Featuring Mariah Carle

Featuring Mariah Carle

 This week’s featured photographer is Mariah Carle from sunny Oakland, California.
Where do you operate your business?  
My Boudoir Studio is located in Oakland, California in the arts district of Jingletown.
Your website
Your Facebook page
Your Pinterest account
Your Instagram account
Your Twitter account
Technical Specs:
Camera used
Canon 5DII & Fuji GF670 (120 Film Camera)
Lens choices
50MM 104 & 90MM 2.8 are my favorites
Processing Software
Photoshop CC, Lightroom
Do you use any actions?
Nik Collection (Bought by Google )
Do you retouch and if so can you give me a quick rundown on if you use any plugins, etc.?
I do most of my retouching on a pixel level & don’t use many actions. I do love Nik’s “silver effects” for B&W conversions and when I want that messy “film look” without actually using my film cameras.




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 someone who appreciates art, is creative, & exactly 34 degrees left of center. I work with clients who want their boudoir sessions to be custom tailored to their lifestyle, hobbies, & fantasies.

My clients are not limited to just women, 25% of my bookings are men, with several transgender clients per year as well. Many of my clients are bound by the duality of wanting more explicit images than most studios are comfortable with creating while also having a high profile job/life that needs to be private.

My clients find me through my website that has several special pages dedicated to each segment of the population, (Men:   Fetish:

Word of mouth is a delicate thing with my studio. We never publish images unless our clients ask us to, & most of our clients don’t wish to tell their friends & neighbors they just had such a great foot-fetish boudoir session.

In the past 5 years of having my Oakland studio, I have done over 150 “secret” Boudoir style shots, so someone is passing around my number. Some of our clients find us through erotic or sexual advocate style gallery shows.

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.
I don’t choose my clients by their stories, all stories need a voice, even if it’s only a secret whispered  in an artist’s ear. One phrase I am inspired by often is “I looked all over the internet for hours, I looked at dozens of studios, I hated them all, until I found you. I want you to shoot my idea/project/concept. I know you won’t judge me.”
Do you have a “welcome” product you give the clients and can you share that if you do.  Thanks.
I send out a little email, I have no one “welcome” product that would fit all my clients.  Unless it is a hug from a new friend.


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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?
My sales strategy is a backwards one, I start at the final result then we work in reverse to set up a session.

My clients contact me & before I go over packages & ask them if they have a “due date” Anniversary, Birthday, Wedding, and when do we need to be finished by. Then I ask them about the project they have in mind, we chat about their ideas, and what they want to create. For the clients who want a full boudoir experience filled with ribbons, roses, albums, and prints, we set up a consult & sketch out ideas and I let them wander around the studio while we put together the deluxe boudoir session that matches with their ideas.

For the clients who are in a time crunch or just want digital files for websites or dating or just a quick pick me up. We skip the consult and schedule a session asap. (2-3 weeks average lead time) We do a mini consult the day of, and we choose lingerie, props, & a set that matches their mood.

I let my clients do the proofing same day, right after the session. Yes I let them choose their favorite photos. Each person has a different opinion of what they want. I help guide the choices when they ask for advice.

For deluxe sessions, in person sales are made 2 weeks after the session. For digital only shoots, delivery in one week.

If you have a PDF or a copy to your pricelist you don’t mind sharing, that would be great.
Here’s a link to my site, so it will always be current, as my prices shift.
What products perform best in your studio?
Digitals, digitals, digitals. My area is very high tech and we love our digital files.  My next would be 5×7 prints for women & discreet leather 5×7 albums for men.





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.
The photography studio is a converted laundry facility with a lot of history in Oakland. The building has 40 lofts that are 1000 sq ft each. My studio has huge windows, 9 foot ceilings, & stained cement floors. It is the perfect place to be creative without worrying about wine on the carpet or scuffing a hardwood floor. We even installed a swing a few years ago.
The challenge is space. I could fill a 3000 sq ft studio with sets, props & lights in a minute. It is a constant revolving door of new sets & equipment vs enough space to work freely. I started with 3 strobes. I now have 6 strobes, 3 hot lights, & a beautiful vintage Bowens Fresnel light.

Do you have any plans to change and/or grow from your space in the near future.
I love my space, though I will grow out of it. In the next 5-10 years I plan on buying a warehouse style space in the area.

Do you keep strict hours of operation with your clients?
First shoot normally starts at 10am. I do schedule late evening shoots for clients who have busy demanding day jobs, & weekend shoots for clients who need them. Weekend shoots book up months in advance. Special events, like the San Francisco Folsom Street Fair, is booked a year in advance for the next several years. I have had the same client for 4 years at that event.

Natural Light, Studio Light, combination of styles?  What’s your preference?  What are your strengths and weaknesses with lighting, if any?
I love my studio lights. I love using the light to sculpt stories, feelings, & images. I also use some natural light. One of my most requested lighting styles is a “natural light look” after dark, when my clients are available.
(Many sneaking out for a “night with the girls” as a way to surprise their partner with a sexy gift)

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 two favorite MUA’s. They are paid 199.00 per “face”, with 1 look and an additional change of lip or to darken the eyes a bit.






How long have you been in business?  What were you doing before you started your photo business?
I took on my first boudoir commission on 2008. A friend told me she wanted some sexy photos for her boyfriend and she wanted me to take them. I have been doing boudoir by commission ever since
Did you go to school for photographer or are you self taught?
I started learning photography by modeling for photography classes. After experiencing hundreds of photo classes, I started interning & assisting under other professional photographers. One week, I would stay in an art photo studio in New Jersey, & another week, I would work with a commercial photographer in Chicago. For several years, I used to assist a wedding & portrait photographer in Carmel. All this experience has given me an education that goes beyond what most photography curriculum covers.
Did you always want to be a photographer or was it something that came later in life?
I have always been involved in art. I fell into photography around 2005.
What is your biggest struggle in this business?
My biggest struggle is convincing people that I am real. No one believes that this little 5’5″, purple-haired changeling actually runs a successful & sustainable business built on stealing souls.
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 found me, grabbed me, and refuses to let go. Many of my mentors told me I’d have to shoot portraits and generic Americana-style weddings or commercial photography to earn a living. Each year, I book more boudoir sessions and my reputation in this specialty grows. I also shoot creative portraits, & receive a number of inquiries from clients who are inspired by my boudoir work, yet don’t quite want to do a “boudoir” session.




If you knew someone who wanted to be a photographer, and could give them one piece of important advice, what would that be?
There are dozens of “types” of photographers. Some run commercial studios, some sell images to publications, some do gallery shows and sell prints, some work for private clients. Take some time & learn what your goals are. Is it to be published or to be paid, or just to learn more about the art of photography? Once you have those goals figured out, find the people who are DOING what you want to do & learn from them.
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 have been working as an art & nude model for a decade. I have done many boudoir style shots. I have even commissioned one or two boudoir shoots. I feel it is VERY important for all photographers to spend time in front of the lens. That experience gives you the insight to what your clients are going through.
How do you feel about the male / female debate regarding boudoir photographers? 
Some clients will prefer to be photographed by a man, while others will prefer to be photographed by a woman.
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 keep a varied schedule. A few days a week I shoot boudoir, & a few days a week I model for art schools. I make sure not to book too many shoots back to back. I have found that, for me, the best way to avoid burn out is to have a higher price point and lower volume. This allows me to spend time with fewer clients and be creative with their ideas, as opposed to cranking through 5 milk bath with flowers shoots a week.
What do you love about the business?
I love the creativity and the clients that become great friends.
What do you hate about the business?
The rampant sexism in the male dominated photography industry. I’ve been a professional, award winning, published photographer since 2008 & I STILL have guys offering to “teach me” basic photography lessons, that are many times wrong.
Are you a member of any professional photo organizations like PPA, WPPI?  What benefit do you feel you get by being a member?
I am not a member of those organizations, I love AIBP though.
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?
While I used to compete more in shows and events, this year I have concentrated on my clients. Winning awards are nice for decorating my walls, but creating art with clients is what feeds my passion.




Favorite food?
One guilty pleasure in life?
Late night hand fried nachos
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Black cotton tank top
What’s one song on your playlist?
Nick Cave “Do You Love Me?”
What’s your favorite movie genre? Example?
I love musicals. Everything from Victor Victoria to Chicago.

Favorite shoes to wear?
Doc Martins or Stuart Weizmann

What are you currently reading?
The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?
If I had the resources to go anywhere, I’d stay right where I am and search out every nook and cranny of Oakland. This city has so much all crammed in a few square miles. I find new things every week.
If you could go back and do over anything in your life, what would that be?
Jump in sooner, dive deeper, swim faster. I spent too much time waiting politely at the shoreline.
If you could meet and photograph someone famous, who would that be and why?
I’d love to spend an evening hanging out with & shooting Hunter S. Thompson.
What do you struggle with the most in life? (not photo related)
Whelp, I made it this far, now what do I do with my life?
Are you married, single, have kids, husband?  Is life a juggling act for you?
I’m single with an amazing 23 toed polydactyl black cat. I don’t juggle, I play hard ball.
Who inspires you the most in life? Work?
I don’t want to be inspired, I want to be the inspiration.
If you could provide one single piece of advice to influence a young person’s direction in life, what would that be?
Spend less time listening to what people say,  spend more time learning what they do.




Summer Crook
Summer Crook

Photographer and owner of GAIA LIOS - Art in Imagery


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