Finding Great Photos Is a Snap

Visual Theory

A picture can be worth a thousand words. It’s time to look at what your photos are saying about your brand.

Between ubiquitous smart phones and a growing number of stock photography web sites—not to mention the number of talented photographers out there—marketers have more image options than ever. But that’s both a blessing and a curse if you’re looking for images to use on your website, or in ads or in other marketing materials. The images you choose to represent your brand are a critical part of your overall message, so it’s important to be thoughtful about the “look” you present to the world.

“Start with your brand guide or what your brand is trying to tell the world. That will guide the photos you choose,” says Michael Schaffer, CEO of Pasadena, California, branding and advertising agency ECHO-FACTORY, Inc.

In addition to working with brands to help them build their images, his agency has an in-house photo studio. Schaffer says that marketers need to follow some important guidelines to help them hone in on the right images for their brands.

Here are five factors to keep in mind as you scroll through brand-ready snaps:

Brand persona

Schaffer says it’s important to first consider your brand persona and the type of people to whom you’re trying to communicate. “Determine what you want them to think about the brand, whether it’s a fun, lovable kind of brand or very serious in tone,” he says. For example, outreach targeted to a Millennial new mom will likely look different than those for a Baby Boomer in retirement.


Your photos may need to look equally great on a website and in social media, as well as in print materials and television advertising. Test how images appear in various platforms, says Holly Cardew, founder of, a San Francisco, California-based photo retouching service. Make sure you have the proper resolution for the medium.


Integrating the latest photo trends into your image selection can help you look current without interfering with your brand message. Shutterstock’s 2015 Creative Trends report says that blurred backgrounds, simple composition, and top views—images that appear as if the camera was pointing down at the subject—are current trends to watch.


Customers should recognize your brand in the images you use, Cardew says. For example, if you’re shooting photographs of individual products, keep backgrounds consistent instead of shooting them haphazardly. That will create a natural theme for your brand as you use the images in various areas.

“Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media are now becoming an official story board for customers. They get attracted to a brand and attracted to a certain look,” she says. If you don’t know what your look should be, test various image types and color themes, Schaffer adds.


Think twice about opting for those fake, over-stylized stock photographs, as they may not make people feel like they’re really getting to know your brand.

“It’s just so easy to find some generic stock photos, plug them in, and not think that’s very important; but when people look at those images, they think, ‘Oh, this is a bad stock photo,’” Schaffer says.

Instead of finding people shaking hands or kids playing outside, look for some twist like an image that plays on your words or represents a concept. For example, opt for an unexpected photo that indicates growth instead of one that shows a bunch of people in a conference room, he says.

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