While stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, our online presence has grown larger and more creative: Dance parties and drag shows have moved online, casual bakers stream their kitchens and apparently everyone’s a star on TikTok.
The internet’s also been a way to stay sexually (and financially) afloat: Cam site traffic is booming, at-home porn viewing is up and subscriptions to platforms boasting large collections of amateur porn content (whether explicitly, like ManyVids, or by reputation, like OnlyFans) are growing.
The dots are easy enough to connect: The pandemic has shuttered most businesses, forcing millions into unemployment. These cam sites—where you sell your own explicit photos and videos, or livestream for tips—offer a quick, at-home revenue source. Throw in the LGBTQ2 community’s legacy of sex-positivity and history of underemployment (made worse by COVID-19), and x-rated camming becomes a real option.
Still, creating amateur porn can seem daunting, despite having the basics down. Whether you’re selling your content online, sending a steamy vid to a now long-distance lover or just performing to make yourself (and others) feel good, here’s some advice from four popular cam performers.
How’s your headspace?
Mentally preparing for stripping down on cam
A great recording session starts before the camera turns on, all of the performers we interviewed say.
“The biggest thing is hyping yourself up, the same as you would if you were about to go on a first date,” says Nadia, a bisexual sex worker and cam performer living in Ottawa, Ontario. “You have to get in the zone—especially if you’re going to go on a live cam versus filming and deleting it later.”
For capturing the right mindset, the same tricks apply as in-person dates: Shower, do your makeup or skincare routine, maybe have a drink (Nadia suggests coffee to perk up, and lots of liquids if you plan to feature some waterworks). What you wear and even the way you style your hair can also contribute to the fantasy, she adds—especially if you’re channeling a character or alter ego.
Other tips for feeling sexy solo: Consider your digestive habits—if you have acid reflux, nothing will kill your vibe like heartburn or feeling bloated. Doing quick at-home exercises can also release endorphins and get your energy up (just don’t tire yourself out!). When in doubt, never underestimate the power of a great playlist—played at full volume, of course.
Assume the position
Getting your camera, and body, into the perfect spot
Finding positions that are both flattering and comfortable isn’t as simple as point and shoot says the Chicago, Illinois-based gay performer known online as Damaged Bttm.
“If I’m going to be sitting, I lean my back against something so I’m not tempted to slouch—and if I’m laying down I’ll put a body pillow vertically underneath my right side to give my body a tilt so the camera can see more,” he explains.
As for how near or far to place the camera, most of the performers suggest framing yourself from the hips up—unless there’s a reason to warrant a closeup (see: Foot fetish). Keep in mind that lower-definition cameras will lose focus if you move too far back, but most smartphones nowadays are powerful enough to capture what you need.
With lighting, the #Selfie generation has already nailed the basics: Find a large light source and face it directly (natural light in the morning is best, but a powerful lamp or ring light will do if you don’t want to give the neighbours a show).
“My left is my good side, so I always make sure there’s a camera tilt or light source coming from the left as well,” Damaged Bttm says.
Not sure what your angles are? Don’t overthink it, suggest the performers. Replicate moves or positions that you find sexy—either from porn, or by watching others on cam—and see what feels natural without trying to reinvent the wheel.
Other tips for joining the Directors Guild of self-made porn: Put phone cameras on landscape instead of portrait mode to keep compatible with laptops, but don’t be afraid to grab the phone and give your audience a look at things from your perspective. Also, have lube, toys, towels or other supplies nearby so you’re not running out of frame mid-video.
Keep it queer
Push the boundaries of sex and gender, even by yourself
“To make anything queer is to continue to break down barriers,” says Lucas Champagne, a gay cam performer near Austin, Texas. “Try something new, something that might be considered wrong or has stigma around it.”
Also a drag artist, Champagne has been toying with the boundaries of masculine and feminine in more of his videos—like jacking off while wearing heels or fake nails. Tapping into your performative side can also provide that extra push towards sexual taboos you maybe wouldn’t have engaged with during a regular hook up.
“Everybody has their own unique sexual energy. To figure out what that is and what your own boundaries are can help you explore what else turns you on,” Champagne adds.
While it’s important to push yourself, always make sure you’re having fun and turning yourself on—all the performers agree that audiences can tell when something’s forced.
Other tips for getting a leg (or groin) up on cis- and heteronormative videos: Mix up the toys or roles you use, and if you’re broadcasting to a larger audience, address the crowd in gender-neutral terms.
Ready to make some coin? Consider where and how you post
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for—so you want your videos to be worth the cash.
“Great video making comes with time, but I found when I upgraded my lighting and camera I was able to get a lot more sales,” says the Vancouver, British Columbia, lesbian performer known online as Baby Spyce. The quality of her videos significantly improved after she bought an adjustable tripod with a ring light off of Amazon to hold her iPhone 11, she says.
“First, worry about the right light and a good quality camera—you can slowly upgrade as you go, investing in nicer toys, outfits and better lighting.”
Investing is exactly how all the performers understand costs associated with their work—purchases that might seem steep, but can place you in another tier of creators. Some websites, for example, sort videos by whether they’re HD or not. Adding an interactive sex toy—one controlled by paying audience members, like those sold by Lovense—can also be a huge revenue stream.
When picking a website to upload to, do your research and read reviews. Some sites, our performers say, may seem promising because they take a single-digit percentage of your tips or bypass lengthy authentication steps—but those are often red flags for sites that won’t protect your content from being stolen or misused.
Other tips for cashing in: Watermark your images with your name or url, and understand the platform’s policies if you plan to turn your video performances into real-world sex work.
It’s all about you
Confidence and sensuality translate on screen
The biggest through line from all the performers: Make the types of videos you’d want to watch on your own time. Being playful, feeling sexy and enjoying yourself all come across in the content.
“It’s about self-exploration and just doing what feels good,” says Damaged Bttm. “The best performances are the ones where you’re having fun and there just happens to be a camera.”