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7 Pageant Headshot Tips You Must Know

Miss AL USA 2013

I am off this morning to have my crown pictures made for my new national title, Ms United America Classic. As I am doing my hair and makeup, I remind myself that all this hard work won’t matter if my pictures don’t look good. Here are my tricks to looking fabulous in all your pictures!

Shortly after being crowned Mrs Colorado International 2009, I was looking through my pictures from that night and some of my first appearances. In all my pictures, I had this “deer in the headlight’ expression on my face. My eyes were huge, almost bugging out, my smile stretched the skin on my face and I always had a double chin in spite of how thin I was. Yuck!!! Then, after working with several wonderful photographers, I learned the art of taking a good picture. I still have the occasional bad picture, but I always take several to get the good one.

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Body Angle

There are several tricks to looking good in a picture. I’ll start with your body. The first thing you do is turn to a 45 degree angle to the camera. If you remember all those professional photographs from school or your “growing up” pictures, you’ll notice that they had you turned at a slight angle. This angle makes you look thinner. If you are standing, assume the “T” stance used in pageants. This will automatically turn your body.

Hand on Hip

Now that you are standing at an angle, put your hand on your hip. This is also a great trick to make your waist appear smaller. With your arm down, it widens your silhouette. By raising your arm, now your waist is more evident. Next, take a deep breath and let it out leaving your chest and shoulders where they fall. This improves your posture and pulls your stomach in. Now you look five pounds lighter.

Deep Breath

After you take a deep breath, your face should relax, too. This will help avoid that skin tight smile and wide eyed look. Tilt your head slightly to the middle of the picture. So if you are on the right side of the group, lean your head to the left. While you are leaning your head, jut your chin slightly forward and down to eliminate that double chin. This serves two purposes; it gets rid of the double chin and gently stretches the skin under the eye minimizing any puffiness or wrinkles you may have. I recommend you practice in a mirror to find just the right angle and how far you need to stick your chin out.

The Photographer

The most important aspect to taking a good picture is getting a good photographer. I am not talking about hiring a professional photographer to follow you around, however, if you can afford one, I say “go for it!” Try to choose someone taller than you are. This is another great trick of a good photographer.

By shooting from above, it automatically causes you to look up and pull your chin up also. If you notice someone shooting the picture from their waist or chest, ask them to hold the camera up higher. Usually, this is done by people who need reading glasses. They are holding the camera far enough away to see the picture. Simply ask them to hold it up to their face and not look at the camera, but the people beyond.


Lighting can be one of the trickiest parts of picture taking. With out having all the studio lighting, you can end up with bad color and annoying shadows. Try taking the picture without a flash first. Also, if you need a flash, make sure you are not standing near a wall. Have the “photographer” back up just a bit. You can crop the picture later.


This brings me to one of the most important tools you have if you are using a digital camera. When you download your pictures to your computer, take a few minutes to go through them and use your photo software to edit your pictures. Most have a simple auto adjust that will adjust the color of the picture. Then you can also crop pictures to a more flattering size. Remember to use your red eye adjustment. Most people with light eyes need help in this area. No one likes to look demon possessed.


Now that you have fantastic photos, feel free to post them to your blog, Facebook and websites. Be sure to tag people and write a short note about the picture. Many people who will view your pictures won’t know what is going on in the picture, so don’t assume they will just because you tagged someone. Remember that in this day and age, your potential judges for your next pageant may be viewing your pictures. Only post good pictures of yourself. Please no inappropriate pictures, but that is another article.

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2 thoughts on “7 Pageant Headshot Tips You Must Know

  1. Wow just wow I’m sure this person meant well but it is obivous this person no actually has no knowledge of pageant photography and has actually given bad advice I’m floored. Body position, crops, lighting, self taking of pics are no nos hands on hip/ waist not in a photogenic

    1. Dena, I agree. The title of this article has been changed. It was originally about how to look good in general pictures. All pageant head shots should be done by a professional.

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