Teressa-Belly Dance Artist in Toronto

The Fun, Fab, and not so Glamorous Side of Photoshoots!

Date posted: June 23, 2011

Over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of working with two amazing dance photographers to shoot some new bellydance photos to update my website and promotional material. As such, I thought it would be fun to share my experiences, as well as some helpful tips for doing photoshoots.

My first photoshoot was in late February with the amazingly talented Samira Hafezi. Check out her work and you’ll see why she’s one of the go to talents for dance photography in Toronto. Samira has worked with numerous bellydancers before, so she has a great eye for dance movements and poses that work well for photos. In addition, I also got to work with the fabulous make-up artist, Christine Millan, who can manage 3 completely distinct make-up looks with just a quick flick of her magic wand (or make-up brushes). Christine, being a bellydancer herself, also helped with constructing really unique ideas for the shoot. This duo is amazing and dancers, if you get the opportunity to work with them, jump on it!

This shoot was my first in over 3 years (3 years!), so I was a little rough around the edges when it came to poses and making pretty facial expressions. I had also decided pre-photoshoot that I had too many photos in which I was smiling and my costumes this time around seemed to call for a more serious look. Unfortunately, serious isn’t really my thing and sometimes I ended up looking really pained or just numb. Who wants a numb bellydancer? Not I. Even with my sometimes funky facial expressions, the shoot was awesome! Samira and Azhia came up with cool ideas that had them, for example, wrapping the veil around me and then making it seem as though the veil was floating beside me. These ladies are full of great ideas to give you unique shots. In addition, Samira not only did the traditional full body bellydance poses, but also did some shots halfway and even headshots, so you have a lot of options to work with.

One of my “Serious” Costumes

Flying Veil!

My second photoshoot was with Paul Cutler, who I’ve worked with twice before. For this shoot, I only had one purple costume that I really wanted to shoot, along with my new pair of Isis wings. I had also just gone shopping that past Thursday and purchased a funky jacket/dress that just demanded to be shot with full lights and heavy make-up! I figure they’ll be great headshots for the books I write when I become a professor in a few years (in my other life, I’m starting grad school in September). And anyway, every girl needs headshots and some frivolous photos, right?

My dress!

This shoot went fantastically! Why? I had just had the experience of a photoshoot with Samira, so my rough-around-the-edges poses were now not so rough. I learned that I should probably smile, so there was lots of smiling. In addition, my comfort level with Paul from our previous shoots together made everything flow effortlessly, which included some awesome shots such as this one (I can’t believe I’m posting this on my website):

So Glamourous!

Here are 5 tips for your own bellydance (or otherwise) photoshoot:

  • Look up images of the kinds of shots you’d like to get from your shoot: If you’re a dancer, look up dancers. I looked up some amazing bellydance photos, but I also looked up jazz and contemporary dance photos, which have really unique poses that can work beautifully for bellydancers. If you’re doing a couples shoot, look up engagement or wedding photography. Doing sassy headshots? Try to find some of those on photographers’ websites. Compile all these great shots in a folder that you can refer to before the shoot to practice, as well as on the day of your shoot.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! Remember all those great shots you procured from your hours of late night Googling? Now they’ll come in handy as you stand in front of a mirror with your photoshoot outfit(s) and pose away! If you’re in a bellydance costume, now is the time to see if your desired poses will work with the type of costume you’re wearing. For example, I had a lovely pink costume that I wanted to do some particular poses with, but the fabric was heavy and didn’t flow the way I had imagined, so it was off to my folder for new ideas. Get these prepared beforehand so that you don’t miss a minute of your shoot fumbling about for ideas.
  • Get Comfortable: Get to know your photographer. You want to make sure that you are comfortable on the day of the shoot to be silly, sexy, spunky, and a bit outrageous. After all, it’s your personality and comfort level that will make the shoot work. If you need a glass of wine beforehand to loosen you up, then by all means, pop that bottle! I highly recommend a bottle of Canei white wine!

  • Take Risks: Don’t be afraid to try something new or different that you hadn’t thought of beforehand. Move around, play, jump, and enjoy the shoot. Some of the best shots come from really unexpected moments. In addition, specifically for dancers, dance and move around! Play with your props, twirl your canes, spin with your veils, and kick up your skirts! All of this movement captures beautifully on the camera. For example, with my Isis wings, I expected that I would pose with them and have the traditional poses with the wings beside me like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. However, I started moving around a bit with them and my favourite shots with them are the ones that have me mid-dance. Who knew that Isis wings could capture movement so well? Now you know.

Isis Wings & I

  • Listen to Your Photographer: Your photographer is an expert at photos, so listen to them. They may tell you to turn your head a certain way, twist and contort your body in ways that seem awkward and unconvincing, but trust them! They’re behind the camera and can see what’s working and what isn’t.

Good luck with your fab photoshoot!

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