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Personal projects are very important. Photographers must always develop their skills, practice those skills, invent new techniques, and keep their portfolio updated, these are all things that personal projects can provide. They can be intimidating to setup, however. One idea I’ve heard from several sources lately is to approach the project as if you were shooting an assignment for someone. This helps provide direction to the project that helps one cope with the intimidation. I’m going to tell you a bit about how I setup my most recent project.

I came up with the idea that I would shoot as if I was creating an ad for a cultural/musical festival. I did have a specific festival in mind, although I don’t want to name it here.  Belly dancing was a great fit and I had worked with a dancer before whom I felt would be willing to do a shoot like this again. However, for this project I felt it important to include her dancing partner. So I asked them both if they’d be interesting in doing a trade shoot.

We then set out trying to come up with an appropriate location. I was thinking something that would create a Mid-Eastern coffee house sort of feel. After trying to come up with something for a few weeks, we decided it would probably be best to use one of the dancers’ home.  I set out to come up with an idea that would give a similar ambience in her home.

What I came up with was to use a piece of fabric I found that’s color was close to saffron. Then in Photoshop, I would add a texture to the solid color. In the end I decided not to add the texture to all the images. When lit appropriately, this created the look and feel I was after.

The shooting itself was fairly easy. I let what images were most successful from the earlier shoot guide me. The only real challenge was positioning two dancers so that behind them was the background we made and nothing else. Portable backgrounds are only moderate size out of necessity and this can cause difficulties at times.

I’m not going to tell you the details of the post-processing step by step this time, but I will list a bunch of resources that I used. Lightroom and Photoshop were the main tools of course. I also used Nik’s Color Efex Pro4 (tonal contrast and glamour glow) and Silver Efex Pro2. Furthermore, shortly before we shot this, Scott Kelby hosted a guest blog by Regina Pagles, where she detailed her methodology step by step. Now, I did not follow it precisely, but this blog post did provide inspiration for post processing for many of the images. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell which ones.

Go take a closer look at the images from this belly dancing shoot, or take a look at my people portfolio.

Currently, I am working on producing another personal project. The production on this new one is a little more involved, but keep an eye out for it here.