Is it a big deal? I would say "yes". Not because I am a photographer, and have been one for a good number of years, but because your reputation in the various industries depends on it!
That's right .... a lot rides on that image you use to promote and market yourself.
If you look and present yourself with a professional image, people will see you as a professional. If you present an image or brand for yourself that looks like you used a "selfie" or your friend used your cell phone camera to take a picture for you - well, then why be surprised when your phone doesn't ring or no one takes an interest in you?
First impressions - that is what it is all about. That very first feeling someone gets when they see your picture - and remember, this is the picture you choose that tells the world who you are. It wasn't picked by some random individual. You are telling everyone "yes, this is me". If it looks cheap and unprofessional, then this is what you are telling potential clients: " I do not think I am worth investing in myself, but if you are willing to invest in someone I am not, then please do". Are you serious? Obviously not.
If you are not willing to spend a few dollars to promote and market yourself with industry standards at a minimum, then you really don't need to be in this industry or any other for that matter.
Would you go to a surgeon who got their degree on-line? No. Would you use an attorney who studied the law on Google? Ah, no. So why would you leave your photo to anyone other than a true professional who trained, has the experience, the equipment and the reputation to do it right?
All photographers are not the same. And, if they are honest with you, and themselves, they will admit this. Some shoot great landscapes, some shoot great product, some shoot great live events and some shoot great people images. If they have strengths in one area that is their specialty. The other areas are secondary for them. Simple as that.
If you are seeking to be in the entertainment business, then a photographer who has experience working in that industry is where to begin looking for a photographer. They know what is expected, they have been there and done that. They know the standards and minimums that the industry will accept. Anything less then the expected standards will be passed over and thrown out. Why? Because to the industry, if you are not willing to do the homework required to work in the business, then you are not taken as a serious player.
Are the professional photographers expensive? That depends on what you consider expensive. The wrong photographer for the job you need accomplished will cost you getting that first door open. That could mean a fumble on the start of your new career right out of the gate. To me, that is a very costly price to pay for not hiring the right photographer to do the photo shoot.
Think about it for a minute: name me one profession where you can almost recoup your initial expense in a few days of work. I can't. You spend a few hundred dollars on a photo session with good make-up and if you get a gig as a model, you make $100/hour and up .... do the math. Your photo session has been paid off with a few hours of work. You get booked as an extra on a film or television show ... $75/day or more, and the cost of your photos are paid off in a couple of days work.
So when considering who you trust with your image, think of the costs of hiring the wrong photographer. The sad fact is that just about anyone with a semi decent camera today thinks of themselves as a "professional photographer". Do your homework: check them out. Look at their website, look at their portfolios, Google them and see what, if anything comes up. All the information you need to get the right shooter for your photo needs are out there - take advantage of it. Ask other professionals in the industry for recommendations, look at the photos they have - and are they getting work with those photos?
Do yourself the favor - make that first impression as strong as it can be. Professionals aren't always "cheap" but "cheap" is seldom professional.