Government Photos you can use; Issue #195 October 6, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Government Photos

In almost every workshop that I do, someone asks where you can get great photos to use in your presentation. I always mention Microsoft’s online library of images that is accessible through PowerPoint, stock photography sites such as and pictures you take yourself. Today I’d like to discuss another source that is available free of charge in most cases.

Governments have staff who take photographs as part of their jobs, and many times these photos are quite good. Fortunately, these photos also belong to the government and the various departments and agencies have generously made a lot of these photos available for use without charge. You do have to read their licensing terms, but it normally just asks that you include a short source description at the bottom of your slide in small font. Here is a photo of a sunrise in Alaska from the NOAA Photo Library listed below (taken by Commander John Bortniak, NOAA Corps).

The availability of these photos varies from country to country, and today I’ll use the US government as the example of one that offers a vast collection online. Let’s look at some of the sites and what they offer.

Bureau of Land Management ( – amazing scenery photos with a search by state and keyword available; includes some photos of people engaged in activities such as white-water rafting; this pages has links to other government photo sites as a bonus

U.S. Department of the Interior ( – wide selection of topics including aerial photographs (some require payment) to photos of national parks, monuments and historical sites

U.S. Geological Survey ( – in addition to photos, also includes videos; collections include climate change, geology, people at work, native activities and more

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( – amazing photos of coastlines, aquatic animals, weather and more

How can you use these photos? Here are just a few ideas. Obviously if you are speaking about the environment or talking about an environmental aspect of your topic, these photos could be used. If you want to illustrate a point by using an analogy to weather or a particular animal, these photos can make the point visually. When speaking about a particular place, you could include a photo of a well-known location that is close-by to give your audience context. And if you want to show people at work, some of these photos will be just what you need.

Photos are one of the powerful ways to communicate our ideas. We can use the sources that we usually use, and we can add great public domain photos like the ones on the sites above to enhance our message. Check out these photos, bookmark the sites and discover the photos that governments make available for no charge.