Headshot Photography

Pageant Headshot Tips

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Written By Nate Torres

It’s your time to shine, but you can’t shine without having a headshot photo that represents the real YOU.

In this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about pageant headshots.

A pageant headshot is a picture of you showing your best side, in a candid pose.

Pageant headshots are used for talent photos, model portfolios, contestant collages, “meet the contestants” flyers, and so on.

These pictures can set you apart from other contestants! They should show your personality and show that you are a unique and special contestant.

This is one reason that getting pageant headshots taken by a professional photographer is important!

When taken correctly, pageant headshots can show the judges and the world what you’ll look like on stage in your evening gown or swimsuit during preliminaries and finals.

You should use the same style of backdrop and lighting for your pageant headshots as you will use on stage.

pageant headshot example
pageant headshot

Many pageants require a photo collage. Usually, one headshot is used in the collage along with several other contestants.

You should choose this photo carefully because it is often viewed more than any other photo of you.

This is also the photo that will be used in finalist voting flyers and other promotional materials.

If you are competing in a “meets the contestants” or “meet & greet”, your headshot should be prominently displayed on all marketing materials to make people aware that you are participating in the event.

Here are some pageant headshot tips to remember. We’ve already covered most of these, but we wanted to present this easy overview to remember:

1. Find a Great Photographer

You can find a local photographer by asking friends or family members who have already gotten their pageant headshots taken.

You can also ask coaches or other contestants where they got theirs done!

Also, a quick search in your favorite search engine for “pageant headshot photographer” or “headshot photographer” will allow you to find the best headshot professionals in your local area.

2. Wear Your Pageant Stage Clothes to Get Headshots Taken

Wearing your pageant stage clothes to get your headshots taken is important because it sets you apart from other contestants and adds a touch of personality to your headshots.

You should also choose clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident.

Remember that a lot of your headshots will be taken from the shoulders up, so make sure that you are wearing something appropriate to show off your personality.

This tip isn’t necessary, but it certainly helps!

3. Use a Simple Background That is Flattering to You

A simple background is important because it helps frame your face better.

pageant headshot background example

If you have too busy of a background, it can distract from your headshots!

When choosing your backdrop, choose colors that are flattering to you.

For example, if you have red hair and fair skin, avoid bright red backgrounds because they will wash out your complexion.

If you have light blonde or gray hair, keep in mind your eye color so it will be the primary feature in your headshot.

pageant headshot background
Her orange hair complements the blue background

4. Relax and Have Fun When Posing

Of course, posing more relaxed shows through in your headshots, allowing for your personality to shine through!

Being relaxed overall is crucial because being relaxed will also influence how your smile looks. A relaxed smile is always better than a forced smile.

Show your best facial profile.

You may need to practice in front of a mirror to get just the right angle for you!

When posing remember that every face is different, so it is important to use variety when taking your headshots.

You’ll want to show off your personality in these photos, so don’t be afraid to try different poses, pouts or smiles!

Models typically have a “neutral” expression with no emotion showing on their faces. If you are more photogenic when you smile, go for it – just make sure you don’t make a goofy face!

Don’t be stiff in your photos. If you feel awkward or uncomfortable, it will show in the end results. Relax and have fun!

Remember that your headshots should show how you look on stage as well as off-stage.

Your personality is important, not just your talent.

This leads us to our next tip.

5. Smile But Don’t Overdo It

You want to smile but you don’t want to overdo your smile.

It’s easy to tell when a smile is forced because you will see it in the creases of the eyes and in the face lines around your lips.

This smile does not look that good. Instead, keep a natural-looking smile.

A cue that can help you is to smile with your eyes. Instead of thinking smile with your mouth, smile with your eyes and you will notice your smile will feel more natural.

6. Wear Jewelry That Shows Off Your Personality

Your headshots should reflect who you are as a person, so wear pieces of jewelry that express your personal style and interests!

Remember it doesn’t have to be big or flashy, just something to make you stand out amongst the other contestants.

You want your jewelry to reflect who you are as a person, so buy some pieces that really show off your personality.

If you’re not used to wearing a lot of jewelry, try something simple at first.

Wear a necklace with a pendant or a pair of earrings – any simple statement piece will work.

Remember to keep your makeup, hair, and wardrobe styles consistent from headshot to the stage.

A lot of pageant contestants get their headshots done in the same style that they wear on stage for meets/greets.

Remember that your headshots should show how you look on stage as well as off-stage. Your personality is important, not just your talent. If you are comfortable and confident in yourself, it will definitely show in your photos!

pageant headshot jewelry

7. Show Off Your Personality in Your Headshots

Show your personality in your headshots — easier said than done right?

So how do you show off your personality?

Well, what is your pageant personal brand?

What characteristics do you want to be known for? Do you want to be a funny pageant, a serious one, etc.?

By knowing what you want to stand for, you can align all the elements we’ve discussed in this article around that persona.

All in all, getting your pageant headshot taken should be a fun experience, remember that!

8. Style the Hair

Hair is a great way to set yourself apart from the other contestants. It is important to choose a hairstyle that is flattering and not distracting.

The last thing you want your headshot looking at is a hair-do instead of your face!

If you are participating in pageants for talent, it may be best to go with a simple hairstyle that will allow you to showcase your talent.

If you want to do something more daring and fun, consider doing two different styles! For example, put one side of your hair up and leave the other down.

Remember that pageants are about showcasing yourself as a whole person.

Don’t wear your hair in a style that is unnatural for you, and remember that beauty is more than just hair and makeup!

9. Same Makeup as On Stage

It’s best if you use the same makeup products on your face as what you wear on stage.

However, make sure you get some good lighting when you take your photos!

We have a guide on makeup tips for headshots, so be sure to check that out as well!

10. Don’t Overedit

Headshots should only be touched up if absolutely necessary.

Remember that your headshots should show how you look on stage as well as off-stage. If a photographer edits your headshot too much, it will not match the way you look on stage!

bad headshot over edited (1)
Example of Over-Editing

It is recommended to look at your photographer’s portfolio before booking them to get a sense of their editing style and to make sure it is consistent and you are happy with how they edit.

To further explore the topic of pageant headshots, we also recommend this video by Dani Walker:

(Pageant tips) Pageant headshots DON'TS

We hope you enjoyed this guide on pageant headshots.

This guide is also a part of our Headshot Photography Hub, so be sure to check that out for further headshot photography tips and insights.

What colors look best on pageant headshots?

Solid colors tend to work best because they draw attention to the face and create a clean, classic look. Soft pastels, such as pink, lavender, or baby blue, can create a delicate, feminine look. Bold, bright colors, such as red, royal blue, or emerald green, can create a striking and confident appearance.

What makes a good pageant headshot?

A good pageant headshot should showcase the contestant’s natural beauty, confidence, and personality. It should be well-composed, with good lighting and a clear focus on the subject’s face.