When looking to visually market your business, you might be turning to stock photos or even taking some on your own here and there as you need them. In this post, I’ll explain why taking the time to create “foundational brand photos” is the way to go and how to do it! 

What are foundational brand photos? 

Foundational photos are those that tell the story of your brand, company or product in an evergreen – or timeless – way. These are photos that might show you, or your employees, at work, performing the service you offer (if appropriate), or your products. 

My foundational photos were taken in 2017 by Amanda Photographic and then she has done a few other shoots for me, including family photos as well as podcast promo and food content related shoots. It’s really through seeing her work that I understood the need for foundational photos and what they can do for your brand! 

Why do I need foundational brand photos? 


Virtually every business needs foundation photos. For new businesses, these photos are especially important to build your website and start your social media accounts with. Sure, you could use stock photography, but why? You need to stand out and show yourself and your company in a unique way! Foundation photos are typically seen on companies About, FAQ or Services pages. But they can also be used for blog posts on your evergreen content, or social media posts. 


When I went on maternity leave after Libby was born, I pre-scheduled a month’s worth of social content with all the photos Amanda has done, plus a few of my own. It was amazing to have photos to post ready to go and professional! 


I realized this is a side benefit to having a cache of photos like this ready to use: I ended up posting content and publishing blogs and email newsletters way more consistently and confidently. If I had something to say, and no photo to pair with the caption, it was like dragging my feet to hit publish.  


Foundational photos are also nice to have when posting content for social media, blog posts, or putting on your website pages like already mentioned. Often, a set of foundational photos can include headshots of key employees, like the owner and partners, or all the employees. These are also really handy to have to show the face of your company and give it personality and life. 

What makes a good foundational brand photo? 


When you are ready to take the plunge and invest in a set of foundational photos, you can expect the photographer to be focusing on these aspects: 




A good foundational photo will have a timeless quality to it. You don’t want to highlight a specific season or location unless they are integral to your brand. 


Branded colors or props: 


Incorporate in the main colors that you use in your business/brand. This further connects the photo to your brand and reinforces the connection in the eyes of the viewer (your audience, who will be seeing these photos). Don’t go overboard – if you have a vibrant color palette, stick to one pop of the main color. If you have a more neutral color palette, use 2-3 colors if you can. 


Highlight only those products, services, or locations that are core to your business: 


Don’t use anything in your photoshoot that won’t be relevant in 6 months. So if you are moving to a new store or location, wait until after the move, and THEN do your set of foundation photos. If you just can’t wait, avoid highlighting a specific location or showing too much of your space until after the move. Once you are settled in the new space, have the photographer come back and take a few more shots highlighting your new digs. 


In the same vein, if you have products you are changing, redesigning, or phasing out, don’t include those in your photos either. The goal here is to create a set of photos that you can use for quite some time! You don’t want an old product in the shots, making them unusable. 


For services, you can keep things kind of general, but it should show how your process or workflow is different from others in your field. Show your actual workspace if possible, and include action shots of you meeting with customers, at your computer or writing in your notebook. It might seem silly at the time, but these are all showing you doing the work that you are selling. The more potential customers can visualize this, the more they trust what you do and the more likely they will be to hire you. See my suggestions below under Creating A Shot List for more ideas on how to show services. 


How do I work with a photographer? 


Find a photographer who’s style you like. It’s also important to keep in mind your brand’s visual look and guidelines when seeking the right photographer. You may love someone who shoots all in black and white, but your brand is all about color, so this person may not be the best match for foundation photos. You can search around in your area, ask your business owner friends for recommendations, or use hashtags on Instagram and search things like #commercialphotography #brandphotography and then use #yourcity (whatever city you live in, for example #inbend) to find local photographers. Of course, if there’s someone not local to you that you really want to work with, ask them for a quote to include traveling and go for it! 


How do I create a shot list? 


Your photographer will likely be the one doing this, but they will want guidance and collaboration from you! 


Share a Pinterest board with them of poses or photos that you like, but (and this is key) be sure to update the comment on each photo in the board that explains why you like them, or what exactly you like about them. This helps them to know that you didn’t just share that cute dog walking photo because you offer dog walking services, but actually because you like the way the person is turned and looking over her shoulder in it. 


For all photos, make sure to mention that you want a mix of landscape and portrait (horizontal and vertical) orientations. Websites and social media posts look great with landscape photos (that can be used as they are or cropped square), while ads and print materials look great with vertical shots.


For services: 


Make a list of services you need to sell or show and start there. What do these services look like in real life? Are you in your home office, out at a job site, meeting with clients? If your day-to-day work includes a lot of meeting with others, consider reaching out to a past happy client and asking them to be in part of the shoot with you. Include shots on your list of the two of you interacting and what that might look like. Are your hands outstretched towards each other? Are you both looking at a printout or a presentation? Take a few minutes to brainstorm what you do during the day the most and start there. 


For products: 


How would you like to show your products being used? Do people use them in groups, alone, at parties? Is there anything around the legality of how your products are used that you need to consider? For instance, CBD/THC, cigarette, or alcohol-related products have strict regulations about what can be shared on social media and what can be depicted in a photo – so do your research and keep that in mind! 


What is your core product line? For product shots, it’s helpful to have what I call “simple” and “styled” shots, and shots with multiple flavors or product types grouped together. You can also think about if you need any areas of white space (space where there is no product/props) where you can overlay text on the photo afterward.


Make sure to mention that you want a mix of orientations and styles for each type of shot. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to update your photos on your website and realizing that they are all vertical when you really need horizontal. 


Photo Examples! 

These are all examples from my own photography work.

Styled: Think of these as staged, in an “environment” or set up like they might be used in real life. 

styled foundational photo example humm kombucha


Simple: This could still be decorated a bit but it should be items that represent the product or service – not random plants or props. Here I used one or two things to indicate a flavor that was inside this product: 


simple styled photo example


White space with text: Here, you want to make sure to include “white space” in your photo. The above simple styled photo is another example of this. Imagine you will have text layered on the photo in an area and create some blank space for that in your composition. 


Photo before: 

Finished photo with text added: 


Product shots: These are really very deceptively straightforward. Product photos are usually what is one a product detail page and are ONLY the product, showing the front, back, and sides of a label. These are for the consumer to read the details, look at specifics, and see the nutritional information. They are deceptively simple because they are easy to create (you just need a seamless white background) but can take skill to get the right exposure and have the entire label be in focus and sharp. You do NOT want blurry labels, low f/stop or fancy lighting here! Harsh shadows and highlights are also not ideal. No distractions, even lighting, and clear, readable labels are what you are going for. A photographer with a studio set up will get you these shots the easiest, it’s worth investing in a set of quality product photos for your e-commerce efforts! 

product photos


What if I can’t work with a photographer right now? How can I create some foundational photos myself? 


I know that many of us are taking time right now to work on our brands and on our businesses. Spending time creating new photos is a smart thing to do! I have some tips on how to create some simple foundation and brand photos right now, while we are all stuck at home! These will help you if you are not used to taking brand photos yourself, or you are not super experienced in photography. 


Start with a list of words of feelings, brand values, and actions you want to convey. Are you looking to share positivity? Empathy? What do you hope these photos will share emotionally in the end? 


Keep your brand colors and guidelines handy! Choose all props, outfits, jewelry, etc, to match or at least not clash, with those colors. 


For headshots of yourself, use a phone or camera tripod and a simple wall behind you. Eliminate anything in the photo that looks distracting. Do your hair and make up. Pick poses that look the most natural for you and be sure to smile. Try looking away from the camera off to the side, and try a few looking directly at the camera for variety. 


Use natural light. This may mean you need to rearrange your space to position yourself in front of the best light AS WELL as a neutral background – but don’t get discouraged! Try some shots and really look at them… then make adjustments and try again. Shoot by a window in the first part of the day, and turn off all other lights in the room. 


Pick simple backgrounds and props to start with. Don’t overdo it. Two or three props in a flatlay photo with one or two of your products and that is usually enough! Try setting everything up on a solid piece of large poster board (you can grab this at the grocery store while stocking up on rice and beans) to start. Amazon also sells some pretty inexpensive backgrounds. 


With backgrounds and props, consider what would work for your brand – don’t use something that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t go with your list of words you wanted to convey at the beginning of this process. Is your brand moody? Darker brand colors? Try a dark background. Do you like everything light and airy feeling? Clean and modern? Remember to style your photos based on your brand’s visual look and feel! 


For more resources: 

When I was researching this blog, I happened to find this other post about doing brand photos while in quarantine or shelter in place mode – and I have to share because it’s really well done! https://brandtcreativeco.com/how-to-take-brand-photos-at-home-while-in-quarantine/


While we talk mostly about food photos in this podcast, you can apply the same principles of photography to any subject. Amanda gives some great tips for starting out with photography as an amateur. 



Need some ideas for “selfies” that look professional? Jenna Kutcher is great at posing for the camera… https://www.instagram.com/jennakutcher/


Jordan Page isn’t afraid to get expressive in her shots… this can work well when you are addressing a customer pain point or saying you understand their frustration/need/question: https://www.instagram.com/funcheaporfree/


My friend Amanda Photographic has lots of examples of headshots and product photos in her feed – browse for composition and pose ideas! 



If you need some help with editing your photos, check out these app ideas: 


I happen to use Lightroom the most when on my laptop, or VSCO is great for mobile.