Get a Killer Pageant Headshot

How to Get a Killer Pageant Headshot

After you’ve signed up for your pageant, one of the first things you start thinking about is scheduling your headshot photo shoot. But getting a great headshot requires a little more than just showing up for your photo shoot. So, here are my top 5 suggestions for How to Get a Killer Headshot.

1. Look at Top 5 Headshots

Before you run out and book a photographer, take a look at the headshots of last year’s Top 5 contestants. Why? Each pageant has a different visual brand – their preferred “look.” The best way of identifying a pageant’s preferred look is by analyzing the headshots of previous top contestants.

Pay attention to the overall look of the headshot. Analyze the posing, hair, makeup, and lighting. Does it look natural, almost like a senior portrait? Or is it more glamorous, like you’d see on the cover of a magazine? Is the makeup All-American girl, Hollywood Red Carpet Sexy, or Full Pageant Glam?

Once you’ve identified the preferred look of the pageant you’re ready to look for a photographer.

2. Research Photographers

Now, it’s time to research photographers. Now, when I say “research photographers” I do not mean an Internet search for photographers in your area who say they do headshots. There are many different kinds of headshots and photographers tend to specialize in one or two types of headshots.

You’re looking for a photographer who has experience with pageant headshots. What makes pageant headshots unique? In photography, pageant headshots fall into the “beauty” category. It refers to the lighting, posing, and post photoshoot touching up to create the finished headshot. If you book a photographer who does senior portraits, modeling portfolios, or corporate/professional headshots, you’re probably not going to end up with a pageant headshot that’s as fabulous as you are. You want an experienced pageant headshot photographer.

3. Hire a Makeup Artist

Just like photographers, you want to use an experienced pageant makeup artist for your photo shoot. Sometimes, your pageant photographer can refer you to a pageant makeup artist they often work with.

If you’re finding someone on your own, ask the makeup artist if they have an online portfolio or if they can send you headshots of pageant clients where they did the hair/makeup. You want to compare the hair/makeup in those headshots with the hair/makeup of the top 5 contestants you looked at in step one. Of course, you can’t look exactly like them, but your hair and makeup in your headshot should express the same overall vibe.

If you absolutely can not find a pageant makeup artist in your area, look for a top rated bridal makeup artist. Look at their bridal portfolio and see if the close-ups of the bride have similar hair/makeup as last year’s top 5 contestants. Take pics of pageant headshots that you like with you to the photo shoot to give the makeup artist an idea of what you’re looking for.

4. Select Your Wardrobe

It’s tempting to spend hours agonizing over what to wear, but the formula for a great headshot outfit is really pretty simple:

  • Solid color top or dress: select a solid color that you know looks great on you. When in doubt, shades of blue are always a great choice. Skip multicolor prints and bright patterns as they pull attention to your outfit and away from your face.
  • Simple neckline that doesn’t distract: go with a neckline that isn’t over-designed. Avoid large ruffles, feathers, oversized collars, and anything that will distract the judge’s eye from your beautiful face.
  • Great pair of earrings: For your headshot, the purpose of your earrings is to add color and design to balance the color/design of your top. Your earrings pull the eye up so that your top doesn’t dominate the photo. Generally speaking, necklaces aren’t worn in headshots because that would pull the eye to your neck, not your face.

5. Practice Posing

I know you’ve probably done hundreds of selfie poses, but headshot posing is different. Research the poses done by last year’s Top 5 contestants and expand your review to the Top 10 to give you a greater variety of poses. Then practice those poses in a mirror. Pay special attention to the tilt of the head, smile (big smile, small smile, teeth, no teeth), and placement of the hands (if included in the shot).

Once you think you’ve got the hang of posing do some test pics at home. Have a friend take the pics while you go through the range of poses you’ve been practicing. Take a look at the pics, decide what adjustments need to be made in your poses, and try again. Keep going until you can recreate the pose and facial expression you’re going for.

Getting a winning pageant headshot isn’t all that hard if you do your homework and think things through. Resist the temptation to book a photographer or makeup artist without making sure they can create the look you’re going for. You’re going to be fabulous!