The Business of Professional Headshots


The Business of Professional Headshots


Lesson Info

Payment and Delivery for Groups

Payment and delivery. Get at least half of the money up front. Never bill these big companies because if you bill them they will put you off as long as they can in most cases. Most of these companies are on a 30, 60, 90 day billing cycle but I get paid upfront for everything. And the latest I take a payment is I take the second half on the day of the shoot and I never, in some cases, it is after, but I never deliver the products. I had a company, I worked for a large office supply major retailer where I did like 400 head shots for them and they didn't pay me for three months. It's not like they were bad, it's just they're a huge company with a big, their billing department could fill the empire state building. I mean it's just a big, big company. And so it just had to go through there and they had to take it in the backyard and bury it for three days and then bring it back up and then show it to this guy and send it to the accountant and it's a process. And they will put you off if the...

y can. Just because that's how big business works. But I get paid upfront because there's always a guy in the office who has a credit card who can make those kinds of expenditures. And in the grand scheme of things, the things they spend money on a day-to-day basis, what I'm charging them is peanuts to them. And there is a guy in the office who has a credit card that can just go (swoosh) and I have never had a problem and I've worked for fortune 500 companies, large data security companies, I work for huge huge businesses all over the place and I've never not been able to get paid upfront. Say we need a 50% deposit to reserve the date. And then I say but you can knock the whole thing out right now if you want to. They go eh, we'll just pay the whole thing nine times out of ten. Get paid up front. Don't send them a bill, you're the little guy. Get paid by the big guy. Here's the number one thing I want you to remember. Be prepared to accept American Express. Because a lot of people, their rates are a lot higher sometimes than other cards. And so a lot of businesses don't accept American Express. You ever been anywhere where they say we don't take Amex? Happens all the time with small businesses. These companies are going to pay you with American Express. You have to find a way to be able to take it. On the base level I know Paypal probably has the best percentage rate for American Express. I think it's still flat, what's Paypal, 3%, 4%, whatever it is. I don't know what it is but we actually have done that plenty of times in the past. But take American Express because the last thing that you want to do is make it difficult for your client to give you lots of money. You want to give me money, no problem, I'll take it, no problem. Euros, dollars, I'll take whatever you got. American Express, no problem. Be prepared because you'll get that a lot. For those of us who, we started off not doing it and we ended up having to figure out how to do it because I'd rather pay the extra 2% than lose that job because I was too difficult to work with because I couldn't, not only am I asking them now to pay me upfront, I'm being too specific about how I want them to pay me upfront. But American Express is very popular with big companies. Have a scope of work contract. This is absolutely imperative. It says this is what you're going to do, this is how much they're going to pay you, this is when you're going to deliver the final product. It needs to have everything that you're contracting to shoot for them, a payment schedule, a delivery schedule of the products, and lists every single thing that you have contracted to do. It has to be there. If you don't have a scope of work contract, pay a lawyer $500 to give you one because it's going to save you thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. Because if you get on the job and they ask you to do something that was not in the contract that's going to mess something up then you don't have to do it. Does that make sense? Like you know why you're there, they know what they're paying you and it's all agreed on paper. Scope of work contract is huge. Also, make sure you have a really good file sharing or FTP system in place. A good place to deliver the images very quickly. Sometimes people don't like Dropbox or sometimes big companies don't have access to it or they have their own. Educate yourself a little bit on how to do these things or make sure you know somebody who's really nerdy who knows how to do this stuff. But that is going to be something that you're going to need to know how to do is deliver things electronically. You can't just send a disk to a big company and expect it to like sort of get there, you know? And you don't want to sped a whole bunch of your time driving to their offices just to drop off a dvd because it's 2015, let's use the internet, why not? But we use Dropbox, Fileshare, like Google Drive. I have them all because I get asked to use them all on a regular basis. If you just do Dropbox and go oh, well we use Dropbox. They go oh, we use Fileshare. It's all a free account pretty much. So just have them all. Alright gear and prep. I call this pose the Mariska Hargitay, anybody watch Law and Order: SVU? That's a really good power pose for ladies. For guys who carry our weight right here, not so good, keep the jacket, keep the jacket. Alright, here we go. Things to ask ahead of time before you go on site for a job. How big is the space you're going to be shooting in? You don't want to get to a space and not have enough area to set up what you're intending to shoot. This is also going to help you determine what gear you're going to use to bring the job. I've shot in an 8x12 conference room and I know I'm just going to set up my speed lights and I'm going to use one light or as little equipment as possible because I just won't have the space to bring a whole bunch of stuff. Huge question. Two, will there be electricity? When you shoot at a convention center or at events a lot of times they have to pay extra for electricity and they have to pay for everything so just to bring electricity to where you want to set up they actually have to pay extra for that a lot of the time. So make sure you know if there is going to be electricity. If not, you know you're going to be needing to shoot with battery powered lights. Make sense? Who is my contact person on site? Don't ever get to a place and not know who you're supposed to meet and talk to, that's always really good. Is there a secure space to store my equipment? A lot of times I'll be shooting jobs over three or four days and it is a huge pain in the butt to pack up my whole portable studio which sometimes is extensive every day and every morning because I have 6am call times on these jobs a lot of the times. But they often will have a locked room for their own equipment and I store stuff in there all the time. Haven't had any problems with it yet. Make sure insurance is paid up. Alright, can I walk the site beforehand? I wouldn't go shoot a wedding without having seen the venue or the location. And if possible I wouldn't go shoot a corporate job somewhere I've never been. Especially if it was like a hotel or conference center. Offices, not so much. Usually, you know, you can have them take pictures of stuff, measure it for you, whatever they're willing to do. But if you can, and if it's a big enough job to warrant the trip go walk the site so that you know where you're supposed to go and what you're supposed to do. And also can we arrange specific appointments? This is going to be, when possible, really useful. Say that everybody whose last name is A through D is going to come at this time, et cetera. Otherwise, I've had somebody pay me $6, to go to a convention and shoot for one day and I've taken 25 head shots. Because it's just whoever wanted to could do it. And so when a client looks at that and says I paid him $6, and we got 25 head shots out of it. That's disproportionate, that doesn't make sense to them so they may not call me back. So I want to make sure that I'm doing as much as I can for them, I'm over-delivering for them as much as possible. So when they want to, you always have somebody that's in charge of that, so when they want to or when they're able to try to make sure you can at least people have a specific time slot where they're supposed to go and get their photos done. We do that all the time. Are there any VIPs we need to prioritize? This is huge. I've done jobs for huge, huge companies and a lot, if you're not prepared for it, they'll bring over the vice president of North America for this company, this busy, busy billionaire and you'll just be like get in line with the other jerks, you know, like, guys. This guy expects to be treated a certain way, this is how corporate culture works. And so you want to make sure you have the list of any of those VIPs that are going to show up. And that when your person who's checking everybody in and when they come and they say hey my name is Bll Gates or whoever the heck it is that's going to come get their photo taken that you know that person is a VIP, they go to the front of the line, you're most courteous about their time and that you get them out of there. This is a huge huge point because if you make the wrong executive unhappy with how they were treated then you might not ever get to work for them again. They could say don't ever use these photographers again and it means nothing to them, but it's everything to you. So make sure you have a list of VIPs when possible. Okay, this is getting on the end, I want to go over my software and workflow tools that I use to make these jobs work. First thing is I use an Eye-fi card and a wireless transmitter. I don't shoot tethered although I have a tether for backup because sometimes that stuff doesn't work. But I have the 5D Mark III and it transmits the images wirelessly to a laptop or tablet, however it goes. And as I'm shooting it's just going. Now those can be problematic depending, especially at a convention when you have 10,000 people on wifi the waves sort of start to get all messed up and you can have trouble transmitting stuff wirelessly. So always have a backup for that as a tether but I use this and I have no trouble with it. It works really really well. That's one thing that enables me to have less cords on the ground, be a little more organized, and I don't know they're like $ they're not very much money, I use that. Lightroom, I don't use Lightroom to edit typically but when I'm doing live viewing of the images you can make it so that the image comes from your camera wirelessly through the air to like Mike Teavee in Willy Wonka and then down over into the laptop and Lightroom can watch a specific folder and when an image goes in that folder Lightroom will grab it, import it, apply whatever actions or presets you decide, and then show it to the client. So you basically have someone automatically processing your images as they go in. And that is invaluable and as far as I know Lightroom is the absolute best program to do that, at least the ones that I've seen. I'm sure there's other stuff out there. Volume automation software. This is a thing I was talking about, this is FotoVelocity is the one that I use. A lot of labs have their own like Photolabs they have different ones. Usually these are for shooting school and sports photography. Yearbook stuff, school things. I have adapted it to be my corporate organizer. Because what happens is you give them a little card that has a QR code on it, they sit down, you take a picture of the QR code and it's got their name and the QR code. So I take it back to FotoVelocity, I put all the files in, whatever their name, SD dot blah blah blah dot JPEG and it reads the QR code, takes the picture after it, and it renames it that person's name or whatever information that you want to put it on. And I sell that per day an extra or whatever to that client. And I enable them to go you have 800 people I'm doing head shots for, I will give you every single file with that person's name, their department, to make sure that everybody can get their files no problem. And it's a really cool service, it's a real easy piece of software to use, highly recommended. FotoVelocity with an F, also did not pay me to use that because I'm actually using it for a way that it probably wasn't initially built for. But I have adapted that to actually be an up-sale and it works really really well. Retouching services we already touched on that a little bit. I don't, I'm not going to sit and retouch 800 head shots. I'm just not going to do it. All this stuff that I do I basically make it so that as a small business, it's just my wife and I and people that we hire kind of incidentally per job, we can do the job that a much larger company can do because of the really smart systems that we have put in place. And one of those things is sending out retouching. I have sent 400 head shots to be retouched and I just call them ahead of time and let them know it's coming and they were done the next day. Like that's pretty amazing. And I couldn't do 400 that fast, right, no. So I get to go home, have dinner, binge watch True Detective and the whole time there's some really industrious folks just working away on my pictures and they're done when I get up in the morning. Isn't that cool, I dig that. So for volume work absolutely invaluable. Also, this seems really dumb, face palm, a gear list. Have a list of every piece of equipment that you own in a spreadsheet. And when you take something out of your studio mark it. Every cable, every clip, every background, every stand, every light. And when you take it out of your studio go ba-ba-ba-ba-ba and when you pack up, do-do-do-do-do I just loaded it back in to the car. I can't tell you how many times I've left something behind and it's heartbreaking. Also you can get little labels for like $50 for 10,000 of them that have your name on them. You'd be surprised how just having your name on something can get it back to you. I lost my driver's license once on a subway in New York City, somebody mailed it back to me. How cool is that? Fortunately it had my correct address on it, but you know... It is really really easy to forget stuff especially when you're dealing with this much volume. So seriously, gear checklist. Really dumb, face palm, probably already do it, But I would recommend it. So a few things to aways have, last slide. A backup to everything that you bring. Make sure that you have, for example if you're shooting with four lights have two extra, you know. If you're shooting with an Eye-fi card bring a tether cable. If you have a camera, hopefully, have a backup camera. You know it's really really important to have backups for stuff. Because you definitely do not want to be the person that you're sitting there at a convention or a conference or in front of a company where you're about to shoot 100 head shots and be like well, you know, my lens just stopped working so I guess we can't really do this today. So very important to have a backup for everything. Gaffers Tape. This is the most expensive tape ever created by mankind, I don't know why, it's like $30 a roll or something. Isn't it ridiculous? Like you guys, Gaffers Tape, what, I don't know why, what it's made out of, it's made out of unicorn blood, I don't know what it's made out of but for some reason it's $30 for a roll of tape. If you a buy a case-load it's a lot cheaper, you can get it down to about $8-10 a roll, you're going to spend $200 to get a case of it but always have a ton of it because you need to tape everything down, this is a safety issue. And it's always making your place where you're shooting look really neat, so I go through like two rolls about a month. So it's totally worth it. A small tool kit. Always have a little all-in-one little portable tool kit. If something breaks you don't want to be bugging the hotel staff for a screwdriver, does that make sense? Just a clever thing to have with you. Lint roller, always have a lint roller. There are two reasons I have. One, if I'm going to take somebody's photograph I want them to be lint free. But two everybody who sits in front of me in these volume jobs gets a lint roll, even if they don't need it, Why? It makes them feel like you're primping a little bit. It makes them feel, even if it's a 30 second session that I want it to feel like I took my time with them. And ten seconds of that is taking pictures. The other 20 seconds is I lint roll them and I make them feel great. I talk to them, hey how's it going, oh, this jacket fits you really well, that's really nice. Do you work out, like whatever I just, you know I have an assistant who lint rolls people. Even if they don't need it, just makes them feel like yeah, let me get that collar, you know? You are, their photo is important to you. A hand mirror. You would be so surprised by how useful it is. Somebody sits down they go I don't even know how I look right now. You go (swishes), solves problems. You're the guy that solves problems and people will remember that. They won't remember your name, but they'll remember that they felt like you cared about what you were doing, cool? Okay, any questions? Oh, Gary, we have so many questions. Right now we only have time for a few, a couple. But we'll hold on to those questions and see where we can fit them in later. One of the main things I wanted to re-clarify for people because it is so important, you talked about that being quick and responding to the potential clients. Huge. Can you talk again about pricing, are you asking for their budget first and then going back and forth or are you asking for their budget and providing what your rates are, what's that little back and forth? I have a rate sheet that I send right away. Okay, okay. It's all in the same email, the same response. And this is what my wife does, I actually, I'm not allowed to deal with the clients. I'm bad at that stuff. We, in the response, thank you for getting in touch with us we can definitely help you with that. Just need to clarify a little bit more on your event. How long is it, what day is it, how many people are involved? Are you looking for event coverage and head shots? Are you looking for, you know I try to get an idea, I have a list of questions that they need to answer in order for me to be able to tell them what I'm going to charge. And so along with that I say here's our basic rate sheet of what we charge for our day rates or per person depending on what they have. And I say do you have a budget in mind? If you have a budget in mind we would love to work within that. And if they come back with a ridiculous budget, that's like $500 for a job that I would charge three grand for, I refer it off to someone else. And so it's okay to say no. And you don't want to have a negative experience. Even with the inquiry that you have to turn away you don't want to have a negative experience. I kind of do that all at once. Finding out that budget is super super key but I am completely transparent about what I charge. Here's a rate sheet, where do you think you'll fall in? And at the same time you want to be information gathering. As few emails as can go back and forth but you don't want to pack it too much. There's an engineering term in email, the TLDNR, too long did not read. If you sent them back an email this long they're going to respond to the photographer who's email is this long if that makes sense. Fantastic, okay maybe a couple more. Sure. One question, little small one, how does pricing per look work, are you talking about a wardrobe change, can you clarify what per look is? Absolutely, per look would be per outfit, per background. When you change the set, when you change the person's wardrobe. So if I'm going to do a comp card for a model I say okay, one look would be, we're going to do athletic. The other look might be bathing suit. The other look, you know, might be just a head shot. So whenever you're changing the look, I consider that typically changing the outfit and the background and in some cases even hair and makeup will change. Speaking of hair and makeup- Is there something wrong with my hair? (laughs) You look great. Somebody asked how are you so dapper? That was a real question. How am I so dapper? Yes. You know I'm really excited about this jacket, I bought it off the clearance rack at Men's Warehouse just to wear it here. Because I sweat profusely not because I wear sport coats all the time. But this jacket was #39.99 you're welcome. Here's the funny thing, I paid $ to have it tailored to fit me and I paid $40 for the jacket. That's what kind of crazy insecure narcissist I am so, but thank you I really really thought about what I was going to wear today so thanks a lot. I knew that would get you, compliments. Okay one more question that was around hair and makeup. Do you provide that, is that an extra upcharge, how does that work with volume versus... The way that we do it is we don't have anybody on staff, we have a list of probably ten good hair and makeup artists in our area. Because if there's hair, and especially if you're in a busy business slash entertainment industry area good hair and makeup artists are always booked. I'm typically going two, three, four down the list before I find somebody that's available. I will manage that for the client or if it's an individual person I will provide them with the contact information for the hair and makeup people that we use. The reason is because when we're in the entertainment industry and sometimes people who are trying to rip off young people wanting to get into the business they will bundle things together. Hey kid, I'll be your agent, I'll make you a star, just pay $600 we'll do you head shots and stuff like that. So we try to keep everything separate. You hire this person for that. If I'm doing a large-scale corporate job and I can make the client's life easier by having the hair and makeup artists there I will add that to the price list per person depending on what they want. However in high volume situations it's not typically practical to have hair and makeup. However you can have somebody there just to do, because there's often a line, you can have them charge them to have somebody there just to do touch-ups like add a little bit of foundation or something like that. So it's definitely something that you can add. It's another thing you can add to that price list to upsell if that's something, somebody you work with in your business. Wow, Gary. I gotta plug myself. Yes, please do. If you want to find me, go back, is, I bought this domain just for you guys and you get on my email list and I'll just tell you when I'm doing stuff. And they're infrequent and informative and very short. And here's all my social media crap.

Class Description

Professional headshots are in demand! Learn how to break into this lucrative genre of photography in The Business of Professional Headshots with Gary Hughes.

Professional headshots are an easy addition to nearly every photographer’s list of services and in this class you’ll get up-to-speed on everything you need to know to launch a headshot business. You’ll learn:

  • 6 Primary styles of corporate headshots
  • The gear that gets the job done
  • Basic posing theory
  • How to get clients and manage inquiries
  • Retouching, organizing, and delivery tips and techniques

You’ll also get to watch Gary in action as he demonstrates shooting and retouching a variety of headshot styles.

If you want to bring home more money and book more business during your slow times, don’t miss this comprehensive guide to running a lucrative headshot business from Gary Hughes.


1Class Overview
2Getting Headshot Clients
3Headshot Pricing Models for Individuals
4Headshot Pricing Models for Groups and Companies
5Payment and Delivery for Groups
6Six Styles of Business Headshots
7Headshot Lighting Gear
8Posing Basics for Headshots
9Basic Standing Pose for Headshots
10Basic Seated Pose for Headshots
11Head Position for Headshots
12Expression Sells the Image
13One-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model
14One-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model
15Two-Light High Key Headshot with Male Model
16Two-Light High Key Headshot with Female Model
17Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model
18Two-Light Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model
19High Key Modern Headshot with Male Model
20High Key Modern Headshot with Female Model
21General Q&A
22Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Male Model
23Constant Light: Low Key Classic Headshot with Female Model
24Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Male Model
25Constant Light: Standing Pose Headshot with Female Model
26Setting up the Background for Extraction Shoot
27Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Male Model
28Shooting for Extraction Headshot with Female Model
29Shooting Low Key Modern Headshots for Extraction
30Basic Headshot Facial Retouching Techniques
31Basic Headshot Eye Retouching Techniques
32Basic Headshot Retouching Techniques: Dodge and Burn
33Basic Headshot Retouching Q&A
34Extracting a Single Subject
35Creating a Headshot Composite
36F-Type Headshot Lighting: Equipment and Principle
37F-Type Headshot Lighting: Execution
38Shooting Headshots in Volume