Surviving a marathon photo shoot with bellydancers2

My model Hadia Habibi, was lit by one softbox on the right aimed downwards. There is a light behind her to light the background, black curtains and red fabric. Canon 5DMark2 with 50mm lens.

When I left off in Part 1, I mentioned how tempting it can be to leave your lights where they are and just shoot each subject in the same exact lighting.


If I were hired to photograph an entire school of belly dancers within a certain time period, believe me, I would do it that way.

You know, sort of like the big photo studios who contract with schools to photograph their students.

There’s no room for individuals tweaks.

They send home 3 setups with a specific pose for each backdrop.

The setup for above. I was warming up. Later, I added more lights.

When the student arrives at the designated time, they already know which pose they want, so they get directed to “Pose 1, 2 or 3”

Each “pose” is broken down exactly …


“Face right or left, hand under your chin, look left, raise your head a little”

I am not making a judgement about those big portrait studios who have to photograph thousands of students.

If I had a contract to shoot hundreds of subjects in a given time frame, I would do the same exact thing.

They have it down to a science and I would be “borrowing” their ideas.

Studio versus Location

In a studio setting the extra room around your subject allows you to get more dynamic. Hadia used her veils and we had a blowing fan to create a nice billowing effect.

Is one better than the other?


I like working on location.

Not knowing exactly what I will find opens me up to problems I know.

There lies the challenge.

But working on location allows me to improvise a lot easier.

When I have to work in the studio, I have to conceptualize more.

It’s like starting with an absolute blank.

Shot in color but I felt it was an image worthy of black and white.

You have to think about a background, the setting or the scene your subject will appear with.

The studio is a sterile environment.

Unless it’s your own, and you stock it with cool props, you are at the mercy of what’s there.

It’s basically a big empty sterile box especially if it’s one you’re renting.

You start with nothing. If you don’t have a concept in mind, you will likely not have any props and your pictures will show clean floors, ceilings

When you’re on location, you can always find things to use as a prop to improvise.

The other downside to a studio that you rent is this: if you rely on the communal props, your pictures will be similar to those taken by the other photographers since everyone is using the same props.

In that instance, you really have to work your lights because not every photographer lights the same way.

Some are more discerning about where they want their shadows.

Others just throw their light indiscriminately letting it spill everywhere.

Why not just shoot on location then?

Peter Phun Photography

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