Boudoir Photography with Johanna Elizabeth

June 24, 2020

It is an absolute pleasure to talk to Photographer, Trainer and RISE Member Johanna Elizabeth. I have always admired Jo’s work and the confidence she instills in all the women who enter her stunning studio in Havant, Hampshire. So I jumped at the opportunity, to ask Jo a few questions.

RISE: You have had a change in your career, from NHS Midwife into photography, that is quite a change, is this just down to following a dream, or is there more to it?

I’ve often tried to analyse what triggered my change of career. On the face of it, I was ambitious and set up the teenage pregnancy service in West Sussex at the time, I loved it. However, having my first daughter triggered something else in me. An urge to have a side hustle!
My pregnancy photoshoot made me see a gap in the market near me, so I did wonder if I could do both.
At the time I also had the opportunity to take a small franchise of baby swimming (loved it with my baby daughter) so I went down that route at first.
A lack of decent facilities stopped that taking off, so my brain switched back to the idea of photography!

I never expected it to take off the way it did and after a couple of years, now with a studio, I had to make the decision to focus on one or the other. I was tired of not being able to give the care I wanted to in a challenging NHS, so I made the leap.

RISE: Moving into photography, apart from obviously being absolutely incredible at Boudoir, how did your journey of photography lead you into your chosen art form?

Well, bumps became babies, became families. So we had the studio for that, with a bonus 2 derelict floors above us at the studio.
I was at ‘Focus on Imaging’ one year and was looking for the company selling pregnancy leads… I found them and they asked if I did makeovers and boudoir. I replied ‘yes’. I didn’t, but didn’t want to miss out on the chance of possible work.
Built the studios upstairs on arriving home and got test shooting. Our boudoir was born!

Next a lucky chat with Groupon saw us selling hundreds of shoots a time and we grew to a team of 12, shooting 20-30 shoots a week.

I quickly learnt a lot, a fast track I guess. I discovered the power.

RISE: Looking at all of your images, you obviously make each and every one of your sitters feel completely at ease. I know how I feel being in front of a camera, let alone possibly showing off that inner me, how do you manage to make all your ladies feel so much at ease.

preparation is key to great results and a transformative experience.

We really do have a good time; I think it shows. We also take the time to get to know our women……preparation is key to great results and a transformative experience.

RISE: I may be being presumptuous but being a female photographer has got to be an advantage photographing Boudoir, would I be right?

It has an advantage to some of our clients. They feel reassured that we are all female.

However, I think that for every woman that needs a female team, there’s a woman who’s not that bothered really! There are plenty of clients for everyone.

RISE: How are you generally received by males doing what you do, is it mainly ladies that book for themselves, or do their partners book on their behalf? 

Again, everyone is different… we get some partners who are threatened by us and like their partner to be lacking in confidence.
Most partners thank us for what we do. They’ve tried to convince the person they love most in the world that she’s incredible and just get their compliments rebuffed. Leaving them crestfallen and hurt.

We come along and change everything! I know we’ve changed lives, so many times.We don’t take bookings from partners ever. We insist that all bookings must come from the client herself.

RISE: On the subject of Males & Females, if RISE gave out membership numbers, your membership number would be No 1, as you were our very first member to join, so thank you so much for that. Can I ask what was your motivation for joining our community.

I love that I was first!
At first, when I heard about RISE my reaction was a bit unsure. I’m all for equality and saw it as potentially divisive.
Then, a few weeks later, myself and my work were treated poorly by some male figures in the industry and I suddenly saw the disparity. Gobby me also felt powerless and without a voice! I hated it.

I shared my story and heard many others. The penny dropped…………Women need a safe space to nurture ourselves and each other, inspire and build each other up. Strengthen that voice. The sexism in our industry is multi layered and not always visible. I want to help change that.

RISE: As well as your extremely busy schedule of photography, you have managed to find time to offer training, both training workshops at home and internationally including 1 to 1 training, I can only imagine this must be something you enjoy doing, as it isn’t necessarily something you need to offer, what made you head down the training route? 

This is something I’ve become quite passionate about.
We look after our client’s body, mind and soul. I’ve not met many photographers who see it from any holistic point of view. It’s just a genre and attracts higher average sales for them. There’s also some very poor boudoir photography out there.

I’ve lost count of the number of clients who’ve come to me, damaged by poor boudoir photography and/or poor service.

We have a huge responsibility to our client’s mental health. If we shoot in an unflattering way or panic, say the wrong things…we can cause serious and permanent damage to that client.

I created ‘The Mindful Mastery of Boudoir of Photography™’ to try and educate and combat what I keep seeing out there – and to safeguard these women.

RISE: Do you find the time to use your camera for pleasure, away from your studio, if so, what is it that you enjoy shooting? 

I wish I had the time! I’d love to shoot street photography one day. When I’m on holiday I photograph doors a lot. Weird but I’ve been reassured I’m not alone in that fascination!

RISE: Obviously you are the business, so, unless you clone yourself, it would be very hard to keep expanding as you have, but do you have any new challenges for yourself and your business moving forward? 

We reinvent ourselves a couple of times a year. Bring a new style in. It excites existing clients and gives us some fun! More strings to the bow!
I don’t want to expand anymore. I’ve managed to flip the high volume/low average business into a more manageable opposite and I’m proud of that. From here we just increase the numbers while focusing on service.

RISE: Finally, you inspire so many of your fellow female photographers, if I was to ask you for one piece of advice for those photographers, what would it be?

Always say yes. Knit the parachute on the way down 😉

Thank You Jo for taking the time out and share your industry experience. It has been an an absolute pleasure. I would like to finish our interview by sharing a little insight into Johanna Elizabeth…….simply stunning!

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