Photo shoot tips for belly dancers


As I’m sure many of you know by now, I am a photographer as well as a dancer. It’s a fairly unique combination of skills and I wanted to share some of the combined knowledge with you. At some point in every belly dancer’s life, they will want a photoshoot. If you are going professional, this is a MUST!

So here are some tips from a photographer and a dancer to you:

Costume

Make sure that you’re comfortable in your costume and that it fits well. A photographer may be able to edit a few things here are there, but don’t rely on it. If you are unsure whether your costume fits well, ask a friend or your dance teacher to help you with it.

Don’t pose with unfamiliar props

Posing with props can be great – if you’re comfortable with them! The last thing you want to do is pose with a prop that you don’t usually use. This will show in your body posture and facial expression, because you won’t look comfortable and you’ll usually be holding the prop awkwardly. You don’t have to pose with a prop – while veils and the like look great in photos, sometimes it might be better to leave them at home.

Practice poses

Before you arrive at the photoshoot, practice your poses! It’s ok to be a little vain here and stare at yourself in the mirror for hours because in the end you need to know how your body looks good. If you are unsure which poses to do, think of poses from dances you have done, perhaps an end pose of a dance or a mid-movement pose. If you are conscious about a certain part of your body, tell your photographer so that they can make sure they don’t accentuate it.

Weather & Lights

Weather is only a factor if you are shooting on location, which can be absolutely beautiful but also an absolute disaster! Keep in mind that if there is wind, veils and isis wings can become redundant  as the wind will dictate the direction the veil and wings go. While a light breeze is nice, it can quickly become irritating. Make sure you arrive at your location early so that you can scout out areas you’d like to use for your photos. If you are shooting in a studio, it’s important to know what kind of lighting you’d like – dramatic or even lighting.

Make up

Remember that photo/film make up is very similar to stage make up in that it has to be exaggerated in order to show up well on photos. Look on the web for ideas for make up by looking at other dancer’s photoshoots. So if you look like a drag queen, you’re doing it right!

Don’t waste time, come prepared!

Remember that you are paying the photographers for their time. You don’t want to waste their time because you are not prepared. Coming to the shoot full of ideas is a photographers dream – it makes it so easy and so much more fun to shoot!

Don’t be afraid to talk and ask

If you have questions or suggestions, TALK to your photographer! We are always open to ideas and always willing to ask questions!

Listen!

Listening to your photographer is essential to a great and productive photoshoot! Photographers know what they are doing, and you have chosen your photographer for a reason, so listen to them. Sometimes they want to try something a little more creative and that is almost always rewarding if both sides cooperate!

Choose wisely!

The most important thing to do in preparation for your photoshoot is choose a photographer you are comfortable with. Being uncomfortable is not something that can be Photoshopped out of your face – and believe me, it will show.

Although a (good) photographer will be thinking of all of these things anyway, it is also your job to do research and come to a photoshoot prepared!

I recently did a photoshoot with some dancers, and I will be putting the photos up on my Facebook page sometime soon, so if you want to see my work, you can have a look at it here: Alexandra Graham Photography

Good luck to those planning shoots, I hope this advice was useful!

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10 comments

  1. Solid advice. I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a photoshoot done for cards/press packets. You can’t really make the transition to semi-pro without the proper tools so I’m beginning my own research on photographers in the area. I wish you lived closer!

    1. Thanks Jenna! I also wish I lived closer. 🙂
      Photos are really important when making the transition to pro, I think. It makes my skin crawl when I see posters for dance events and the photos they’ve used for the poster look as though they were taken with a cellphone! *shivers* Ugh.
      You should look up Jang Photographers, I THINK they’re in NY – I’ve seen some of their work on Facebook, they do incredible photos of belly dancers!

  2. This sounds a little naughty but one thing I wish I had done before my first professional photoshoot was have a glass of wine… I was so nervous and the photographer and I did NOT get along. The anxiety and tension definitely showed in my face in many of the photographs. Maybe something to relax, whether it be deep breaths, or yoga, or a massage, or whatever you need prior to your shoot is a good idea. This is also why playing some good music, especially music that makes you ‘feel’ the emotion you want to convey in your pictures, is a nice tip, as well.

    Thanks for the great article. Good advice!

    1. If you didn’t feel relaxed…it was more than likely the photographers doing…did you just “jump right in” to the shoot?
      Being a photographer, I might suggest that you will want to do the shoot allocating your time in approximate thirds…
      For a 1 hour shoot….spend the first 20 minutes discussing the shots wanted/needed, NOT in your dance outfit….the next 20 minutes should be spent, in warm-up clothes, getting the lighting done, practice shots and working on YOUR comfort level…lastly, in costume, you work on the final shoot….getting images everyone is happy with….I might also suggest that if a crew is involved, some of them be female….hope this helps, relax and enjoy the shoot 🙂

  3. Great tips, I’ll be coming back to these next time I get photos done. I’d add making sure you bring music that you love, it makes it so much easier to pose and be fabulous. And I do agree with Ananke’s wine suggestion, in moderation 😉

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