Fstoppers Answers - "Ten Headshots for a Corporate Client, What Do You Charge?"

Fstoppers Answers - "Ten Headshots for a Corporate Client, What Do You Charge?"

Every week, we ask our eclectic group of writers to weigh in on a question that is asked in the comments from our own readers. The questions can be anything relating to photography, and we invite everyone to participate in our segment called "Fstoppers Answers". This week, we ask "Corporate Headshots for Local Realtor Firm. Ten Clients, One Headshot a Piece. What do you charge and why?"

James RobertsonStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer My base cost for this would be $1500 flat for my local market. It may be one headshot per person, but that doesn't mean we're taking one photo per person, it probably means we're taking more than 10 per person. Realtors are usually fairly extroverted people, so I wouldn't anticipate too much of a struggle for that "confident yet approachable" look, but there's still a decent amount of setup time and effort involved..let's say two hours start to finish.
Beyond the shooting, I still have editing, for 10 people that's another hour at least if I'm lucky, but could very well be closer to two as well. Once everything is finished and delivered, then we come down to what they had their photos taken for in the first place - advertisement. These photos are going on bus stops, billboards, brochures, business cards, websites, Facebook pages, twitter accounts, email signatures, event notices, etc. etc. That's a whole lot of a marketing budget, thousands of dollars - $150 one time for the photo for all of it isn't bad at all.


Peter HouseStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer For a job such as this I would start by estimating the amount of time it would take me. Simply going from experience I know that I wouldn’t be there more than 4 hours including set-up, taking the headshots, and then setting down. There would be no point to charge the client a full day rate, so I would offer a half day rate instead to cover the 4 hours of work. In my case I charge a half day rate of $1000, so that would be my starting point. In addition to that we would add our retouching fee of $100/hr for about 5 hours of work. Lastly we would go over any usage terms the client might need and bill appropriately for those. Depending on the size of the firm and the kind of marketing campaign they expect, this would most likely not exceed a couple hundred dollars. So in total, for such a project, my estimate would probably come in around $1500-$2000, or about $150-$200/headshot. It’s always up for negotiation however, especially with smaller local businesses.


Rebecca BrittStaff Writer | Commercial Photographer Just this last Friday (10-04-13) I did a headshot shoot of this nature. A realty firm with 10 realtors. I charged them $100 a piece (plus sales tax). I took my set-up to their office and did the shoot there for their convenience. I usually charge more for a single headshot shoot so I offered a discounted group rate. Each session actually came with two edited shots, one a Peter Hurley style shot and the other your typical vertical portrait. It's an easy and fast way to make a good profit for an afternoon's shoot while still giving the client a nice rate.


Mike KelleyAssociate Editor | Architecture Photographer $250 a piece + licensing. That's only after I try to get them to use someone else. That being said, I'm showing up with thousands of dollars worth of gear, taking a picture that they'll use to make a profit with for years to come, and hopefully capturing them at their absolute best so they can appeal to their potential clients. A headshot can stand to make someone in real estate thousands, or lose them just as much. This would be for one finished file that they will hopefully use across multiple media for years to come. Licensing fees are, of course, variable, and to be honest I'd probably have to come up with some licensing scheme for this on the fly because corporate headshots are not my forte.


Rich MeadeStaff Writer | Fashion Photographer For that I'd actually have a couple different prices depending on the logistics. If I could set up one day to get them all shot, and only incur one day of production costs (assistant). I'd charge $500 a person for Unlimited Promo use for 1 year. That would be for one finalized shot, and I'd charge something like $100/shot thereafter.
If I had to break it up, into separate shoot days I'd bump the price up to $750/person to account for at least my assistants rate, and the potential jobs I'd be missing out on by scheduling the headshots.


Zach SuttonAssociate Editor | Headshot Photographer I'd likely charge around $125-$150 per headshot, which is still a bit of a discount from my standard price (And I'd make that known in my estimate sent to them). I'd also have a $100 set up fee for a studio. Depending how they handle that price (Around $1350-$1600), I'd lower the price accordingly, but wouldn't go below $1000. My local market sometimes goes quite a bit cheaper, so I will sometimes have to lower my price a little bit to stay competitive with them.


David BickleyStaff Writer | Fitness Photographer First off this would vary greatly depending on the region. Obviously different markets require different rate considerations. Here in the midwest I would most likely charge my standard day rate of $1,700 plus licensing depending on the usage. With small businesses or start-ups I will sometimes build this into the day rate given budgetary constraints. My goal especially with small start-ups is never to break the bank and in some cases I've even opted for equity in the company in lieu of immediate compensation. In the end, everything is negotiable and I love that process of finding the right compromise.

As always, if you have a question to ask, feel free to comment below.

Zach Sutton's picture

Zach Sutton is an award-winning and internationally published commercial and headshot photographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. His work highlights environmental portraiture, blending landscapes and scenes with portrait photography. Zach writes for various publications on the topic of photography and retouching.

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Man, compared to this I'm really undercharging. On Monday I shot a round of 12 head shots for $600. That included travel, bringing all my gear to their office, setup and tear down, plus processing... Granted, I only delivered low-res shots for online use and my total time invested was about 2.5 hours.

Barry, you are definitely undercharging. Help yourself and the rest of the community out by doubling your rates. Nice headshots BTW.

At least he is charging something and not doing it for free :)

Great photos, Barry!

If your just sending out low-res ok. But consider a high low out put. I usual give people both and charge more. Area is something that isn't really talked about either. If you live in bumble poke county you can't charge double.

Edit: also really good stuff there!

You are so right about the personality of an area. I live in an area with people who generally don't find any value in abstract things like advertising, marketing, branding, etc. Most of the local businesses would rather use snapshots rather than hire someone to take headshots, much less pay reasonable rates.

It was a bit of a shock when I first moved here, but they honestly don't want to pay for anything.. Of course, this town is a bit strange.

I agree you not charging enough . Your time and skills are valuable and it's something you should not hesitate to charge for.

Wow! Talk about undercharging! My recent headshot group of 14 people was $1,200. I think you should definitely raise your rates. Good work.

Your headshots are great and could easily command twice what you're asking. Double your rates! :)

Great post.

Although I'm in a different market (video) this is really interesting to read. For one, it appears I am drastically undercharging. Then again, so is all my competition apparently :s

Another very interesting thing to see is the licensing some of you charge. With a video, I usually deliver the endproduct in either webquality or higher quality for use on beamers, or fairs or whatever, but besides that the fee stays the same, nor are there any recurring costs for the client. Would it be wise to implement licensing costs for a startup videoproducer? Most of my video's end up on the end-user's youtube channel or website.

I do a lot of photo work but also do video on the side. I think it depends on what you agree on. If its just a web video I wouldn't be to bothered about licensing to much, but if they want to use it elsewhere, in a shop display etc.. I would do a separate license for the it.

Thanks, that makes sense I guess. I'll have to think about if I'm ready to add licencing costs to my business.

I have a general question (I'm not in the field of photography, so I really have no idea how the industry works):
What's the deal with licensing fees - especially on something like a headshot? I never understood this. I didn't experience this until I went looking for a wedding photographer and found all sorts of different policies on the rights to the photos. I'm hiring someone to take pictures - shouldn't the customer determine what they do with them?
Not trying to cause a heated debate - just curious from a professional's perspective.

The more you understand us as artists the more it makes sense. (some) Musicians get upset when their music is duplicated or played on the radio without reimbursement. Why should it be different for photographers?

In music the radio station only pays when they play the song. So its a one time payment. Here it seems you have to pay for the shots to be made and then again for the right to use them. IMO it would make more sense to include the rights to the images(but charge a higher price obv.) A chef is also an artist but wouldnt make much sense to pay for a dish to be made and then again to be eaten.

If the radio station wanted a musician to play a song that never existed before, they would have to pay the musician to make the song and then pay a fee to air the song.

The chef analogy might not work because they are working in a limited medium (his customers cannot replicate freely and instantly his meals).

Ofcourse they would have to but in mainstream music its never done that way(afaik). The production costs of making the song is included in the fee to play it on air. Cinemas same way, they dont ship in beforehand to have movies made either.

How, where, and how long a photo is used generally determines its worth. For example, it's logical to assume that a photo used internationally in magazines, on billboards, online, in stadiums, etc for a period of 2 years has more value than a small head shot being used on a business card... It all comes down to the value, or perceived value of a photograph.

I can kind of understand that thinking, but I guess I'm still stuck (probably like most of your clients too) on the fact that, essentially, a photographer is providing a service and/or a product.
Does the value of the service change (ie - value of a photograph like you mentioned) when, in theory, the time spent on a project remains the same?

A photographer is not just providing a service and a product. The photographer is creating intellectual property.

Intellectual property

"refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce." This is protected under the law.

I lot of people that are not in the commercial media / advertising industry. They have a hard time wrapping their heads around how it is priced.

The link below answers your question.


Pricing isn't based on value to me it's based on value to the client. Think of it that way and it's obvious that it does change value depending on the usage.

You can also think about it from the perspective of the client in terms of what's on the line. A headshot for a facebook profile doesn't have much risk and therefor not much value. Alternatively a headshot to be used full page in an international ad campaign has a whole lot more risk and therefor more value.

Indeed, and the demands and risks for the photographer.

Just realized I'm replying to a three year old post!

To answer your question about the client determining usage since he hired the photographer. The short answer is yes. The client informs the photographer of what terms or usage they want. It is up to the photographer to set a price for his services and usage. Then it is up to the client to accepted the terms (or ask for changes in the terms) and hire the photographer. It a negotiation that both sides have to come to a agreement on. It is not as simple as hiring a worker to do a task.

Intellectual property. Once you understand that it will make since to you.

The links below answers your questions.




I've studied intellectual property for several years (And soon have a degree in law with a specialisation in intellectual property) and all of it still doesn't make sense to me. Licensing rights for commercial use is one of the few things that do.

Dan, if we are talking weddings, I assume you are talking about print rights (ie. a photographer selling you the rights to print the photos on your own) which, I suppose, is a variation on licensing fees.

There are two reasons a photographer would want to keep the print rights for weddings and portraiture. The first is simply money. Prints/albums/books are a product just like everything else he sells, and often the profitability of the business is dependent on them. The second is that photography doesn't end with taking the photos. It doesn't even end with retouching. A good photographer has a relationship with a lab and/or a working knowledge of the printing techniques, which means he has a certain level of quality control over the process. There is a huge quality difference between a print that has been properly calibrated and made at a professional lab compared to one you have printed at Walmart.

Licensing fees are something else entirely. Licensing fees are usually only charged to a business. Essentially, it is a photographer saying if you are going to use my work to make money, I need a cut. The music analogy is apt. A radio station gets listeners (which means making money) by playing music, the people who supply the music want a cut of the money the radio stations are making off their work.

You wonder if you are paying someone to take the photos, why you should also have to pay for the final image. Well, it actually is all one service, but just an itemized bill presented as an ala carte menu. The photographer has one rate that has to be met for the time, effort, and expertise it takes to actually be there shooting (and all the behind the scenes stuff), and another charge for whatever end product you will receive (which is a combination of time, effort, expertise, and production cost of the actual print/book/album).

It may seem confusing, but as someone else has already said, prints or print rights should already be included in the price somehow. That is the reason most "main street" studios offer packages for weddings and portraits.... so there will be less confusion about what you are actually paying for.

Thank you so much for this! Helps so much!

Now excuse me while I cool my brain down... need more ice...

Excellent explanation of this side of our business.

Thank you for this explanation! I'm a hobbyist, with no photography degree, and things like this is so confusing which overwhelms the idea of going pro.

It's rare to see articles (about pricing and licensing) online.
Thanks again for the article and the helpful comment above!

I'm in Switzerland and charge CHF 150.- per headshot

This article is my runner vote for top five fstoppers posts ever. I've been looking for something like this forever while fumbling my way toward headshot portrait photography with no framework. This helps me so much.

Woah. We have had a ton of great posts. If you have any other questions you'd like answered, feel free to ask in these comments :-)

I agree this is the best post I have read about professional photography. I have always had the thought or dream of going "Pro" but had no clue of pricing. I would love to see more articles like this.

I like to see this stuff as well. Price is something that rarely gets discussed by photographers. A lot of us were taught that discussing money is rude, and besides who are you going to discuss it with— your competitors or someone who is not in a similar market? Not likely.

For such an important subject (and one the pre-occupies so many photographers) it is almost always the one thing that no one talks about.

I agree with the best post in recent times :)

I think it is neat to see that, although everyone's methodologies are different, the end result in pricing turns out to be similar...

I think we're reading different articles, Aaron.

Rebecca: $1000, no licensing fees. Two shots per person, different styles. She got the job.

Zach: $1500, negotiable but no less than $1K. He also does work like this regularly.

James: $1500.

David: $1700 plus licensing.

Peter: $1750, negotiable.

Mike: $2500 plus licensing.

Rich: $5000 including 1st year of licensing.

First of all, Rich priced $5K based on 2 days of shooting, plus an assistant.
Second, these photographers do not all live down the street from one another. They all live in different markets. A photographer in NYC is not going to charge the same as a photographer in Indianapolis.

Third, I do believe the word I used was similar, wait let me check....yep, it was similar.
Nearly all of them based the job at about $150-$200 a shot.

I really do appreciate your help with the math though!

Actually, Rich quoted $7500 if the job needed two days, his $5K figure was for one day. You might want to re-read that.

I live in Indianapolis, and I shot portraits for the Indiana Appellate Court a few months ago. 5 head shots (one person didn't like theirs and it wasn't used) and a group portrait of 15 people. I spent 30 minutes setting up and tearing down equipment, 30 minutes shooting, 2 hours editing. I delivered 11 photos (2 head shots for each person, one group photo) and I charged $750. Not bad for 3 hours of work.

Here's the group photo: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/appeals/2335.htm

Dig around in the individual judges portrait, and mine are the ones with the solid grey background...the ones that ARE NOT Photoshopped to death. There is some terrible work going on in those other portraits, and I know that they charged more than I did.


Very interesting article, Zach. It illustrates a striking difference between what photographers want and what they can get, e.g., all but one of what the respondents "would" charge vs. what the respondent who had actually completed a similar project DID charge. In essence, those who don't do this work think it's worth a lot more up front (and they want to get license fees on top) compared to Rebecca, the person who actually got paid (and didn't demand licensing fees). Maybe a lesson to learn for photographers there? In my market, Rebecca's quote seems realistic while the others wouldn't fly. She banked $1K for an afternoon's work, while the others with their higher quotes and licensing fees did not report any actual results. A recent Realtor trade fair here had a booth set up with a backdrop, a couple of umbrellas and a 7D on a tripod. Realtors could have a head shot done for $35, no retouching but unlimited usage rights for the digital file. Results were not especially distinctive or artistic but they were sharp, well-lit and in-focus and that is perfectly adequate for many people. The idea of charging a location studio setup plus a price per person makes sense. IMHO it would be difficult to persuade Realtors who are typically self-employed contractors to pay repeated licensing fees to use their own face in their own marketing. They'll just use a different photographer and pay one time.

I did group photos for 7 financial consultants yesterday for $1100. They were happy to pay that price for headshots.

Well, there you go. And you got the job, with a price very close to what Rebecca charged. Did you charge ongoing licensing fees?

I'm admittingly pretty relaxed with licensing fees. My methodology is that if they're hiring me to take their photo, they should have to also negotiate if they can use them. The usage for my images are always pretty simple, if you hire me to take your photo, you can use that photo for anything for personal use, and major commercial projects need additional usage rights. (Something financial consultants shouldn't ever need).

That's pretty much what I do, and I think it's a sensible approach to jobs for a local market. If it were for use in a national ad campaign, that would be a different matter.

Can't get what you want if you don't ask for it. Last week I was paid $600 + 2 year license for 3 corporate headshots. That's about in line with the estimate I gave above. Cheers!

Since this is clearly half-directed at me, please note that I said 'I would try to give the job to someone else' because I don't shoot this. In order to get me to come out of my cave and deal with what to me would be a stressful day of shooting, it would take a significant sum. Most of my photos are licensed, albeit generously, as well, so of course I'm going to add that in.

Rebecca is also in Southern Texas. Look at someone like Peter Hurley, who charges well over $1000 for only one client in NYC. There are headshot photogs in every big market charging well over $500 a pop. Nobody in bumbleville is going to pay $500 ever for a headshot.

FWIW, I also regularly pay $15 for a salad. You can't walk out the door in NYC or LA without spending $50 half the time, and I have booked a few $250 per head sessions. Even at that rate, it isn't worth the stress, and I have learned to just refer a friend in hopes that they'd do the same for me in the future when something comes along that I'm better suited to shoot.

Realtor headshot ($150-350) vs. actor's headshot ($500+)
Apples and oranges

That isn't the case. While they are slightly different in their intent, the skill sets used to create them are more or less identical. Trying to represent someone's personality to make them appeal to potential clients/employers is the goal, whether though a portrait of confidence and professionalism (real estate) or a portrait of professionalism and personality (actor's headshot). Of course, an actor's headshot might require a bit of confidence and stability, while a realtor might also want personality to shine through in theirs.

You may be thinking of crappy 80s real estate portraits. There are just as many awful actor headshots out there. Either way, $500 spent on a professional headshot by a realtor OR actor is absolute chump change if it is that person's career being represented.

$500 may be chump change, Mike, but the photos are only worth what someone is prepared to pay.

You've got to keep in mind that most of us don't do this type of work. I'll throw out a large number (and mention usage) just because I don't want to do it. I'd rather come off as too expensive than just flat turning the client down. If they are willing to pay the large sum I quote, it's enough that I'll put up with shooting it for a day or whatever. Plus it is only bolstering the market because if the client hears high numbers they will come to expect high numbers.

The numbers I mentioned above are what I would actually DO the job for. In some markets that's a normal range, in others (like Atlanta) it's on the high side.

I'm in the fortunate position that I get to pick and choose which small clients I work with, so is my number the one to go by, probably not. I know if I was struggling, and needed to shoot small jobs 200 days out of the year, my rates would be much lower.

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