Working in a photo shop, I have learned a lot about which kinds of nude photography a standard lab will print, and which type requires a more private developer. There are three classifications, or types, of nude photography, two of which can be processed traditionally; they are natural, artistic, and pornographic. Many people have a hard time telling the difference, so I will try to explain this for those who are still confused.
Natural nude photography is the most widely accepted type. Professionally, this is what ends up in magazines like “National Geographic”; personally, it includes such photographs as kids in bathtubs, and we’ve even seen shots from nudist resorts. The photographs in this category focus on the situation, of which nudity is either a natural part, or an accidental result of the situation. There is no attention focused on the body.
Artistic nudes require more attention to detail than you find in low quality labs like Wal-Mart, and many grocery stores, but they can still be processed and printed in traditional photo labs. These photographs do focus on the body, but it has nothing to do with erotic response. Artistic nudes are designed to elicit an emotional response through form, lighting, and texture.
Pornographic, or erotic, photography has but one purpose, to bring on an erotic response. This is one area of photography that cannot be printed by traditional labs; at least not during operating hours. As long as the models are over 18, it’s not illegal, but most traditional labs are public. Let’s face it; some things don’t belong on public display. Photographers of pornography are looked on as bottom feeders of photography instead of artists
There are some magazines that have what is considered borderline between artistic, and pornographic. Well-known examples are “Playboy”, which is a well-written magazine with nude pictorials, and “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editions” with partial nudity, body painting, and semi-transparent clothing. Some labs will print these types, and some won’t, it really depends on the feelings of the lab owner.
The human figure has always been a part of the artistic community, but knowing the difference types can greatly influence the availability of developers, and how closely you have to be involved in the process. It also determines whether or not you’re thought of as a true artist.