Editor's Note: The following MVP Monday post is by PowerPoint MVP Geetesh Bajaj
A picture is worth a thousand words – and that’s a saying that has been heard by all of us so often. Yet, there’s more to this saying than what you may think. Not only is there more to this saying, but there are also pros and cons in believing it to be true, as we shall explore in the rest of this article. Incidentally, this article is about using pictures in PowerPoint – and all sayings, observations, and thoughts shared are true for the pictures you insert in your PowerPoint slides!
First of all, let us explore the benefits of using pictures on your slides:
1. Pictures are visual communication – you can convey any idea more effectively through a relevant picture than by just using text alone. Research proves that people learn and retain information that is presented to them visually much better than that which is only provided verbally.
2. Pictures make content more interesting. Look at the story books or even the school books of children in primary classes – while we may believe that we have all grown up and do not need that many visuals any more, the fact is that growing up has nothing to do with the human mind’s need to see more pictorial content!
3. Pictures convince the audience better. Many times, pictures act as proof for what you are speaking about.
Having put across the advantages that pictures provide in grabbing your audience’s attention, there is one caveat you should be aware of. Pictures can do their job of enhancing your presentation’s retention power only when you use the right picture, in the right slide. Here are some guidelines that help you choose the right picture for your PowerPoint slides:
· A picture is only effective if it is relevant to the content of your slide -- just any picture will not work. In situations like this, it is better not to use a picture than using the wrong picture.
· Consider the number of pictures to use. More than one picture to illustrate a single concept is a picture too many. Remember, two pictures may not be worth two thousand words! Yes, you can use multiple pictures if one builds upon the other. For example, you may show a famous building in one picture, and a close-up of some architectural detail in another picture. That way, the second picture would add value to the first picture.
· Don’t compromise with the quality of the picture. Stay away from pictures that are hazy, blurred, unclear, etc.
· A picture that distinctly shows a human being of one race may not work too well in a multi-racial or international audience – in that case, explore using silhouettes. It is surprising how much more you can express with a mere silhouette.
· Do use some text with pictures. This is especially true of captions that may be necessary for some pictures. Or even for credits and copyright notices, if you sourced the picture from a source that needs to be credited.
· Don’t use the pictures that are not copyright free. We discuss this important guideline in detail next.
Very often, slide designers just copy visual content from image search results on Bing or Google, and paste them right into their slides! That’s certainly something that’s needs to be frowned upon!
The worst part is that many of these designers don't believe they are breaking any copyright laws because most people believe that almost anything on the web is free! Unfortunately, that is not true.
There’s absolutely no excuse in not worrying about copyrights these days, especially with the amount of free and low priced visual content that is available copyright free these days. Even if the content was not free or low priced, the loss of reputation and face resulting from such copyright violation is not something any company or professional can disregard these days.
There are some great resources and options available to PowerPoint users from where they can acquire genuinely legal pictures at little or no cost:
1. Office.com: There is no dearth of sites providing royalty-free pictures that can be used in your PowerPoint presentations. But imagine a repository of clip art, photos and sounds that is updated continuously with design reflected by the latest nuances and trends – available to millions of Microsoft Office users free of cost! This site at Office.com comes to you from none other than Microsoft, and everything is royalty free.
2. Creative Commons: Creative Commons pictures are a special kind of visual content. Creative Commons is essentially a license that allows distribution of many media types including pictures. Photographers can provide (license) their work for free under easy terms which benefit both the photographer and the user. For the end user, Creative Commons attributions make it clear if the pictures can be used in commercial applications, if changes can be made, and if any content can only be used for personal use. In all cases, an attribution as specified by the creator must be included when the picture is used. The details of this attribution are usually displayed along with the image on the source web site often in a series of icons or a link to a license page. Some popular sources of Creative Commons pictures are:
a. Creative Commons – Offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations. http://search.creativecommons.org/
b. Google Images – You need to access the Advanced Image Search option, and then select for the Usage Rights dropdown. Choose the Free to use, share or modify, even commercially option in the dropdown list. https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search
c. Wikimedia Commons – You can find more than 10 million categorized, photos, illustrations, footage, sound clips, etc. here. http://commons.wikimedia.org/
d. Flickr – There are more than a hundred million Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr, and 15 million of these have the most flexible "Attribution only" license. http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/
3. Pictures from Digital Cameras, Scanners, and Camera Phones: You can also take pictures using digital cameras, or phones – or also use the scanned photographs for your presentations. Since these pictures are clicked by you, you own the copyright to them most of the time. Do remember that if you click pictures within a private property or even in some public buildings, you do not have copyrights for those pictures – this rule differs from the property to property, and even different public buildings have varied copyright issues. Of course, rules may vary again from country to country.
Once you have included a picture into your presentation, you may want to make some changes to them for various reasons not limited to this list:
· For relevance
· For clarity and quality
· To remove unnecessary detail
· To optimize file size
· To follow size proportions and standards
Older versions of PowerPoint did not include many picture enhancing capabilities, but with PowerPoint 2010 for Windows (and PowerPoint 2011 for Mac), you no longer need a third party picture editing program. PowerPoint does all the edits you may want, and in many cases all edits in PowerPoint are easily undone or reversed as well. We will now explore some of the important picture-editing tasks that can be accomplished within PowerPoint – to access any of these picture editing options, first select your picture so that you can see the Picture Tools Format tab of the Ribbon (see figure below).
All options explained next are available from the buttons on the Picture Tools Format tab:
Remove Background: Among PowerPoint’s newest and most magical abilities is the Remove Background option that lets you remove the background from an inserted picture. This can be a great feature if you want to remove a sky, a wall, any backdrop, or something else in a photograph so that the slide background shows through within the removed parts of the picture. In the figure below, you see a picture in its original form towards the left. Towards the right, you can see the variation of the same picture after removing the background.
Corrections: After inserting the picture on you slide, you may feel that the picture needs some visual corrections. The inserted picture may be too dark or too bright, and you may want it to look normal or even surreal! Sometimes you may want to make some changes to the picture so that it grabs the attention of your audience. These edits can be done using the Correction options. Look at the following figure – the original picture in on the left. The edited picture on the right has some Color Correction options such as Brightness values adjusted.
Color: If the color of a picture you have placed on your slide is far different from the color of other objects on the slide, or if you want to make the picture to be of some particular color to follow a monochromatic Theme, you can then recolor the picture. You can adjust the saturation and color tone of the picture, or you can also choose any of the preset Recolor options available. The figure below shows the picture before and after applying the Color option in PowerPoint 2010.
Artistic Effects: PowerPoint also allows you to apply some filters as in Photoshop or other image editors. You can make your picture look more like a sketch, a drawing, or a painting. You can tweak individual effects further to suit your needs. Compare the original picture on the left with its variation after applying a Sketch filter on the right (see figure below).
Crop: The Crop tool can trim the edges of your picture so that your picture can focus onto an important segment of the picture. In addition, the Crop tool in newer versions of PowerPoint has a new behavior as well – you can choose various shape options to crop the inserted picture to any basic shape in PowerPoint. The figure below shows a picture and its variation cropped to the heart shape.
Picture Styles: PowerPoint allows you to add Picture Styles such as shadows, glows, reflections, soft edges, bevels, and three-dimensional (3-D) rotations and borders to enhance pictures. The figure below shows some examples. The figure below shows examples of some inserted pictures with Picture Styles applied.
We explore quite a bit about using pictures in PowerPoint, and it’s is a great idea to always use pictures in your PowerPoint slides. However, do remember that searching for and choosing the perfect picture is something that cannot be done in a hurry – you must set aside quality time to do this task.
As you become more proficient working with pictures, you can try to reduce the usage of text and bullet points on your slides. This makes your presentation more visually effective.
And finally, a picture on a slide can certainly be worth a thousand words and tell a story, but that story needs to be retold by the presenter or speaker.
Geetesh Bajaj is an awarded Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for over a decade now. He has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 years and heads Indezine, a presentation design studio and content development organization based out of Hyderabad, India.
The MVP Monday Series is created by Melissa Travers. In this series we work to provide readers with a guest post from an MVP every Monday. Melissa is a Community Program Manager for Dynamics, Excel, Office 365, Platforms and SharePoint in the United States. She has been working with MVPs since her early days as Microsoft Exchange Support Engineer when MVPs would answer all the questions in the old newsgroups before she could get to them.