Some pageants say that 'school photos are fine' and yes, while that is 'fine', you want to stand out at your pageant. You want to be the clear stand out and your pageant photo can help with that. Here are a few suggestions (we turn to Miss America level headshots as our example):
1. Fabrics and Necklines
Choose silky fabrics over cotton - you want the images to be fresh, not give a worn look like cotton might.
Also, when selecting attire for different shots, look for different necklines in each shot. Do not shoot 5 shots in a round collar - what if you end up realizing (after the shoot) that you do not look best in a round collar? It is better to be safe than sorry and plan ahead by bringing varied necklines to the shoot.
Solid colors are a best, always. Stay away from patterns, prints, logos, etc that could be distracting in the photo - nothing should take away from you!
Bright colors are better than light colors - they will do more for your complexion and skin tone.
Style your hair based on your image. Consistency wins - you cannot be all glammed up in the photo with an up-do then walk into interview portraying a "little girl" image. Which are you? Decide on your consistent image and you can nail this component of the photo.
4. Body parts
A headshot is just that, a shot of your head. Think of a good headshot as bust and up. Hands underneath the chin, 3/4 of your body etc change the shot. If you ate doing a headshot, let it be a headshot. If it is a full body shot, let it be a full body shot.
Jewelry should compliment you, not be the star of the photo. I highly suggest a good pair of attractive earrings for each outfit. Necklaces can be tricky, but if done right, then can help the photo pop.
Notice the attractive jewelry in Miss Florida's headshot.
Plain color backgrounds are standard because you do not want the background to distract from you. Some photographers do their shots outside etc but do not forget that you want the focus to be on you. That tree in the background etc could become the star of your photo...
Do not let other objects be the star of your photo or distract from you!
This not the time for your perfect posture or head position. If your face is straight on to the camera, it will look like you took a mugshot for jail! That's why your school photographers always ask you to 'lower your chin' or 'tilt your head just a bit more' - things look different on camera! Practice your head tilts and different poses before heading into your shoot - and NO, the 'pretty feet' pose is NOT an acceptable pose. Have some fun and loosen up!
Notice the small tilt in Mallory's head
This is from a Red Carpet event!
Notice how the lack of a head tilt makes this look like Mr. Costner's mugshot!
And PLEASE, make sure that you have ALL of your body parts in your pose! A photographer cannot add an arm etc once the photo is taken...
Notice the missing arm...?
You are not a plastic doll. You are a natural, real human being and your photo should reflect that. Do not go bonkers on the photoshopping! Remember, the photo should always look like you on that stage - judges should be able to recognize you instantaneously after looking at your photo. Unless you are in a glitz pageant that calls for such photos, photos should look like you. Minor photoshopping is allowed, but don't overdo it!