It's An Investment
Headshots can range from free to over $1000. Think of it like a bottle of wine. If someone just came up to you with a free box of wine, you probably wouldn't want that one. Same goes with headshots. However, it may not be necessary to buy the $1000 bottle of wine either, as you can get a really good bottle for less than that. Work in a price range that is right for you, but remember, if you go for the cheaper option you will most likely end up costing yourself more money in the long run because you'll have to reshoot sooner rather than later. Remember, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to show that you take yourself seriously. So spend the money on a professional photographer. I promise, you won't regret it.
Feel A Connection
Make sure that you feel comfortable with the photographer. Don't feel like you're being annoying by wanting to go beyond the website and speak on the phone, or maybe even schedule a consultation if you're feeling nervous about it. It's important that you feel comfortable with your photographer. If you get a weird feeling from them or don't like them as a person that will definitely show in your pictures and leave you with subpar headshots, no matter how good of a photographer this person is.
Look At Their Work
When you're looking through the photographer's portfolio you should look for some of the following things:
- First thing, look at the style. Do you like the photographer's style? If not, don't even bother going further. Find someone who will create a photograph that you love.
- Next, look at the expressions. Do the people in their portfolio look comfortable? If they're smiling, do they look like they were asked to smile (say cheese!) or is it a genuine smile that came from a real moment? Expression is the most important part of your headshot, make sure the photographer you choose can bring out genuine ones. The best results make the actors look confident and approachable
- Look at the backgrounds. Does the photographer use cliches such as brick walls, leaning against trees, or standing in door frames? If so, run away. If not, that's good. Now take a look at whether or not the background compliments the subjects or if it distracts.
- Look at the light. There shouldn't be harsh highlights (bright spots) or very dark shadows. Some shadowing is definitely ok, and if it's done correctly can look very cool, but it shouldn't be so dark that you lose details in the face.
- Make sure the work is consistent. Even if there are different backgrounds/poses/etc. the work should still obviously be coming from one photographer. If they can't put consistent work in their portfolio there is no way to guarantee what your final product will look like. Remember, this is your career here. Why leave that up to chance?
- Side note: Also take a look at the photographer's headshot. They should have a picture of themselves somewhere on their website, see if they take their business seriously enough to go out and get a great headshot of themselves.
Q: What are your thoughts on how hair and makeup should be done?
A: If their explanation doesn't include some variant on the word "natural", that's probably not good. You need to look like your headshot when you walk into a room, so if you need a professional hair and makeup artist to recreate the look in your headshot, you've probably gone too far with it.
Q: How many images will I get for the price of the shoot?
A: This varies. I know photographers that give over a hundred, and I know some that don't include any. Personally I give 3 retouched images, along with 15-20 unretouched, with options to buy more retouched. But you need to decide how many you need.
Q: Do you provide retouched images?
A: Photographers should either do the retouching themselves or be able to recommend you to a professional retoucher. If you are recommended to someone for retouching this may require you to pay extra. Plan ahead and find out if retouching is included in your session fee.
Q: What should I wear?
A: Photographers should be able to tell you what to wear without even thinking about it. Now, I know it's pretty general, and there isn't really a one-size-fits-all way to go, but here're my thoughts on what men and women should wear.
Q: If I'm not happy with the results will you reshoot?
A: There are 2 correct answers to this question. Either "yes" or "I don't let my clients leave until they are happy" (personally I opt for the 2nd choice). If your photographer doesn't care enough to say yes they probably don't care enough about the shoot in general. Think about it, if I reshoot, I'm losing time and money, but I want you to be happy so I would do it. If your photographer were to say no, then it doesn't really matter how the initial shoot goes because they made their money and if you don't like it you would have to book another shoot.
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Quotes from some headshot photographer friends (click to enlarge):