Corporate Headshot Photography: Pricing Suggestions

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by awilliamsphoto, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. Over the last month I've received several inquiries for corporate headshot sessions via my website. After a detailed discussion of my rates, I've booked three out of the seven sessions. My current session pricing is as follows:
    $200 - 90 minute session on location with 5 digital images and 2 retouches included
    $150 - 60 minute session on location with 3 digital images and 1 retouch included
    I do not have my own studio, and typically drive to the client and/or find temporary studio space nearby. Additional images and retouching services are offered separately. I am located in the Midwest United States, and have been unable to find much information on what other professionals in the vicinity charge. My current pricing is near a minimum of what is necessary to turn a profit. I would like some opinions on my current pricing for this type of work. Does it sound reasonable, or am I possibly asking too little / too much for what is provided?
    Thank you in advance for your replies; I'm always very appreciative of the advice available through these forums.
  2. This is my schedule:
    Single portraits of 1 to 4 persons $150 per person
    Single portraits of 5 to 9 persons $500 + $50 for each person over 5
    Single portraits of 10 or more persons $700 + $40 for each person over 10
    Groups $500
    This is for one setup on location. Additional setups on location run $50 each. The client selects images from my laptop immediately after the session--in most cases, I do a minimal amount of retouching, burn the disk, and deliver it before leaving the location.
    This includes one finished JPEG and duplicate TIFF file of each person on a compact disk as well as a perpetual promotional use license for the images. The license use of the photographs as often as desired in any format, forever, without further charge. However, the license included with the flat fee does not permit packaging, billboard, or television use; license for packaging, billboard, or television use is optional.
  3. Here's ours. We use these rates for location work, but the rates are essentially the same in studio, but we don't bill for as much time, since there is no driving, setup time.
    Hourly rate: 300$
    File package(includes 3 versions of one retouched file):200$
    Any add'l retouching: 150$/hr.
    So, a 90 min session would at the minimum be billed at 2 hours( probably closer to 2.5) (600$-750). For 2 retouched images, that would be 2 file packages(400$).
  4. Around here (Silicon Valley) you'd never get Marc's prices. They'd just have the kid from the mailroom shoot them with his DSLR, or the CEO's brother-in-law who does Craigslist weddings.
    When I was on the other side of the equation, we never paid more than $150 for a fully retouched headshot of an executive. But the company had a lot of s/w engineers w/ cameras and lots of them would do that stuff for free.
  5. We deal with undercutting all the time. When they realize that the CEO's brother in law made the president look like crap, they have to reshoot and they call us. Cheaper to hire us in the first place. If they don't want to pay for so much time, they can come to the studio. Then again, some of these clients make more per hour than our hourly rate so it's actually cheaper for us to come there then for them to take 2 hours off to come to the studio...
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It's not undercutting, it's market pricing. I know the area Charles references, and I've seen as much good work at $100/hour as I have bad work at $300/hour. It's the way it is now.
  7. I understand market pricing, but when the 'CEO's brother in law' offers to do it for nothing, which Charles refers to specifically in his post, that's undercutting.
  8. Call it what you may, it's the reality of the marketplace here in Silicon Valley.
    And many of those GWC (guys with a camera) don't do crappy work. I mean how hard is a decent head shot?
  9. I guess it depends if you want a decent head shot or a great head shot, and what your definitions of those are...
  10. My marketing department wouldn't have recognized a "great" anything if it bit them on the arse. The only thing they recognized was that they were a cost center, not a profit center, therefore virtually every decision was based on "bang for the buck" and if they could get 90% effectiveness for 50% price, they were all over it.
    Such is business these days. That's why the cheap Craigslister photographers don't just dry up and blow away. Some, heck many, are getting enough work to make them think they're succeeding.
  11. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I guess it depends if you want a decent head shot or a great head shot, and what your definitions of those are...​
    No, it doesn't. It depends on knowing the market, at least if you're a photographer, and that might take more time than to keep making statements like these.
    Here is a link to an executive headshot for a guy whose company is going public in the next two months. It will probably be the biggest IPO of the year in the tech world, and this guy will be worth several hundred million, at least. See his headshot? That tells you something about the culture and what you target. It sure doesn't look like a $600 headshot and I'm sure nobody at the company cares that it isn't.
  12. Which reinforces my point. Obviously the subject nor the photographer cared about the picture, and it shows. Maybe that's part of the image. I get that. I guess the clientele we go for a) cares about their image and b) pays for it. Yes [gasp] believe it or not, certain companies and firms ( no not fashion driven) actually do care about the image they project, and will pay a premium for a superior product. It turns out it does pay off to know your ratios and your retouching.
  13. You have to forgive the arrogance of my response, I'm just a 24 year old student (non-photographic) who has 3 years experience in the field as an assistant. By no means am I jaded, rather I look at the industry as in state of transition which is in dire need of a pickup after a few years in the slumps of crappy rates and garbage imagery. Unfortunately, it seems that despite my lack of experience, which I don't hide, I seem to have more humility than most who post on this board with less real world experience than I. Or maybe I'm the joker in the deck.
  14. Thanks again to everyone for your information and discourse pertaining to my question. It seems as though the individuals who contact me (particularly for headshots) see the quality in my work, but are unwilling (or unable) to pay for it. I've went back-and-forth about posting price details on my site, although I decided against it in the end. I'm still very much trying to figure out what works and what doesn't, and this is definitely proving a tough endeavor.
    Like Marc, I want to work for clients that appreciate and value the time and effort I put into my images. Even a corporate headshot is an exciting opportunity for me to create a great photo of someone. I've never thought of a session as "just a simple headshot", and likely never will. Sadly, it does seem many individuals will go for whatever is the cheapest.
    My most recent client admitted to me that she initially tried to have a friend take her headshot. When she submitted the photo to the company which had just hired her, they outright rejected it, and demanded a professional image. The company found my website and then contacted me to set up a session on her behalf. Unfortunately, this seems to have been a rare scenario.
    This past week I was contacted twice more about corporate headshots; neither party returned my reply and booked. I've considered lowering my prices, but it hardly seems worth it for the small amount of profit I'd end up making just to get business.
  15. Some, heck many, are getting enough work to make them think they're succeeding.​
    Then they are.
  16. It never does to worry about the Craiglist end of the market. There are a lot of companies that are intensely interested in their image, and are willing to pay handsomely for it. That included (in the first firm I worked for) flying the photographer all over the world to make sure that headshots were consistent between offices internationally in the 30 countries they worked. I don't know what the budget for the headshots was, but knowing them it would be well into the hundreds of thousands at least. They spent several million dollars on making sure that they got the right font and consistent paragraph layout in their letters between offices, so getting the right 'look' internationally for headshots was a big deal.
  17. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    There are a lot of companies that are intensely interested in their image​

    You are assuming there is only one type of corporate "image." Here in Silicon Valley, as Charles and I have been pointing out, it's different. People who run companies here don't spend that much time on how they look, they pitch their accomplishments and capabilities. I photographed a high profile tech conference a few weeks ago and one of the main speakers wore flip-flops. In warm weather, people interview for exec jobs in board shorts. And the guy in that photo really doesn't care if he looks like a male model, he's going to be worth hundreds of millions and be able to start another company with tons of venture capitalists looking to invest.
    One of the problems with professional photography right now is that a lot of the photographers assume that there is one way, and that requires everyone caring about the photography. The guy in that photo cares far more about how his game looks than what he looks like in a corporate photo. Which one is going to make him money? Which one is irrelevant. That should be obvious.
  18. You are assuming there is only one type of corporate "image."​
    No, absolutely the opposite, I assume nothing of the sort. The firm was trying to create an image that distinguished them from other firms, that was unique to them. A brand, projected through (amongst other things) photography.
    I also worked for a Silicon Valley firm for a couple of years, and the dress code was 'dress down' but the rules for dressing down were much more highly regulated than suits working in the City of London (which I'd been doing just before that). The Silicon Valley firm was acutely conscious of the message being given by what people wore in the firm, so there were strict rules that you had to dress down on certain days, and exactly what dressing down meant - the kind of shoes to be worn, certain days had to be a tweed jacket, the kinds of shirts that were acceptable and how the open necked collar was to be worn etc. The idea was to project an image of 'smart casual'. Very much the kind of thing that Steve Jobs made popular (and as we know, in the world of Apple, image is king). His dress code was very casual, and the image projected by it was extremely well choreographed. You can be pretty sure that the same went for his employees. In a self respecting Silicon Valley, if employees in a successful firm turn up in flipflops, then there's a reason for it, it's an image that they're trying to project.
  19. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Knowing many of these people (I live in San Francisco), I would say most don't care. Many started out as engineers, with no fashion sense. They dress the way that's easiest in the morning, even for important events.
  20. Many may not. And most of them for that matter will not be successful. Look at the success rate (or rather, failure rate) of tech start-ups. But there are different ends of the market, and among the most successful end of the market - the biggest firms with the biggest budgets - the Apple-style ethos is king.
    It's then a question of, as a photographer, which would you rather have as clients!
    It's also the case among the millionaire crowd - there's a definite dress-down approach in the office, it's a kind of sign that "I'm important enough that I don't have to dress up". That in itself is a kind of image that is being projected. But the clothes they wear are very expensive and (usually) immaculately groomed. Image is (usually) important among that set.
  21. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    among the most successful end of the market - the biggest firms with the biggest budgets - the Apple-style ethos is king.​
    I'd like to see some evidence of this. I live here, I know these people.
  22. Evidence? I can only report what I know.
    My second firm with the strict smart casual dress code was a San Fransisco firm as it happens. I spent quite a lot of those two years going to conferences with endless presentations by small tech start-ups. Our clients were the big tech companies, and I spent much of my life in meetings with them. So I can't offer objective evidence, it's just based on observation, including the surprise that I had, coming from a City of London suited firm, about how much more regulated the smart casual dress code was than the suit.
    I photographed a tycoon recently (not tech sector). I photographed him in his office, then afterwards spent the evening at his villa (the latter drinking and chatting rather than taking pics). He was wearing jeans and an open shirt in the office, but he was obviously very aware of his image, and conscious about the way he would appear in the picture and the message that would give. Though he was dressed very casually, his self image was clearly important to him. The portrait cost nearly three thousand dollars incl. expenses for a single relatively straightforward picture.
    I'm not doing headshots, and not in Silicon Valley, so I'm just offering general observations on how these firms approached and valued their self-image, and the kinds of budgets that they had. To them a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on corporate image was neither here nor there. One of our rivals was reported to have spent the equivalent (at that time) of around ten million dollars on an office party. The marketing publication/website department had a more than healthy budget.
    A quick Google shows that my first firm currently has a marketing budget in the region of around $50 million annually. And they're not a firm that do advertising campaigns to the general public, they have a niche clientele, so much of that budget will go on design, photography, harmonisation of fonts and layouts etc.. The headshots were and still are one of the most important parts of that - the face of the firm.
  23. And by the way, the guys in the publications department, sitting on their $50 million dollar budget. Probably the biggest challenge that they face in their annual career is going around the 2,200 principals who work in the firm, whose time is extremely valuable and they are extremely hard to get hold of, some of whom also happen to own the firm, organising for their portraits to be taken.
    Can you imagine if they had to repeat it a second time because the photography wasn't consistent or wasn't good enough...
  24. I have worked as an IT journalist since 95. The only thing that counts in that industry is that you know what you are doing. Looks don't count. Spending money on any kind of marketing is not as important as developing that one big app that may sell to Google for a billion dollars.

    When the CEO (his secretary, rather) of one company said leave your camera at home; I'll shoot the event on my iPhone, I knew they would kvetch about the price of the article I was writing for them too. I was right; but that's how they think.
  25. Back 50 years ago when I first started out in the advertising photography business one of the best pieces of advice I got was don't try to get business by being the low priced provider. People who buy professional photo services want "professionals." If they were really interested in cheap they would do it themselves. Provide professional services at a fair price that enables you to stay in business. That way if the customer likes your service, you will still be in business when the call again.
  26. I've learned throughout the years that it's all about your portfolio and being just a wee bit different than everyone else out there. You don't have to reinvent the wheel but doing the same as others may not land you the clientele that understands the difference between a PRO vs. GWC (Guy With Camera). I've been a wedding photographer for YEARS and will be tapping into the Corporate realm in 2012 so I've been doing TONS of research. The best part is reading what other photogs are sharing and finally, tweaking what I'm planning on doing.

    For one, I'm realizing that you can't just feature straight forward headshots and think that you can separate yourself and justify higher fees. I'm actually building my portfolio now and shooting business owners as if it were for an upcoming article. During the shoot, I'll take a bunch of headshots because who doesn't like a good headshot but I don't focus on them. Anyone can take a corporate headshot but it takes so much more to be creative and THAT'S what you have to sell. It's what I do in my wedding photography business. Anyone can shoot a wedding but posing, directing and using my elinchrom quadras creatively with westcott modifiers is taking things to a slightly different level of the game and THAT'S what I feature. Like I mentioned, I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel but if brides hire me because of the creative images I produce then I'll bet if you focus on being creative with images, that many corporations would hire you regardless of the price you charge. People just trust their friends so build relationships and it'll be fine.

    The rest has more to do with selling yourself which you HAVE to be great at. If you can't sell yourself then who cares what your photos look like. :) Good luck to everyone, this new venture is going to be fun! :) Check out the business name I'll be using. :) I'll be focusing on small to medium sized law firms to start since they clearly have the budget. I'm in New York and sometimes it seems as though every other person I meet is an attorney so attorneys it is. :)
  27. East coast (kind of) response to this old thread. Not much has changed. Except maybe things are worse.

    I can't decide if Instagram is raising the portrait bar, or Facebook is dumbing down portrait standards (or both, simultaneously).

    I know the filter catalog of most cell phone apps are making the issue of "quality" an extremely hard one to pin down. The crappiest photo ever can be run through some insane preset filter in Awesome Camera app and people will be be all over the "Like" button on Facebook...

    On the other hand, there are a lot of great portraits on Instagram. One thing is sure: It's hard enough to bid $450 to drag $10K worth of camera/lens/lighting halfway across the county, and then hear they found someone who will do it for $200... t
  28. I see pricing all across the board here.
    While it may be hard to compete with the CEO's brother in law, CEO's in the know know the difference between quality professional work and amateur semi pro work.
    In business, only the finest will do for the finest. Facebook is not where most CEO's get their image traction. It is on brochures, business cards, company web sites, LinkedIn and the like. In business impressions are vitally important.
    Most of my work is currently in studio.
    Headshots typically run $450 edited with about half clientele taking advantage of this service level.
  29. Hey there. This thread is quite helpful but I have a question, and apologies if I missed it in the thread, but are you expected to provide your own hair and makeup person for a corporate headshot gig?
    Thank you for any help you can provide.
    - Omar
  30. Totally disagree with Charles. Craigslister photographers can be a disaster. I guess their will always be people/companies that go with the cheap, unprofessional option. Fact is, if you want to guarantee quality and consistency, you'll only get that with a specialist. Sure, just like golf, the amateur can hit a sweet shot off the tee. But it's consistency that separates the wheat for the chaff.
    I've often had folks come back to me
    after taking the cheap option. And they've given me great reviews!

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