Digital cameras bring decent photography within your reach. You don’t need a pro to produce a technically accurate, usable image. And many images don’t need to be fine art to tell a story. But a well-crafted image or series of images is a powerful way to illustrate a great story. The best photographers know how to bring your concepts to life. They’re problem solvers and partners. Often, pushing the shutter is the least important aspect. It’s the preparation, vision and team behind it that pulls it all together on deadline – and differentiates you from your competition.

And anyone who’s spent anytime searching for the right stock photo knows what a time sink that can be. And if you want something no one else has, you’re better off financially hiring it out. iStockphoto might be great for average images, but your odds of seeing a competitor using the same image are pretty high. In that case you get what you pay for.

But hiring a photographer is a lot like hiring an agency partner whether PR, design, web or advertising. Many look the same. It comes down to personality, fit and their willingness to partner with you. Never settle for a prima donna.

Here are a dozen photographers who I believe bring a fresh point of view, all with their own style and focus (no pun intended). If you’ve got the budget, adding great imagery is a worthwhile consideration.

  1. Frederik Broden – Highly conceptual thinker. Strong at bringing editorial concepts to life with a twist.
  2. Michele Clement – wonderful people and locations. She has a definite point of view
  3. Chip Forelli – Beautiful industrial and landscape image – very graphic and engaging. Read his case studies and you can see his ability to problem solve. Think industrial chic.
  4. Chase Jarvis – high energy whether still or motion
  5. Mark Laita – Known for his work for Apple, has a great style that’s current and timeless at the same time.
  6. Holly Lindem – Another great conceptual thinker. I love her bright style and sense of humor shining through in her work
  7. Raymond Meeks – talk about evoking a mood- often dark, ethereal.
  8. Debbi Morello – Incredible documentary storyteller. Her images say it all.
  9. Laurie Rubin – Bright, cheerful lifestyle and interiors. Great emotion too; think light and airy.
  10. Sandro – awesome portrait photographer who knows how to capture style and personality
  11. Jamey Stillings – great outdoor productions. You can often feel the texture in his images. He also has an incredible series documenting the construction of the bridge at the Hoover Dam.
  12. Philip Toledano – People and emotion. Days with my Father is one of most moving photo essays I’ve seen.

And finally I have to mention my mentor – Jay Maisel. Two weeks in Aspen Colorado transformed how I ‘saw’ and photographed. Particularly people. Even if photography is not your primary thing, taking a workshop like Jay’s influences your visual thinking, strengthening those muscles. You can now take his workshop in his New York studio. He gives a pretty tough workout.

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