Posed, lifestyle, and studio photos.
Most pageant contestants will need glamour photography to showcase on their personal social media profiles and to share with pageants for their programs, websites, and social accounts. The photos should be a mix of headshots and full-body fashion portraits in various outfits, including some with crowns from past wins or sashes for upcoming pageants.
Have some fun with portraits and consider including lifestyle shots to showcase personality. Photos that capture contestants’ hobbies or personal background work well for social media profiles. “A lot of pageants look at a contestant’s social media profiles to check out the quality of their pictures,” says Verstraet. “So it’s not just about the headshot or the pageant shots. It’s everything leading up to the pageant.”
Photos during the pageant.
Some clients may hire you to take photos during the pageant as well. Contestants can use these images on websites and social media. As with any type of event photography, research is important so you know what to expect.
“In order to prepare, we need to understand how a pageant works,” says Verstraet. “And then you can anticipate, as a photographer, what’s going to happen when, so you can begin to take pictures.”
Contestants should keep their eyes on the judges most of the time, but it’s good to have them look at the camera a few times during pivotal moments. Make sure your contestant knows where you’ll be shooting from so they can look your way periodically during the competition.
Shots of contestants doing their walks or being crowned after they’ve won a title will be great for their pageantry portfolio. Be sure to snap several shots in a row when there’s action. You can make contestants look more elegant with the right timing.
To get a graceful walking photo, capture the moment a contestant has their front foot on the ground with their back foot lifted for their next step.
Prepare for a pageant photoshoot.
Before your client comes to your photography studio for pageant portraits, explain to them what to expect. If they’ve never competed before, they may rely on you to let them know what to bring to their shoot and how to style themselves. “The first thing I ask when they book me is what their experience level is,” says Verstraet.
Most likely they’ll need to bring four or five outfits with various photogenic necklines and any pageant sashes or crowns that would be relevant to show in the photos. And whether you or someone else does their styling and makeup, it’s important to establish what the contestant likes and dislikes before you get started.
“Ultimately, if you put someone in red lipstick, and they hate red lipstick, they’re gonna hate their photos,” says photographer and makeup artist Lisa G. Simon (Artistry). “So there’s a lot of communication beforehand. I have them send me pictures of makeup, hair, and wardrobe that they love.”
Make your client feel at ease.
The key to great portrait photography is to make your client feel confident and comfortable. If you can, have a second set of eyes on set to help, especially for wardrobe styling. For clients in high school or younger, this will likely be their parent or guardian. But for adult clients, a good friend can come along to help out and lighten the mood.
When it comes to successful portrait poses, it’s all about a happy and relaxed subject. Be specific about your directions, and perform the poses yourself when possible, so your client knows why certain ones work well. Always be supportive and affirming in the way you speak to them. If an overly critical parent is present, this can be even more crucial.
“Feedback has to be positive all the time,” says Verstraet. “Because if you tell someone that they’re doing something wrong, they feel more tense, and you don’t want that feeling in the picture.”
Tired, hungry clients don’t photograph well.
Be sure your subject has food, water, and rest before the shoot, and don’t let it run too long. “I can correct a smile. I can edit hair. But I can’t change what they're feeling,” says Simon. And if they’re hungry, they’re tired, or they’re being criticized, I can see it in their eyes. A real big part of it all is getting them to feel good.”
“I tell clients they can bring as many outfits as they want. But we need to stay within two hours,” says Verstraet. “If you take more than two hours, people get tired, and you don’t get the same quality pictures.”