Why Do Headshots Cost So Much?

Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak

Photo by Vladislav Reshetnyak

We all love a great deal. Trust me, I'm a huge bargainer. When it comes to headshots, looking for a great deal may be more challenging, and if you do find one, it may lead to a not-so-great headshot.

So why the heck do headshot photographers charge so much?

Let's start with a brief story about Sally and Todd: 

Sally has a bachelor's degree and works a 9-5 job making $70,000 per year. She goes to work Monday through Friday 8am-5pm and in exchange she receives a paycheck or salary. Her bachelor's and work history also means the check is well worth her experience. Sally is stoked to get $70,000 in exchange for showing up and working about 3,900 hours a year.

On the other hand, there's Todd:

Todd has a bachelor's degree and works for himself as a photographer. In addition to his bachelor's degree, Todd has put in over 10,000 hours to perfect his craft. He's also spent over $15,000 to purchase the best gear in order to get the best results possible for his clients.

Unlike Sally, Todd doesn't work a set 8am-5pm schedule so he doesn't get paid anything. In fact, Todd only gets paid when he has a client. So, Todd spends about $250+ a month to advertise and generate business. When he's not working with clients, Todd continues to educate himself, practice, and keep his craft up-to-date. This also costs Todd.

Todd has calculated that he will only work 200 days in the year. This means that he's only spending 1,600 hours working for paying clients - less than half the time Sally is working. Only about 533 of these hours are spent face-to-face with said clients. The remainder are spent collaborating, driving, setting up gear, tearing down gear, and editing images for those clients. 

Todd needs to charge enough to make a livable salary after he pays for all of his gear, studio, software, and other business expenses. He only has 1,600 hours to do that. This means they have to be worth a lot more than 1,600 of Sally's hours.

(Headshot) Photographers Have No Choice

From the stories above, you can see that a photographer must to charge more for their work because they need to put in the time to gain experience, keep up-to-date on education, maintain gear, and cover normal business expenses all while making a livable salary.

Photographers only make money when they have clients and clients only see a fraction of the work that actually goes into a headshot. Meaning, clients feel as though they are only paying for the time spent directly with the photographer. In reality, a headshot or any other professional photo is much much more than a "simple photo" (as many come asking for).

(Headshot) Photographers Are Experts

Great photographers are experts in their field. While many assume it's as easy as using their phone camera, there's so much more to it. Like expression coaching, light science, color science, specialty software, ton's of equipment, etc. I won't go into minute details because this isn't a text book but know that much like a professional chef or even an NFL player, a truly professional photographer has dedicated their career and massive resources to create your perfect image.

Keep this in mind next time you are in search of a professional headshot (or any photography, really) and reach out using the form below if you have any questions about the info above or professional photography as a business.



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