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How can photography be on-brand (and oh so off brand)?

At Be Smart we’re on a mission to educate our clients and share our way of thinking, which is that a brand is more than just a set of guidelines and a colour palette. A successful brand transcends into everything you do; even the photography.

Yes, that’s right, even your photography should follow your brand guidelines and should encompass the brand values, style, consistency, and message that you’re trying to communicate to your audience.

A very quick example of this is flatpack giant, Ikea. Because their product is simplicity in design, and has obvious and strong links to Sweden, their photography, including their product images, follow that simple, clean theme.

Nike, on the other hand, share a more raw, dark, gutsy style which is matched by their marketing themes and messages.

So, photography is indeed a part of your brand.



Why you must avoid stock photography

Stock photography doesn’t help you or your brand. True on brand photography is created with the brand firmly implanted in the mind of the photographer. There will be a style and mood set for them and a list of specific images that are needed.

True brand photography can’t be found on iStock. Sorry.

Stock photography is aligned to someone else’s value and message, or – more likely – no one else’s values and essence at all! So, what you’re left with is a collection of pretty meaningless and disparate images that anyone can tell are stock photos.

Sorry, but perfect smiling lady shaking hands with ‘added in for equality man’ doesn’t cut it with your brand. Who are you? And what do you stand for? That’s what your brand should emulate in its photography and images.

Plus, you’ll no doubt see that image elsewhere, on someone else’s marketing material. You can always tell a stock image, can’t you? Wouldn’t you rather be interesting and unique?


Can photography really have a style that suits your brand?

Yes definitely. When you buy bespoke photography, the photographer chosen should be able to create the style that has been created in your brand guidelines.

A photographer should be briefed in full on the brand guidelines before they start the shoot so that they can create something that truly aligns with your brand identity. And by this we mean brand photography that matches the brand perfectly.

Good brand photography should match the brand in terms of:

  • Depth of field
  • Style of photography
  • Any specific shapes or colours that need to be incorporated into the images.

An example of the final point is the brand photography we did for West Midlands Growth Company.

We incorporate hexagons or their main brand colour, orange, into the images wherever we can.

The style of the imagery has a consistency and depth to it, too.



Can you buy photography that suits a brand?


No, you can’t buy bespoke photography off-the-virtual-shelf. Stock photography is for everyone and no one. Although you can segment and search these sites, they’re not ever going to truly align with your brand.

The photographer who took them hasn’t been briefed on your specific brand guidelines, brand identity, or personality. How could your images be on brand for you? They simply can’t and it’s the biggest reason to avoid stock shots, in our mind. The investment (and it is an investment) in good brand photography can make or break a campaign and even a brand itself, especially on a website or printed documents and marketing material.


Does brand photography have to be of your team or your office/building?


This really depends on the personality of your company.

If your values and personality are all about happy, friendly people then – yes definitely. If you’re a visible team or your brand values are very much about your transparency and personal touch, then you really must include your team.

Natural photos are better, though. Don’t stick someone in front of a camera and tell them to ‘say cheese’. We all know how awkward those photos look. Capture your team doing what they do. Create a photoshoot that shows them busy doing what they do well and what they enjoy. Catch them in flow. Catch them talking. Leave them working and quietly take natural shots in the background. This will work so much better.



Depth of field creates interest rather than everything

One way to achieve a strong look is to use single-focus compositions that hold the foreground or subject in sharp focus while allowing the background to go soft or out of focus.

We like to use layers within our photography to add depth to the shot. This gives a better quality photo and tends to produce images that work better on web, print, and other marketing collateral as they’re more focused and less ‘busy’ and therefore don’t take over the content or design you’re presenting.



Some other areas of brand photography to consider…

Less is more

Simple, direct, and honest images are the best way to express who we are to our outside audiences. Photography should be free of noise and clutter with good depth of field to distinguish between the focal point and the background.

More is too much

Be aware of all the essential components of an image before shooting or using them in communications. Avoid using images that are busy, too complicated, out of focus, low resolution, or too darkly lit.


Where possible, part of the image should reflect your primary and secondary colour palette.

Google images

Always assume that images on Google have copyright and avoid using them. This is another important reason to use bespoke, brand photography rather than sourcing them from the internet!



Don’t cut corners; shoot for the top!


You’d be amazed how many websites and how much content created for marketing uses sub-standard photography that fails to convey the messages intended. Or maybe you wouldn’t if you’ve never really considered it before.

But take it from us – it matters a lot in terms of offering a stylish and professional image. And isn’t that what you want?

Need some help making sure your potential clients aren’t shaking their heads at your website?

Check out our brand photography portfolio here and give us a call to discuss your photography.

We’ll get your brand in focus.

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