Lion in the Dark – The Talented Kaci Hillis

Over a year ago now I had the opportunity to do a photoshoot with Kaci Hillis – An incredibly talented dancer who at the time was studying at the Ministry of Dance in Melbourne.

Step 1: Add Kaci

Step 2: Add Flour

Step 3: Say “jump”

Step 4: Pick your jaw up off the floor.

Kaci is off to dance in New York next year – I wish her all the best! It goes to show that hard work really does pay off ūüôā

Dancer: Kaci Hillis
Photography: Michelle Tara Cumming



Publisher? Check! – Sneek peek!

Before you read on, I just got myself on INSTAGRAM! Follow me by searching: michelletaraphotography

Wow – what a whirlwhind journey I have been on since February!

I have been fortunate enough to be contacted by the Executive Director of the Australian All Star Cheerleading Federation (AASCF) to publish a book about cheerleading – busting any stereotypes around it, showing the hard work that goes into it – and generally showing people who have never heard about cheerleading exactly what it is.

Given my strong background in cheerleading (and my absolute love of it – so much that my dream job – second to this one obviously – would be getting paid to watch/train/perform cheerleading all day every day for the rest of my life) I was absolutely excited at the opportunity to produce the publication.

AASCF is a great body for cheerleading. As a cheerleader myself I have competed at numerous competitions from different providers between Australia and New Zealand – AASCF hands down hosts the best competitions – the staff are fantastic, and they run smoothly. (I swear I am not paid for saying that – I sincerely mean this from the bottom of my heart!) Not only that, AASCF also helps out people who generally want to get involved – be it new athletes to new cheerleading gyms – from providing top notch coaching resources to gym gear.

5000 copies of this book have been produced – but they are sooo hot off the press I can’t even show them to you yet – so here’s the pallet they are in ūüėõ

For the diehard fan to someone just interested in what it is – if you would like to get your hands on a copy keep following me here. Also follow AASCF of their facebook page for updates on where you can get one ūüôā

Releasing the Kraken

I like to go to bottle stores for a bit of inspiration. No I am not a big drinker – it is the design on the bottles is what inspires me. There are so many types of the same kind … Continue reading

Tumble Time!

I am currently in the midst of shooting my major folio for RMIT. My photographic life has gone from ‘one day it would be neat to do this’ to “ok, lets actually do this and I only have 2 hours to do it in – don’t screw it up”

I have always wanted to shoot a gymnast doing a tumble pass. The tricky part was to get fast enough lights to freeze the movement of the gymnast. I hired out the Broncolor Scoro from the friendly bunch at Sun Studios in Melbourne. If there is ever a lighting kit on steroids, trust me, this is it!

Second step – add gymnast.

I put a casting out for an exceptional gymnast – Emily Atherton, a talented level 5 cheerleader and ex gymnast at Outlaw All Stars in Melbourne messaged me. She was as excited as I was about the shoot, and had level 5 tumbling skills – a perfect mix!

As tumbling is hard on the body, I needed a gym with a sprung floor to shoot in – Royal All Stars in Narre Warren helped me out with this (they also helped me out with my book – you can check that out here)

With the help of my two assistants, Cameron Cooke, and Daniel Campbell, set up and shooting was a breeze. I thank them very much for giving me a hand and putting up with my small car on the drive to the location.

Also big props to Emily for being a great model/athlete to work with.

All images ©





Just Published My First Book! – Here’s a Quick Look!


All Images are ©

Woohoo! Hot off the press!

I had been given an assignment at RMIT to create a book.

Cheerleading has been a big part of my life since I started in 2004. It is something that I know inside and out, and am immensely passionate about Рthe perfect subject for my first book. If you do not know what competitive cheerleading is, I suggest you watch this 2.30min video of California Allstars Black Ops to get up to speed

I contacted the only elite level team in Victoria that I knew of – Dreamtyme Allstars

This could possibly be the most exciting team I have ever seen in real life Рi.e not on youtube, which is where I drool over elite level teams which are mostly in America. The girls ooze enthusiasm for what they do, and they work incredibly hard.


A short summary of this book is that it is a “this is what cheerleading is” kind of book. I did not want to do a “what is cheerleading” book, but I needed to educate whoever was marking this assignment – rather than have them read a book on something they had no idea about.

I wanted to do something extravagant, and targeted to an audience of cheerleaders  Рsuch as follow Team Australia (representing Australia at the World Cheerleading Championship in America) from their try-outs, training, uniform fitting, right through to boarding the aeroplane, visiting America and then competing on the World Championship floor. However,  this was not possible for me (even if I could have done this and passed the assignment) as the competition was after I had to have the book handed in!


Making a book specifically for cheerleaders is still something I would like to do in the future and this has been a perfect experience for finding out what the process is for publishing a book. There are not many books around for cheerleaders (there are a lot of really old books for people wanting to know what cheerleading is however).¬†And the ones that are around have awful pictures from the 80’s… see here¬†for an example of what I mean.

I would love to follow an amazing team around in America ¬†– or even several teams – and follow them through to the world championships – wouldn’t that be awesome!


For my first experience in publishing a book, I would say it has been great. I had a clear idea from the get-go, and I know a lot about the subject which I was photographing. I am excited to start on a second book on cheerleading, and do it how I originally wanted to – and to actually sell it!



I have a big thanks to the following for making this book happen:

Dreamtyme All Stars and Royal All-Stars
Thank you for letting me into your gyms – without your generosity, I would not have been able to complete this!

Dance Shoot – With Sophia and Andrew



All images ©

I am back again after a month off from Uni – Only to find that I have worked so much during the break that I now feel like I have not had a holiday at all!

During the first week of the break I had the privilege of photographing two talented dancers, Andrew Liu and Sophia Lewis. 

Sometimes I have to mentally pinch myself when people as good as these two walk (well, actually.. dance) in front of my camera. They make everything look so effortless Рyet if I attempted any of this myself, I would most likely give myself a hernia haha! 

Here are a few photos from the shoot – I hope you enjoy them!





Sophia Lewis

Andrew Liu


Using Linkedin for Photography

Linkedin – it’s like the person who lives two houses down from you. You give them an awkward wave. You kind of know them by sight, but you really have no idea who they are on the inside. – This has been my very thoughts on Linkedin for a long time.

So it’s about time I introduce myself to Linkedin and get to know it a bit better.

What to use it for? Stalking down people you may want to work for, or need to hire. It’s like social media for workplaces. Everyone’s CV is on their profiles – so you can see where they came from and how they got to where they are today.

I have just linked my wordpress blog to Linkedin – so now when I post on my blog, they appear on my home page, shared with my connections. Check out my Linkedin HERE


Potential target audiences on Linkedin:

Creative Agencies
Creative Agencies are great – Similar to a modelling agency, they ‘sign’ you up, and you work through the agency as either a freelancer, or directly for the agency. They have people actively out there selling you to clients. Agencies tend to hold amazing photographers and it is my goal to work for an agency one day.
Here’s three agencies that had some great photographers, check it out: – Sydney, Australia – Surry Hills, Australia – East Sydney, Australia

Companies may not go directly to an agency for a photographer. They might not even know where to start! Currently I think I would approach a company in person or via a combination of email and a follow up phone call. However in the future, this may be a road I can take.

People in Human Resources – In particular, marketing
People in HR do a lot of hiring of skilled workers. Say they need a photographer – they can directly call an agency, or do a search on linkedin. I can potentially reach quite a few people in HR by using my already established connections in linkedin as a ‘mutual friend’ as facebook would put it.

Where to from here with Linkedin?
In this stage of my photographic career, I don’t think that Linkedin is going to provide any immediate opportunities. However, it is a great way to network with people in the industry, and it is never any harm to do so. There are great forums where you can hear about techniques, and also how others are running their businesses – which never hurts to know about.

And that’s the end of my take on Linkedin.


Beauty Shoot with Ella and Kat

On Saturday I did a shoot with Ella Wright from BGM Models, and Kat Davidson from Captive Beauty. 


This shoot was a good folio builder for all three of us. Kat needed some more photos for her folio showcasing her amazing bridal makeup, Ella needed some more beauty shots for her folio, and I wanted to challenge myself with shooting beauty. I love collaborating with people like this to get a common result!

I had always wanted to do a beauty shoot, but was a bit apprehensive as to how to approach it. I ended up using the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra, with a rotalux. The rotalux has an attachment on the inside that eliminates the hotspot in the center Рvery similar to the round part in the center part of a beauty dish.

I then put a shower cap on it, and positioned it to camera right, pointing down slightly at Ella. I then had a silver reflector underneath her to fill in any harsh shadows. 


I ended up getting some great shots! I am wondering why I was so apprehensive in the first place Рit was a piece of cake and look forward to doing more beauty shoots.  I am editing them now and I will post a few when I am finished.

Till then, you will have to put up with behind the scenes shots – Thanks Kat for taking them!

Also, take a look at Kat and Ella’s pages!