In this study we use a combination of dynamic scanning force microscopy experiments and first-principles simulations to study the imaging process of gold nanoclusters adsorbed on the (001) surface of KBr. In previous experiments atomic resolution was readily obtained on the KBr substrate. However, it was not possible to resolve atoms within the clusters themselves. This correlates with imaging simulations we present here using several different probable tip models: measurable contrast was readily achieved on the KBr surface and on the gold (001) surface, but simulations on the clusters demonstrated poor contrast for all tips. We further consider the role of cluster charging in the tip-surface interaction, and the role that surface defects play in the properties of adsorbed clusters.