Top 20 Interview questions

How to take your own pageant headshot (8 Steps)

Taking your own pageant headshot is never something I advise my pageant coaching clients to do. But, I understand that a photoshoot with a hair and makeup artist might be out of the budget. If taking your own pageant headshot, as a last resort, these are steps to help your image to look as professional as possible.

1. Hair and Makeup

I strongly recommend hiring a hair and makeup artist for your photoshoot. Professional quality hair and makeup can make a huge difference for your image. I discuss this in detail in another blog post, if you need some more guidance on this. If you cannot hire someone to do your hair and makeup you have two other options: take a professional hair and makeup lesson or watch some Youtube makeup tutorials. Keep in mind that your hair and makeup should be age appropriate for your pageant system.

Brittany Link Pageant Headshot
Photo by: Brittany Link Photography

2. Research your pageant system

Researching the type of photos that are appropriate for your age division and pageant system is a crucial step. Google and search on social media for images of contestant headshots from past contestants and titleholder. Pay attention to lighting, wardrobe, hair, makeup, and facial expressions, to get a better idea of what you should plan to capture for your own headshot.

…my first pageant headshot was a selfie taken in my mom’s van.

Dani Walker

3. Say no to selfies

You might be wondering, “who would use a selfie for their pageant headshot?” I can tell you, I’ve seen more selfies, or Snapchat filtered pics submitted as official headshot than I can count. And, I’m embarrassed to say that my first pageant headshot was a selfie taken in my mom’s van. (We all start somewhere right?) If you have to take your own photo, use a tripod and a self-timer.

Matt Boyd Pageant Headshot of Megan Gordon
Photo by: Matt Boyd Photography

4. Ask a friend to take your photo

If you happen to have a friend who’s a photographer, or friend that has a professional camera (and knows how to use it), awesome! Asking a friend to take your photo can be very helpful. Kindly ask your friend if they would take your pageant headshot for you. If they agree, don’t forget to say thank you with a card, taking them out for a coffee, or maybe even lunch.

Click HERE for more tips on capturing a great image

Zac Grimaldo pageant headshot of Kirby Lindley, Miss Texas Teen USA
Photo by: Zac Grimaldo

If don’t have access to a professional camera, don’t fret…

Dani Walker

5. Use a smart phone

If you don’t have access to a professional camera, don’t fret, most smart phones shoot in 1080p, which will work for your pageant headshot. The key when using a smart phone is to take your photo with the back lens, not the front facing selfie lens. The back lens of your smart phone camera can shoot in a higher photo resolution, this means that your image will be a larger file size and have more clarity. Don’t forget to adjust the lighting setting on your camera so your image is not too dark or washed out.

Matt Boyd Youth contestant pageant headshot
Photo by: Matt Boyd Photography

6. Shoot on a plain background

Do your best to take your headshot against a plain background. This will help to reduce any distractions in the back, to make sure the focus of the image is on you. If you are using an iPhone to take your photo, try taking some shots in portrait mode. This will blur the photo background, much like a professional camera would do, and eliminate any background noise.

7. Plan your wardrobe

Choose several different options for your wardrobe. Shooting in different outfits, against various backgrounds will have different effects, and will give you multiple options to choose from for your pageant headshot. I recommend wearing bright, solid, colored clothing, with minimal jewelry. Wardrobe is usually casual for headshots. You do not need to wear a cocktail dress or a gown. Typically those outfits are over the top for a pageant headshot and not necessary. As I mentioned early, take a look at some recent headshots from queens or contestants, within your age division and pageant system to get an idea of what’s appropriate to wear.

8. Photo editing

After you’ve selected your pageant headshot, don’t forget about editing. I don’t suggest Facetuning every pore of your skin, or photoshopping a new jawline. However, minor photo editing can certainly help make your photo stand out. Retouching out minor blemishes, defining your eyes or adjusting lighting in your photo can help to give it a professional quality. Just don’t go overboard. Your headshot should bear a close resemblance to your in-person self.

Client Love

Kaitlyn Matherne, NAM Louisiana Teen 2017

"Dani is an incredible person, as well as the most encouraging mentor I have ever had. My dreams would not have become reality without her love and help!"

Cheyenne Paige, International United Miss 2017-18

"Dani made me feel so comfortable performing my first High Fashion Runway routine. With her help I had the highest score in my division and won the International title."

Kristen Brooks, NAM Miss New York 2019

"Dani is beyond knowledgeable and sweet! She’s an absolute dream to work with.”

Salena Pham

Salena Pham, Miss Northern Utah USA 2021

"Dani completely changed how I interview, in the best way possible. She was clear, concise, and constructive in her feedback and always made sure I understood how to apply what she taught me. Not only is she extremely knowledge, but is also kind and encouraging. I truly cannot thank her enough for her help and guidance."

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