Photography prices vary. A lot. And deciding how much to pay for a professional headshot or portrait photoshoot can be difficult. Post discusses what to consider when deciding whether to hire a pro photographer.

Why Spend the Money?

It can be tough deciding how much to pay for a professional Headshot or Portrait photographer. Photography prices vary. A lot. And this price range can be difficult for clients to wrap their minds around, especially if they view professional headshots and portraits as something quick, simple, and easy to capture. Many of these clients think of a professional headshot as little more than a slightly improved click of the shutter, not worth the expense. And professional headshot photographers recognize when clients do not value their experience or contribution.  When a request comes in from someone emphasizing that they need just a quick headshot or just a simple portrait chances are the budget they have in mind is less than most professional starting rates. For me, one solution is to post plan rates on-line.

Not all photographers do this. I do this because I do not want potential clients to be surprised during a consultation phone call. Other photographers who do not post rates online may prefer to haggle or capture email addresses in requests for callbacks. Overall, for me, it works better when clients know rates before a call so that we can focus our discussion on the photoshoot and what a client wants to achieve. That said, it is still important for potential clients to know why they should want to choose a professional photographer. It helps to know what the trade off is. So, here are three key benefits to consider along with a tip on when professional photography might not be necessary.

Three Key Benefits of Hiring a Professional Photographer

First, one main difference between professional headshots and those by non-professionals is the lighting gear and equipment used to create images. Clients are paying for gear and knowledge of techniques setup specifically for them, in order to create optimal images. They are paying for professional photographers who have invested time and money in gear and in learning how to setup and tailor setups to different types of client photoshoots. For all photographers, the fruit of this training is evident in the photo galleries and portfolios. (I have a photography blog that details how to recognize different lighting setups, if you are interested in reading a little more about this.) 

A second difference is in posing. Here it is important to know that different photography specialties matter. Posing large family groups is different than posing couples. And not all couples are alike. The relationships they have are revealed through different poses. Posing siblings is different than posing an engaged couple. Choose a photographer who specializes in the type of imagery you seek and/or who displays images you like. Knowledge of posing is another skill you pay for. You see this a lot in snapshots. Many times, people are scattered all over the place and specific posing techniques for men and women are not evident.

A third difference lies in the consultation call. There is a reason professional images look different than snapshots. The photographer took time to discuss wardrobe, makeup, jewelry, etc. with a client ahead of time. Here professional photographers differ. Some instruct clients to wear what they would normally; others have more specific suggestions. I tend to have specific suggestions and even provide clients with a PDF that reviews what we discussed. (Not all clients adhere to suggestions.) For you, as a potential client, it means pay attention to the overall look of images in the photographer’s portfolio. Decide whether you like the results. If so, consider following the photographer’s suggestions. They will help you create a strong image you will enjoy for many years.

When Paying for Professional Photos Might Not Be Worthwhile

A while back I received a call from someone wanting to book a headshot session to fit in with an online portfolio for a small company. After reviewing where the individual planned to use the image and how the image was displayed, I recommended using a snapshot from a phone instead. Why? Because in this case the website only showed tightly cropped heads. In fact the crop was so tight, people’s chins were cropped along with the tops of heads, ears, etc. Also, the images had been converted to black and white thumbnails. Both of these factors made for little reason to spend money for professional photos. Very little of the image would be shown (and the webmaster clearly had his or her own view of how to display the images). So always consider where the image will be used, the size displayed, and how it will look when stacked up next to others so that it fits in with a webpage’s style. Sometimes, a snapshot is indeed just fine. Save your money for a time when you can create your own website and prominently display your new professional headshot or portrait.