The pageant headshot is something that every pageant competitor is going to need for one purpose or another. In some pageant systems, your headshot is judged and scored with just as much weight as your on stage evening gown or modeling competition is, while other pageants require a headshot to give to the judges during the interview portion of the pageant so the judges can get a better feel for who is coming in to see them next. Almost every pageant system I have encountered in the last several years has at least required some type of headshot for use in a program book, for the official website, or even to feature contestants on the pageant’s social media platforms.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare
- Know the style of headshot which is more appropriate for your particular pageant system. While your photographer, if he or she works with pageant headshots often, may know the style which is expected for your system already…don’t count on that. Speak to them in advance, let them know if you are looking for an extremely natural headshot, a semi glamorous headshot, or a full blown super glam, giant hair and dinner plate sized earrings sort of headshot. This will help your photographer be prepared with specific lighting tools and layouts to do the job correctly, and will help him or her with how the editing portion should be set up for the final product you will receive after the perfect photo has been selected. If you have the option to work with a professional makeup artist and/or hairstylist for the shoot either at the studio when you arrive or before you go to the studio, DO IT! Unless you’re an expert with hair and makeup, having a professional do it will make a world of difference.
- Pay attention to any instructions your pageant director or coach for the system gives you about your headshot. They may tell you that you must be wearing a certain color, or they may tell you that the background for the photo must be a specific color. For example I’ve had ladies tell me that they are only allowed to wear pink for their headshot, and I’ve had ladies tell me that the headshot absolutely must be on a white background. If you ignore those standards that the pageant expects, you may have deductions from your score, you may not fit in with the other contestant headshots, or in the worst case the system may exclude you entirely from program books or social media features. If you have sponsors for the pageant, then none of those things will go over very well with them.
- Make sure your headshot actually looks like you if it is going to be used to identify you in any way to the judges, or other elements of the pageant. There are some photographers who will use so much light, editing, makeup, and big hair that if you were to walk into a room and approach someone who doesn’t know you with your photo, they would ask who the photo is of while they look right at you with a straight face. If your goal is the most glam possible headshot you can possibly get and you don’t care if anyone can recognize you from the photo, then there are photographers who only take that type of headshot, you should seek them out. My philosophy with head shots is that it should look like you on your best day. We all have good hair days, good skin days, and of course we all have the bad versions of those too. Make sure your photographer’s goal is aligned with yours before you even pick who is going to do your headshot.
- Your headshot will usually be a tight shot showing you from the chest up or shoulders up, which means what you wear on your bottom half doesn’t matter nearly as much as what is going on up top. Let your lower half be comfortable, wear shorts, yoga pants, athletic shoes, no shoes, whatever. From the waist up, you need to look like a million bucks. My advice is to go with solid colors rather than prints for your headshot. Solid colors are less distracting than prints are, and you want all of the focus for the headshot to be on your face and more specifically you want observers looking your headshot right in the eye. Avoid neon colors like neon pink, neon yellow, etc. if at all possible. These colors can change the color of the light reflecting back onto your face, and give you a green or yellow tone. Good photographers, and good photo editors will know how to correct those things but it is much safer to do it correctly from the start.
- Relax and have fun with it. If you have a music playlist you like to listen to, ask if the photographer has a stereo you can plug your phone or music player into. Take deep breaths between shots, and relax your face when you have the chance so you can avoid having a deer in the headlights or plastic smile look. A headshot session with the right photographer who matches your style will be one which will be fun, memorable, and rewarding.