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The Value of Failure

Lesson 28 from: Boudoir Photography

Rachel Stephens

The Value of Failure

Lesson 28 from: Boudoir Photography

Rachel Stephens

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Lesson Info

28. The Value of Failure

Lesson Info

The Value of Failure

I did discuss a little bit about, um, the trials and tribulations that I've been through. I just wanted to kind of expand on it for you guys, what I've been going through over the last 10 years, and a lot of people would view it as failure, one thing after another. A lot of people could look at it as this just isn't working. Something's not right. I never allowed myself to do that because I believe in what I dio. I believe in my clients. I believe in the message and the interaction I believe in. I believe that boudoir is an art just like every other type of photography. I believe that celebrating the regular women just like we celebrate models or celebrities, and I don't think that there should be a divide, I think that the playing field should be leveled, and just the fact that I'm here is proof that it is leveling. I'm so happy to be here, and I'm hoping that that means that you won't have to go through most of the things that I've been through. Um, I remember once being at a party, ...

a gallery opening and meeting a bunch of photographers and it came up what I dio and I said I was in the boudoir photographer and one of them went Oh, and patted me on the head in front of everyone and said, Well, you know, you have we got to make your money It was so humiliating. And I've had, um, hotels reject me because I'm a boudoir photographer and I've had a love hate with word boudoir because of this. And there was There was a time when I put together Rachel Stevens, photography for women, where I didn't use the word boudoir because I wanted to have the best venues I wanted to be able. Teoh have sponsors Teoh to get further on in my career that I have earned it. I felt I earned it. And then I realized I am doing the same thing that these people are doing. I'm discounting it. I need to live my truth. And then I really embraced the word. I'm a boudoir photographer and I'm proud. Why should I look down upon it and be providing a service that I, myself am not lifting up toe where it deserves to be? So that's where I've been That's the That's where I've been routed. That's where I've been fighting and through all of the things that that I've been through, I've learned that there's value and failure and don't fear failure. These are all things that are going to teach us where we want to be there gonna teach us how to be stronger if you want to look at your path and you want to look at failure like stepping stones every single time something tries to knock you down. You squash that right underneath you and you make that a stepping stone one step forward. So you take your failure. Don't be afraid of it. It's a great teacher. Learn from it. Something isn't working for you and it doesn't work out. And there's that, like how you know that I know that feeling. I understand that feeling where your your heart sinks into your stomach because you have all this hope. I mean, I get it. I've got kids. You tried to do the workshops and not it didn't work out. People that want to pay that much money and you know, we we lost money on that, but I didn't feel a shame that I did it because I tried. Instead, Sean and I, we looked at it like, OK, this didn't work. How can we use this experience to figure out our next step? How can we use this experience to shine light on our journey so that we know what direction to take? I don't have shame and failing. It's okay to fail. It's OK to talk about your failures. I think if more of us were open about our failures like we are with our successes, I think that we would we would gain so much more having a community to be able Teoh bounce things off of and to be able to support each other. When these kinds of things do happen to know that we're not alone. When you're when you're holding all that stuff inside, it's hard to be confident in where you are. It's hard to, you know, get that power pose and find that confident place and project that out into the world and to harness your passion. And when you know you're holding all this negative stuff inside, it's just kind of like you just kind of do this inside, so don't be afraid let it teach you. Don't be ashamed. Build upon it. Learn the lessons that your failures air trying to teach you and let it work for you when we fail. And then we're afraid of what people are gonna think. Or if we're afraid of. If I try again, I might fail again. Or if we're afraid, I've already invested this money and you know, I've got to pay my nanny or I've got to pay rent or whatever it is. These are all things we all struggle with trying to make, trying to build a viable business as an artist. That's difficult. So the fact that you are all out there trying to do it need to pat yourself on the back because it takes balls, takes balls to say, I'm gonna go be an artist. You know, there's no guaranteed paycheck when you say you want to go be an artist. You're out there believing in yourself. So you already have that courage. If you stumble and fall, sometimes you have to just get right back up. Look for where that stepping stone is in front of you. Find your journey. The fight for respect as a boudoir photographer. Every we all go through it. I wish I could say that we're at a place in society. Where now? Hey, I'm on Creative life fights over. It's not. It's not over. I can't say that it ever will be over. I know that there are. I don't understand what it is about being Abboud war photographer. That somehow makes us less than, Ah, fine art photographer or a fashion photographer or a portrait photographer who basically does the same things but just won't use the word boudoir somehow were less than it takes us together, Unified, to say no. We are the ones that have to demand respect as boudoir photographers and be proud if we expect to get respect. So we're gonna talk about problem solving a little bit. I know that for me, When Sean came on toe work with me, things just went. I mean, he is just He's brilliant and he has been It's been such a huge help to have someone else. Come on. I was working for six years on my own before he came on with me full time. We had two little Children. One was a baby. I want you know, and he would he have a day job? I was going, you know, trying to work on weekends when I would travel. Then he would be gone all week. I was raising my kids, stay at home, Mom, trying to dio marketing myself, trying to get back to emails, trying to edit, you know, and I have my Children weren't happy. I have my daughter trying to give me my get attention from me. Get attention. Mommy's doing emails. I need to be quiet. She's about 18 months old and it got a little too quiet. If you're a parent, you know, that's not a good thing. And I looked down and she took off her pajamas and pooped on the floor next to my chair, and she let me know that. Okay, fine. You can have your time, but I'm gonna give you this little present. So you know that the sacrifices that my family has had to make as I was building my business this is something that when sean came on, the sacrifices were still there. But the responsibilities air now divided so I could breathe, I could now say Okay, I'm gonna focus on creative And that's when my work really started. Teoh Excel as well. I had that freedom to be able Teoh really push myself in Photoshopped and push myself with lighting and push myself with getting everything set up during an event so that when I'm shooting, I can focus on connecting with my client because you know, when you're shooting and we're talking, we talked about fake it till you make it. It's difficult when you're, like in your head going, Oh my God, I don't know why this is working, but you're trying to connect and they're talking about something really intimate and important, and you don't want to break that connection. But you can't get, you know it's It's like two dark, and you can't kid it to expose. So having that breathing room to be able, Teoh get comfortable with my shooting style, and my creative process has been huge for me. I know that that's not viable for everyone. There are a lot of you out there starting your business is you don't have someone to come on with you full time. So I have some ideas for that to help you problem solve, be your own assistant. I had to do this before Sean came on for me. It's really weird for me marketing and you're talking to someone being I am one of the best and I've got you, like just I can't do that like it just freaks me out. So if you talk in third person about yourself and sell yourself in writing, you can create email templates. So let's say someone you know wants wants a session. They email you. You have a template form that you send back in the voice of an assistant. So then you can say you Rachel shoots this way. Rachel does this blah, blah, blah, blah, And you have your policy done in third person. Not I don't allow this. So then you. Then there's that separation. Then you don't have to worry about someone getting, you know, their hackles raising because they think that I don't know that you think you're better than them. Or however someone would take that. You don't have to worry about that because now you're 1/3 party. And as we mentioned before, when we're talking about pre shoot consultations, so much can be done before in writing all that stuff when we talked about priest appreciate consultations. If you sit down and note all the questions that are being at that are being asked, like 99% of them are the same questions over and over and over, so you can just put in F A Q up on your website, and then you can just kind of, you know, add it into your policy in a more business like manner for the things that you will and will not allow. And you give them all this information and you oughta responded. You can set your email. You can have an email just four enquiries, so email comes in. They were interested about a session auto responds to them with this beautiful thing that you've that you've written as if you're your own assistant or manager. It goes out to them, and then you have your own email. So you know they have hoops that they have to jump to before they get to a point where either they meet you at the session or they get a pre shoot consultation, either in person or by the phone, or maybe just by email. However, you want Teoh, devise it. However, you want to put it together, whatever works for you. Strong policies, these all go together. So you write all the policies you keep him really, really, really strong. So that you're not getting in a situation where then you have to say, Oh, well, I don't shoot that way. You can say, Well, as per the policy, this isn't allowed. So I mean, I've had people. I've had a client bring her daughter to a boudoir shoot like her little kid thinking Well, she could just hang out on the side while I get my photo shoot. Well, I'm sorry. I said, There's no shopper owns no Children, no spouses. So you're gonna have to leave and she loses her session. So there's no argument there because it's in my policy. I've had people. When I was shooting in hotels, I had a lady come in with a, um, a cart full of bags and room service tray following it for a mini session, and she walks in like she's Lady Gaga, and I was like, What's happening here? So she's another person I had to ask to leave because it's in the policy, so you have a strong policy and it will grow. I believe that we owe included it in the bonus material. Okay, So our policies in the bonus material I've been at this for over a decade. I've had pretty much every possible thing happened to me. Um, lots of things that make me really uncomfortable in the moment. So it's all in there. You guys just go ahead and pick out what you want. So you don't have Teoh go through that awkwardness where something's not in the policy and you have to address it. You don't know how to address it. It's in the policy already. You can just bounce right off it. That's in the policy. I'm sorry we don't do that or you're going to need to leave. So let's talk about. But I know we've been talking about but a lot all these three days, but not the but we're gonna talk about the word but the word but is so powerful. When I started teaching, um and I try talking to students and trying to help them. Problem solved. I would always hear things like I really want to shoot boudoir by live in a small town so when you use the word but you've already ended the conversation for yourself, it justifies failure. You have already presented the problem and then given yourself no opening for solution. So when you come from that place, you know when when I talked earlier about manifesting negativity, I think that's really where it comes from. I think that in anything that we do, especially when we're going into the unknown, like becoming a photographer, I think that there is that fear that's rooted in us. That what if it doesn't work? What if I don't make money? What if this What if that we we beat ourselves up with it? I've done it. I mean, I do it still. I was scared to death to come to hear, you know, so fear just it's It's just always there, wanting to rob us of extraordinary opportunities. And it's up to us to recognize that and to just just beat it down and not let us get it, not let it get in our way. It totally kills your opportunity for problem solving. Once you've had that conversation with yourself, I'd really love to shoot boudoir, But I'm a guy. I don't wanna be that creepy photographer. Well, then you've already sentenced yourself to being the creepy guy photographer, and then that's it. So when you come from a place of confidence, it doesn't mean I completely love myself, and I can do everything in the whole wide world. Confidence is a hard earned feeling. It's something that we do every single day that we work on constantly. It's part of evolving as a human being and a person just being able to every day say, I can do this or every day being able to say this is a lot of work. But I got this or having to do something new and telling yourself that you're capable knowing that you're a good person, knowing what kind of life you want to design for yourself all of these things. Earlier, we had talked about what drives you. Keeping that solid in your heart is is so important because that's the That's the place where you're gonna be able to shut down all that negativity. That's the place where you're gonna be able to recover from failures and from falling down. You'll be able to bounce yourself back up because you know what's driving you, and that's what helps you. That place is gonna help you bring all that confidence, all that good stuff in around yourself, to shield yourself from all that other stuff and all that other stuff isn't just trying something and then not working out all that other stuff could be friends. It could be family people in your town. Other photographers you meet people that on message boards, chat rooms, you have it all over the place. You've got those that negativity of people telling you you can't do it or you shouldn't do it this way. I mean, I understand very well now from this creative life experience that I do things differently. But if I would have listened to every single person that told me that I shouldn't be doing something a certain way because apparently I do a lot of things wrong, I wouldn't be standing here teaching this class. Something got me here, and that's because I didn't give up. I believed in myself. I thought about those three little faces every single time. I started to feel like I couldn't do it, Or maybe I was less than maybe maybe boudoir is less than I thought about my kids and that helped put me back in that place to realign with my passion. It made it real for me. So what drives you find that? Hold on to it when you use the word but and you keep that negative block in front of you and your dream, it completely blocks your passion. It it's like it. Like numbs everything. Like your senses. When you keep that kind of blockade In between you and the gold ring, it helps just kind of color everything that once was bright and beautiful and your hopes and your dreams and you start toe, get into this mindset Your hopes and dreams just start to decay and seem so far away. So to battle that there is an incredible American philosopher that Sean and I love dearly departed Joseph Campbell. I highly recommend, uh, that people listen. Teoh A set of interviews that he did Sean will provide the link for you guys. He has a few philosophies that I love, that I'm going to talk about with you guys today. One is follow your bliss. And when he talks about bliss, he doesn't mean like bliss like feeling good. He means bliss like your dream when he talks about bliss, that thing inside you, that what drives you that's your bliss, where your dream, that gold ring your world, that you want to design for yourself. That's your bliss. So Joseph Campbell says, Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls. And it's so true. Remember this quote. This quote has gotten me through so much adversity in my journey as a boudoir photographer. My fight for respect, my struggle, Teoh design a life that I'm proud of, that I feel like has meaning to me that I feel like my Children can be proud of their mom. Ah, life where I can be with my husband and a life that means something toe all of us, and you do get down. It does get hard, and there has been there, have my body's breaking down there, but I have to work. I push through it, so it's not easy. It's hard, but I'm not afraid of hard work. If you guys air here, you want to be photographers. You're not afraid of hard work. It's not gonna be laid out for us. It's not like something we can go to school and okay, we learn it. And now this is our career, and this is just what we do every day for the rest of our lives. It's a beautiful opportunity to be able Teoh to create, and you get Teoh push things and try new things. And as technology advances, there's all these new techniques that we get to use. Or maybe we want to stay over here. That's OK, Teoh, or let's try this in the new gear. I'm such a gearhead. I would much rather go Teoh photo studio or go to a Mac store, then go like shoe shopping like I absolutely love to go see, like the new tech that's out there. It's so exciting to me to know that no matter how long I go in this career, things are always gonna change for me. That's exciting. I love to know that I'm not gonna get bored. I'm gonna be able it's gonna switch up for me, and I'm gonna be able to have all these new opportunities to switch up to switch it up. Will it make it faster? Can I get more creative can can you know? Maybe they'll be like some amazing strobe system, that super super light that I can take on the road with background? I have no idea, you know, Aren't they cloning sheep or something like they can clone things they can make Super lights photography sets? I don't know. So it's It's really, really exciting to know that we are in a craft that is ever evolving, just like we are. It's it's it's very exciting. So Joseph Campbell also talks about the hero's journey, and I know I'm being a total Joseph Campbell groupie right now, but he is just so amazing. Um, the hero's journey basically. So let me just save it. Um, it's It's a very famous. The scripts for Star Wars and The Matrix were all written based on the philosophy of the hero's journey. So the hero you are the hero in your own journey. We are all the heroes in our own journey, and his whole philosophy is that the hero leaves the village. He goes out and fights adversity. He comes back when he's learned everything back to the village and shares with the village. What he's learned I am really not this soft people. I am not this soft. I am lying. I'm totally saw. I have come back to the village to share with you to share with my village photographers. Those moms out there struggling to find time and money to become a photographer toe live your dream. Come back to share with you what I've learned. Sorry, it sucks. And the way that we can relate it to all of you out there is when you're out there and your conquering your adversity, whether it be struggling with your technique and photo shop, whether it be connecting with clients and finding your flow with clients, whether it be mastering lighting, whether it be trying to figure out how to find the time between being your own assistant and being the creative artist, the respect, all of that stuff you're going to be out there. You're gonna be fighting dragons. And when you come around and when you come back to the village instead of shipment, not all of you're gonna want to teach. When you get back to the village, you can stop and say I am no longer visualizing my dream I'm now living my dream because your journey comes full circle. And that's what the hero's journey is. Always belt. Live your dream. So if you can take away anything from this segment of what I've been talking about other than I'm a total softy Um What drives you rooted inside your heart? Follow your bliss. Tell your living your dream.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Client Policy
Example: 2 Day Schedule
Lightroom Presets
Lightroom Presets Installation Instructions
Client Session Information
Full Edit & Longhand Retouch Partt 1
Full Edit & Longhand Retouch Part 2
Full Edit & Longhand Retouch Part 3
Longhand Retouch Part 1
Longhand Retouch Part 2
Facebook Ad Creation
Full Edit in Lightroom

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

Let me first start off by saying that Rachel puts her subject first. She has a passion for empowering the everyday woman, showing them that Boudoir photography by no means only belongs to the "supermodels". She shows them that they're amazing and beautiful, and it was so comforting and heartwarming to see this in action in her Creative Live course! When Rachel's shooting with a client it's almost like no-one's in the room but the two of them. Rachel gives her undivided attention to the client's safety and well-being and general comfort. I was so glad I tuned in for the course as I learnt countless tips and techniques about lighting, angles, posing, different settings for the different types of shots you'd want to grab. Another reason that watching the class was such a pleasure for me is that Rachel comes across as that awesome, down to earth, lovely friend you might have in your life, who just happens to be one of the BEST Boudoir photogs on the planet! This was an excellent workshop, top to bottom, and I'd recommend purchasing it to anyone who wants to learn everything about this type of photography, including the business side of things which her husband, Sean, explained thoroughly. I have absolutely no idea what a couple reviewers were "disappointed with" but take it from me - this is a STELLAR course and if you're looking to get into the business, or just even honing your skills on photographing the ladies, this is most definitely the course for you! Tons of info - great guidelines on how to handle your models, great info on lighting, lenses and settings! Rachel will make you fall in love with Boudoir photography like your life depended on it! She's just THAT good! So go on, purchase the course and have her invaluable instruction at your fingertips whenever you need it!


I mainly photograph landscapes but I'm interested in learning other types of photography. Being introverted it's a challenge for me to photograph people but I it's a barrier I want to get over. I purchased this course and some others on portraiture and boudoir photography. While Rachel and her husband aren't polished speakers I thought they were honest and straightforward. The "clients" being photographed seemed a bit nervous but I imagine that had a lot to do with the fact they were doing the boudoir session live in front of thousands if not millions of viewers. Rachel also had to keep in mind she was tethered and the recording of the session while photographing her client so I don't think this was optimal and Rachel's back began to bother her so I'm sure she was in some physical pain. Regardless, the resulting pictures were beautiful so Rachel was able to make her clients feel "safe" enough to get through the session. Also it seems part of the audience were women who had been photographed by Rachael so it says something that they came to learn from and support Rachel. I appreciated Rachel was photographing real women, not models. What I liked most about this course is it made me feel like little 'ol ordinary me could be a boudoir photographer too If I am ever inclined to do so. Her style of photography isn't quite mine, but the session was still useful and instructive especially with regard to her lighting set up. I wish Rachel had talked a bit more about setting up the support team that goes around with her like her make up and hair artists, how she finds and decides on houses to rent and what cities she goes to, etc. but I guess you can't go over every single thing in a single course or maybe that can be a future course. Rachel and her husband seemed like a nice down to earth couple who put their family first and they were quite honest about some of the difficulties and their concerns over safety for themselves and their clients. I was touched that Rachel photographs women who have gone through cancer treatment for free as I do volunteer work in a hospital. I thought the bonus and included materials which had Rachel's Lightroom presets and her client info packet was very generous. Some of the other photographers charge for getting a copy of their client documents and presets. I purchased Rachel's eBook off Amazon and wanted to purchase Rachel's Photoshop actions but in searching for the purchase links I read Rachel is going through some health issues, I think it was spinal fusion, and it seems has suspended her business until she recovers. It looks like she plans to still make her "return" sessions starting with Hawaii during April 2017. I wish her and her family the best and will say a prayer for her quick and complete recovery. Thank you Rachel and Sean for coming to Creative Live and I hope you will teach another class or at least participate in a critique of boudoir photographs.


Warning: You are about to encounter a large number of exclamation points. ;-) This was such a great course! It was great to learn boudoir with such a caring, generous, and knowledgeable pair! Rachel really brought it with her posing, shooting, and building rapport with her clients. She even kept going while in intense pain! Also, the sections on retouching were EXCELLENT! I had trouble following the first retouching segment where she used her actions, but then she came back to retouching later and showed us how to do each step "longhand". Knowing what each action is designed for makes such a difference! I feel like Rachel read the audience and saw that we were floundering, and tailored her presentation to just what we needed! Sean was also very thorough in his presentation of the "business" side. It is hard, as an artist, for me to run my business like a business. Sean showed how it can be done. He also showed the need for a strong "why" to focus on when telling others about policies. "It's a business. I need to feed my kids." I need to reach down and find my "why" that will keep me strong enough to stand behind my policies and pricing. I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and go through all of the bonus materials yet, but I am so excited to see what's in there! I saw that Rachel had posted a longhand version of the "little hug," and I watched it, and I have been trying it out on some of my older images. Just that one little tweak makes such a difference! Thank you, Rachel and Sean, for giving us SO MUCH usable content! I'm so glad I decided to watch and then purchase this course! And I can't wait to see the two of you again for your next creativeLIVE!

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