If you are doing a studio shoot find out in advance what backdrops are available. You want to pick a backdrop that will accentuate your costume choice and avoid a backdrop that your costume will blend into. For example, if you are wearing a black costume you will probably want to avoid a black backdrop.
What props do you use most in your dancing? If you are getting photos as a professional dancer I recommend only posing with props you use regularly and are proficient with so they accurately reflect your dancing for clients who may be booking you. If you are a student getting photos for fun use any props you are having fun learning even if you aren't completely proficient with them yet.
Practice your poses and facial expressions
Find the angles and poses that work for you and practice them in the mirror. It is often quite difficult to come up with poses so you will probably want to find a little inspiration. Here are some ideas:
-Look at other dancer's photos, check your favorite dancer's websites to see what kinds of poses look interesting to you. I have created several pinterest boards for photoshoot inspirations which include solo, duet, and group pose ideas.
- Nadira Jamal has some great tips that she uses for finding ending poses for improvised dance and her advice is also very applicable to photoshoots- she suggests looking at record and cd covers.
- Princess Farhana has aDVD which great resource for this as well.
Practice hair and makeup
You are spending a lot of time and money on your photos and you want to look your best so be sure to practice your look for the shoot just as you would practice your dancing for a show.
If you are comfortable with hair and makeup you can definitely do this yourself. I was never particularly comfortable with either of these things so I usually hire a stylist to do my hair and makeup.
Remember, makeup is critical in photoshoots. The bright lights will wash you out if you forgo it. Wear heavier makeup than you would daily and make sure you contour and highlight to really bring out your features under the lights. If you are doing a costume change be sure to wear makeup that goes with both looks so you can use your time on site more effectively.
A few days before the shoot try on the costume(s) that you intend to wear and check to make sure they fit well and are in good shape. This will give you time to do any repairs that are needed. Make sure your hooks are secure and don't need to be moved. Check for loose threads or beading and fix or trim anything needed.
Get your jewelry, accessories, and props together. Don't forget to iron your veils! Nothing can ruin a great photo quicker than a wrinkly veil.
If possible do a few test shots with a friend to see if you like the way the poses and costume work together.
The next post in the series will give tips for the day of, a sample packing list, and a general photoshoot resources list. In the meantime if you have questions, comments, or any photos to share I would love to hear from you!
You have picked a photographer, now you need to choose a place to shoot. Where you shoot may depend on the photographer you chose, their preferences, and what’s available in their schedule. Some photographers work either exclusively in their home studio and some only on location, but many are flexible and can work in both.
Studios are traditional spaces often owned or rented by the photographer. They usually have a range of professional backdrops and lighting setups to choose from. In a studio, your photographer can play around with lots of different lighting and effects, change up backdrops, or get silhouette shots. You may need to coordinate studio rental if you are choosing studio shots and your photographer doesn’t own or regularly shoot in a specific studio.
On-location is anywhere that is not in a photography studio. It is further differentiated into outdoor and indoor locations. There are a wide range of places that fall under this category. Your lighting options would be more limited but a pro photographer would have mobile lighting setups so this can really open up your options for the background of your photos.
Time to Book!
After discussing your options with your photographer and picking the location that works best for both of you and your vision for your photos now you can have everything booked. There are so many wonderful options for photoshoot locations and whether you shoot in studio or on-location you will have beautiful new photos. Now it is time to plan your look! The next post in the series will focus on that and is coming soon!
What are some of your favorite studio and on-location photos of yourself? What ideas do you have for on-location places?
Our looks for this shoot
Felicia and I hadn't done a photoshoot together since 2010 so it was really time for some updated images! We wanted to have shots using two costumes that each had a much different feel.
In January, we made cream and gold chain bedlahs for a show. We first wanted to find the same fabric that we used for the beldahs to make circle skirts to create a princess-y look for the shoot. Luckily, the fabric was still available, which meant that we were able to make skirts which matched the bedlahs perfectly.
For our second costume, we wanted to wear our gorgeous new hand dyed skirts made by Painted Lady Clothiers, but we needed to find a bedlah to match. For many years we had been coveting the Mid-East manufacturing coin sets, so we decided now was the time to buy them. However, that meant we needed to make new bedlahs as well. The coin parts for the bedlahs arrived on Monday and the shoot was Saturday. By some miracle, and with Felicia's costume and design ingenuity, we managed to get the entire bedlah bases done, the coins mounted, and the new ivory skirts completed in time!
It had been so long since we had done a shoot, so we wanted to cover all of our bases for updated photos by getting shots with all of the props we routinely use. For us this meant zills, veils, and swords. We also dance with palm flames so we opted to include those as well.
Day of the shoot
Our good friend, and fellow dancer, Laura accompanied us. She was curious about doing a photoshoot as she is planning her first one for next year. I always prefer to have an assistant during shoots, even better if it is another dancer. It is ideal to have someone there to help with costuming and to give a dancer's eye to my poses and posture, so having her come along was perfect. Laura was especially helpful during costume changes by being able to create some private space in this location with the help of our vehicles and strategically placed veils. In addition, she is experienced with fire props so we did not have to prep our own fire props while in costume. This blog series was already underway so we also decided that she would take some behind the scenes photos to use in this post.
We started out in the tower with our princess costumes and got veils and swords ready. It was a lot of fun using our swords to mimic the look of the arches in the tower. Next, we went to the top of the tower to get photos of our veils in the wind. Choosing deep red veils added the most contrast to the ivory costumes, blue sky, and green foliage.
We also wanted to get some shots in the woods. As not to interfere with the people visiting the tower, we decided to do the fire shots there. We always think of safety first so we made sure to have all of our fire safety equipment ready, Laura spotted us, and we stayed well away from the trees.
Paul is wonderful to work with because he always has fun ideas for photos. We don't like to take ourselves too seriously and always make sure to get a few photos in non-dance poses for fun. Paul had the brilliant idea this time to do some fun things with perspective on the forest path.
When it was time to switch costumes, we changed with Laura's help one at a time while the other took the opportunity to take some solo shots. It is always a good idea to trade off like this if you can, in order to use the photographer’s time as wisely as possible. After we were both changed into the coin bedlah costumes, we did more duet shots in the woods before heading to the tower. It turned out a lot of people were keen on using Poet's Seat as a photoshoot location that day because when we returned to the tower there was a wedding party doing photos there! I still regret not asking them if they wanted to photobomb each other’s shoot.
In the tower we decided to return to the top tier. It was getting cloudy which we were worried might make the photos look dark or wouldn't be as pretty as a clear sky, but it ended up being absolutely perfect. Paul really used the clouds to our benefit and we created some great sword shots with dark and stormy backgrounds due to the cloudy skyline.
We wrapped up on the next tier down so we could get a few more shots by the arches and another professional photographer who happened to be on a day trip to Poet’s Seat came across us. She was excited and asked if she could take a few shots as well. We all agreed and we ended up getting some beautiful pictures from her and making a new photographer friend.
Lots of hard work on our parts, as well as the talented Paul Jones, created the beautiful photos in this post and many more. After a long day filled with costume and prop changes, hiking up many flights of stairs in the tower, and successfully manipulating fire in our brand new costumes (yikes!), both Felicia and I came out with some amazing images and had a ton of fun working with some of our favorite people.
I hope this post has given you helpful information on what it is like behind the scenes at a photoshoot. Please feel free to ask any questions you have about this post or photoshoots in general. Upcoming posts will cover choosing a location, developing your look, and what to do the day of your shoot. As always, if this series inspires you to do your own photoshoot please share the photos!
Choosing a Photographer
You may have a certain image in your head of the type of photos you want to create and need to find a photographer who fits that vision. Or you may already have a photographer in mind whose style you really love. If you already know exactly who you want to work with, that is great! If not, you will have some research to do. Here are some steps and helpful information to keep in mind when seeking out a photographer to work with:
Get recommendations: To begin your research you can always go straight to google and see what photographer are in your area and what style of work they do. You can also check websites of local dancers to see who they have worked with. This can be a great option because you can ask about their experiences with different photographers.
Whether you are searching for local photographers or seeking suggestions from other dancers for photographers they know who are familiar with shooting bellydancers, it is always a good idea to hear recommendations from other clients as well. You may also luck out and have a photographer on tour in your area who specializes in working with dancers. For instance, in recent years, Pixie Vision Photography (link) and Michael Baxter (link) have both been in the Boson area.
Dance photography is unique - you don't want to hire a landscape or architectural photographer for a dance shoot. Similarly, wedding photographers and corporate headshot photographers have a different skill set. Talk to dancers and performers who have shots you enjoy, and look to photographers who specialize in people - from street photographers to family photographers - people who have a knack for capturing the right moment. -Paul Jones, RT2 Photography
When choosing a photographer I encourage you to do your research. Take a look at a variety of photographers' work and see if you can find a style that you like. As in any art form, photographers come in all flavors. Some photographers create mystical fantasy tableaus, but others are more used to shooting the occasional weekend wedding. Try to choose a photographer who has worked with dancers before and is used to creating photo compositions that accentuate the movements of a dancer. -Hayam, Professional Bellydancer
Price point and costs:
You can always first check a photographer's website to search for a listing of fees for different packages and what is included in the price. If there is no information about pricing on their website, you can inquire by emailing them and asking.
Different packages from different photographers usually include a limited number of digital images. Often, you will receive about 10 images, but you can typically order additional photos for an extra fee. In some cases, a package may include a full gallery, although that is rarer or potentially available for a surcharge.
When calculating costs you should also think about the reason you want the images. If you are a hobbyist getting photos for fun and are primarily interested in new photos to share with friends on social media, you may be fine with lower resolution digital copies. However, if you are a professional dancer getting photos for promotional purposes, you will likely need to factor in the cost of purchasing high resolution images.
Be very wary about trades. Twice over the years I have worked out trades with local professional photographers and I never received the images, even though I had completed my part of the agreement each time. If you are entering into a trade or barter situation with a photographer be sure to use a contract.
Communicating with a Photographer:
You have chosen a photographer and researched their work. You have found someone whose work you love and whose style really suits you.
Now it is time to check in about booking them for your photoshoot.
With a good photographer, this process should feel like a mutual collaboration. Let them know your overall vision for the photos (you can use example photos from their work or from other dancer's shoots to communicate this). Ask if there will be time for a costume change. If you are doing a studio shoot and want to use a veil or isis wings ask for the room size and ceiling height. Also ask whether tossing fabric will fit in front of the backdrop. If at any point in this process you feel uncomfortable with the chosen photographer or you don't feel like your needs are being met, you can politely bow out of the shoot and look for another photographer.
It is also important to remember that working with a photographer is a very intimate experience. If you are not comfortable with your photographer, you will not take good photos. Read customer reviews. Talk to dancers who have worked with your photographer of interest. Make sure that your photographer has a personality that you jive with artistically. If your photographer makes you feel nervous or uneasy, you will likely be paying an awful lot for a bunch of awkwardly tense photos. And a word of caution...don't contact photographers who are advertising on public forums looking for "female models" hoping for some cheap images. I assure you, that won't be comfortable! -Hayam
Hold on a second -- whose photos are they? It is important to remember that photographs are considered the intellectual property of the photographer, not the model. Check with your photographer to see if there are any restrictions on their use, or if they will offer your images for sale elsewhere. Think of how many products you have seen over the years with famous dancers on them. Those dancers are not necessarily endorsing every product with their image on them. The images may have been sold to manufacturers who want to use them on their products. Talk with your photographer if you are uncomfortable with your images being sold to others, and be sure to check in beforehand to be sure you understand what their policy is about image use.
Be sure to making it clear to the photographer how much exposure you are comfortable with. While the photographer does technically own the photograph, a good one will respect how much you are prepared to share. I've found especially in the dance world, many dancers are sensitive about their image, and where their image ends up. I always try to ask if posting to Facebook (my chosen social media) is acceptable. Some photographers use Google+, Twitter or Instagram instead, and it's worth knowing. This may also be covered in a contract. -Paul Jones, RT2 Photography
Credit where credit is due!
Please always give credit whenever possible when using your gorgeous new photos. In some cases, like on business cards or fliers, there may not be a spot to give a photo credit. However, on your website or social media accounts there is almost always a way to add a caption giving credit to the photographer. They worked hard to take such great photos of you, you should tell the world!
I hope this post has given you helpful information on choosing and communicating with photographers for your next shoot. If so please feel free to share your photos and brag about the awesome photographer you worked with! Upcoming posts will cover choosing a location, developing your look, what to do the day of the shoot, and will give you a behind the scenes look at Felicia and I's recent shoot with RT2 Photography.
General Do’s and Don’ts
How do you know if you need photos?
Professional dancers need to have current photos for marketing and promotional purposes. This generally means doing a new photo shoot every 1-3 years during your dance career.
While non-professional dancers (from hobbyists to dancers interested in going pro in the future) don’t necessarily need professional photos, they can be nice to have just for fun. One of the things that attracts many of us to the world of bellydance is that we get to be glamorous and fabulous. So, if it makes you feel happy to get fancy and have beautiful photos, I say go for it!
Subsequent posts in this series will discuss in greater detail working with a photographer, choosing a location, developing your look, and what to do the day of the shoot. If this series inspires you for you next photoshoot please share your beautiful photos, I would love to see them! Feel free to contact me with any questions!
My adventures in dance, music, costume design...