Let’s first talk a little bit about the intention of photos in general for business promotion.
As the online world has become a mechanism for doing business, your photo is often the first impression you’re making to prospective clients to make that initial contact. A good photo is going to make you stand out against your competition, and should gain the trust of the prospective client enough to make that initial call. It is not just a picture; it is your professional image and brand. A good brand shows attention to detail. It also shows that you are in command of your industry by exhibiting your strengths and expertise. Make a list of how you want your customers to perceive you and your business professionally (for example, in my case: approachable, friendly, creative, warm). Think about the photos you want to make, and make sure they communicate those things.
If it’s your very first shoot, think about simple backdrops - they will be infinitely more useful for business purposes than photos with busy locations or backdrops. You need to build a base portfolio to start with, and this helps tremendously. I recommend a mix of close ups (also called headshots), three-quarter shots and full-length photos for a shoot.
Also, something important to understand is that there is a trade off when having photos taken in regard to what looks/backgrounds you use. Remember, it is SPECIFICITY vs. LIFETIME. In general, the more specific a shot is to a specific look/use, the shorter its lifetime. The more general a shot is, the longer its lifetime. In short, keep in mind that general shots will have more longevity than specific shots.
In follow up sessions, I encourage dancers to think more outside of the box and round out their portfolios. If you have more close ups and three-quarter shots from your first time out, then you can do more full body shots in your second session. You can also showcase new costuming and try out alternate poses. As you progress as a dancer, you have the ability to use your photos to represent your more recent ideas with respect to dance, costuming, posing, props and make up.
I am often asked about action versus posed photos. I think BOTH are an important part of a dancer’s portfolio. However, we need to realize that bellydance is very subtle – our movements are not easily captured by the camera. Think about all of those live performance photos you have of that belly roll right in the middle. What’s beautiful about the belly roll is the lift at the top and the tuck at the bottom. When doing these in the studio, they can look very “posed” because of the movement. So, if you want action photos, bring things that can create more action with the dance! Skirts, veils, fans, et al… all help towards this end.
It is a good rule of thumb to have new photos around once a year. Clients want to hire you on the basis of a photo showing how you currently look. Also, if you teach workshops or advertise or write for bellydance blogs or magazines, you don’t want people seeing the same old photo from years ago. *You’ll* also feel reinvigorated by having new photos as well.
Remember: getting professional shots is an investment in your career and future. If you aren't willing to do that, potential clients and people that would hire you will look at your blurry selfies and say, "If this is how much they care about their career as a dancer, how much are they going to care about my event?”