Your Best Side
It’s amazing that you can have a hundred or more costumes and have danced more than a thousand and one nights and never have adecent photograph of yourself as a dancer!! Many people will promise that they took great pictures and will make sure you get one. That’s like telling a debt collector that the check is in the mail.
With a flood of bellydancers and not as many places to perform, as always is the case, professional pictures can help sell your performances, classes or seminars, showcases and any other bellydance product. Pictures of you in a costume get shown all over the place, (my Grandmother is the worst for showing off my dance pictures), so I make sure she gets the professional ones! Soundsconceited? No; its smart advertising and why not look your best? When I say professional pictures, I mean pictures taken by aprofessional photographer with a photography studio that takes pictures for a living. Not a friend that has taken a couple of photography classes as a hobby, unless they are serious about photography and have the right equipment to give you the professional end product, good pictures.
When you have professional studio pictures taken you have control over what image you want to convey. Your hair, make up andcostume will be fresh giving you the advantage of looking better than during an actual performance where you sweat it out! You can set different moods in professional pictures at your own discretion. Costumes and props are sure to be more cooperative in that you can place them where they look good. Best of all, when it comes to having professional pictures taken, is you don’t have to be preoccupied with actually dancing while and trying to pose for a picture someone is taking of you at the same time!
Pictures really are worth a thousand words and sometimes more. If you have a good eye, you can tell if a dancer is worth seeing or taking a class from by the picture that is given in the advertisement. On the other hand, they may have been taken by a really bad photographer! Professionally taken photographs are essential for dancers who are promoting themselves in any way. When you see a distracting background it takes away from the dancer in the picture. A perfectly straight arm or “w” arms or a relaxed posture are a deterrent in gaining students or even performances. Unattractivebody positioning is not in a dancer’s best interest either. Look at some advertising pictures and you will find examples of what I mean.
Professional picture settings need to be planned out to a point, to achieve best results. Sounds silly but get in front of a full-length mirror and practice poses. Some poses used for promotional endeavors we sometimes don’t “dance” but they look good in advertisements. Use your imagination, some poses you have never struck before may look excellent on you. A good thing to remember, a great pose may be uncomfortable and almost hurt as opposed to a regular relaxed dance pose! The usual types of poses in regular dance routines are held for a few seconds or more. However, in posing for professional pictures you may be in a pose for several minutes andseveral times, since the photographer takes time to adjust costuming, the tilt of your head, give you instructions on how to smile, with or without teeth, among other directions. Try it and you’ll know what I mean. To get your best side you are usually placed in an awkward position; no wonder babies cry when they get their pictures taken! You do not want to just look good in your pictures, you need to look great, awesome even! The poses that you strike in a professional picture are some times uncomfortable.
If you think practicing your poses is silly – practicing your facial expressions may seem weird. You may want to do this in private. Of course this may not be so out of place for us dancers, since we practice smiling when we practice dancing, it’s the same thing. Many things can make good facial expressions in your pictures, the tilt of the chin or head, the direction of the eyes, the type of smile wide open mouth or just a hint of a smile among other ideas. Pay attention to how your different looks feel without the mirror too. Different looks need to be practiced before the photo session, raised eyebrows, giving a shy or a dramatic bold look to the camera will feel different. When you know the feel of “that look” you know that is what you will get in your picture and not be disappointed with, “that dumb look on my face,” reaction when you receive your pictures for review. I have many pictures that would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the dumb look on my face! Practice your best facial expressions and use them in dance and pictures.
For spinning poses, practice spotting, and the facial look you want too. When you want a picture with skirts and veil flying you will probably need to spin. The spin you will do needs to be fast enough to get the costume to move and slow enough to control your lookthat will be picked up by the camera. Practice this in a mirror or a friend may help. More than likely you will have to spin quite a bit so the photographer can get your timing down to get that perfect action shot.
You not only need to practice facial expressions and poses but yourcostume needs practice too. Try on costumes before hand to see how it moves and looks. The camera picks up what a live dance cannot. Some costumes are just not interesting enough for still shot pictures but look great on the dance floor. Practice with your selected costume in front of a full-length mirror. Don’t dance, but practice poses, spins, and placing the skirts, veil, scarves etc. in different ways to enhance your pictures to make them interesting.
Make up is just as important in pictures as it is on stage. Pictures, like the stage, wash out a dancers face when taken from afar. Of course you don’t want to look like a clown, and with stage make up we sometimes think we do, but it looks so good on stage and people can actually see your face!
Your make up should be dark enough, (not necessarily bright reds and pinks), so you don’t look washed out. Make sure you use cover up to give you a smooth look, not just on your face but any where you may have a skin blemish to minimize. Match your lipstick to your nail polish and possibly even your costume, for example if you are wearing a blue based red costume an orange based color lipstick may clash.
Consider the lighting of your photo session. If you are going for the shaded mysterious look you will want the color of your costume tocompliment the darker back ground. Darker blues, greens, purples, coppers and blacks will not look good in the darker background pictures for they will blend in with the background. Brighter colors like pink, yellow, white, and gold my look better. Play with colors with the type of background you will have if possible. The opposite is true, if you have a white background a white costume will blend into the background. The other type of light is that of colored lights. Colored lights will change the color of your costume. Dark colors usually wash out to black under dark lights of blue and red, just like in a club or restaurant performance and may need to be avoided. If you are wearing a pale yellow and there are red lights your costume may look orange, blue lights it may look green. More than likely you will not have colored lights in your photo session, but you never know.
If you can find a professional photographer that has photographed bellydancers, they have experience of what kind of pictures you may want. They may know a few good poses and looks that will give you good pictures. However, many professional photographers have never photographed a bellydancer. This is where you may have to give them a hand in telling them what you want and you direct the essential pose. Then let them direct you in the tilt of your head or other things that may enhance the picture. If you have another dancer escort you they can help you with poses and critique the pose on the spot. They can help give suggestions and adjust your costuming, make-up and hair if needed. They can see little things that you may not. Having a dancer along for the experience also helps take the pressure and nervousness away from you, and its fun.
With professionally taken pictures, the cost is sometimes high but its well worth the money you will spend. Paying attention to the details and a couple of these suggestions put to use, will improve your pictures and you will be pleased.
Remember you are not just getting your pictures taken. When you stand in front of the monkey cage at the zoo with Auntie, that’s getting your picture taken. Your bellydance pictures are given or shown to everyone you know and used to promote bellydance activities. You need to look great and I can’t think of any other side to show the world but your very best side!