Team Headshots: AI vs. Professional Photographer

Corporate headshots generated by AI. These people do not exist.

Have you Googled “headshot photographers” lately? The results are pretty eye-opening. Right before I sat down to write this, my Google search resulted in 4 sponsored ads, right at the top, for AI headshot generators. If that doesn’t concern you, it should.

Now, this isn’t one of those articles signaling the end of the industry — far from it. What I aim to do is to hammer home this point: AI companies are coming for us. They are spending a lot of money right now to disrupt our industry and wipe us off the map. Here’s the good news: they can’t compete with us. Not yet. So if you are having a little bit of AI anxiety lately, read on.

The photographers I know who are scared of AI taking their business don’t understand clearly what it is we actually do. Do you think you’re a photographer? If you do, you are missing the point of the headshot business. You aren’t a photographer, you’re a small business owner running a service. You’re a problem solver. At every turn, your job is to take your client’s problems off their plate and make their life easier.

In the case of headshots for teams, AI creates more problems than it solves, and I can prove it.

The Nightmare of AI-Generated Team Headshots

An AI-generated “photo” that illustrates the frustration of trying to create AI-generated headshots for an entire team.

Let’s say you are the office administrator for a company with 50 employees and your boss tasks you with figuring out how to get headshots for everyone to include in the new website. Maybe you do some Googling and you think AI headshots will be a good way to solve the problem and save some money. Let me tell you how that’s gonna go.

First, you decide on which AI headshot generator you are gonna use. Now you have to collect 10 to 20 photos of each person on the team, so you spend the next two weeks of your life tracking down every team member and reminding them to send you 10 to 20 photos of themselves that they like. Good luck putting all those puppies in that basket. Maybe two weeks is being optimistic!

Then you need to upload those one thousand or more photos to the headshot generator and wait a couple of days for the results to come back. The headshot generator is going to give you 25 to 100 options for each person, and now you have to get those 50 people to go through their options and select the one they want to use, that should be another couple of weeks of tracking people down and hounding them.

Or maybe you take the other option and just spend a few miserable days going through thousands of options and picking one for each person. Just cross your fingers and hope that you pick the right ones or you are going to hear about it.

Let’s say you bypass all that nonsense and just send out an email telling your team to go use this AI headshot generator to make a headshot for the website. Well, you are going to still be chasing down people for weeks to get it done, having to support the people who don’t understand how to use it, and dealing with the inevitable fact that everyone is going to pick a headshot that looks completely different from everyone else’s.

So you have spent weeks on this project, but you finally got it done! And look at all the money you saved! What’s that, budget team? I saved so much money that you’re slashing my marketing budget for next year? That doesn’t sound like a good thing.

The Ease of Hiring a Human Photographer

Let’s try it a different way.

Let’s say that you skip over all the ads for AI headshot generators and decide to hire a local headshot specialist for your team. You get the studio on the horn, negotiate a price, and set the date for headshots. Let’s say that photographer is me… just for the sake of argument.

Right away my team creates a custom webpage for your team members where everyone can go and select a time slot for their headshot, organizing everyone into a neat little schedule. We bring out a portable headshot studio to your office, photograph each person and help them select their favorite image for retouching right there on site.

Within two business days, we deliver a professionally retouched headshot to everyone on your team, in individual, private galleries where they can download their finished headshot in one click. We send you a link to a full gallery of all the finished headshots, organized alphabetically that you can download in one click to deploy on your website.

Just in case you have remote team members or a few people who couldn’t make headshot day, my team creates a custom calendar where your additional team members can make an appointment to come to my conveniently located studio on their own time and we add their finished headshots to the same gallery so everything stays all in one place.

While my team was taking all that work off your plate for you, you get to do your actual job and cross the headshot problem off your list forever.

Now which of those options sounds better to you? On the surface, AI seems convenient. For some people, it really is a good solution, but as you start to scale a project up, the work involved in executing headshots for a team using AI is so much more than it appears. Hiring a professional headshot specialist is a better solution in pretty much every way.

How to Blow Your Clients Away

The trick is that, as a business owner, you have to get proactive with that message and take the fight to the machines. If you’re a headshot photographer, I want to give you 3 tips on how you get that exact message to your clients and deliver an experience that will blow them away.

#1: Make sure you have a place on your website specifically dedicated to headshots for teams. Include the great brands who already trust you, client reviews, your pricing menu, and anything that your studio does to solve your client’s problems and makes their life easier. Corporate clients are looking to complete this project with as little fuss as possible and you need to really lean into how you can do that for them. Make everything as easy for them as possible.

#2: Fight back against the machines and drive traffic to your business with specific Google Ads. Make sure those ads outline the benefits your studio offers that are specific to teams. Online scheduling, on-location service, fast turnaround times, the whole nine yards. Make sure those ads link to that specific place on your site rather than to your home page. Cut as many clicks out of the process as possible.

#3: Make sure you are using the right software and systems to knock it out of the park for your clients. In our studio, we use 17 Hats to create automated workflows for booking and onboarding, Acuity for scheduling headshot days, Capture One for tethering, and Headshot Tools (a service I founded) for the renaming, selection, and delivery of headshots. From start to finish, our client experience is designed to reduce pain points for clients and make their lives easier. Our goal is to completely ruin our clients for anyone else.

AI headshot generators are the perfect solution for individuals or businesses in certain situations, but the only problem they really solve is saving some money while creating a ton of other hurdles for companies to jump through. As a professional headshot photographer who specializes in teams, your job isn’t to be cheap, it’s to be a superhero at solving problems.

Concentrate on what you can offer that the robots can’t, and make sure to put that message front and center in all your marketing. Follow that up with great images and a seamless experience, and you will stay ahead of the curve.

About the author: Gary Hughes is a commercial photographer based in Florida. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website.