Headshots can cost anywhere from £50 to over £500, but how much should you pay, and what’s the difference anyway? Michael Wharley takes a good hard look. Plus: Casting Call Pro headshot survey and the most expensive shoot in London…
The good folk at Casting Call Pro got in touch recently to share the results of a recent broad survey of members, and the headshot results were fascinating.
Best Deal vs Best Photos?
It’s no surprise that the survey revealed a desire to get the best deal for the best shots, but when members were asked how much they’d be comfortable paying for a headshot session, there were surprising results.
Roughly 30% said they’d pay up to £100. Around 30% would be pay up to £150. Some 25% would pay up to £200, while only 12% would pay £200-£300, and a tiny 5% over £300.
Or viewed another way, nearly 60% of CCP users expect to pay less than £150 for a session, and over 80% expect to pay under £200.
That’s surprising, because on the basis of my own regular market research, to get decent session time with a well-regarded, largely actors headshots-dedicated photographer, the price range is more realistically £150-£250.
What do you get for your money?
Prompted by that disparity, I thought it might be interesting to take these price distinctions apart, and see what – and who – you get for your money.
So, I looked at 50 headshot photographers, covering everyone from established ‘names’ to total newbies and here are the results (As a note, these results are shared in the spirit of fun, of course there will be exceptions and variations in such relatively arbitrary price brackets).
Under £100 – short, sharp and selective
What you’ll get: around one hour (sometimes more, sometimes less), 2-3 changes of clothes, probably indoor OR outdoor, roughly 2 retouched prints (with extras £10-20 pounds).
Who will you get: established photographer offering cheaper package for clients on a budget (e.g. Koval, Rosie Still, Me), studio-based company with a schedule to fill (Actorsonestop, Noho Talent Studios), photographer specialising in another discipline like editorial or fashion who also takes headshots (Paul Harrison, Mario Schwartz).
Watch out for: a) hidden cost of extra prints. b) At this sort of price level the photographer commonly has one studio lighting set-up or outdoor location and won’t vary, which can minimise the differences between outfits. c) Time is at a premium – may be a more conveyor-belt approach. d) Headshots are a very specific form of portraiture and photographers who don’t specialise MAY not produce industry-ready shots.
Can you get good photos? Yes, but you need to do your research carefully and don’t be seduced justby the price.
£100-£150 – a little more time but how much difference?
What you’ll get: 1-1.5 hours, sometimes 2 hours. 2-4 clothing changes, probably indoor OR outdoor, 3-4 changes of clothes, 2-3 retouched prints (with extras £10-20 pounds).
Who will you get: established photographer with a pricing model fitting this bracket, often studio outside central London (Graham Bennett, Rosie Still), established photographer offering cheaper package for clients on a budget (David Price), studio-based or headshots/voicereel/showreel company able to offer rates on economy of scale (Eamon Kennedy, Koval)
Watch out for: Choosing a shorter package from an established photographer can mean you need to be prepared to get the most out of a session. There’s probably a reason they like to spend more time with people.
Can you get good photos? Sure, but paying this sort of money does not guarantee it – you still need to do your research.
£150-200 – in the ballpark
What you’ll get: most commonly 2 hours, 2-6 (sometimes unlimited) clothing changes, probably (but not always) indoor OR outdoor, 3-4 retouched prints (with extras £10-20 pounds).
Who will you get: Well-established, well-known photographers pitching at the middle of the price range (Pete Bartlett, Vanessa Valentine, Gemma Mount, Nicholas Dawkes, Matt Jamie), photographers on the up (Luke Varley, Vincenzo photography, David Price, Michael Wharley)
Watch out for: This is a common price bracket for commercial studios with a shooting schedule to fill to enter the market at, so be careful your photographer knows headshot trends and techniques.
Can you get good photos? Barring disaster, your agent is almost certainly going to be comfortable with the results – there are a swathe of photographers in this price bracket, all of whom have sound reputations and produce excellent headshots. They may have been in vogue in the past or be coming into vogue, but they will almost all take great photos.
What you’ll get: 2-5 hours (with exception of John Clark), 5+ clothing changes, probably indoor AND outdoor, 3-4 retouched prints (with extras £10-20 pounds).
Who will you get: Long-established photographers with a good industry reputation, probably a comfortable choice for many agents (John Clark, Steve Lawton, Simon Annand, Sheila Burnett, Nicholas Dawkes, Harry Rafique)
Watch out for: £200-300 most often means nearly £300, with the exception of John Clark, who only offers 1-hour sessions and charges £250
Can you get good photos? Yes. At this level, it’s ALL about the service and the time dedicated to you – you’re paying a premium for the freedom to relax into the shoot, but also the photographer’s reputation and experience.
What you’ll get: either 1 hour or 3 hours plus, 5+ clothing changes
Who will you get: Long-established photographers with a great industry reputation, probably the default choice for many agents (Nick James, Fatimah Namdar, Catherine Shakespeare Lane, Charlie Carter), portraitists and artistic photographers with a solid headshot practice (Clare Newman Williams).
Watch out for: Session time and extras can often (though not always) be reduced at this level – the extra money being a premium reflecting the photographer’s reputation and skill. So if you find it hard to relax in an hour, this isn’t necessarily the best choice for you.
Can you get good photos? Undoubtedly, but whether they are better than photos in a lower price bracket is up to you to judge. It’s your preference for their photos and a feeling that they will get the best out of you that will make you cough up the sum!
Last but not least: the prize for MOST EXPENSIVE headshot session goes to Clare Newman Williams, who charges a whopping £480 +VAT. Let me know if you find higher…
Original Article At The Actors Guild