Breaking into the world of shooting adult content isn’t a big mystery anymore. Anyone with a camera and internet access can now do it and you don’t even need to hire models (…if you don’t want to). Years ago when there where only a few studios shooting fetish content there was some mystique surrounding it all. Everything they did seemed like some covert “hush, hush” operation that only those with an “in” understood how it all worked. So anyone who’s ever wondered about what it takes to get started in the world of producing adult fetish content has asked the same question, “What do I do first?” and it’s been met with several different replies. I’m hoping that I can shed some light on it by telling my story and what I’ve learned along the way.
What’s Your Fetish?
If you have a particular fetish you enjoy then that’s the best one for you to start with. For me, it was bondage.
My story though is a bit different because as a woman getting into the business most assumed I wanted to be in front of the camera. Not me… My goal right from the start was to get behind the camera shooting and directing the actresses from a woman’s perspective. However, I did some acting to begin with in order to learn the business, but the second I understood how it all worked I flipped the script and became the “bad girl” doing all the grabbing and tying up myself.
My site was all Damsel in Distress (DiD) based bondage featuring women getting into tricky situations which lead to them being grabbed and tied up then left to struggle. My earliest memories of bad guys and girls getting captured was from watching Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman. Her golden lasso was the object of many fantasies when I was young. Add to that when I was an adult I found and fell in love with the old Detective and Harmony Concepts magazines and artwork by people like, Bishop. To me, DiD scenes seemed like a good niche and I enjoyed writing the storylines for the scenes too. Plus, as a woman it was pretty easy to book other women to shoot with you. I never had any of the problems some of the guys I knew in the business had with booking models for shoots – that’s for sure.
Getting Started Then
OK, let’s break down what you needed… First off, it’s really not as hard or complicated as you may think, especially with today’s 4k capable video camera sitting in your back pocket in the form of most smart phones – you’re one step ahead of what it was like back in 1999. I sort of stumbled into shooting fetish content myself when a friend of mine told me he was starting an adult website. That one little conversation had me curious and from there I started looking into just how hard it might be to get into this business too. I had enough knowledge of the internet, HTML and digital photography to be dangerous. Back then I bought a KODAK DC215, which was a 1 MegaPixel camera and got some $6 clamps lights from Home Depot and I was technically in business. I had to stock up on supplies of course, rope – lots and lots of rope and duct tape, props and lots of sheets torn up for gags, extra outfits in several sizes incase a scene called for clothes being cut or torn off, cases of water, some energy bars and fruit – yes, it was and still is important to keep everyone fed and hydrated!
However, back in 1999 it was quite a bit more complicated to actually get started because of everything involved with opening your own member based website – which meant some up front money (about $2500.00) and a lot of time. It also meant that you had to either find an adult webmaster (someone who could create and build a website for you and post all of your updates) and then you pay them weekly or monthly to manage your site and post your updates (average $50 – $100 per update), plus pay them the cost of your website design – which varied in price depending on the complexity of your website layout.
Or if you’re a fast learner and want to be hands-on then on the flip-side it was all very “Do It Yourself” (DIY). First, you would need to purchase a domain name yourself, find a hosting company and purchase a hosting plan, get a program to help you create and design a website or learn how to write HTML yourself, find an adult billing company and set-up your billing account, get another program (or two) for editing then learn how to edit and format photos and videos, and finally learn how to successfully post your own updates. I chose the later and went at it by myself and I learned a lot about adult websites along the way. Once you figured out your strategy for getting your website online and set-up, finally you were ready!
On the DIY plan, once you had mastered editing and posting the content to your new website it was rinse and repeat every week with brand new content. Back then “new content” meant brand new photo sets and a short (under 2 minutes) video clip in MPEG or RM format. If you don’t know what RM (RealMedia) format is, don’t worry because you still don’t need to know what it is now. OK, that’s all well and good, but what are you editing? When I started shooting, everything was a lot less expensive too… like model rates. I was booking models for three hours and paying them between $35 – $50 an hour and in that one hour time I’d get at least two photo sets and two video clips (bondage shoots took time with all the ropes and set-up etc.), not bad for a days work which ended up producing six photo sets and six video clips at the end of the shoot. While that sounds pretty good you can’t just update with one girl all the time, so typically in a month I’d work with 4 – 6 models to be able to mix up my content for updates, which meant an outlay of between $630 and $900 a month just in model fees. At that point between model fees and website fees I was thinking about the return on investment (ROI) and how to get it fast!
The work didn’t stop there however, you did want a fast ROI so you also had to start doing promotion, like joining or starting your own Yahoo! Groups and finding other websites to trade banners with and link farms to get your website posted on. Before social media came along, where you could follow people and post your content with a quick click and 140 characters of text, you had to do a lot of time consuming online searches. Without doing promotion no one would find your website and you’d have no customers! You had to think outside the box and work with other people to all promote your businesses online.
Talk about a lot of work hoping to make $9.95 – $24.95 per month/per customer. Don’t get me wrong though, back in the days when member sites were the be all, end all I was making more than enough money to live a comfortable life working for myself at home. But it was work and it was a job which required you to treat it like a job in order to make money at it. Some people kept it as a hobby and while for some that may have been okay for them, for me I wanted to create a business and an income stream that paid for itself.
Getting Started Now
Fast forward to 2017 and member sites have become cumbersome, expensive and time consuming. Photo sets are now an after thought for most people and video is what everyone is focusing on. Remember my comment about that 4k capable video camera sitting in your back pocket in the form of most smart phones? That’s what makes this a reality for basically anyone wanting to break into the fetish business and shoot content. You have the first big piece of the puzzle literally in your pocket. One thing I learned along the way as well is that you can make more money on a per video clip basis then you ever would on a member site where you give away large amounts of content for one monthly price. For those who are die hard photo fans, the same does hold true to zip files of photo sets, you’ll make more money selling them on a per set basis than giving the content away in bulk for pennies every month.
Gone are the days of having to do it all yourself, now entire sites like Clips4Sale.com and other online services exist to make your dreams of breaking into the world of being a fetish producer come true with literally no upfront costs to you. The platform allows you to open a store and post your clips or photos costing nothing to get started. They handle everything from hosting to billing to customer service for only a small percentage of your sales. As for equipment, not much has changed, all you need are the basics which are: a video camera and some lights – because lighting is actually very important. Don’t skimp on the lighting! You can also get a really great set of studio lights on Amazon for under a $100 bucks – check out these Light Kits.
Things I Learned Along the Way
After setting everything up back in 1999 there were a lot of things I missed and had to learned along the way because no one told me some vitally important details, so I am including a few of them here:
- Choose a Brand Name for your business – this is really the launching point for everything you will do going forward. You do not want to use anyone else’s brand name (as that can get you in legal trouble) so you want to make sure your brand name is unique and easy for a customer to recognize. You should also make sure all of your social media accounts are available in your new brand name and you can do that easily online at sites like KnowEm.com, and make sure you can secure your brand name as a URL too by checking on GoDaddy.com!
- Decide what type of business you want to set-up your new venture under because come tax time this is very important! For this you may need to speak to an Accountant so you understand exactly what you need to do to set up your business correctly. For reference, you can check out the US Small Business Administration to see what types of business structures are available. You also need to look into whether or not you need an EIN# from the IRS for your business. Again, seek assistance from an accountant, but you can also read more at IRS.gov – Do You Need a New EIN
- Make sure you get a Model Release and a clear copy of their Photo ID every single time you shoot! Even if you shoot with the same model multiple times you need a new model release each and every time – dated and signed. You can keep all your records digital too with a very easy to use app. You can get it on both the Apple App Store and Google Play called: Quick2257 which was developed by Lawrence G. Walters, Esq. Also remember, if the person you are shooting is also your significant other but you own the business – they should be signing a release too every time you work with them. Keep business and pleasure separate! Thankfully I never had this issue myself, but I have heard so many horror stories about people losing all of their content because they never had a model release or copy of an ID for anyone they filmed. On a side note, if you are looking for an attorney to help you get set-up or for any legal questions relating to working and/or producing content in the adult industry, Larry is the man to speak to! Check him out here and here on his website.
- Take the time to learn Google Analytics because it’s really a good idea to understand where your customers are coming from and where to focus your advertising and marketing. Google Analytics lets you measure your advertising ROI as well as track your flash, video, and social networking sites and applications. There are also sites like Google Webmaster Tools which you can use to track your site’s search performance with Google Search Console. Some other interesting websites for tracking traffic and trends include: Ahrefs.com, Wordtracker.com, and Keyword.io.
- Social Media – do not forget this free advertising because it’s where and how you’ll gain new customers! There is a website that you can use to create “recipes” with the applets they have for cross posting to basically every social media outlet there is online and it’s called – If This Then That (IFTTT) and it’s a great way to maximize your time by posting in one place and letting IFTTT do the rest!
If you have any questions, let me know! You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org