Start locally and work you're way up: find a local photographer by asking friends or other competitors who they use or network at local shows to meet them! There are sites such as onemodelplace.com or modelmayhem.com where they're also listed however there are quite the fair amount of unreliable, actually quite creepy guys, who buy a camera and call themselves photographers. BE WARY of them, I personally do not like to use anyone who hasn't already shot with someone I know. Even if a "free photo shoot," or "time for print shoot" sounds great if you're not comfortable with the photographer it shows in your face and body language on the photo's, and who wants to waste all that time and effort on a not so great shoot, with pictures you don't want to show off??
Another great option is to network with local college photography students or even a class. College campus' provide a beautiful and safe environment to shoot on spring, summer, fall and even a snowy scene will work although I wouldn't recommend a bikini in the snow. LOL. Most of the time college students will jump at this opportunity to help you out since they benefit from the experience as well. The most likely wont be a professional grade of work like a paid shoot but the experience in front of the camera will really help you too!!
After you've taken the local scene by storm network again a bit more a bigger shows and see who you're fellow competitors are using or recommend! Here in Greensboro I've gotta give props to my man Erik Danielson, he really has an amazing eye and knows how to make you look even more amazing but also keeps it very professional, which is hugely important, plus his prices are great and he really knows how to play with special effects and graphic designs to make a great shot a show stopper!
A few other pieces of advice I've got is definitely spend the money for a shoot the day before, after or during the show, pictures are worth 1000 words and they last a lifetime! You want to show off all your hard work forever, plus they keep you accountable! Also if you're photographer has a hair/make-up/wardrobe person USE THEM!! They know how to make you look best plus it' not worth stressing yourself out over trying to do it yourself!
Just remember if a photographer makes you a promise that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can't be too careful and they're a lot of photographers out there that seem great but have the wrong intentions. Make sure to do you're research and use you're resources (word of mouth especially) before you even consider shooting with someone! And of course don't forget to smile!!!
Quote of the day:
"Everyone who crosses your path crosses for a reason, perhaps only just a small season, or forever in a lifetime. But hold close the ones who you love and treat you right; simply forgive, forget and learn from the ones who do not but most importantly always make the most of every moment from each path you encounter for you may never come across it again...." ~Me