This is a controversial topic for some people. Many photographers avoid it like the plague. But I didn't want to ignore the elephant in the room. I'm not starting an argument here. This is just how it looks from my perspective.
Some people look at headshots as just a simple picture of themselves. Others look at them differently and consider them part of their marketing, crucial to their success -I'm in the latter group if you hadn't guessed already. Which camp you are in typically determines your viewpoint on the cost involved.
Being a photographer is an expensive endeavour to get into. Professional cameras, which will work and keep working when the going gets tough, are not cheap. Then there are the lenses that can either produce a glorious esthetic or ruin everything. With glass, you get what you pay for.
That being said, cameras and lenses are investments. If you buy quality equipment, you're good to go for quite a long time. The real clincher is, running a business is not a cheap endeavour. I mean, a real business, not a hobby. So let's try and break stuff down.
I can't work out of my house. That doesn't professionally present the business. Would you be comfortable coming to my house and going down to my basement studio next to my kid's toys and my treadmill? I thought not. So I have a dedicated studio space that presents the business as a real business to business-minded people. That brings with it rent, insurance and utility costs. Websites, at least a good one, are not free either. What about advertising? You're not going to get clients if no one knows you're there, right? Did you know that every time you click on my AD in Google it costs me about $4? That's just to bring you to my website, without you booking a session or paying me anything! I haven't even gotten to household expenses like food, rent or a mortgage, let alone making any profit at the end of the day. What about credit card processing fees, bank fees, professional services like accounting. It all adds up quickly, and none of that is cheap either.
There's the thought process that if I made the prices cheaper, I would get more bookings. Well, I could have gone that route; many headshot photographers in Toronto have and charge low fees. But there's a severe trade-off. I would have to do 15-minute sessions and pack as many people together as I could. I tried 15-minute sessions in the past as I was figuring things out. I stopped. Not because I wasn't making enough -which I wasn't. The real reason is you can't get any good headshots in 15 minutes! So you end up paying the price for those 15 minutes rapid sessions.
I don't want to waste people's money or time by producing garbage. You'll eventually go and get them re-taken somewhere else because you hate how you look. So I chose to deliver quality instead. Produce something you'll be thrilled with. I want to produce work that makes you want to come back again to do it all again in a year.
In closing let's try to put things into perspective. Peter Hurley, a mentor of mine who works out of New York and is constantly booked charges $1500 for a headshot session. Without including any final shots. Those are extra. Some would say "well he's in New York that's why he charges that amount". My answer to that is Toronto was just given the crown of being more expensive to live in than either New York or Los Angeles. At $350 including two shots, I charge significantly less than Peter Hurley does.