You’ve heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In pageantry, your headshot speaks your first words to the pageant director, staff and the judges.
Kyle Baugh of Gallippo's Photography, www.gallipposphotography.com , took a few moments from his busy schedule to share with me some of his insider tips on how you can get your best pageant headshot. Kyle has taken headshots for every major pageant system (Miss America, Miss USA, Mrs. America, Mrs. United States, Mrs. International, Teen USA, Coed, NAM, Cinderella, and more) and his artistic work has helped his clients capture multiple photogenic and cover girl awards at all levels of competition.
RS: What should I wear for my headshot?
Kyle: I like to see people bring three general types of clothing, 3-4 casual tops, 1-2 choices in interview/business attire and a couple gowns or cocktail dresses.
For casual tops, bring a variety of different styles and necklines (boat neck, scoop, turtlenecks, zippered, v-neck) so we will have a great selection to work with.
- Be careful that the neckline isn’t too revealing or plunging. We what the attention to be on your face.
- Bright solid colors are the best choice. If a couple tops have a little bit of embellishment, like a few sequins, that’s nice too.
- I’d stay away from heavily patterned fabrics which can be distracting. Subtle texture is nice and is best created by the cut or style of the top verses the actual texture of the material.
For your interview look, bring one or two different options. For pageants, I like to see color. The black, grey and neutral tones tend to look too corporate for the pageant world. Again, look for an interesting neckline while being mindful of how low the cut is.
Bring one or two formals/gowns/cocktail dresses. These are great for getting full length shots that can be used for ad pages in the program book. They also add some glamour and glitz to a headshot that we might not get from a casual top.
Five is the magic number. It seems five changes of clothing are enough to give the variety that we need without being too overwhelmed with choices.
RS: How do I pose and know what facial expression to use?
Kyle: For a great pageant headshot, we want to capture a beautiful natural expression.
I like to take a few moments before we start taking pictures to talk with the person I’m photographing to get a feel for her personality. I want her to be super relaxed and comfortable. If she’s a bubbly energetic type of girl that smiles a lot, I’m going to encourage that type of expression; however, if her reactions are more subtle or of a serious nature, I’ll go for a softer, more serious look. I’m looking for the most natural, beautiful expression that captures the girl’s personality in a picture.
I know this might feel silly, but if they can stand in front of a mirror and practice their smile or expression, that will help them feel more comfortable in front of the camera. They’ll be able to see the expression in the mirror; and remember what it feels like.
RS: What about trying to look sexy for the photo?
Kyle: Many times when a person tries to play sexy, the expression doesn’t come off right.
I have a daughter myself, so I’m really conscientious of what looks age appropriate. Young girls and teens should look natural, fun and energetic. The Miss and Mrs. contestants can get away with a little more sex appeal.
We can capture a beautiful look without looking sexy. The USA system is a good example of where the photos can take on a sexier look; but the contestants are women usually in their 20’s, not girls. The expression we are going for is the look that says “this picture is most like me being comfortable in my own skin”.
RS: When you’re looking at the proofs, what are you looking for in a winning photo?
Kyle: I look for confident eyes and expression. Then I focus on a good composition with a simple clean and elegant look.
RS: What about selecting a background?
Kyle: I prefer simple solid backgrounds, with either neutral tones or colors that compliment the subject’s eyes and/or attire.
RS: What about the use of hands or props for a headshot?
Kyle: I personally avoid the use of hands in a pageant headshot. Hands start to make the headshot look too much like a family or senior portrait. Your headshot should focus on your face. Judges are looking at the photos to find the commercial face to represent the organization. Think of a commercial ad page in a magazine for makeup (particularly foundation ads). The focus is on the face. Your headshot needs to sell yourself.
Jewelry should be kept to a minimum and no props for your headshot. Hair needs to be out of the face. If a person wants photos with their crown and banner, that’s different.
RS: What other tips would you give people getting ready to have their headshot taken?
Kyle: Don’t tan too much right before you have your pictures taken. It’s hard to retouch the photos when people are heavily tanned.
Get lots of rest and start drinking lots of water a couple days before your photo shoot.
When your skin is fully hydrated, it be will be smoother, firmer, the fine wrinkles will be filled in, and have a radiant glow.
Practice your hairstyle before the day of your formal photo session. Try different styles and take snapshots of them so you can see which style you like. Then practice that style so you can make your hair look that way for your pictures. Hair is the hardest thing to change in a photo. Ideally, and if your budget can afford it, have your hair and makeup professionally done for your pictures. Keep the hair out of your face.
Allow at least 3 hours for the photo session. You may not need the whole time, but the best pictures come when the model is super relaxed and not stressed about having to be somewhere else. If you have to drive a couple hours to get to the studio, schedule your appointment for a late morning or early afternoon time. Be sure to leave early so you’re not rushed. Consider staying in a hotel the night before so you’re fully rested for an early morning session. Don’t schedule something right after your session that will make you feel pressured for time.
Beyond the Pageant:
If people have never met you, their first impression may be from an image they see of you on your business card, from your Facebook or Twitter profile, on the internet or in a press release. It’s common for people to make decisions about whom they choose to work with solely on the impression they get from a photograph. Take care about what you post out in cyberspace. First impressions happen only once.
Taking the time to select the proper clothing, getting your hair and makeup done professionally will produce a photo that you will be proud to submit on your job/college application or to the media when you’re being featured someday.
The situations where you need a good clear, professional headshot of yourself often come up quickly and without much notice. A professional is always prepared.
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Rhonda Shappert is a pageant expert, personal development life coach, and owner of Winning Through Pageantry™, a business she created that not only helps her clients achieve winning results in pageants, but helps them Succeed From The Inside Out™ in their lives. In the pageant world she has held multiple local, state and national titles. Rhonda graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors degree in Musical Theater from The Ohio State University and has performed on stage in 15 countries on the Asian, European and American continents. This mother of three who has been married 20 years to her husband Stephen, home educates their children, is the former mayor of her community, and is on the Board of Trustees for the Ohio Virtual Academy. She and her husband perform original contemporary Christian music. Their music CD entitled Cana is available through www.cdbaby.com/cd/shappert or on her website. For more information on Rhonda, visit www.WinningThroughPageantry.com.
Do you have additional questions about headshots or photos? Enter them in the comment box and I’ll get your answers.