Why Should You “Invest” In Professional Portraits?

by William Lulow

Note: I’m re-publishing this article because of the importance of highlighting differences between professional and non-professional approaches to portraiture.

For starters, why are you even thinking of professional portraits? You must be thinking that those done by a professional photographer have to be better than a selfie made with your iPhone or even a shot done by a friend who “knows” how to use his camera. If you are, you’d be right! It should go without saying that a professional photographer with a studio knows how to deliver a better result than you could do yourself.

The next thing you should be asking yourself is “what do I need a portrait for?” If it is for a resume, job interview, website, brochure or book jacket, then you’re talking about a “professional use.” Why on earth would you even consider taking a “selfie” for such an important use? In addition, ask yourself how much time you’ve spent on getting a good resume together. Do you think that a promotional portrait is less important?

The problem is, these days, the taking of many photographs has been reduced to a camera set on “AUTO.” Furthermore, many people still have that “good enough” mentality, meaning that it’s just a headshot. It doesn’t have to be all that great or complicated or expensive – right?  WRONG!


If you intend on promoting yourself in any way, for any use, or even if you just would like to have a family portrait done for yourself, you deserve to have a portrait that you’d be proud to display, not make excuses for! When I talk about “investment,” it is exactly that. It takes time and a great deal of effort to get just the right looking portrait. These days, good headshots or portraits cost $250 and up. I’ve mentioned many times that when I do a portrait, I usually shoot more than 100 frames in order to get just the right combination of lighting, pose and expression that begins to say something about my subjects and how I see them. Then I crop and retouch them myself to get just the right look. I use professional grade cameras and lights to yield just the right lighting and crispness of image. There is a kind of interview that takes place between me and my subject during which I try to find out just enough about him or her to bring out an expression that makes the image kind of “jump” off the page. My intent is to get the viewers of the image to want to get to know my subjects as well.

It seems to me that almost ANY price would be worth the time and effort that I normally devote to this task. But, the market, being what it is, there might just be a limit to what people are willing to pay, even for their own success!