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Best Practice

Choosing and Using Images in Presentations

Don't make the mistake of underappreciating or underestimating the contributions that photos can make to a slide. Aside from adding interest to a slide, which is important, they also set the tone for the message being delivered.

Images add interest

A carefully selected image can bring the text on a slide to life and help the presenter by visually displaying a concept that he/she would otherwise have to explain. Better to let an image (or conceptual framework, of course) do the heavy lifting in a presentation if possible. Look for opportunities to add images to text-only slides when a conceptual framework isn't possible, like lists. Also, look for images that illustrate the text descriptions/presenter's verbal message – images that add more than interest and setting tone.

Images set tone

A carefully selected image can also set the tone for the message on a slide. It's important to match the slide text and presenter's delivery with an appropriate image to make sure the audience is receiving a consistent message. For example, if the goal is to convey a professional, trustworthy image to an audience, a comical clipart image isn't the way to go (this happens more than you'd think).

Searching for images

Since we've determined that images have a serious job to perform, it's important to understand how to find images. Here are some important guidelines:

  • Do not harvest images from the internet and use them in your presentations. Rather, establish an account or several accounts with reputable photo services. We like Shutterstock, iStock, and Fotolia. These services have a decent library of images, are not overly restrictive on image usage, and are reasonably priced.
  • Use images that are similar in style so that there is a visual consistency from slide to slide. Try not to mix clipart with photo images, especially on the same way. An exception, however, might be adding silhouettes to a slide containing photo images.
  • Know/learn how to search these photo services for the best results. Once you find an image that you want to use and click on it, you'll see options below the purchase information that allow you to search for images using the same model (including groups of people), similar images, same photographer, etc. These are important shortcuts to help you find suitable images quickly. Keywords are also available in this area that may give you an idea about other search terms you can use to narrow down your next search.

Finding a suitable image may take a little time, but the effort is worth the results. You'll soon start to accumulate a nice library of images to help you illustrate future presentations. It's a good idea to establish an image management tool. Check out Extensis Portfolio Standalone or Server. They are good options.