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A Homemade Promo Picture

By Salome

As the owner of OrientalDancer.net I have reviewed thousands of pictures for our directory. They run the gamut of studio quality perfection to very amateurish.

I know that sounds harsh! But quality promotional materials are a necessary tool for the professional arena. Your promotional picture represents you to potential students, clients and the general public. It should convey joy, integrity and beauty, both in the dance and in yourself.

Optimally, your promotional pictures are created with a professional photographer. But if you cannot afford a studio sitting - here are some tips on making a good promotional picture on a shoe string budget.


You need a camera capable of taking a picture with a resolution of 300 dpi or higher for printing resolution purposes. If you don't have a camera, ask around. A family member or friend is bound to have camera that will work. If that's not an option, try contacting your local community college. Do they have a photography class? Would a photography student do a sitting with you? Or try your local cable access station. They may have a camera and that equipment is free for you to use.

If you have a significant other, friend or family member shooting for you (that has little or no experience) keep it simple. Beg, borrow or steal a tripod. If that's not possible, check 2nd hand shops like GoodWill. You will avoid the disappointment of a blurry but otherwise perfect picture. You want a 3/4 or full length shot and one good head shot.


Lighting makes all the difference in the world! Your local cable access station is a great resource. They should have some type of lighting equipment and I suggest utilizing it. If that's not possible - go for the best diffused and even lighting you can get. Your best bet is to shoot outdoors in an area where there is NO direct sunlight hitting you - very early morning, before dusk, or an overcast day. If you do shoot outside, stand on a piece of plywood or other hard surface.

If you have an area in your house that lets in significant light you can try that. Again, you don't want any sunlight hitting you directly. You also don't want to stand with your back to the window but rather facing the window.

The problem with using ordinary house lighting is that it creates a 'hot spot' where the light hits you and casts shadows where it doesn't. Sunlight actually does the same thing but you get a wider range of light over the body... If you do shoot indoors and want to use a combination of artificial light and sunlight I would stick to sunlight illuminating the front of the body and face with artificial light to either side.

Costume and Make-Up

Make-up for pictures is different than stage make-up. You will have to compensate for whatever lighting you have to work with. Sunlight is going to wash you out so you'll need to have a heavier application but remember that it's an intimate shot so avoid theatrical application. There is an entire series on make-up application in the "Guest Stories" and "Articles" section of this web-site. Some of the articles are geared toward the stage and some for day wear, so adjust for your circumstances.

After you have costumed up, have someone on hand to make sure your costuming and jewelry stay just so as you work through your sitting.


Practice posing in front of the mirror in the costume(s) you are going to wear. Pick a series of different poses that are the most complimentary and clearly show your face and body. When it comes time to shoot, start with a pose and stick with it. Instead of changing poses after an initial shot or two, change the angle of your head. Start moving your chin slightly to one side, slightly lifting or lowering the chin. Try a host of angles. Same thing with the body, change the angle slightly. You want to breath life into your picture so relax your face and try to let the emotion you want captured to shine through.

Back Drop

So, we got our hands on a camera at no cost, used natural light or free lighting from the cable access station. We are in our best clean, ironed costume with make-up that defines our features so they are not lost. We have a series of beautiful poses and after about a hundred shots we have two or three really good pictures that simultaneously contain: great expression, an attractive angle of the head and body, costuming and jewelry arranged properly, a complimentary pose and even light.

You may have shot the pictures in your back yard, kitchen, deck... Wherever the light was best, right? There's nothing that detracts from a promotional picture like your refrigerator, couch or fence. But this is an easy fix! If you have a computer and graphic software, you can do this yourself. If not, enlist the help of a friend or family member who does.

Download your pictures on your computer. Open them in Adobe Photoshop or another graphic software. Use the cutting tool to cut away the background. I mentioned earlier to stand on a hard surface if shooting outdoors. This will make it very easy to cut the ground away. Soften the edges of your body with the blur tool. You can manipulate the lightening levels too. You can leave the background white or choose to add a subtle color to the backdrop.

If that seems overwhelming and you prefer to create a physical backdrop for your shoot, I suggest something clean and simple. You want the focus to be on you so less is more. In fact nothing but a solid color fabric is BEST. Be sure it contrasts with your costume color or you will be lost in the back drop.

You can save your pictures on a disc and when you need a hard copy take it to a Kodak express station. Or if you have an excellent printer, buy photo paper and print at home.

As you earn money from your teaching and/or performing think about setting a portion aside for professional pictures. Even if your homemade pictures are smoking hot, a pro refreshes his/her promo pictures over the years.