The funny thing about headshot photography…

Headshot Photography -- the business case

Headshot Photography – the business case explained

There’s no denying it – headshots are a great source of revenue.

Actors need them…
Models need them…
Business owners need them…

They’re really high margin too. In most cases the client receives digital images so there’s very little outlay other than the cost of the shoot and the time to do the job.

Tweet: To win in the headshot arena it doesn’t matter how amazing your images are. You need to be damn good at marketing –

Headshots are really easy too. With a little practice you can build a pure white studio setup in about 15 minutes. Allow 5 minutes to photograph the client and 10 minutes to pack everything away again and you’re on your way to your next appointment in little over half an hour.

Headshot photography it would seem has the potential to be extremely lucrative.

But is it?

Is the headshot market super saturated?

Nearly every photographer I know does headshots. Some, like me, even have their own, dedicated business, brand or website just for their headshot photography services.

In fact, I know many other photographers who only do headshots and nothing else. Their entire livelihood revolves around being able to generate enough business from taking photos of people’s head and shoulders – and I don’t mean their shampoo!!

Clearly they’re able to survive – and some of them even live very well too.

It’s also obvious that there are very few barriers to entry. A half decent DSLR and a good lens will create a serviceable image (I wonder how long it’ll be before we see commercial headshots being made on mobile phones?).

So in theory almost anyone can become a headshot photographer.

…Actors can (and do) become headshot photographers
…Web designers can (and do) become headshot photographers
…Graphic designers can (and do) become headshot photographers
…Even photographers become headshot photographers

If the market is super saturated with headshot photographers now, it will be more so in 12 months time…

Why shouldn’t it?

With the potential for high margins and fast client turnaround it’s very attractive from a commercial sense.

But, is there a market for headshot photography?

To answer that question, let’s first look at who the market is. Who actually needs a professional headshot and why they need it.

Headshots For Actors…

Actors have traditionally always needed a good headshot, or preferably a portfolio of headshots they can use.

An actor’s headshot is there to serve one purpose: to persuade the casting director to invite them for an audition. That’s it. Nothing else.

The sole purpose of an actor’s headshot is to get them an audition.

Of course when they land the part they’ll need another for the programme but that’s further downstream and quite likely handled by the production team.

So, we’ve established that actors need headshots and by extension we could also argue that many people in the performing arts will too.

Headshots For Business People And Professionals…

There are many reasons why a business person needs a professional headshot.

Maybe it’s for the senior execs and leadership team for the annual report?

Maybe they need one to for a press release?

Maybe the need a good business headshot to use in an industry report, marketing piece or advertisement?

Those are all external uses and there are internal ones too. The ‘rogues gallery’ photo board in the reception area is a good example. IT systems is another (with more people starting to telework a profile photo on the company’s intranet can go a long way towards building relationships and rapport with coworkers.

(BTW don’t get me started on ID badges – we’ll let HR or security do those)

Headshots For (Professional) Social Media…

Love it or hate it, social media is huge. With most of our planet’s population now connected, it’s here to stay.

More and more people are using it professionally to build and grow their businesses. Through social media they can find and connect with customers they’d never have found without it.

So there’s definitely a market there, right? All those business owners posting and tweeting and scoping and whatever-else-ing they’re doing need a profile photo don’t they? With such large numbers, even if you remove the ones who use a logo or picture of their cat, it’s still a massive market.

I could go on but I think you get the gist of it — people need headshots, particularly where they’re in a public facing role or it helps them ‘win’ business.

With these three examples, we’ve established a need. Where there a need, there’s a market.

Our next task is to figure out just how big that need is. Or to put it another way…

How big is the market for professional headshots?

That, my friend, will depend a lot on where you live.

I ran some analysis earlier using the Google Keyword tool. I wanted to know the demand for headshot photography where I live (Surrey in the UK). The results were truly shocking.

Taking the keyword “headshots” as a starting point, Google reported the following average monthly searches…

RegionMonthly searchesCompetition
London and Surrey590Medium

** I suspect that figure is all the photographers in the area near me keeping a careful eye on the competition 😉

Narrowing the search with a more specific term such as ‘corporate headshots’ ‘actor headshots’ or ‘business headshots’ sees a significant drop in recorded monthly searches.

Looking at the charts, we can see the headshot photography business (at least in my catchment area) is seasonal too.

Google searches for "Headshot" in London and Surrey
Google searches for “Headshot” in London and Surrey

December is by far the worst month – no surprises there as most businesses are only thinking about Christmas at this point. The long school summer holiday is a low point too

These figures are really quite alarming. We’ve established who needs a headshot. We’ve established why they need a headshot. So…

Where do people go to find a headshot photographer?

And that, my friend, is the funny thing about headshot photography. Let me explain…


To be successful with headshots you need to answer that one, simple question: where do people go to find a headshot photographer?

They aren’t going to come to you. They don’t leap out of bed in the morning and say “ooh, I must get a new headshot today

Nope. To crack the headshot market you need to go to them. You need a marketing strategy that will find them and encourage them to book. A new headshot isn’t high go their todo list for today.

It’s your responsibility to persuade them, to make them realise this is something they need to do.

Tweet: To win in the headshot arena it doesn’t matter how amazing your images are. You need to be damn good at marketing –

It’s a game of sales.

What do you think? Does your understanding of this market agree with mine? Leave a comment and let me know.

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