How to use images for your brand and where to find them — Atelier Pan

How to use images for your brand and where to find them

5 guiding principles to pick the right brand images

By Simon Droog — a Dutch self-taught brand and graphic designer

Finding the perfect image can be hard.

Sometimes you're just scouring the internet for hours to find that image that portraits exactly what you want to say.

That image that tell your exact story.

Usually you end up searching for a (free) stock photo, but these rarely hit the nail on the head.

In the end you decide that a stock photo is good enough, though.

Hope that doesn’t sound too negative, because stock photos can definitely add value to your branding and marketing material.

More on the value of stock photos a little further down, but first...


Images are powerful. Or at least they can be. If you pick the right one.

Here are 5 guiding principles to help you pick the right image:


“All images on your website should come out of the ‘Success Bucket’.”

— Donald Miller, Storybrand

Your potential clients love to know the outcome of your product, so why not show them. People find images that show the successful outcome of a given situation attractive. It helps them to visualise their own success.

Show them what success looks like.

atelier pan find the right images 5 guideing principles stock photos

— Source: Depositphotos


The right image tells a story — the story you want to tell.

People love a good story. Especially if it concerns them or someone they can identity with.

As you probably know already:

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

An image that tells a story can really capture the attention of your audience. It can draw them in, support what you’re trying to say and enhance your message...


…as long as you’re able to connect with them on some emotional level.

People make decisions based on emotions. If you’re able to make that connection, they’re more likely to like, trust and buy from you.

Find images that show emotions.

E.g. smiling:

“A smile can take you a long way.”

When you’re trying to find an image for your ‘success bucket’, try looking for smiling people — smiling people enjoying the success you’ve helped them achieve.

atelier pan find the right images 5 guideing principles stock photos

— Source: Depositphotos


A lot of images, especially ones you find online, tend to feel fake — staged. If you’re going for that emotional connection, you want to choose an image that feels real and human. That’s where authenticity and originality come into the picture (pun intended).


If you were finally able to find an image that tells a story, shows emotion and feels real, it was all in vain if the image doesn’t resonate with your audience. You want an image to match your clients’ worldview.

E.g. sports:

If you’re serving an audience of mainly women, choosing an image related to sports might not deliver the results you’re looking for (my apologies for the obvious generalisation, but I chose this cliché example exactly because of that.)

Ok, with these 5 guiding principles you now know what to look for in an image. Let’s find some great images!


You can easily find millions of photos online. Most people just type in some keywords in Google Images and pick an image they like and use it for their latest blog or their branding materials, but in many cases that’s illegal. You’re not allowed to just grab an image and use it for your own purposes. In a lot of situations you need to ask (or buy) permission from the owner of that image.

Ok, what can I do instead?

Great question! ?

That’s where stock photos come into the picture again.

There are a lot of stock photo sites that offer free to use images or images that you can buy from them. I’ll list a few of them a little further down.

First I’d like you to consider this: If you’re going for the free stock photo approach, let me point out that these images are used by a lot of people all over the world. Chances are the image you choose to use is also used by thousands of other people. When you buy your images the chances of other people also using that image drop significantly.

This lack of originality has caused the formation of a movement to go ‘unstock’ with your images. They’re advocating more authentic images and that real = better.


“Here’s one of the first rules of your visual content strategy: Don’t use stock images on your branded website. Stock photos are cheap and easy, hence tempting. Do not be tempted by cheap and easy.”

— Source: Content Marketing Institute

I think their views have their merit, but I feel stock photos have their use — just like the guys at Hubspot:

“[…] stock photos aren’t all bad if you can use them in the right way. They can add visually interesting and compelling content to your marketing.”

— Source: Hubspot

And… I just gave you 5 guiding principles to find the right image for the job, so I guess we’ve got that covered.

Personally, I’ve found that some stock photo sites have photos that don’t scream 'stock photo’ to your face and have a more authentic/real look & feel.

Here’s my personal top three:

  1. Unsplash
  2. Pexels
  4. Update — A new personal favourite: Kaboompics

Plus a more extensive list of sites to choose from:
20 of the Best Free Stock Photo Sites To Use In 2017 — via Hubspot

If you’re willing to pay for images and you have a budget, these stock photo sites are my go-to places when I’m looking for that perfect image — although it’s a lot harder to find images here that don’t have ‘stock photo’ written all over them, but if you take the time, you can definitely find some:

  1. Depositphotos
  2. Shutterstock
  3. Adobe stock
  4. Update — Tip from reader Claire: Big Stock Photo

Of course you can also take another route. Hire a photographer (if your budget allows it) or pick up that camera yourself and start taking your own shots. When it comes to authenticity and original, you cannot get more real.

atelier pan find the right images 5 guiding principles photos

— Happy client after a Private Branding Workshop with me

For further reading on this subject, check out this slideshare:
10 Do's and Don'ts for Using Stock Photos in Your Marketing — via Hubspot

With pleasure,


Atelier Pan | Brand Design for Conscious Entrepreneurs
Become more credible, attract your ideal client and take your business to the next level.

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