That product photo showing last year’s model. The headshot from 20 pounds ago. The staff photo in which four of the people pictured no longer work for your company. These photos need to be replaced. Seriously. And if you’re serious about showing yourself and your company in the best light, you are not going to whip out your cell phone and take the pictures yourself.

So how do you go about deciding which professional photographer to hire? Here are the steps to take.

First, review each photographer’s portfolio. Do you like the photos? Will something similar be appropriate for the project you are working on? After you are done looking at the pretty girls/guys, note not just the quality but the quantity. Does it look like the photos were all taken at the same time or for the same client? An above-average photographer will have top notch examples from multiple clients, showing one photo from each job. If you are unable to discern, ask the photographer if the portfolio pictures were paid jobs or personal projects. It is much easier to create portfolio-quality shots without the deadlines and contraints of paid assignments. You want to see real-world results demonstrating the level of  competency you need.

Example of NOT using a professional photographer for product shots — boring!

Example of hiring a professional photographer for product shots — sexy!

Next, communicate with the finalists. Describe what you need as best you can: what type of photos, how many, how they will be used. Mention peanut allergies and your love of the Rolling Stones if you think it might be helpful.

Ask questions to eliminate as many potential issues and variables as possible. You have a deadline; can they meet it?  You have a budget; what will their services cost? Then answer the photographer’s questions to ensure everybody is on the same page

Pricing varies widely with photography projects — no collusion here! Level of experience also varies widely, as does expertise in determining what it will take to complete the job successfully. Some photographers charge by the hour, others by the photo or session. There is no right or wrong, only personal preference.

Express your expectations clearly, then request an estimate that spells out exactly what services will be performed, what is included and what is not.

If you take these steps, you will end up with the right photographer for your situation and needs.