10 Tips to the Headshot Quote

Recently, I was asked by a young headshot photographer how I go about offering a quote for my services for a commercial portrait session (usually headshots). As a leading portrait photographer in Orange County, my headshot division, Orange County Headshots, has been creating headshots for business and the arts throughout Southern California and the much of the nation since 1981. Consequently, we receive such inquires on a regular basis and from just about every corner of the world (at least where they speak English).

My response to this particular photographer was that providing a headshot quote depends on what the potential client needs. Whether they are in business or the arts, the best possible way to provide a quote is to first discover precisely what they are looking for. No duh...right? Regardless of how obvious, I have to say it. You'd be surprised at how many times this advice alone is a bolt of lightening.
Orange County Headshots Website Banner - Potential Clients Introduction to Mark Jordan Photography
What many photographers are surprised to learn, however, is that much of the time the inquiring client does not know precisely what they need. This is good thing. Why? Think Golden Opportunity! It's your time to shine and demonstrate why you are the right portrait studio

It is at this juncture in your conversation you can seize the old adage, "People don't care what you know until they know how much you care," and put it in full throttle. It's also one of those rare moments where you can accomplish the former (they'll care what you know) while stressing the latter (showing you care). 

By asking a series of professionally prepared questions, you'll not only clearly demonstrate a genuine concern for the client's project, but in the process you'll reveal to them the width and breadth of your services and your supreme competency to satisfy their need. 

They care what you know as you make evident your interest in being an integral agent in their success.

Ultimately, this means the right questions must be asked. Thus, the questions you offer must be prepared and detailed

The next step, and all depending on the situation, is to either forward the questionnaire to the client (for them to answer and return, which I would try to avoid) or conduct the interview over the phone. By all means, do your best to conduct the interview by phone.

Most likely the client will also prefer the phone interview approach. If you receive an email inquiry, reply promptly and inquire as to a good time for you to connect by phone to discuss the myriad details. 

To date, I've not had a single email inquiry decline a phone conversation to acquire the vital details.  

The phone call interview, whether via their call or your's,  will also help in developing a mutually beneficial relationship and expedites the process. The questions you ask will quickly show that you mean business and respect their time, as well as your own.

Once the interview has been completed, I'll ALWAYS ask that if it is acceptable to the them that I take the time to review and absorb all the information they've given me, and that I'll email them a "Quotation Of Photography Services" by day's end. This technique serves four purposes:

  1. Demonstrates you genuinely care and want to get it right.
  2. Gives you time to think and consider every contingency, which equates to an accurate, effectual quote.
  3. Having a written quote not only holds you to your word, but establishes a document of understanding should questions arise later. 
  4. Odds are most photographers are not offering a written quote. You'll stand out from the crowd.
To date, I've not had a single client decline allowing me to forward them a written email quote. Just ensure the quote your promise is thorough and arrives on time.

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At the risk of sounding redundant, I feel a need to stress the importance of my approach once again. What may not be obvious are the intangibles. Namely, your extensive inquiry to their specific needs communicates to your client that you truly have their best interests in mind, and are thus, the consummate professional.

In today's highly competitive marketplace it's not enough to merely answer inquiries regarding cost, like everyone else. You're going to be the studio that goes beyond the call and walks the extra mile. Instead of simply citing prices, you're the studio that demonstrates in a clear and unambiguous way that you are listening intently and that you are ready to serve them to the best of your ability.

This sort of attention to detail not only ensures your quote will be accurate, but that your client will get everything they had hoped for and reflects your commitment to excellence. It will also establish you as the headshot expert in your field, and in ways no self-promotional piece could offer. 

The following questions are by no means exhaustive, but only ones that have worked for me in my portrait studio here in Rancho Santa Margarita. You may brainstorm other pertinent questions that might better reflect your style and expertise. I trust that you will. As always, should you have any questions, no concern is too small.

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Will the session be of a groupindividuals, and/or combinations?
  • Individuals headshot sessions only?
  • Or add Groupings of staff/team members.
  • Images of offices, lobby, warehouse, walls, etc.
  • Product images?

Information about the people you will be photographing?
  • Obtain the number of people will you be photographing.
  • Names of everyone in sessions.
  • You many also want to ask about their position with the company.
  • If someone's name makes gender ambiguous, ask!

Is there a specific date and time required for the actual session?
  • Any Specific Session DATE (most likely they will).
  • Any Specific Session TIMELINE (most likely they will).

Has a specific location been established for the session?
  • Obtain Site Location Name/Business and Address
  • Telephone Numbers, office and cell.
  • Special instructions, security, gate, parking, entrance

What is the end product you have in mind? Please be specific.
  • Will you be needing Photographs?
  • Sizes? Quantities? Qualities (if applicable)?
  • Will you be needing Digital Files?
  • Resolution: web-75, medium-150, high-300?
  • Quantities needed of each?
  • Any Digital Specs to a adhere to?

Will you be requiring our studio to perform digital retouching?
  • Discuss the differing degrees of retouching application (where applicable).
  • If an 'in-house' graphic designer will be employed, inquire tactfully as to their familiarity and skill with the idiosyncrasies of the human face? That is, are they portrait savvy, or primarily design design  focused?
  • b. Are there any special alterations, blemishes/facial features, and/or design concerns we need to be made aware of?
  • If so, please tell us.

Will the finished product be required by any specific due date?
  • Date FINISHED images are needed by?
  • Determine delivery preferred (email, dropbox, disc, etc.)

For what purpose are these images needed?
  • To what extent will they be utilized?
  • This may also be a good to review your distribution policies regarding differing fees.
  • Frequently, use/distribution will also dictate the resolution quality required.

Are there any circumstances or concerns you have or might foresee that could pose a challenge on the day of your session?
  • This might present itself in the form of location issues, time of day, personality differences, timeline, etc.
  • Any special concerns (weight, glasses, physical limitations, etc.)

Please email us complete contact information, including address, emails, phone...
  • Obtain Office phone number, AND Cell. 
  • Also offer your contact information. Don't ASS U ME anything.
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Too much detail for you? I know, it might seem so. However, in my three plus decades of creating headshots for business and the arts, I have found that not only will ascertaining detailed information better insure that you'll amply meet the needs of your clients, but will also elevate your stature in the hearts and minds of those businesses and artists who employ your headshot services. 

You may want to check out my four Part series on the 4 Key Factors of Headshot Photography. 

All the best,

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