Selecting pageant headshots and photogenic images is part of my job as a coach. I’ve sifted through thousands of images. Some were great, others… not so much. Pageant headshots are a creative process. They require a photographer, hair, makeup, wardrobe, accessories, styling, and posing. The possibilities are infinite. But, unfortunately, I’ve seen more bad headshots than good. So, I’m going to explain pageant headshot DON’TS. This way you can be confident that your images are ready to wow the judges. (Keep in mind that pageant headshot tips vary by age division and system.)
Don’t over retouch your images
Everyone needs to calm down with the smoother tool. Pageant headshots that are over smoothed look hazy and lose quality. When skin is over retouched, it looks like it’s glowing, but not in a good way. It’s normal to have pores and texture on your skin. So, take it easy on those edits.
Blend your eyeshadow
Ladies, please blend your eye shadow. When I judge, it kills me to see unblended eyeshadow. It is the first thing I notice about an image. If you don’t blend your eyeshadow, no one can appreciate your overall image. And, they certainly cannot give you a high photogenic score.
Chandelier rhinestone earrings are for the stage
The next thing we want to avoid are oversized rhinestone earrings. Gaudy evening gown earrings are meant for stage lights, not your close up. Your pageant headshot is about you; it’s not a fake jewelry advertisement. Save the bling for under the stage lights. Or else you’ll look like a Real Housewife of Orange County, but not in a good way.
TAKE A PEEK AT THE BEST MISS USA 2020 HEADSHOTS
Groom your eyebrows
I don’t know why I have to say this, but ladies, take care of your brows. Pluck, wax, thread, brush, fill, or do whatever you need to do to have great brows. They shouldn’t be patchy, too light, or excessively dark. Your goal is a well arched, natural looking brow.
Take off those tarantulas
Tarantula lashes or volume lash extensions are not a good look. For pageants, your fake lashes need to look believable. It’s a little different when you’re on stage. Some faces can carry a heavier lash, but they shouldn’t be worn for close up pageant headshots. If you wear lashes, curl your natural lashes before applying false ones. This will help your natural lash blend into the false one.
Get great lighting
Oh boy, bad lighting is a big NO NO. Either use natural lighting or studio lights. This reduces the amount of editing you need by reducing shadows and skin imperfections. Be careful not to over-light a shoot. Doing so will result in a washed out photo that looks ghostly. Washed out images cannot be corrected with filters or editing because your features are no longer visible. A skilled photographer knows how to light a shoot. That’s why it’s important to be picky about who you work with for your pageant headshots.
Update your eyeshadow
We’re going right back to eyeshadow don’ts, because it’s a really big problem. Ladies, the matte white brow, matte brown lid, and thick black eyeliner is a dated makeup choice. I rocked this look in 2011. Since then, we’ve toned down the harsh smokey eye for headshot images.
Hire a hair stylist
If you don’t know how to do your hair, you HAVE to hire someone. It’s not even a choice at this point. I have seen the craziest ringlets, messy, or frizzy hair, and it’s NOT necessary. I know a lot of you think you can slide by, unnoticed, with mom or auntie doin your hair. It’s not workin ladies. Hair is difficult to edit. That’s why some photographers use a blurred cloning tool on frizz. This makes your image hazy and that’s not something you want.
Stop the sexy faces
Teen divisions, and younger, should not use a sexy, open-mouth, expression for their pageant headshot. For the love of God, I know you wanna be grown, but this is not how you do it. It is age inappropriate. Every time I see a contestant submit a photo like this, I think, “WHYYYYYYYYYY, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?”
Light makeup for preteens or younger
Who keeps caking makeup on sweet angel babies? Preteens (ages 12 and under) should look their age. The average 9 year old does not walk around with a full face of makeup. It’s really bizarre to see a pageant headshot of a little girl with caked on makeup. When you apply makeup to a child for a headshot, it should be minimal. The purpose is to slightly enhance their natural beauty. A sheer foundation, soft brows, a swoop of mascara, blush and some tinted gloss are the only thing you may need for a youth headshot.