of a studio that I do work for and occasionally use the space for my work in Manchester, UK.
Your Facebook page
Your Instagram account
Your Twitter account
https://twitter.com/kaztakesphotos (personal use only)
Canon 24-70mm F4 Lens
Processing Software (just provide the names of the one’s you use)
Photoshop & Lightroom
Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use and plugins, etc.?
I know how to retouch to a certain standard using Photoshop and Imagnomic portraiture plugin, but for really high-end retouching I would outsource it usually to Ryan Lea Image Retouching http://ryanlea.co.uk/
What most people want to know is how you market to your clients. Have you qualified who your ideal client is?
My ideal client is women 25-50 who are either getting married or have/need a confidence boost, and often larger women as I feel like I work well flattering that body type.
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.
Whilst working for other studios in the past, I have photographed many inspirational ladies. I remember a lady who had just recovered from a tumor in her arm and was getting married. She wanted some boudoir images not just to give to her husband-to-be, but also to show herself that she is still beautiful. She didn’t want her arm to be the feature of the shoot and she wanted it minimized where possible. With this in mind, she also didn’t want me to retouch it, as it is something that happened to her and it is part of her journey. Another issue I have dealt with a lot is ladies with body dysmorphia or just a serious lack of confidence. The way I deal with this is just to give them a lot of time to get into the flow of the shoot. I start them off with more covered up looks and work down to the more raunchy shots. I give lots of compliments, and although I don’t usually show photos as I shoot, occasionally, if you have a really really good close up, it’s good to show them. It helps to earn their trust that you are making them look wonderful. It’s always such a lovely outcome when these women see themselves at the end and realize that they are beautiful and see themselves the way that their partners see them.
Do you have a “welcome” product you give the clients and can you share that if you do. Thanks.
Not really, I’m afraid.
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?
At the moment, I just send their images out and sell them all digitally, but in-person viewing sessions are something that I have done for other companies in the past and I really feel this is the way to go. It’s lovely to show clients their images, get their reactions, and sell the images in albums or wall art too, so that they can look at them for years to come.
What products perform best in your 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 hire out a studio in Manchester UK when I have a shoot. I have, in the past, shot in client’s homes but feel my skills lie much more in studio photography. One day I would like my own studio. I do all of my editing from home, and have recently upgraded to a MAC, which literally changed my work life!
Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.
I’d like to think 5 years from now I would be working for myself a lot more and maybe have my own studio, or hire one more permanently, but I’m not really sure at the moment. It’s always been my dream, but I think I’m just scared to make the move!
Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?
Most of my clients at the moment are friends or friends of friends, so no, I’m really bad at that. I’m always online replying!
Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles? What’s your preference? What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?
Studio lighting is the way to go for me. Occasionally, if it’s bridal boudoir, I would use some natural light, but I have taught myself and been trained so much more in studio light. I love the way you can control the light indefinitely to do exactly what you want to do.
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 think makeup and hair stylists help make the shoot successful. The odd times when I haven’t worked with a MUA or used a less experienced MUA, I have really noticed it at the retouching stage. I think that for boudoir it is all part of the experience and part of getting the client into character and ready to be that slightly more daring version of themselves. The MUA I work with most is Rosanna Ponticelli https://twitter.com/muaponticelliand we have a brilliant working relationship. Her makeup is great and also she works fairly fast and makes sure that the clients come out of the chair on time, which, when you have a lot of clients in a row or you have hired a studio for a certain amount of time, this is just what you want. I also think it is important for a MUA to ask what the client wants and work with their ideas.
BUSINESS IN GENERAL:
How long have you been in business? What were you doing before you started your photo business?
Black Orchid Photography is a fairly new venture which I used to run as Kaz Photos until Jan 2015 when I decided I wanted a more sophisticated name that would work for both Boudoir and Weddings. I currently work full time for Andrew Wood Photography and I have worked for several Manchester (UK) studios for the past 8 years. I starting out doing more makeover photography with the rare boudoir shoot here and there. I watched boudoir blossom in the UK and become more and more acceptable, and I’m now to the point that, at my day job, I can shoot up to 21 boudoir shoots a week.
Did you go to school for photography or are you self taught?
I started out doing photography at college, and I have a degree in photography from the University of Central Lancashire. I have a LSWPP with the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers and am currently the only female holder of the ASIFGP award.
More recently I have gained some industry awards, coming third in a national photography competition for the Click Group, alongside AIBP competitions and SWPP competitions.
Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?
I was always into taking pictures from a very young age, from holiday pictures and photographing animals to 6th form college where I studied it. I thought it would be fun and then I ended up choosing it for a career. I went into portraits while at University because I realized that there wasn’t really a successful career path for me in photographing plants and animals, and Boudoir just slowly became my passion.
What is your biggest struggle in this business?
Marketing and getting the clients to come to you. Once you get the customer into the studio, they always love the result. There is no hard sell with boudoir, as you make them feel so special and look so amazing that who wouldn’t want to keep memories of that? It’s just convincing people to try it in the first place that is hard.
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.
Boudoir is by far the biggest sell in photography (sex sells) recently in the UK. We seem to be seeing more and more raunchy shoots, pushing the boundaries much more, and it is becoming far more acceptable. Also, every guy with a camera is a family photographer these days and it is hard to distinguish yourself from the crowd, whereas boudoir and photographers that shoot boudoir well are a much harder find. Most of my clients also comment on the fact that I am a woman and how this is really important to them, being in their underwear in front of a stranger. It’s not just that I think women know more about how another women is feeling about the shoot, like which parts of their bodies they are scared about and what they want to show off. I think being a larger lady, and very down to earth, also helps me. It’s as if they are thinking “If she can do it, then I can too” and it somehow makes me more approachable than if I was “a model”. They don’t feel like I would be judging them.
If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?
Don’t waste money on an expensive kit that you don’t know how to use. Start out small with one camera and one lens and do loads of test shoots for practice, and really learn how to pose and how to light. It’s not about what camera you have, it’s about what you can do with 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?
Definitely. I shot boudoir for 5 years without ever having a shoot, and it wasn’t until I did that I realized how damned tricky some of those poses were and how you actually feel doing them. Also, there is such a huge amount of trust between the client and the photographer to make them look good, the urge to cover yourself up at first is immense. The worst fear is the initial being naked in front of someone that isn’t your partner, but it is funny how quick you get over that. I think it improved my client experience immensely. ALL boudoir photographers should have a shoot, or two, or five! Why shouldn’t guys do it too? Dudeoir!!
How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers?
Girls and gay guys usually. Although, the right male personality can be a brilliant boudoir photographer, but I think they do need to work harder at putting the client at ease. Females just have that in the bag from being female, in most cases.
What do you do to avoid burn-out? Is there ever a time when you just want to throw your camera out the window?
I like adult coloring books. I find they are great for stress relief. I have a pinup one and a patterns one.
What do you love about the business?
I love making people feel amazing about themselves and their bodies.
What do you hate about the business?
The discrimination from people who don’t understand and just think we shoot porn, and can’t possibly understand that it is about confidence building.
Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI? What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?
SWPP SIFGP, I get to earn qualifications and enter competitions, although I don’t feel that they like or understand boudoir very much sometimes. I feel they are fairly old fashioned in their views and hopefully one day soon they will come round.
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 like the contests. However, as I don’t shoot that often for Black Orchid Photography, I do feel upset that you can’t use older images like you used to be able to, as I have very limited material to enter. But I do understand why you did it.
SOME FUN MORE PERSONAL STUFF:
One guilty pleasure in life?
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
My green and leopard print vintage coat.
What’s one song on your playlist?
Ru Paul- Born Naked
What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?
Sci Fi (Back to the Future, Resident Evil) big nerd.
Favorite shoes to wear?
My wedding shoes, red glittery heels that look like Dorothy’s from The Wizard of Oz!
What are you currently reading?
Not a lot 🙁 I prefer coloring and have a range of adult coloring books!
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
I would love to visit New York.
If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?
Probably University. The studio and equipment were brilliant, but I spent more time drinking and going out than making the most of it!>
If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?
Will.I.am. Imagine the outfits, the props, the crazy energy in that shoot!
What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)
Wanting to do so much and not ticking things off the list that you wanted to achieve.
Are you married, single, have kids, husband? Is life a juggling act for you?
Married. I do struggle with work/life balance especially juggling my day job with Black Orchid Photography, and trying to have a life in-between.
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?
My parents are a great inspiration. They have always worked so hard and have brought me up to appreciate what you have. Photographer-wise I love Miss Boudoir who is a Manchester Boudoir Studio who has been going for a long time, and I think has been a great influence in getting boudoir recognized in my area. I also love the work of For Your Eyes Only and AIBP’s Cate Scaglione’s work is amazing.
If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person’s direction in life, what would that be?
Follow your heart and do what you want to do. Don’t listen to the haters and believe in your own ideas.