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Why you need a professional headshot portfolio

Headshot photo taken outdoors with natural light

Headshot photography is becoming increasingly more important, and in this article I will talk you through the main reasons why that is.

First of all, being a headshot photographer myself, you might be thinking, “well of course you would say that”, and for that reason I have decided to use real life examples to make my points, and you can then make up your own mind as to whether you agree with me or not on the importance of professional headshots.

What is a headshot photo, and can you do without it?

Professional headshot photo taken in studio

A headshot is a close crop image that is normally cropped just below your shoulders, and above the head. They are normally used as profile photos, for personal branding, and by actors & performers.

The most common use for headshots that you would have come across is as profile photos on Linkedin and other social media platforms, but they are also used on the “About Me”, and “Meet the team” pages of websites. They can also be used for press releases, and if you have been mentioned in an article the author might ask you for a photo to add to the article.

Whether or not you can do without one will depend on what you do for a living and what platforms you use in your day to day life.

If you are an actor for example, you cannot do without a headshot, and more likely a headshot portfolio as your agent will need them in order for you to be cast for job opportunities.

For those of you who only use social media for personal use, you could decide to do without a profile photo, and most social media platforms will just put a question mark or your initials instead of the photo. However, not all social media platforms will allow you to do that, and some of them will require you to upload a profile photo, in which case you have no choice. The only workaround would be to upload a photo of something else, like a landscape for instance.

However, if you are using social media for work, even though of course you could still get away without a profile picture, if the purpose of your social media accounts is to find you work you need to make sure that they fulfill that purpose.

In a world where we often meet people online before meeting them in person, and where there are plenty of scammers trying to take advantage of people, not showing your face might give the wrong impression, and people might decide not to do business with you.

In a way you could associate not having a profile photo with someone walking around a shop wearing a balaclava. If people can’t think of a good reason why you would be covering your face, they will tend to assume that you are trying to hide your identity, and that is not normally a reassuring sign.

Even if you are not on social media, you will likely have an email address like Gmail for instance, or you might be using messaging apps like Whattsapp, and even though with some of them you might get away without uploading a profile picture, not all of them will give you that option.

You will also likely have a work email, and very often workplaces have their own platforms, in which case you might be required to upload a profile photo.

Independently of whether you are employed by a company or self-employed, there will be platforms that you use daily where you need a profile photo.

One thing I come across often is missing profile photos on people’s emails, and I am sure you all have been in situations in which you had to meet up with somebody, and you found yourself in a public place, looking around, trying to think what they might look like. At times having a profile photo just makes your life easier.

At other times I have been emailing back and forth with people for work and after a while you just have a feeling that you want to put a face to the name. Some email software puts your initials instead of your profile picture if you do not have one, but especially with long email chains it can get confusing as you will inevitably come across people with the same initials.

Especially if you are self-employed, and for work you often need to go to other people’s houses, it can make them feel a bit safer if they can see what you look like before your visit.

All in all there are plenty of platforms that we all use either for work or in our personal lives where there will be an option to use a profile picture, and even though I do believe that it should be up to you whether you upload one or not, you should consider whether it is going to be in your best interests not to have one.

Does your headshot have to be taken by a photographer?

Headshot photo of a woman on a white studio background

If you have decided that yes, it is in your best interests to have a profile photo for the platforms you use, you might now be asking yourself “why not just take the photo on my phone?”.

Well if you only need it for your personal email address and social media accounts, then yes of course you can take the photo with your phone or upload a photo you already have.

However, if you go through the trouble of uploading a photo you want to make sure that it is a good quality photo and that people can recognise you from the photo. Very often I come across profile photos where there is more than one person in the photo, and I am not sure which one is the one I am corresponding with.

You might also want to consider that even with your personal email you might at times have to email people that you do not know all that well, as an example you might need to email a lawyer, and you might not want them to see a photo of you partying with your friends.

Likewise if you are using your profile photo for your work accounts, you want to make sure that you select a photo that portrays you in a way that is appropriate for the use you have in mind for it. Ideally you do not want a photo of you at the beach for an account that you use to contact customers.

There is one more thing to consider if the profile photo will be used for work, which is quality.

Having a low quality profile photo, that has obviously been taken on a mobile phone without giving it much thought, might communicate that you do not invest in yourself and could put people off from doing business with you. Customers might be asking themselves, well if he does not invest in himself why should I trust him to handle my business? As an example would you hire a personal stylist that dresses really badly?

With an increasingly high number of scammers online, having poor quality photos on your website might also make people question the legitimacy of your business.

Said that, not having a good quality headshot does not mean that you are not good at your job or that you are a scammer, but in a world with a lot of competition, people do not know you, and they will use whatever information they have to make a decision.

It is a bit like attention to detail, if you make a lot of mistakes in your emails people might think that you are generally careless in your work.

How much do headshot photographers charge?

Headshot photo of a woman taken outdoors with natural light

The price headshot photographers charge will vary and at times it can be difficult to compare the packages.

That is because some headshot photographers might have a standard fee for the session itself, and then the photos have to be purchased separately. Whereas other photographers might have a higher starting price but the package they offer already comes with a certain number of photos included. You should also check whether the headshots come retouched as well or whether you have to pay extra for that.

As an example you might find a headshot photographer that charges £100 for the session and £50 per each retouched photo. Whereas you might find another photographer who charges £200 for the session but the session already comes with 3 retouched photos included. Getting the same number of photos from the first photographer, who might have initially looked less expensive, would actually cost you £250.

Said that most headshot photographers do tend to include a minimum number of photos with the session, and then you can purchase extra photos on top of those if you like.

Headshot photographer prices in London, where I am based, can range between £80 to £500 or more, but the difference in price is not only down to what comes with the package.

The quality of the final work will depend on the skills of the photographer, and the time they spend on creating the photos.

As an example I normally spend a minimum of 2 hours with the customer, and it then takes me between 30 min to 1 hour to edit 1 photo. So for a 2 hour session that comes with 3 retouched photos, it would take me about 5 hours to complete the job. That means that there are only so many customers that I can book in every week, and I will have to adjust my prices accordingly.

The equipment itself is quite expensive, and as an example a professional camera (without the lens) can cost between £2,000 to £5,000, good lenses start at around £1000, studio strobes between £300 to £2,000, and these are only a few of the bits of gear a photographer will have at their studio.

Then of course I could swap my hand painted canvas background for a cheaper one, and buy a cheaper camera, but that would affect the quality of my work.

Anybody can buy a used professional camera, a small reflector, meet you at a public park, take a couple of snaps, and deliver them to you without even editing them. However, good headshot photographers need to know about lighting, perspective, what lenses to use, and how to help their customers relax in front of the camera as that will affect both their body language and their posture.

Headshot photographer prices, for a good photographer, currently start at £200 to £300.

You will find headshot photographers who offer cheaper prices but very often the photos do not come edited, and if you compare their work to the work of more expensive photographers you will see a marked difference.

By not editing the photos they can save a lot of time, but that is at the expense of quality.

When you take a picture, your camera will automatically make some adjustments, but photographers prefer to fine tune the photos themselves and that makes a huge difference to the final work.

As an example if you take a photo in a green space you will notice that your skin takes on a green hue, and that is because the light bounces off other objects and picks up colour from them. That as well as many other things can be adjusted in Photoshop, and fine tuned with a high level of precision. You will not achieve the same level of accuracy by letting your camera make all the decisions.

Keeping up all the skills required to deliver high quality headshot photography, while also adding to your skillset takes time, and like most people who have spent years educating themselves, photographers will charge accordingly.

Said that, once you have reached a certain price, you will find headshot photographers with comparably good work, and wildly different prices.

For that reason I would always recommend taking a good look at their portfolio and what comes with their packages.

I hope this article will help you decide whether you should start investing in a professional headshot portfolio, and give you an idea of how much headshot photographers charge.

Check out the article below if you want to find out more about what makes a great headshot:

Headshot photographer David Tramontan

My studio is located at 59 Clearbook Way, Stepney Green, London, E1 0SD

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