Liza Studebaker is Cleveland’s Boudoir Photographer. She has always had a passion for all things girly – especially vintage fashions and anything that empowers women. When she was a little girl her friends would come over and they’d get all dolled up and take pictures using her mom’s camera. It was almost inevitable that her passion would grow into a business!
After seeing a photographer reproduce a photo of a woman in a pinup style, she became addicted to this look and decided to practice editing her own images in Photoshop until she mastered the pinup airbrushing technique. With her background in photography, editing, fashion history and modeling, it was natural for her to effortlessly pose her clients into classic pinup poses and capture pinup like photos with ease.
Her favorite moment during a photoshoot is when she sees the client go from insecure to feeling her feminine sexuality come through with confidence. After the moment when she see’s the client release her insecurities, she often turns the camera around to show the model the shot and they typically respond with “That’s not me!” These women are often shocked just how powerful their sexuality is and Liza watches their confidence and excitement grow the remainder of the photoshoot.
In addition to her boudoir and pinup photography, Liza also specializes in real estate and family photography.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I’ve always had a fascination with the 1950’s culture and Pinup style images. I saw a Facebook friend post a pinup photo she had taken and I started researching if there was someone in my area who was doing this. I quickly realized I wanted to be a part of this and began practicing the techniques and marketing to my friends.
How do you make money?
I offer different pinup and boudoir packages and get paid for the shoot time and add-ons like makeup, hair and airbrushing.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I was profitable immediately. I already had all the camera gear for my other photo business and had been collecting lingerie my entire life. My business really started taking off when I networked with a local vintage shop that carried all sizes of vintage reproductions in dresses and lingerie, called Retro Rosies.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes! I wasn’t sure the Cleveland and Akron market would support this kind of photography and I was wrong! With the support and encouragement of women in the area who were involved with the pinup community, my business has taken off.
How did you get your first customer?
At first, I used Thumbtack. Now I just use Facebook to market and network with people in the pinup and feminist communities.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Facebook is definitely the best way I’ve found to market. Friends of friends see it and you can choose your target market with ads.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
How should I market and using Facebook in conjunction with my personal page appropriately? I had some negative feedback from people about how “inappropriate” pinup and boudoir photography is and I just decided that it was okay for them to think that and it was okay for me to disagree. I’m selective about the degree of skin I show on Facebook. I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but sometimes that’s just out of my control!
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I am great with people and have a real heart for empowering women and seeing the beauty in all body types. I try to showcase how beautiful and sexy women are from size 0-26. My portfolio contains diversity and I think this helps women see that they don’t need to be insecure about their size, that I’m skilled at helping pull out the sensuality in anyone.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
It’s incredible to be there the moment your model goes from being insecure to feeling her feminine power – I feel privileged to be a part of that!
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I’m hoping to hire additional photographers and teach them what I’m doing so they can help with post processing. I’m also researching new places to photograph girls, like vintage gas stations, retro arcade halls, and historical locations.
What business books have inspired you?
The Millionaire Next Door & Rich Dad Poor Dad
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I bought a flogger, riding crop and feather duster! Ha! I’m always buying fun props for the models.
What’s the one thing that sets you apart from the competition?
I think my ability to empathize with a person, ask them questions about any insecurities, read their body language, communicate clearly and make them feel comfortable as there can often be insecure moments when taking these kinds of photos.
Additionally, I have a background in modeling and I’ve studied the poses that make our bodies more “sexy” and flattering. So my clients get very specific direction from me from where to look, to how to smile and even how to point their toes. They don’t have to know anything about modeling or what makes someone appear sexy – I direct their every move and the results have them raving about the photos!