Price Ranges and Eyebrow Raisers
Each city has a different market. My experience is based in Los Angeles. I do lightly follow other areas of the country. Especially because new comers to Los Angeles usually get new headshots within the first six months, so I learn a bit from them.
These prices are primarily Los Angeles. New York is the most expensive place in the country to get your headshots. These rates would definitely not apply to New York.
Basic rates that you will see and what you will get:
$99 to $150: Wham bam, in and out, Supercuts version of headshots. About 5% of the time you can find a beginning photographer that has a good eye, but the other 95% of the time you get very little in the packages and they usually are very dry and won't land you a lot of work.
$175 to $225: These are also beginning photographers, hobbyists and intermediate photographers. Most are still developing their eye. The packages are usually smaller and you have a 30% chance of landing a photographer with a really good eye, but the skill level handling a camera varies a lot. Check out whatever work they have and make sure you like their work. Also, make sure you can communicate well with them. Check their work by looking if the people look the same, if the backgrounds are cluttered or boring or if the images seem flat. Look to see if there are poles, wires, and other background things jutting out of the side of someone's head and other simple little things like that.
$225 to $750: This is the package range for most headshots in Los Angeles. In most cases you will find a photographer in this range that will take great pictures.
Always check out their work and make sure you like their style. Make sure that you can communicate well with them. Often they will have a site or a book for you to look at. My headshot package starts at $275 and you get a lot from that basic package. This is the range you start looking at what you get for the price.
$750 to $1200: This is normally the photographer who has based their business around fashion and commercial work and does headshots on the side. Most warrant these fees based off of training, experience & diversity. Typically the price is worth it. But this might not be in your budget. As an actor you do not need to spend this amount of money for your shoot. Since these photographers generally focus a lot more on model portfolios they might be a bell and whistle you don't need. There are also a few headshot photographers in this range who have this as their celebrity package.
Often when a celebrity is getting their shots done you have agreements that say you can't sell the images or use them for promotion in any way. So, the photographer will charge more because they cannot use the images in marketing.
Over $1200 as a starting package: : Now, if you are talking about headshot... NOT MODELING SHOTS, you better do your homework here. This is the range that some photographers charge and warrant that kind of a fee because of the reputation they have developed or because their main body of work is not based on headshots but more probably in fashion or commercial. This, however, is also the range that the scam artists start. LOOK AT THEIR WORK!!! If you are going to be paying these prices, make sure the person is legit. Search them on the web. They will definitely have a website at this point. The website won't look cheesy either!
HOWEVER, if someone spotted you at the mall and wants to make you a star and tells you this photographer is the "only trusted photographer" then you are probably walking into a scam. Get it? It is possible to pay this much for headshots. Yes, some agents and talent reps may recommend someone this expensive on a list of professionals. However, that is usually intended for their more established clients that fit into the celebrity status. The agent or manager may even say they are the very best in the industry. HOWEVER, the chances of anyone saying this who has a gold chain, a pinky ring, and who spotted you at the mall... being legit is extremely unlikely.