General Makeup and Appearance

Five tips: Belly Dance Makeup for Photography

Hello Gang!

Belly dancers at every level strive to document their journey through dance. Amateurs can get by with selfies, phone snap shots, and hand-held video.  However, if you want to up your dance game and how you’re perceived by the dance community, invest in a photo shoot with a good photographer.  High-quality images are a necessity for business cards, publicity images, social media, and websites.  Over the last four years, I have participated in more than 100 photo shoots.  I’ve worked with professional photographers and talented amateurs, and have taken many images myself. When I’m directing or styling, I find myself giving dancer/models the same few pieces of advice over and over.  When it comes to makeup, here are my top tips for getting the best results at your next photo shoot.

1 – Take Care of Your Skin

In the weeks before your photo shoot, take extra good care of your skin.  Invest in masks, scrubs, peels, or any other treatment that soothes and satisfies your skin’s needs.  If you have a special super-hydrating face mask or expensive moisturizer that you save for special occasions, this is the time to pull those items out and use them.

2 – Talk to your Photographer

When you are planning your photo shoot, be sure to talk to your photographer about the kinds of images that you are hoping to achieve.  As you plan and practice, you will want to keep in mind what type of lighting your photographer will be using. If you know, then you can choose the appropriate cosmetics for the situation.  At right, dancer and curve model Nicole Simone arrived at a photo shoot with a base-face, prepared for the artificial 5000k lights in my studio.

3 – Plan your Makeup Look(s)

Once you know how much time you have with your photographer, select your wardrobe.  Consider the colors that will coordinate and complement both your costume(s) and your features.  I like to move from biggest choices to the smallest. Start from a dance gown or bedlah set and skirt, and then choose your prop(s) and hair style(s).  Next, plan your jewelry and accessories selections. Once you’ve taken care of all that, it’s time to pick eye shadow, lip and cheek colors.

4 – Practice your Makeup Techniques

Now that you’ve selected your wardrobe and have planned your makeup looks, now is the time to practice. If you have three different looks planned, practice your base look first.  Once you have it perfected, add more colors to morph it into your second look and so on.  Take selfies of each of your finished looks for reference on the day of your photo shoot.  I also recommend laying out all the makeup products, tools, and supplies that you will need on the day of the shoot. Snap top-down flat-lay style photograph to use as a reference to help remember your product choices.

It’s especially important to know how much time you will need between looks for changing out of a costume, into the next one, and styling your makeup hair.  As you practice, time yourself.  Practicing will give you a much more precise time estimation so the photographer and any crew won’t be standing around waiting.

5 – Pack your kit with everything you will need

Like camping and traveling,  the rule of thumb is to pack only what you need and will use. Resist the urge to take everything along.  Make your makeup kit choices ahead of time and reduce your stress between looks. Three things that I recommend dancers try to keep their look in tip-top condition during long photo sessions include:

Hydration Spray

Without a doubt, this is my favorite tool in my photo-shoot styling kit.  A fine mist of water with a hint of glycerine in it will help set powders that may appear a little too powdery under bright photo lights.  It’s also a nice pick-me-up, like a spa in a bottle experience. It is super refreshing to the model who’s been under hot lights.   I make my own, but if you are looking for a nice product to buy, check out this rosewater & glycerine spray.  (Link Here)

Blotting Paper

Photo lights range from warm to smoking hot.  For dancers who are exerting themselves, sweat is a very real concern.  Pausing to freshen up with a quick mop-up with a piece of blotting paper will take down the sheen of perspiration.  Blotting paper can also help refresh product by adding a fresh light dusting of powder to the surface of the skin. (Link Here)

Mattifying Balm

The latest addition to my touch-up kit is a mattifying balm. This product category came onto the makeup scene a few years back and is still fairly new. It is a silicone primer-like product in a pan or stick format.  If your makeup is settling into fine lines and wrinkles, a touch up with a mattifying balm with smooth the problems out.  Just remember to press, not rub, so you don’t accidentally move your makeup. (Link Here)

Of course, there are thousands of other tips and tricks for preparing for a photo shoot.  If you are inspired and want more information on the topic, I recomend these two books:

Lindsay Adler’s, “The Photographer’s Guide to Posing: Techniques to Flatter Everyone” is a great guide to posing. However, she also talks about makeup, wardrobe, lighting and of course, posing. It’s written for photographers, but it’s a good read for models and stylists too.  (Link to Amazon)

I also recommend the latest title from Dita Von Teese, “Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour.”  Dita has included everything from posing techniques to glamor makeup, all from a show-girl perspective.  It’s filled with images of her and her associates, so if you are a Dita fan, this book is essential reading! (Link to Amazon)

Good Luck with Your Next Photos!
Dawn Devine ~ Davina
August 4, 2017


By Davina

Davina ~ Dawn Devine is a belly dance costume designer, dance instructor and author of more than a dozen publications on Middle Eastern dance.