(First appeared on bellyfunk.my)

I am not a model. But like any girl, I wanted pretty pictures to immortalize my youth before too many years had passed. When I was younger, I didn’t know where to go for a good photography session, as the few (cheap) photography studios I checked out obviously used point-and-shoot cameras managed by people who had no artistic vision.

Later I found that many make-up companies have been offering opportunities to the common woman (like me) to get a quick makeover and to experience a brief photoshoot. You can occasionally find temporary booths set up in various malls that offer, for a small fee (which includes a voucher to purchase their cosmetic products), a makeover by a professional makeup artist and hairstylist, and a photoshoot at the end of which the customer is able to bring home at least one beautifully printed Photoshopped photograph taken by a professional photographer. The whole process usually takes about 1-2 hours in total (for both makeover and photoshoot).

I tried that out a couple of times, before I had the opportunity to help out a professional photographer who owned his own photography studio. He was an already established commercial photographer who has been in the industry for about 50 years; but he wanted to expand his business to taking photos of the everyday woman who, unlike a paid model, may or may not know how to pose. When he found out that I was a dancer, he decided to make us of my skill, and we worked on a photoshoot of in-studio dancing shots. It was only a one-day shoot, and I cannot pretend to know everything there is about modeling and photoshoots; but I learnt a lot about both in that brief period of time. I found out that hundreds of photos could be taken just to achieve that one perfect shot. This is sometimes because the photographer wants to achieve that one perfect shot which he had in mind. But of course, in our case, we tried many different poses and dance movements, and we finished the shoot with plenty of excellent shots.


When my dearest friend Elisha of Bulletproof Branding & Design suggested a collaboration with me, it sounded like a great idea! We would combine both our interests – hers in photography, mine in dancing. This collaboration had been in discussion since last year, and we even contemplated the idea of an outdoor photoshoot. We scouted various places and did a few test shots. But it was only this year that we finally got together, and we settled on indoor shots.

By that time, Elisha had already honed her skills, taking many lovely shots of her friends/clients for whom she was building websites and social media marketing for. Photography was not just an interest anymore; she was showing real passion for it. She had even set up a location in her home with backdrops, and invested in equipment like standing lights.

Elisha's compilation of her photography of Dianthus. Source: http://bulletproofbranding.biz/
Elisha’s compilation of her photography of Dianthus. Source: http://bulletproofbranding.biz/
One of Elisha's impressive works of her client Jacinta Kee. Source: http://bulletproofbranding.biz/
One of Elisha’s impressive works of her client Jacinta Kee. Source: http://bulletproofbranding.biz/

I was very impressed when I arrived at her home. Her setup is not quite that yet of a professional photographer’s studio; but that’s because she is still new in the business, and photography is an expensive endeavour. She still needed time and money to slowly build her studio. But she took pains to get the setup, although basic, look as professional as possible, and ensured that her equipment was sufficient and adjustable for different situations.

One of the shots taken at Elisha's home studio. Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
One of the shots taken at Elisha’s home studio. Photo credit: Elisha Rusli

She got me comfortable immediately, with a place that had been cleared for me to set up my things and layout my costumes and accessories. We discussed our plans for the photoshoot as I did my makeup. Prior to this, we had already discussed the direction of the photos that were to be taken, and had even looked online for inspiration, selecting a few photos to try to imitate. Because of the limitation of location, we agreed that we would only do stationary shots. As much as I would have loved an action shot, kicking over her expensive standing light was not part of my plan.

I think my experience with the earlier professional photographer helped move things a lot faster, as I had an idea of what needed to be done and what was expected of me as I was being photographed. But I was still pleasantly impressed with the way Elisha handled the photoshoot. She gave me directions as a pro would, encouraging me to be spontaneous, asking me to try different angles, poses and movements so that she could capture a wide range of motion. They were not mindless directions; she comes up with good suggestions that were suitable for our theme.

Just like during any photoshoot, we took hundreds of shots; many of which came out quite lovely. Some people might say that if you take thousands of photos of the same thing, of course you’re going to get one good shot, as a fluke. But it’s a testament to the ability of the photographer if he/she is able to produce many purposeful great shots, and Elisha was able to produce many!

Here are some of the selected photos from that day’s shoot.

Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
Photo credit: Elisha Rusli
Photo credit: Elisha Rusli

In fact, this website uses several of the photos taken during the photoshoot. They are too good not to be used, which was the whole purpose of the photoshoot in the first place.

Thank you Elisha for the lovely photos! It was a highly enjoyable experience and I really look forward to more collaborations in the future!

Read Elisha’s blogpost about the photoshoot!