I have a confession to make: I’m a sexy selfie fanatic.
I got my start as a nightclub photographer at the Sydney Hellfire Club in the noughties; since then, I’ve had plenty of practice capturing people from all walks of life in all their sexy, sensual glory. I started applying what I learned at home – using my pics to find play partners online and keeping long-distance relationships going by swapping images with partners.
When I began work in the sex industry a decade ago, being able to snap myself with confidence was good for business. From advertising photos to daily selfies on Twitter…sharing a good photo or video clip often gave me more followers, clients, or both.
We all deserve to know how to create sexy images or video of ourselves, if only for a self-esteem boost. And it’s now more important than ever: as the coronavirus pandemic makes in-person sessions difficult, many sex workers are turning to online income streams such as sexting, phone chat, camming, and porn production. Being able to come up with a hot selfie, a great GIF or a sexy video clip is a valuable skill.
So, how do you get started if you’re new to shooting online content? Here’s some advice from Andy, the photographer behind Sekushi Studios. His Melbourne-based photography business caters specifically to sex workers and he’s experienced at creating beautiful images for people of all body types. Here’s what he has to say about shooting and lighting yourself for the best possible results.
Tip #1: It’s not about expensive equipment
Setting up as a cam artist or porn performer might seem daunting – it’s easy to assume that you need to invest a lot of money in cameras and lighting to look like a pro. But plenty of workers manage just fine using basic equipment. Andy recommends keeping it simple. “If you’re just starting out, see how you go with what you have,” he says.
A large window works as a light source during the day, especially if you’re shooting on a camera phone. If you don’t have enough natural light (or need to shoot at night) LED ring lights are pretty good, and the cheap ones on eBay won’t break your bank account, either. Some ring lights even have a mount for your smartphone. Andy also recommends light globe softbox kits- they’re available on a budget and work better for full-body shots than ring lights.
What about the camera? Although pro cameras and lenses are fun to play with, a lot can be achieved with just your smartphone. “Smartphones have come a long way,” Andy says. “My wife Tash Hamilton and I use a mix of iPhones and my pro camera gear to take her content. I think sometimes subscribers prefer smartphone content because it feels more genuine and immersive.”
If you’re keen to invest in a digital SLR, having a good interchangeable lens is much more important than which model camera you use. “There’s some decent cheap lenses like a 50mm/1.8, that go for about $100.”
(Incidentally, 50mm lenses are the ones that make you look most accurately proportioned, and true to real life…so they’re a great choice for sexy images. But you’ll need a few metres of space between yourself and the camera to get a full-body shot, so a smartphone with a wide lens might be a better option if you live in a shoebox-sized apartment.)
Andy suggests putting the laptop away, if you’re taking photos. Built-in cameras on notebook PCs are notorious for taking bad photos.
Security tip: No matter what device you’re shooting with – SLR, camera phone or point-and-shoot – make sure you remove the EXIF data from your images before you share them online. Image data stored with your pics can include your camera model, time they were taken, and even your location, if you haven’t switched off your location services. It’s a bit technical, but your privacy is important!
Tip #2: Good light makes all the difference
If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a photographer, it’s that good light can transform a photo from terrible to incredible. Soft light that’s spread out is flattering, whereas strong light from a small or distant light source (such as direct sunlight) will highlight imperfections and create unattractive shadows in all the wrong places.
As Andy said above, natural light is often the best option. I like shooting indoors using the light from a big window during the day because it gives everything an even, soft look. If that’s not an option for you, there’s a lot of cheap LED lighting out there that works too, such as the ring lights mentioned earlier.
Light sources to avoid? Bare ceiling bulbs give off a yellow light make your skin look orange. Light that comes from directly above – such as ceiling downlights - create shadows under your eyes and chin. Fluorescent bulbs (those long, white ones that are prone to flickering) are even worse; they’ll give your photos a green tint, like the scary scenes in a zombie movie.
Sometimes an accidental light source ruins your shot. For example, the glow of a computer screen can make your skin look pale. This happens with YouTubers and vloggers who sit in dark rooms when speaking to the camera – they look malnourished, because their faces are pale and blue from the screen light! If you’re using a PC or laptop for camming, make sure whatever you use to light yourself is brighter than the screen. Natural light, a strong LED right light, or turning on all your house lights (at a pinch) will reduce the ‘screen glow effect.’
Tip #3: If you feel awkward in front of the camera, you’re not alone.
Being photographed or recorded can feel hella awkward, especially if you’re having one of those days (like we all do) when you’re not feeling comfortable in your own skin. We all have things we don’t like about our bodies, and if a few pics don’t turn out right, it can be easy to start feeling like a failure.
Here’s the good news – you don’t have to be a fashion model. Don’t believe what the media suggests; looking good isn’t about being young, skinny or conventionally attractive. It’s just about finding the angles that work for you, getting into a sexy headspace…and then shooting tons of content and getting rid of anything that doesn’t work for you.
If you’re having trouble relaxing, Andy recommends asking friends or partners for support. “Acting in front of the camera is hard and that is a difficulty that is in addition to any nervousness or body insecurities. Initially my wife found having me behind the camera made it easier. So, if you have a friend or partner around, that might make it feel a little more genuine.”
(Personally, I find that my anxiety is even worse when someone is watching, so I can only take good pics when I’m alone. I think everyone’s different – you might want to try both ways and see what works better.)
Feeling sexy in front of the camera takes practice. It’s okay to feel awkward...hang in there, and experiment until you find your own way of doing things. The more comfortable you get, the better your content is going to look.
Tip #4: Experiment with lighting, angles and poses...until you find what works for you.
Before I became a photographer, I used to think that only conventionally attractive people could look good in front of the camera. I’ve since learned that looking incredible is much more about finding the right angles, than about looking like a fashion model.
Different poses, angles, and scenes work for different body types. But here are a few general tips: shoot from slightly above, for a more flattering face shape. Body parts that are further away from the camera will look smaller. If you put something REALLY close to the lens, everything in the background usually goes out of focus (a great way to highlight your beautiful toes for a foot fetish shot, or obscure your face if you’re trying to show off your attributes without going face-out). Creative angles can be fun, too – don’t be afraid to try things and delete anything that doesn’t work!
Andy has some recommendations for good composition: “For bum shots, get down low and shoot up at your bum. That angle usually accentuates your natural curves. For full body shots, try to bend one knee or one elbow which will help give your body an S curve, which has been used by artists in depicting women for centuries. If you try to stick your head or chin forward a little and that usually hides double chins. So does shooting from a high angle.”
Selfie sticks and camera remotes are useful, because they allow you to get further away from the lens for those full-body shots, without having to set a timer and rush to get into a pose. I like using smartphones and cameras that preview the shot before it’s taken, as it helps me get my pose and expression just right.
Don’t be afraid to shoot lots of photos and video until you find the right angles. This is the best thing about digital photography – you can take as many clips or pics as you want, and then simply delete the ones that didn’t turn out.
It’s not about being perfect…it’s just about having a go.
Making sexy photos and videos is a skill worth having. I’d encourage you to find a sexy headspace, use what you already have, and experiment with lighting and angles. Don’t be discouraged if it feels awkward or imperfect at first. With time and practice, you’ll start to discover what works for you.
If you need some expert help getting started with online content, Sekushi Studios has a range of packages, some starting as low as $100 for a 1-hour shoot. He offers virtual shoots for those who are distanced or isolated.
He’s also happy to help with advice. “My emails and inboxes on various social media platforms are open, if you have any questions or would like any tips on shooting or gear…or if you need help with the content you’ve created. I’m happy to help as much as I can free of charge, as I know this is a rough time for everyone.”