What should a professional headshot cost? (and why are they so expensive?)


Behind the scenes: Headshot Session at Hero Shot photography studio in Annandale, Sydney. All images Copyright Hero Shot Photography 2021 ©


So… you need a headshot…


Perhaps you’ve recently been asked for a headshot, or you’re looking for a new job.


A professional headshot, these days, is arguably the single greatest marketing tool available to the individual.


Why is it so effective? Well, if it is done correctly, it gives you the opportunity to show people exactly what makes you special and why you’re exactly what they’ve been looking for.  


Seeing is believing


Your headshot allows people to see for themselves that you’re a winner. This is often a subconscious process, making it even more effective.

In a world of self-promotion, hype, inflated resumés and half-truths, any form of self promotion is often taken with a pinch of salt. Whether the person in question bothers to read your two page bio is another story altogether (statistics tell us that they probably won’t).

This is why communicating the key elements of your resumé through a well crafted headshot is so important.

A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists showed that it only takes 0.1 seconds to form an impression of a stranger from their face. Moreover, that longer exposures to these images don’t significantly alter the first impressions that are based on gut and instinct.

Judgments based on facial appearance play a powerful role in how we treat others, and how we get treated. That’s the power of a great headshot.

“OK, I get all of this.. but why on earth is getting a professional headshot so expensive?”

There are normally 3 camps when it comes to this:

Customer A: “OMG! How much??  :-O  I only need a simple headshot! …I literally thought it was going to be $50..”

Customer B: ” Wow, that’s great value, sign me up!! It’ll easily pay for itself, how soon can we do this!?”

Customer C: “Well, that’s a bit more than I was expecting.. but I trust you and if you can do the impossible task of making me look good, on that basis alone, please, sign me up!”

Behind the scenes: Headshot session at Hero Shot Headshot Photography

There’s no such thing as “A simple headshot”

Crafting a headshot is an extremely difficult thing to do and an even harder thing to do well.

It’s always surprising to see how much effort it takes to make something appear effortless

There are several factors that will determine the cost of a headshot. These will vary from photographer to photographer but are largely based on the following:

  1. Operating costs
  2. Experience
  3. Overall time

1.  Operating Costs: the cost of doing business

Every photographer will have an operating cost. This is the cost of not only running their business but physically putting on a shoot for you.

Each of the below items listed will have either an initial cost outlay or a recurring cost, one that the photographer needs to pay just to be in business and to serve you. This is by no means an exhaustive list but does cover most of the main components needed to provide a photography service.

Photographic Equipment – $10k-50K

Studio rent/rates incl. utilities – $500-$1000 per week

Internet – $100 per month

Phone – $80 per month

Website hosting – $30 per month

Business Email Suite – $20 per month

Professional memberships – $20 per month

Insurances to protect you, the photographer and important equipment –  $1500 per annum

Specialist software including pho editing software – $160 per month

Backdrops/props/chairs – $2000-$5000

Advertising – $400-$2000 per month

Training and education – $2000 per annum

Cloud storage for secure delivery of images $30 p/m

Back-up devices to ensure your data is kept safely and securely – $400-$2000

Car/Transport – $ Varied $

High spec computer/laptop – $3000-$8000 (every 5 years)

General business costs (Accounting/contracts/stationary/printing etc) $2500 per annum

You might wonder if all of these are necessary. Unfortunately, they absolutely are, especially to create the quality of product that you are coming to us for.

Take a photography studio for instance. Some photographers won’t have one, or might even use their lounge room or a garage. This may work for them, but us  to yield the highest quality product possible for our customers, we have opted to keep and maintain a studio, dedicated solely to creating high quality headshots without compromise. 

There are numerous backgrounds and lighting options available to allow us to tailor lighting and angles to compliment a persons face and even minimise or mask certain features that they may not like as much.

Having a dedicated studio also means that we have a far higher degree of control over our results and are able to work extremely efficiently for our customers to produce a greater variety for them in a much shorter period of time.

Behind the scenes: Professional portrait on location for company website. Pyrmont, Sydney


Let’s dive into the Photography Equipment for a brief moment.


It’s no secret that photographic equipment is expensive. If you’re hiring a professional photographer for anything, the chances are that they’ll be using upwards of $5000 worth of equipment to create your images.


I can tell you that I will typically use over $25,000 worth of gear to create a headshot on any given day.


And no, that’s not a typo, $25,000 worth of equipment is really just the starting point and doesn’t include additional lenses or a backup camera that I always have as a working professional. It also doesn’t include a professional studio, backdrop or software needed to process your images.


#FUN FACT Just to hire an equivalent set of photography and lighting equipment, to that which I’ll typically use, from a camera rental shop will cost you $1562.00 for a day-hire (which is the minimum rental period). Here’s a quote I got from my favourite camera rental store in Sydney.


Quote for headshot equipment (Click here)


Even if you could rent this equipment by the hour, (you can’t by the way, but if you could…) it would be $195.25 per hour.


Our Basic headshot sessions start at $250 +gst and $440 +gst for our more popular Elite headshot session, which includes multiple looks.


Considering it would cost you at least 4 times more just to hire the equipment (without a photographer), hopefully you can start to see why getting a headshot worth having, is going to cost you some money.


2. Experience

Overheads aside, experience, expertise and artistic ability are the prime reasons why some headshot photographers will charge $100 whilst others might charge $1000 for a session with them.

Only being able to speak for myself, I have invested over 10 years in perfecting my craft. There’s an old adage that says when paying for something, you’re paying for those 10 years, not the minutes it takes to complete the task.

10 years however, is just for my photographic endeavours specific to portraiture. There is so much more to creating a Hero Shot than photographic expertise alone. 

Psychology, body language, problem solving, colour matching, confidence building and coaching are just a few of the other skills that have taken time to learn and that play a huge part in the results you’ll get from a headshot session.


3. Time


Our most popular headshot session is the Elite Session. It’s a 1 hour studio session and costs $440 +gst.

Whilst the shoot itself is an hour, a more accurate time breakdown this shoot would be as follows:


30 minutes communication: emails, talking on the phone, planning your shoot, discuss your brief and giving advice on preparing for a session, styling and clothing. Then after the shoot, sending through galleries, retouched portraits, revisions and samples.


10 minutes to set up and prepare the studio for your session.


1 hour : Shoot


20 minutes: Going through images individually and curating a gallery of best images (so you don’t have to flick through 300+ images!)

1 hour Professional Retouching @ 20 minutes per portrait x3


So we’ve already arrived at 3 hours of time needed to create your hero shots, working out to $146 p/h


TAX: Just like everyone else, we pay tax on anything you pay. For most people, this will fall between 28-37%.


Leaving it at just $100 p/h.


The great news is that for a professional headshot, your session is normally a tax deduction for you (we can’t advise here so you’ll need to get advice from your accountant) in which case you’d effectively be claiming this part back in your annual tax return.


Less studio rates @ $50 p/h


Leaves us at $50 p/h without taking into account any additional overheads, any extra time needed or the cost of our equipment or factoring in any of the $1520 it would cost just to hire our equipment for the day.


You may be asking yourself, why on earth anyone would get into the business of photography? It’s a good question! The answer is passion and a love for photography and if you build up a reputation of incredible portraits and excellent customer service then you can make a business out of it. 



Wrap up


As with most skilled people, photographers will generally charge what they are worth. Naturally, a part of this cost will always come down to the cost of providing the service to you. 

However, in most cases that I have seen and partly due to the fact that a lot of photographers love what they do, they often charge considerably less than they should to comfortably cover their overheads.

Experience, skill, operating costs, time spent behind the scenes and of course artistic and creative ability are all contributing factors that often go unnoticed. Without these though, you’d have basic snapshot with zero visual and emotional impact.

A bad headshot will very likely cost you money, business and/or career opportunities.

A great headshot will pay for itself many times over (meaning it should actually make you money) in either new customers, business relationships, a better job and even a higher level of confidence.

Added to the fact that you’ll be using it over the next 2-5 years and with a taxable deduction in most cases, taking the time to do it properly really is a no brainer.


If you’d like to learn more about what we do or have any questions, get in touch!


Sammer Affridi – Photographer


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