Are Erotic Photography and Pornography the Same Thing?


Erotic photography and porn are the same thing, right?

That’s the most frequent question I get when I tell people that I researched erotic photography. But according to my colleagues and I, we’d tell you ‘No, it’s definitely not porn.’ And so would the photographers who take these types of pictures. And we would know. Because we asked them.

Generally, erotica is material for the purpose of arousing or titillating individuals. Porn, on the other hand, is for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying individuals.

We used the term erotic photography because it captures a broad range of work including boudoir, semi-nude, nude, sensual, erotic, and explicit. Some photographers preferred the term boudoir. It’s French so obviously it sounds classy and boudoir conjures up images of lingerie and satin sheets versus penetrative sex.

But not only did we ask the photographers if erotic photography is the same as porn, we asked what a typical erotic photography photo shoot looks like, how it works, who their clients were (not their names, just general descriptors), and how the photographers create this sexually intimate atmosphere with clients.

So what does erotic photography look like? Well, it’s usually women who have pictures taken for themselves. It could be a gift for a partner (hello Santa) or a gift purely for themselves. This was a major difference between erotic photography and pornography.

In pornography, the end user (person looking at the photos/film) is not usually the individual in the pictures or film. But for erotic photography, usually the end user is featured in the pictures.

There is a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that differentiates these pictures from pornography… soft lighting, black and whites, softly focused or features of the shot that are purposely out of focus, strategic shading, nakedness that’s not full on crotch close-ups.

Another reason women had these photos taken: to document a time in their life. This could be at any time or maybe after a pregnancy or after a mastectomy. The coolest was when women were just feeling hot and wanted the pictures to prove it. For more on women who have these pictures taken, read Amy Muise’s paper.

Very few photographers will take pictures of males. This is because most photographers are not comfortable having a male client come into their studio to whack off on camera (well not right onto the camera…you know what I mean) which is what a lot of men want to do if it’s a hot female photographer. Many photographers said they just did not find the male body that aesthetically pleasant to photograph – erection or no erection.

We spoke to one male photographer who does specialize in photography in the gay community and he said that many of his male clients also wanted to be captured in a beautiful way.


Sometimes couples came in and had photos taken together. Some photographers made them keep this PG-13, some photographers gave them the green light to do whatever the clients wanted – aka an ‘interactive’ erotic photography session.

What else was cool? There was no typical client. For the women…these weren’t all size 2 women who wanted to take sexy photos. Women were in their young 20s to the 60s, no typical body size, and ethnicities also varied. Too few men to generalize, sorry boyz.

Another misconception about this type of photography is that the photographers must be perverts. Not true. Erotic photography was commonly a part of their larger photography business and it was vital for them to remain professional with their clients at all times (even more so than a typical portrait session because of the nakedness).

Erotic photography is not the rub ‘n tug of photography. No ‘happy endings’ here.

Unless you consider clients who were blown away at how awesome they looked in their pictures as a happy ending.

As an aside to the project, I had my own erotic photographs taken. It was much harder than it looked. And no, I didn’t have sex with my male photographer!

Original article: http://sexresearchandthecity.com/erotic-photography-a-different-kind-of-happy-ending2/

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Jocelyn Wentland


Author: admin

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