ARE EXPENSIVE HEADSHOTS BETTER THAN CHEAP HEADSHOTS?
There's an expression out there in world. It goes something like... "You get what you pay for..." or something like that. Does that apply to headshot photography and personal branding? I wasn't sure how to answer that question, so I did a little research on the best headshot photographers in Chicago. The results were interesting.
I first set out to find the most expensive headshot photographers in Chicago. I was immediately blown away by how confusing all of this was. For the most part, all of the photographers had their prices online. In theory, that should have made things easy, but where things get a little difficult to decipher is when you compare what's included in their packages. Some photographers charge by the hour. Some photographers charge by the look. Some photographers include a makeup artist and some charge extra. Other photographers include high resolution images for print, and some packages are designed to be used online. With so many variables it was difficult to compare the packages directly. So that aside, and just looking at advertised prices and the quality of the work produced, I would say yes, it makes a difference. The lower priced photographers all had work that look dated. Their websites looked dated. The shots were fine, but not exactly what I would call confident and approachable. In general, as the prices got a little bit higher, the work would get better. It made me think a little bit about my own personal branding, and what I could do to improve it. You're talking about the difference of a couple hundred dollars on something that could make an impact of tens of thousands of dollars in your income. It seemed like a no brainer to me. The expensive headshots were the ones I liked the best.
So after seeing the expensive headshots I was off to find the cheapest headshots in Chicago. What do I consider a cheap headshot you ask? I'd say anything under $300 and you're in cheap headshot territory. This is where things got interesting to me, because you've got two different types of photographers in this category. You've got the bad photographers, and you've got the good photographers that don't value what they do. Let's talk about the bad photographers first. In my research, I found a photographer that was doing some really inexpensive work. She actually ranked 1st in google search for most terms related to Chicago head shot photography. I'm not one to beat around the bush, so I'm just going to say it. If she spent as much time learning how to make great pictures of people as she spent on SEO, she'd be a force to be reckoned with. In my opinion she is not a photographer, she's basically a modern day telemarketer. Buyer beware. There were a handful of other bad headshot photographers in the cheap category, but I'd hope you had the common sense to avoid them. That brings us to the good photographer with low self value. I can see that they're really talented and I'll bet that 50% of their shoots turn out well. So as long as you're in that 50% I think you might do alright with one of them.
Addendum: I found a third category and I liken it to bait and switch so again, buyer beware... When you have a good photographer who hires an "associate photographer" to shoot under their brand as a cheaper alternative, run away. You hire a photographer because you like their work and you like the idea of what it means to work with a real professional. These "associate photographers are a joke and should be avoided at all costs. Here's some free advice on how to choose a headshot photographer.
How much should a headshot cost? That's entirely up to you and how much value you place on career and personal advancement. Do I think that headshot photographers are a commodity? No, I don't. I don't think that all headshot photographers are created equal. If you take your personal branding seriously, I'd skip the night on the town and spend the extra $100-$200 on a better photographer. When it's down to you and one other candidate for that new job, or closing that big deal, and all of the major things are equal. You're equally qualified, you're competitively priced, etc. It's going to come down to details like, who do you want representing your brand. That's when that million dollar headshot is going to be worth every penny.