Pricing headshots feels tricky for new photographers.  Most clients claim they only need one image and may balk at a full session fee.  But your expenses and talent doesn’t change, even if they only need one image.  And it takes an investment of time to create one really great headshot.  So headshots can feel harder to price at first for new photographers.

How Much Should I Charge for a Headshot?

You should charge a price for headshots that takes into account your costs of doing business, your experience, your market, and the complexity of the job.  Headshots can run from as low as $75 in small markets with new photographers to more than $1,000 for an experienced photographer in a larger market.

According to Fash.com, headshots average between $100 and $300 per hour just for the session, but that’s a pretty basic guideline. A LOT of different factors should go into your headshot pricing strategy.

Here a a few methods to consider when choosing how much to charge for a headshot:

  • Creative fee plus per image licensing fee
  • All-inclusive fee for a set number of images

Let’s look at both of these methods a little closer.

Headshot pricing

Creative Fee Plus a License Fee

Many photographers who specialize in headshots and commercial work use a pricing system based on a creative fee and licensing fee.  The creative fee covers your basic costs, time, talent, and complexity of the job.  Think of it like a cover charge at a club.  That’s the fee your client pays to get in the door, listen to the music, have fun with her friends and dance.  It’s the minimum amount you require to conduct the session.

A license fee, on the other hand, is a per image fee.  That fee is based on how, where, and how long the image will be used.  It’s sort of like the per drink price you pay at a club.  The more and fancy drinks you want, the more expensive your tab is at the end of the night.  

Advantages

This method of charging for headshots lets you earn money regardless of how many images the client ends up using.  It also lets you scale the cost of an image based on the client and its use.

The creative fee doesn’t need to be the exact same from job to job.  You can adjust it depending on how complicated the session will be, if you have to rent a space, if you have to rent other gear, hire an assistant, etc.

The license fee can also be adjusted.  For example, you can charge a different license fee for web, print ads, or billboard use.  You can also charge a different license fee if that image will be used locally, regionally, or nationally.  Or you can have a sliding scale based on the income of your client.  For example, a license fee for a local realtor for a headshot for her website is going to be less expensive than a headshot for Kayne West that is going to go on his next album cover.  Granted, not all of us get to photograph megastars like Kayne West, but you get the idea.

Disadvantages

Clients that aren’t used to working with commercial photographers may not understand how licensing works and require some education.  It requires more interaction with the client, because as his business grows, he might need to come back to you for additional licensing.  You are also responsible for policing, and enforcing if necessary, that usage agreement.

how to charge for headshots

All Inclusive Pricing

If you don’t want to bother with separating out a creative fee or care how, exactly, your clients will use their images, consider this pricing model.  Essentially, its one flat fee to the client for a set number of images.  The client pays upfront and licensing is never discussed.  It doesn’t matter to you if your client will use that image on her church website or the back of her bestseller.  You’re satisfied with the initial fee you receive.

Your all inclusive pricing doesn’t need to be the same for every single client.  You can adjust your quote based on your investment in the session and the client’s general use of the image.  You just don’t separate that out in the bill.

Using the club analogy again, it’s like having a higher price to get into the club, but each patron gets three free drinks included with the cost of admission.  

For more information on headshot pricing, see our headshot pricing guide for beginners!

Advantages

This is an easier model to explain to clients because it’s very similar to what they likely already know, like family sessions or senior sessions.  It also helps get pas the hurdle of clients saying “That’s $250 for ONE image?”  Clients may feel that there is greater value in your session because they get a multiple images to keep.

You are also alleviated from the burden of tracking and enforcing your clients usage of that image.  If a client says they are going to use it for a local print ad and suddenly she’s using it in a national magazine about her business, you aren’t trying to hunt her down for payment and working through an attorney to prove damages and enforce the usage agreement.

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage of this model is that you are potentially leaving money on the table.  If you take images for a local indy band’s concert flyer and then suddenly that image is on the cover of Rolling Stone, you aren’t getting any additional money for the new use of the image.  

Always Be Up Front About How Much You Charge

Regardless of which method you use, always be upfront with your client.  Explain your pricing structure and fee scale clearly and provide her with all the information and potential costs BEFORE the shoot.  Don’t lure her in with a $50 creative fee and then hit her with a $1,000 licensing fee per image after the session.  She will feel misled and taken advantage of and may not purchase any images because she didn’t budget correctly.

Conclusion

There is no one perfect price for a headshot, and there is no singular method to use when deciding how to charge for a headshot.  It really does depend on your costs of doing business, your experience and talent and your market.  Consider the two methods we’ve talked about above and choose one.  If, after a client or two, that method doesn’t feel like it’s working…switch it up.  You always have the ability to make your pricing make sense for you and your business!