Surviving a marathon photo shoot with bellydancers1

The lovely Hadia Habibi artistic director of Al Nar Bellydance Ensemble. 2 light setup. Mainlight in softbox on the right. Background light with aimed at the red curtains just behind her.
This is the scene from behind the camera.

Photographing 12 lovely Bellydancers in one evening is work.

I already knew this going in, but I was surprised myself when I had to do so recently.

Besides the physical aspect of setting up the lights, backdrops, there is the mental aspect.

Not all your subjects respond the same way to your directions.

Depending on their personality and yours, it may take more to entice that special expression or smile out of your subject.

That’s why when I was asked by the ladies how much time would each of them get, I found myself uncomfortable with setting a time limit.

Then there was the number of costume changes…

Ruth Mendez, was lit with 2 lights. The key light was a softbox on the right. The 2nd light had a grid over the flash head from about 10 o'clock, giving 1-stop more than the key light. I left the background light the same as before.

Our space

Can you see what I mean by a low ceiling? My key light was up as high as I could get it.

The space I had to work with had width, depth but not quite enough height.

Having height in the room is important. It is often the dimension that is easily overlooked.

When the ceiling is low, that means your tall subjects can only be photographed sitting and not standing.

I’m not saying it’s not possible to shoot tall subjects standing in this scenario, but you’re restricted in your light placement.

What it really means is you won’t have the option to angle light downwards when the person is standing.

Lighting:Lazy versus Proper Way

Malika, was lit with 2 lights. Key light was the 800Ws in softbox from the left. The backlight from behind of her and to the right provided that rim light (most visible on along her arm) was from a 800Ws flash fitted with a honeycomb grid. Moving the lights to suit each person and their pose is more work, but is always worth the trouble.

Whenever photographing 12 persons individually, it is tempting to leave the lights where they are and not move them.

Your results in those instances will look exactly the same. Only the person or subject is different in each picture.

That means you’ve been transformed into a photo booth.

Freshta Shalikar had 2 costume changes. I used the one 800Ws flash in a softbox on her, keeping the background light the same as with the others

Everything is locked down right down to the exposure and possibly even the focus.

I recall setting foot in a photo studio in my youth growing up in Malaysia which had ‘hot lights’ (bright hence hot tungsten/incandescent lights)

The lights had probably not been moved in years.

Back then the photographer was shooting black and white film for my passport photo.

With subjects like these lovely bellydancers, it would be terrible to adopt that attitude. 😉

They had spent a fortune on their costumes and makeup, so with each girl I shot, I took my time.

I checked the lights each time. Why? For one thing the order they came before the camera wasn’t in order of their heights, so I had to move the lights up and down, closer and further case by case.

Special thanks to Marvin Sesuca for sharing the behind the scene pictures.

Ruth looking as alluring reclined as when she was holding the sword above. There was one keylight, the softbox directly above her and just outside of the frame. There was a reflector underneath to fill just outside the frame as well.

Peter Phun Photography

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