Affordable Headshots in NYC = cheap (?)

AFFORDABLE ACTING (or Corporate) HEADSHOTS” (and What That Really Means) - A Positive Look in the End

To find “affordable headshots” in New York, a city borderline in question on affordability from head to head on who you ask, is either completely irrelevant, or everything.  If you approach it all from price, understand 3 core facets of that process:

  • it will be more impersonal, more inexperienced, or both.  .
  • less options during or after the shoot is done (i.e. you don’t get to see the photos as you shoot, you only get to walk away with one photo, usually unedited)..
  • you’re not looking to walk away impressed with the final product that is different from an iPhone selfie, but on a Canon or Nikon camera - (the visual difference is barely noticeable these days)


(Think about this in your own life experience): if you go to a dollar store, or Wal-mart, what are you expecting?  

Now, would you be fine walking away with identical expectation levels in a product featuring you?

  • The average price of a headshot in New York is around $500.  
  • Most shoots under $500: a shoot that is rushed from 20-30 minutes max (includes dress up and setup).  Don’t make me say “I told you so” if you dare.
  • Lowest prices are around $50
  • The highest price is $1600 (remember, that’s half the price of typical wedding photography package… for a picture of your face).  Think hard on whether that’s worth more than purchasing other valuable resources, like classes and connections through workshops (it’s usually not)

Affordability is Relative

With personal affordability, don’t operate out of desperation.   

My personal advice: never pay $1000 or more for just headshots.  There is no advantage. 

Casting directors and producers would rather see a great black and white photo up on (taken by a photographer who doesn’t just do headshots in New York or LA, but other types of work like fashion so it’s suited for more branding) than a headshot that’s supposed to be submitted on Actors Access or Backstage as a thumbnail from a specific person.

Speaking with casting directors that are from network TV or independent, freelance CD’s casting multiple projects a year: no one cares who shot you.  It’s not about you if it’s not a personally connected shot.  You won’t engage anyone or hook anyone if the shot isn’t connected.  Beauty is knowing you and who you are, and that usually comes from a personal and invested shoot.

Why is a headshot often more expensive in New York City?  It’s simple: the overhead and cost of operation.  New York studio costs are always through the roof.  Photographers try to pay studio costs while giving clients a truly unique and personal experience.  For businesses and corporate headshots, offices commission and pay us to create a unique and well-planned, well-designed gallery of colleagues for the team.  

How We Do Things

Our team goal (that of Michael Levy Photography) is to
• focus on being personable
• create a conversation
• give others a chance to play freely
• permit something real to come out
• being an affordable photographer with the costs we must pay to the resources we use (studio). 

Our costs are just over average, but our process and style is more invested to return to you more value in the end.  I remember how hard it was to move to New York, let alone transition into working as an artist here myself.  I feel your pain.  

To most people, your headshot will be looked at as a thumbnail, either on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Actors Access, or Backstage.  If you’re just starting out, sure, go for a cheap headshot ($50), I completely understand the need to “dip your toe” in the water and try out a line of work with minimum risk.  

Put an investment in this new stage of your life if you’re invested in your career; meaning, you have been at this for a few years, and plan to involve yourself heavily for many more (not your life savings, just a little more).

Your “Final Edit” for Today - a Summary

If you’re looking for something affordable, understand budgeting with quality.  Understand that affordability should also incorporate your measurement of risk or desire for more.  Affordability is not just what you can financially afford, but what you can afford mentally and strategically.  

All businesses measure risk over reward, and if you look for a headshot photographer, measure what you want personality-wise along with the aesthetics.   You will never get the shot you want if the person you’re working with is a jerk, and you will never walk away with a good shot if they are personable but don’t have a creative spark in their work.  You will never be better than the person who walked into the photographer’s studio before you if every shoot on their website looks exactly the same (same background, same lighting, same everything).  You will be worse or just as good, but never better.  As an artist, that is something you cannot afford to do.