The REAL Cost of a Cheap Business Portrait

Business Portraits a.k.a. "Headshots" (not always for work) are much more involved these days than lighting, posing and background - there's actually a way to make money from them. It's the priceless content of an AUTHENTIC YOU!

Hundreds of on-line quotes popped up while I pondered the importance of having YOUR face on your product, service or anywhere else that you need to expand your reach or find your mate!

 Some relative, but none defined that pang you get, as the would-be client that says "Yes - I'd trust them with my money, my health, my car..."

There is a part of us humans, that cannot help but to "judge a book by it's cover".  That cover, in today's world, is now more often to be your profile photo or marketing materials. Even if you've scoured review sites, Yelping for catsitters, one person's confident, can be read as another person's smug.

True, you can't please everyone all the time, nor can you undo the dramas that lead us to be so judgmental, (judge - mental) it makes you wonder about the true linguistics of the word, yes? Your profile image/headshot will serve you best if it leaves a great first impression.

Potential client or ideal mate, this can be a deal-breaking moment, and you're not there to defend your expression, posture or, believe it or not, the background. (and yes, some can be quite off-putting or in-congruent with your intentions, or a color that does nothing for you.

One click on your "About" page, and it could all be over.

"Nice hair, but oy!. She chose a church-directory-looking, blue-gray background wearing a red dress and wants to consult ME?.." or "Hmm, don't think I'd want him near my kids!.."

But hey!, it was a great deal back in 1999, right?..

Last year, I received a call from a web-searching "google client" if-you-will. He read my reviews, visited the site, and still went straight for the price.

"How much do you charge for headshots?".

No specials running, I stated my regular price for one person, with one perfected image (more optional).

Years prior, I refused to bolt straight to the price. Not for fear of sticker shock, but because often they were comparing us to a session-only price, or business that donated 80% of their profits to Groupon. (they keep around 50% of sale, you pay all of your COGS out of what little remains of an already giveaway price) Yes, that's a voice of experience - and we learned a great lesson about offering cheap as well. No time for quality!..

Yes, this is a real deal, not just photo sample - BUT we're not giving half of it to a "Deal site"

Yes, this is a real deal, not just photo sample - BUT we're not giving half of it to a "Deal site"

It's tempting to explain the 1:3 to 1:4 ratio of Camera-to-Computer time. Knowing many have bought a scaled-down version of a pro DSLR (pro-sumer), you want to explain your $4000 studio lights, or $1200 portable strobes and insurance for that used-car-equivalent roller bag that sports the back-up camera and lenses. After all, "you are just taking my picture, right?"  (yes, I've heard that - OUCH!)

Back to my caller... "What's so special about yours that they're more than twice the price of the guy down the road?"

"Well I'm not sure who the guy down the road is, and I don't know what they do for it, but I can tell you that you won't even see my camera room until I know..." without confrontation or attitude, I stated what would happen before he would even see the inside of my camera room or outdoor options.

Before I could even share what we do to perfect the images, he cut me off. "Enough, enough, I don't have a problem with the price, you just told me what I needed to hear. I've already been to 'the guy down the road' and my wife hated every single one of them. They weren't me!"

In the end, it cost him three times as much, since he had to buy twice including the "cheap experience". In sharing his prior experiences, I'd finally discovered our "Secret Sauce". It's not the gear, the pose, the exposure, the composition the lighting or the price. Rather the aptitude for mastering them all as second-nature, in order to connect with our clients at a level that allows us to do what we do differently.

During my quote search, the closest I could find to explain this, was by the late photographer Paul Strand. "It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness."

Your image must surpass the unconscious, judgmental filters that your POTENTIAL client or mate is going to screen you with, before considering you for engagement." - Brian Geraths.

Having just completed over 50 headshots for one organization (at volume rate, and volume speed) it made me realize that the time we invest in getting it right, really does make a difference. It's the first time I'd offered to do "retakes" because I KNEW that 30-60 seconds each person, from start to finish, would likely create the need.

As great as I like to believe I know people in a quick, superficial few seconds, I was honored by the three that asked for a redo. They wanted something better than "good enough" and they trusted me enough to prove my capability of capturing something more authentic after we spoke long enough for me to get it.

Cheap (and quick) really IS expensive in most cases. (yes, we too run deals now and again - never mind volume discounts for bigger groups - if you ACTUALLY read this far and still need them, I'll honor this July discount ONLY if you admit that your read my babbling blog)