Pageant modelling portfolio building guide

Why build a pageant modelling portfolio?

Having any kind of modelling portfolio is a great way to show that you are experienced in your field. Your portfolio will showcase all your different looks, skills and experience with its main purpose to obtain modelling assignments, agency representation or work in TV or film.

Miss Preston vintage style photoshoot at the Harris Museum
Miss Preston in a vintage style photoshoot at the Harris Museum

An effective pageant modelling portfolio needs to be a well rounded representation of any modelling work you’ve done, showcasing your many styles and looks as well as demonstrating your ability to handle other jobs in the media industry. Make sure you always keep your portfolio up to date and at hand, taking it with you to pageants, competitions or public events etc. Remember, there could be a talent scout in the audience on the lookout for new talent or models!


What should I put in my pageant modelling portfolio?

Your pageant modelling portfolio should only show your very best photographs and these should be a variety of modelling photos including natural, high fashion, swimwear and “sash and crown” shots.

Your “natural” images should portray you in natural surroundings or an everyday setting, dressed in casual wear, sportswear, swimwear, etc. Your “high fashion” photos need to show you in full makeup, wearing a range of outfits from elegant formal wear to the latest fashion/catwalk styles. Your “sash and crown” shots (pageant shots) are also very important as they will show a visual representation of your participation in pageantry. Including images like this will demonstrate that you can push your boundaries and show that you are not just a “one trick pony” but can do any role that is given to you.


How should I present my photographs?

The presentation of your portfolio is very important! A quality leather bound binder with your name and date of birth on the cover is a great way to present your portfolio. Use clear plastic pocket sleeves inside to present your work and never punch holes in your photographs as this will give an untidy appearance.

Jnr Miss Bury and Miss Preston
Jnr Miss Bury and Miss Preston

Look you’re very best!

I mentioned earlier that your pageant modelling portfolio should only contain your very best photographs but how do you get the photos in the first place? There are different ways you can do this and on different budgets.

Don’t be tempted to take the photos yourself or have a friend take them as a respectable model scout will see the low quality images as an indicator of how serious you are about the role and would expect you to put more effort in to your modelling portfolio to show your commitment.

This doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to get usable images though. Another low budget option is to use a TFP photographer.

So what’s a TFP photographer then?

TFP stands for Time For Prints or Time For Photos and has been round for many years and is the practice of exchanging a models time for copies of the photographs.

There are generally three types of TFP photographers:

The first are beginner photographers that have just started out and are learning the basics of photography. They will have little experience and limited equipment but should be able to take basic images for your portfolio if you are on a zero budget.

The second are amateur photographers who use photography as a second income. Whilst they may not charge the model for the photos (TFP) they instead will sell the images to third parties, websites, companies and stock libraries as the photographer always retains copyright (unless sold on, usually for vast amounts of money).

The third type of TFP photographers are a very new phenomena known in the industry as GWC’s (Guy With Camera – Girl With Camera). A GWC has no interest in photography and usually has no photography skills but instead uses the position for sexual gratification – usually asking the model to participate in topless/naked photos. Please look out for warning signs – won’t work with you unless it’s a glamour shoot (page 3 style), has many revealing images in their portfolio or a very small portfolio and may use a compact camera or camera phone.

You get what you pay for!

Miss Preston full length fashion shot
Miss Preston full length fashion shot

If you have a little money to spend on your modelling portfolio then you should be able to get some great images using a professional pageant photographer. If your budget is small then start with a smaller size portfolio maybe 5 – 10 photographs and remember your portfolio should have no more than 20 photographs in it.

Choosing the right professional modelling photographer  for you can be a bit daunting so here are some questions you can ask to make sure they are experienced in the right type of photography, are professional and suitable for your needs.

Do you have public liability and indemnity insurance?

Do you have a CRB check?

Which professional photography organisation are you registered with?

What photography qualifications do you have?

Which pageant models have you photographed before?

Do you retouch/airbrush your own images?


Miss Bolton fashion shoot
Miss Bolton – Lucy Physic

Which photos should I put in my portfolio?


Pageant Head Shot: Start your pageant modelling portfolio with a classic head shot. This will allow those viewing your portfolio to see how you present yourself in a pageant. Choose hair and cosmetics that reveal your best facial features. Use a black, white or neutral background so the photo focuses on your face. If you have any tiaras from previous pageant titles, wear one in the photo to demonstrate your experience in pageants.

Formal Dress Shot: Pick the best of your evening gowns or fashion frocks and feature a photo that shows you at your classiest. This photo can be a three quarter or full-length shot to show the majority of the dress. Including a formal dress photo shows that you have the necessary wardrobe and sense of style to compete in pageants or work at public events.

Sportswear/swimwear shot: Include some full length shots in casual sportswear doing a sporting activity you enjoy.  Swimwear shots should be different lengths and must be done in a relevant location to avoid looking awkward and out of context.


Good luck!

You should now have enough information to go out and build an awesome pageant modelling portfolio so don’t just sit there! Get up, get modelling and most of all… Enjoy yourself!



Andy is the official portfolio photographer for Miss England NW and has photographed Miss Preston, Miss Preston Guild, Junior Miss Preston, Miss Lancashire, Miss Bolton, Miss Cumbria, Miss Bury, Junior Miss Bury, Miss Fylde Coast, Miss Blackpool, Miss South Lakes and many more…

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