Many photographers will appreciate what I’m about to share with you (except for the ones who are getting paid for royalties from the above photographs).

It’s what’s called “literal photography.” I call it “cheapening your brand.”

Fortune 500 brands know that creating a brand includes creating a unique look and feel in their visual identity — and that includes a photography style that distinguishes them from competitors and one that creates an emotional connection with their customers/clients.

Most entrepreneurs haven’t been exposed to this concept. In fact, just in the past year alone, I have seen tons of images just like the ones above to convey the key words: “partnership or teamwork” (image of hands on top of one another), OR “saving money” or “making money” (image of a piggy bank), or the token image of woman on her phone headset to express “customer service” or “contact us, we’re waiting by the phone”! See what I mean? Literal.

Professional photographers and graphic designers will agree with me about not using so much literal photography. However, many entrepreneurs don’t hire either one of them to work on their visual branding.

For now, I want to provide one tip on how to up-level your photography (even without hiring a professional photographer).

To be clear, there is a wide range of photography strategies and tips. This blog post simply cannot cover them all. At times you want to leave that to a professional photographer and his/her design eye. However, this tip is specifically for entrepreneurs who are not yet ready to hire a professional photographer to create their own image library.

Use photography or imagery that focuses on the customer benefit (and less on you).

Identify a list of words or adjectives that describe the benefits of your brand. Then, use those some words and adjectives as inspiration for choosing your photography. Visit sites like or to search for images using those words or adjectives. You can either find royalty-free images or low-cost images. Sometimes, there might be images that are completely literal. Bypass all of those. And, keep searching for images that are more evocative or express those words or adjectives in a conceptual manner.

For example, if your business is based on “partnership” with your clients, then use photography that demonstrates the benefits of partnership, i.e., peace of mind or confidence or trust. Do an image search for “peace of mind.” Spend a little more time looking at the search results and see if there are images that stand out and best represent the expression “peace of mind” that is appropriate for your customer base.

If you did the actual search on, you’ll notice that the third image represented is not a bad choice. Maybe not the “best”. However, the image of the man expresses an emotional state. THAT is what customers buy — not partnership. But, unlike when you Google something (and focus only on the first page search results), I advise you to keep digging. See if there are images that stand out that would appeal to BOTH you and your customers. If you have a limited search with the key words you entered, then click on a couple of images and you’ll find additional “image search key words.” Use those other key words to navigate through other images. Note: this process takes a little more time. However, if you’re not ready to hire a photographer, and don’t want to “cheapen” it with literal photography, then this is the next best option for you.

Give it a try. Comment if this post is useful or if you have success using this approach.

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