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How Much for Headshots?

August 1, 2013

“I am NOT paying $500 for pictures,” Mom said flatly, a bit furious at the thought. And to be fair, she has a point. One session could easily pay for ALL the college textbooks I’ve had to buy for the last four years.

My current headshots I got done for $60, from another college student majoring in Photography. I was starting to get cast in shows, was hoping to do more professional work so I decided that it was time to get my picture done. To be fair, she is a fantastic photographer…but a not-so great headshot photographer. She did it for the money, I did it for my career—but I hated my hair, wasn’t a fan of the background, didn’t get any good shots of me with my glasses…in the end, I think I got two decent pictures out of a hundred-something! Before those, I remember my mom taking a photo of me that I could use for an audition and I don’t even remember what I used for my college auditions—it might have been my yearbook picture. So far, I haven’t had a professional headshot but now is the time when I figure out how to justify paying that kind of price.

This is the kind of blog post where I’m hoping to get a response out of: feedback, personal experiences, yes/no answers. For first-timers like me and those just wanting to get your Green Room Blog fix, I’m sharing my research and knowledge so far.

In my quest to get my act together before I graduate, one of the things I need are headshots. But being in college, there are not very many professional headshot photographers that I can meet up with for a chat, see if I like them or jump on a really nice headshot sale. I’m trying to find someone to work with without knowing if I want to work with them and that’s a battle in itself. Secondly, headshots tend to be extremely expensive, I’m coming to realize as I cringe every-time I see them going for $500 – $750 and up.

Researching headshots though, is still free. By now, I’ve had a lot of friends getting new headshots as they are graduating, looking for more professional work. I’ve noticed the trends in headshots currently seem to be blurred backgrounds or a solid brightly colored background. The shot is now taken from the shoulders-up – edgy shots = dark colors and a leather jacket, commercial is bright color/patterned shirts and landscape seems to be more popular than portrait style. Take my observations for what you will!

Other observations:

  • Having 2 to 3 different, but type appropriate looks shot is ideal. Bring extra clothes to change in and out of.
  • Have your picture taken according to type but not costumed – sure, wear a leather jacket but don’t pin a sheriff’s badge on if you get cast as a cop a lot.
  • Talk to your photographer. No matter how much money I am spending, it’s going to be wasted if the photographer and I don’t see eye to eye (yes, I punned that line). I want to be comfortable and 100% committed.
  • The Make-Up Artist. While I am slightly miffed that guys are rarely offered a make-up artist to assist them, it seems to be a requirement for women. Still, I’m not the most adept at applying make-up so this might be something to seriously consider adding to my headshot costs.
  • Packages. Photographers tend to offer certain deals, whether photos get retouched, discounted, more looks, etc. Worth checking out just to find the best bang for the buck. I know college seniors who tend to get theirs taken all by the same photographer to get a group discount.

All in all though, I find myself relenting on the price for one, valid reason. Like actors, headshot photographers have bills to pay too. They are also trying to eke out of a living – cameras and other equipment are expensive, and don’t forget about student loans to pay back their degrees in photography or acting. When you add in the quality of the photo/equipment/photographer, time and energy of all involved…the price starts to look a bit more fair. I still can’t really afford that much but I’m more willing to pay it, if I could.

College Sig

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2013 9:05 am

    Hello! Just got mine done by David Noles ( and if you book with two other people within the same 30 days, the price hops down $200 to $695 for the session and $200 for the makeup artist. I know – it’s a lot of money. And I used to be resistant to paying that much but after three years in the city, I realized it’s a must (in my opinion – others will still say something else).

    I have always cut corners – whether it’s using a cheap photographer (ie around $200 or $300 for the session or neglecting the makeup artist) but after three years here, I realized, I can’t keep cutting corners. I would submit my hs/resume all the time and NEVER hear back. At auditions, I wasn’t confident if my picture was sitting face up, my marketing materials didn’t look their best, etc etc.

    Most importantly, my headshot didn’t reflect my personality or my level of professionalism and commitment. There’s just too much competition and I felt that I had to do everything possible to get ahead of the game.

    To me, handing over the dough is an investment in my career. I don’t have the proof yet, but once I start putting to use my new shots, I feel confident that I’ll at least get my foot in the door at more auditions. That’s the whole purpose of these bad boys isn’t it? So to me, it’s worth it. Here are a few recs I heard about through other actors:

    Lesley Bohm Photography
    Taylor Hooper
    Alan Gregory Dean
    Keli Squires Taylor
    Nick Coleman
    Jordan Matter
    Nick Patrick

    *I haven’t checked these out myself, but they come recommended. Some may be in LA, but it will at least give you a reference for what’s good. Also, you can stop by Reproductions and sit in their lobby. They have a video looping of awesome photographers. Jot them down!

  2. August 2, 2013 10:11 am

    My feeling is right in line with Newbie’s — investing in the best headshots you can get is SO worth it.

    There are very few factors in auditioning that you can control, so to me, it’s worth getting the very best headshots you can — because that’s one factor you CAN control!

    I used Jordan Matter and I adore my pictures. Yes, he’s expensive. Yes, his hair/makeup lady is expensive. But I always get compliments on my pictures, and I get called in off of them quite a bit.

    People have differing opinions on this, but my feeling is that it is so worth spending the money on this crucial tool that you’ll be using for years to come.

  3. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    August 2, 2013 10:42 am

    Thanks Newbie! I had Taylor Hooper on my list already but I will definitely look into the others as well 🙂

    And thank you both for your imput! I’m agreeing now: the money is worth it if your career is going to be. Now it’s a matter of getting the money, finding a photographer, actually scheduling and having the headshots taken all while convincing my parents that this is a very smart career move. This blog post is part of my “building an intelligent, well-researched and logically constructed argument” to bring them on board. The more information I can learn, the better!

  4. December 28, 2015 8:43 pm

    I really enjoyed your post and loved the view from the actor’s side. I am a photographer in NY and curious if you’re still acting and what the resolutions of your finds turned out. I’d love for you to reach out!

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      January 1, 2016 11:05 pm

      Hello Felicia! I was a bit surprised to find a comment sitting in my inbox – ironically, I recently scheduled to get NEW headshots to replace the ones I had taken after writing this blog post! I suppose I ought to do a “what happened to her” retrospective blog post. In short summary though, yes – I am still acting, headshots are still expensive but necessarily so, and, if you read my last blog post, I am no longer living in California (and I never moved to NYC either)!


      P.S. Redheaded Actress, I guess I owe you a blog post!

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