A photo is one of the first types of visuals that many presenters use. It could be product photo, team photo, technical drawing, or any other image that illustrates what you are speaking about. It is easy to insert a photo on a slide and in this lesson I will share where you can find photos that you can use, why you need to beware of using images from the web, and some tips on making photos have greater impact on slides.
Microsoft’s image library is gone
Microsoft used to make available over 150,000 images you could use for free in your presentations, but in 2014 they removed that capability from PowerPoint. They replaced it with a link to search on Bing for images that are licensed under the Creative Commons license. This sounds great until you realize that almost all these photos require you to attribute the photo on your slide and force you to release your entire presentation publicly. Yes, all your private or proprietary information must be released just for including one photo in your presentation. This is not a good solution for corporate presenters.
I wrote an article with a long list of places to get royalty free images here. The two places I start with are morguefile.com and Wikimedia Commons at commons.wikimedia.org. Many morguefile images can be freely used in commercial presentations. Many Wikimedia images are also covered by the different Creative Commons licenses, so you need to follow the guidelines on citing the source of the photo and you only use photos that are allowed to be used in commercial projects without having to make the result publicly shareable. There is no cost to use these photos, but you must follow their rules of usage.
Find reasonable priced photos on micro-stock sites
If you can't find an image on one of these two free sites, you can purchase the use of professional images on micro-stock sites like istockphoto.com or shutterstock.com. These sites judge every photo before it gets on the site, assuring you that you are looking through only professional quality images. Select the one you want to use, pay the usage fee (usually around $10 or so) and download the image to your computer. With more and more organizations having site licenses for these micro-stock sites, check with your marketing or communications department to see if you already have access to some of the images from theses websites.
Don't steal photos from websites
The one place you should NOT get images is from a web search or a photo uploading website. Just because a photo is on a website doesn't mean you can use it. Many presenters believe in a myth that everything on the web is free. The reality is that everything is copyrighted and you need permission to use it. There are numerous stories of people being sued for using web images without proper permission. With so many great images available from the sources I've mentioned above, there is no need to risk your reputation by using an image found in a web search.
Make the photo have impact
Once you insert the photo on to your slide, make sure it has the greatest impact possible. Use the cropping tool to remove any parts of the image that don't relate to the point you are making. You don't want the audience distracted by something in the background. If you want to remove the background around a product or person, use the tools in PowerPoint to remove the background or make a single color transparent. Once you have isolated the key part of the photo, make it as large as you can so it is easy to see. If you need to, adjust the brightness or contrast of the photo in PowerPoint so it will look good on the projector with the lighting in the room.
Here are some more resources for working with images on your slides:
This is one of the lessons in my free seven day e-course that will help you create more effective PowerPoint presentations. If you reached this page from a web search, you can sign up to get all seven e-mails delivered to your Inbox by filling in the information in the form located at the top right of this page.
(updated April 2015 to reflect the change in Microsoft's image library)
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.