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how much do headshots cost

What Is A Headshot?

Before the question ‘How Much Do Headshots Cost?’ is answered, let’s first define the term  ‘Headshot’. A headshot is often described as a tightly cropped professional photograph around the face, used by actors, companies, small businesses, realtors, doctors, lawyers, models, actors etc, however, more often now, it may include from the waist up. We use the headshot term to describe a waist up professional portrait because they can easily be cropped tight, but you cant go the other way. If you take a photo cropped tightly around the face and decide later you would like a little more of the body showing, you are out of luck.

How Much Do Headshots Cost Factors

Hiring a headshot photographer is like hiring a band for your party. You can get a local garage band for free, you can get a local small town club band for $300, you can hire a real good wedding band for $15,000 or you can get Elton John for a $1 million!  So I’ll assume you are looking to price a middle of the road professional headshot photographer.

Headshot Cost | Broad Overview

If you are near a big city an average single person headshot will run between $250 to $1200. I know a well known headshot photographer in NYC who charges $2,000 but that is the exception.

Headshot price varies depending on location (near a big city or small town), package type (number of looks, outfits, backgrounds, length of session, number of pictures taken, includes gallery or not, includes retouching or not, and photographer experience and skill is very important — but expect to pay at minimum $250 per look.

Location

Expect to pay more if you live in a bigger city with connections to the industry, such as Los Angeles or New York, and less in a smaller city. It follows the per capita income of the area.

In Studio or On Location or Outdoors

Headshot sessions done at a studio usually cost about the same as outdoor shoots. The studio rent raises the studio cost, but photographer travel expense, time involved finding the appropriate place to shoot, and sometimes lighting needed, all raise cost of outdoor session. You really need to go over the details with your needs regarding location and request a quote.

how much do headshots cost - studio lighting

Photographer Experience & Skill

Headshot cost is dictated a great deal by the experience and skill of the photographer. Headshot photographers with substantial experience, high quality work, lots of great reviews, with a large client base of happy customers will price on the high end. On the low end will be new photographers just starting out lacking experience, very little skill, small client base, small portfolio, just learning.

Generally, the longer they’ve been working as a photographer, the better they’ll be at helping you find the perfect pose, expression, and overall look for your headshots.

A great headshot is worth it’s weight in gold in growing your career, and you dont have to do it often, so it’s wise to get a highly skilled photographer to do it for you. There’s a lot more to it than you can imagine.

Find Out The Name of the Headshot Photographer

Many companies hire inexperienced photographers to keep their costs low. It’s like getting your hair cut, the wrong person can do a lot of damage. Find out the photographer’s name and research his work and experience. Dont just accept anyone they send to you.

Cost of Corporate Headshots

Corporate headshots vary in price between $500 to $1,500 per hour generally. However, you must keep in mind that the photographer needs time before the session to set up and test, and time after the session to download images, work on the images, upload images into a gallery, send the customer a link to the gallery, communicate with customer about choices, crop, retouch and deliver images. So time is not calculated only on the time you spend with the photographer.

The question ‘how much do headshots cost‘  may vary based upon the amount of the amount of photo sessions a photographer can offer within an hour.

Photographers charge additional fees if they need to bring a backdrop to your office and/or need to travel to your office.

Additional Headshot Photography Costs To Consider

There are many additional costs that may be charged depending on your needs and depending on the photographer pricing structure. Make sure you ask.

how much do headshots cost - in-studio vs on-location

Retouching Costs

Another fee that photographers may charge is for retouching or airbrushing the images. Some photographers include basic retouching in the price of the headshot session, while others may charge extra for this service. The cost of retouching can also vary depending on the extent of the editing needed and the preference of the photographer.

Some people may need and want, very little, or no retouching at all, while others may want substantial retouching work done. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Some photographers outsource their retouching, the result is very low quality, and the cost is low approximately $20 per image. We do all our own retouching and take great care in our custom retouching work.

Background Costs

What are your background needs? Do you need one simple color like white, light, medium or dark grey, or do you need a custom color, or natural outside background. Backgrounds can also be changed in post processing if needed. Background changes are usually figured in the ‘number of looks’ in a package. So if it’s $300 per look, this will usually include an outfit and/or a simple background change.

Number of Outfits Costs

Are you hoping to use just one outfit, or are you desiring to have a branding package with several different outfits? In general $200 to $300 per outfit is a good rule of thumb to consider.

Make Up & Hair

This is usually an Add On. Most don’t need it. They come ready to shoot, but many photographers do offer the service. So if you need it, be sure to ask them their price. A professional makeup artist often runs $125-$250.

Travel Costs

Travel costs will only be a factor if the photographer is traveling to a location outside his studio and you will have to request a quote for that.

How Much Do Headshots Cost? New Prices 1
How Much Do Headshots Cost? New Prices 2
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Photo Delivery

Most photographers will spend some time after your headshot session digitally processing your images. They check skin tone, lighting, hair, and can even make bad skin look good with some good Photoshop work. The cost of this work will likely already be added into the quoted price. Expect to receive your headshots as a digital download via email. However, some photographers may still provide a USB/thumb drive, or as a print. Be sure to ask if you have a specific need.

Copyright & Licensing

Licensing images is a consideration and each photographer handles it a little differently, but don’t expect to be able to use the images for anything you want. Most photographers allow you to use the headshots for specific purposes such as company websites, business cards and social media.

However, if you’re planning to use the image in an expensive television ad campaign, be sure to request a quote. The cost of licensing can vary depending on the intended use of the images and the length of time you want to use them.The photographer will always hold the copyright to those images, and if you want to use them for any type of commercial venture, you will have to pay royalty and commercial fees.

AI-Generated Headshots

AI-generated headshots are a low budget option being advertised heavily offering a low cost alternative to traditional headshot photography. AI-generated headshots are considered to be a level above using a selfie for your headshot, but advanced machine learning algorithms tend to produce not so lifelike images.

Advantages of AI Headshots:
1. Cost: AI headshots can be significantly cheaper than traditional headshots.
2. Customization: Users can customize their AI headshots to fit specific aesthetics, backgrounds, or facial expressions.
3. Convenience: Since they are generated digitally, AI headshots can be created and delivered almost instantly.
The cost of AI-generated headshots is considerably lower compared to traditional professional photos. Prices usually range anywhere from $20 to $50 per 50 – 100 headshots generated.

Disadvantages of AI Headshots:
1. Accuracy: AI headshot generators accuracy is not very good, and may produce images that are not a true representation of your appearance. This could be a problem if you need your headshots for professional or personal use.
2. Customization: AI headshots typically offer limited customization options. You may not be able to choose the background, pose, or lighting of your image to your satisfaction.
3. Professionalism: Some people may perceive AI-generated headshots as less professional than those taken by a human photographer and can appear fake.
4. Privacy: When you use an AI headshot generator, you are uploading your personal photos from your company server to another server in a foreign country. This raises privacy concerns about how your data will be used in the future. Typically to train other AI Models or the IP transferred to unknown entities. Who knows what they will do with your images.

Can AI-generated headshots completely replace professional photographers?
While AI-generated headshots have made significant advancements, they cannot entirely replace the expertise and artistry of professional photographers. The human touch, personal connection, and ability to capture context and uniqueness are essential elements that AI models currently struggle to replicate.

Are AI-generated headshots suitable for you?
AI-generated headshots may be suitable for certain purposes, when headshot cost is your primary concern. However, industries or professions that require a strong emphasis on personal connection, trust, quality and authenticity may benefit more from the expertise of a professional photographer.

Choosing between AI-generated and photographer created headshots?
If you value professional presentation, trust, authenticity, customization, artistic quality, and a personal touch, a photographer created headshot is your best choice.

Mark Lovett

Mark Lovett, of Bethesda Headshots, is an international, award winning portrait artist, portrait photographer and portrait painter serving Maryland, Washington, DC and Virginia.

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