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11 Dos and Don'ts of Using Images in Presentations
Anuj Malhotra

Anuj Malhotra

February 11 2016
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Many presenters are using images horribly in their presentations!


From pixelated visuals to copyright images with watermarks clearly visible on them to many other disasters, presenters are coming up with unique ways to kill all the fun. Are you guilty of poor selection of visuals? Are your experiments at creating visual slides turning into disasters?


Lucky for you, we have put together a complete list of dos and don’ts for adding images to slides. You won’t believe how a little care while handling images can make your presentation a visual success. Ready for some introspection? Compare yourself with these 11 yardsticks to determine your visual literacy:


Visuals in Presentations: Best and Worst Practices


Sin 1: Using pixelated or blurry images

It’s not that presenters do not see that the image in their slide is of poor quality but that is the last desperate move they make when they can’t find any better visual in its place. Sorry folks, you have to search harder for that high quality image. If you have to shell out a few dollars, then do. But a blurry image casts a very poor impression.


Image Sin 1- Blurred picture


Sin 2: Tiny Images

Don’t use tiny images that require audience to carry binoculars. A high quality image lets you play up that visual on your slide, so go for it. For instance, in the Don’t slide below, the presenter has killed the action picture of football by using it up in such small space.


WHAT TO DO: If you have lots of text to incorporate, allocate half the slide to text and half to the image as you can see in the Do slide below:


Image Sin 2- Using tiny images


Sin 3: Overuse of visuals

These presenters are the ones who have taken the use-image-advice a bit too seriously. They collect as many images as can be fit into a slide and squeeze their content into the space left. Why do they do this? They find several relevant visuals for a single slide. For instance, in the Don’t slide below, the presenter has a slide on business goals and objectives of a start-up. All visuals used in the slide are pretty relevant and the slide would have been great if the presenter went with a single, big image.


WHAT TO DO: Choose one high quality image that sums up the main theme of the slide. Choose any visual that represents Goals and Objectives; it’s not necessary to pick an image for each of those goals. If you want to show each goal visually, dedicate a complete slide to each. Check out the difference:


Image Sin 3- Images kept haphazardly


Sin 4: Multiple pictures arranged poorly

Yes, there are times when the slide warrants multiple pictures. A campus view, various benefits of a product, trip collage, etc. require you to arrange multiple visuals aesthetically. This, however, requires basic design knowledge such as giving frames or borders to each image. The Don’t slide below is a bad way to arrange your images.


WHAT TO DO: Place your image along grids using the Gridlines feature (View tab) in PowerPoint. Or give them a frame using the default frames in PowerPoint (Format tab). The Do slide below is a good way to arranged multiple pictures in a single slide.


Image Sin 4- Ugly Collages


Sin 5: Cliparts that add no value, except shock value

If you haven’t heard so many presentation experts screaming their heads off calling clipart crappy and tacky, hear us now. These cartoonish characters add absolutely no value to your slide and make you look a tacky presenter too. An exception is always there, say designing a cartoonish slide is your purpose, but they don’t stand a chance in a corporate presentation. In the Don’t slide below, the clipart of suited professionals can still be forgiven but why not show your awesomeness like the Do slide shows.


WHAT TO DO: Nothing, just forget about clipart. Any visual would look better than it.


Image Sin 5- Tacky cliparts


Sin 6: Watermark Images

This is the worst sin of all. Even if you make the image small enough to hide the watermark, many in the audience would be quick to spot it and trust us, it’s the worst thing that can mar the reputation of a presenter.


WHAT TO DO: Need we say anything here? Please buy the image; don’t attempt to blur or remove the watermark even if you know how to do it.


Image Sin 6- Copyright Visuals


Sin 7: Pictures with headache-inducing backgrounds

Unless your objective is to perform a hypnosis session or cause excruciating pain to audience’s eyes, never choose a visual that has swirls, rainbows and other distracting elements in the background. Moreover, the content fails to stand apart from the background making it very difficult (practically impossible) for the audience to read the content. The Don’t slide below is a perfect example of what not to do.


WHAT TO DO: Choose an impressive visual that covers the whole slide. If you want to show growth, there are hundred options you can choose from- towering building, bar diagram, growth of a plant from sapling to tree, ladder steps, etc. If you have lots of text to accommodate within the slide, add a transparent layer over the complete image and then place your content. As you can see in the Do slide below, the image and content complement each other to create a professional, sophisticated presentation slide.


Image Sin 7- Jarring background colors



Sin 8: Amputating people while cropping images

Don’t be merciless while cropping images. Place yourself in the shoes of the person you are cropping. Would you like to see your photo with one arm missing? Obviously not. But yes, cropping an image to make it fit within the slide and to accommodate text at the same time is indeed tricky. As a presenter, you have to cut off portion of an image without making it look awkward. How do you that?  


One tip that all professional photographers give, while composing an image or cropping it post production, is to “never crop at joints”. Don’t cut off the person’s feet, fingers, and at the points dissecting any body part. See the Don’t slide below; the image composition doesn’t give due respect to the CEO.


WHAT TO DO: If the image itself is poorly composed, you need to take it again or choose a different picture. In the Do slide below, a different image has been taken and it’s taking up the same area without any need for cropping.


Image Sin 8- Bad cropping of photos


But what do you if you have a large-sized image that covers the complete slide space? Chop off all body parts left and right so that you can show the faces? Let’s take another example. Check out the Don’t slide below which has been brutally cropped to fit the content. Even the head and the crucial handshake signifying partnership has been hacked for convenience.


Now, check the Do slide- you only need to minimise the photo, crop the unnecessary portions (not the limbs, please), give it a nice frame (Go to the Format tab and check out the default Picture Styles) and tilt the photo to make it stand out and relevant to the slide. Not bad, uh?


Image Sin 8.1- Poor cutting of photos


Sin 9- Badly stretched photos

This sin is unforgivable and makes your slide an eyesore of the worst kind. Even if the stretched photo is of a high quality! What was the presenter thinking? We know. The presenter has a picture of a certain dimension, say in a portrait style, but wants to display it in the landscape format. So he stretches it to accomplish his mission knowing the damage he is doing to the image and the complete slide.


The Don’t slide below is an adaptation of a similar slide I came across on a presentation sharing platform. This also happens when a presenter chooses a shape and uses the Picture fill option in PowerPoint to fill the area with an image. If the image has a different aspect ratio than the area of the shape, PowerPoint will stretch the photo to fill the area, distorting the image in this process.


Image Sin 9- Stretched photo


WHAT TO DO: If you use the Picture Fill option in PowerPoint and the image gets stretched, follow these simple steps:


  • Click the stretched photo
  • Go to the Format tab on PowerPoint ribbon
  • Under the Crop dropdown menu, choose the Fill option (see the screenshot below)

PowerPoint will resize the image while maintaining the original aspect ratio of the image:


How to resize images in PowerPoint correctly


You can now drag the photo to adjust the required portion within the area. This might not work in your favor because you can’t have the teacher, student as well as the book within the small rectangular shape.


Check out what we did in the Do slide again. We cropped the photo and removed the white space in the image, chose a white background so that the image gels in smoothly, drew a circular outline around the image and placed our content alongside the image. You can try this or some other design trick, but stretching won’t do. Even a slight stretching distorts the image and is easily noticeable casting a bad impression on the presenter.


Sin 10: Using irrelevant silhouettes or other images

Silhouettes aren’t all that bad. They can be used if you want a visual element in your presentation but don’t want the audience to be distracted by the details. But adding silhouette just for the sake of it distracts the audience even more.


In the Don’t slide, the silhouette of a businesswoman doesn’t say anything. In a slide already having one visual element- a line chart- adding the silhouette is unnecessary and makes it difficult for the audience to read the chart values.


WHAT TO DO: Choose an image that adds value to your content. If it doesn’t, simply scrap it. The Do slide looks much better and cleaner with simply the graph:


Image Sin 10- Irrelevant silhouettes


Sin 11: Image with a thick outline

Creativity sometimes misfires and gives an unpleasant look and feel to your slide. One such creative effort is giving very thick border line to an image. The frame becomes as heavy as the image itself making one wonder what is more important- the image or the frame. Even if you picked the same from PowerPoint’s default Picture Styles, it doesn’t mean it is suitable for your presentation. In the Don’t slide below, the frame seems to be jumping from the slide and is too harsh on the eyes.


WHAT TO DO: If you wish to give it an outline, don’t keep the width of the line more than 1 point. Pick a light color for the outline if the background is dark. In the Do slide below, we encapsulated the image within a circle so that it doesn’t look jutting out of the slide. The outline was also chosen white and the width was kept at 1 point. The color of the text was picked as white to have a soothing contrast and not as jarring as black and red.


Image Sin 11- Using very thick borders


BONUS TIP 1: Characters in the image should look within the slide

Now this is a small error that dilutes the impact of a slide. It’s a basic human behavior to look where others are looking. This knowledge of eye movement should guide you while choosing images for your PowerPoint presentation too.


If you have an image looking out of the slide, the audience tends to look there too and returns to the slide to read the content. For a brief second or so, you disconnect with the audience. If the image, instead, looks into the slide towards the content, the audience first looks at the image and then reads the content, their attention focused within the slide. This is exactly what you want. The Don’t slide below is an example how you should not be placing your image.


WHAT TO DO: You can move the image to the other side of the slide like we did in the Do slide below. Else, you can flip the image within PowerPoint using the Rotate feature. Select the image, go to the Format tab, locate the Rotate dropdown menu and click Flip Horizontal. That solves the problem too!


Image should look inside the slide, not outside


BONUS TIP 2: Maintain consistency of images throughout the presentation

You should not be using a clipart on one slide, an image on another and an illustration in a different slide. Avoid too much variation as it breaks the smooth flow of a presentation. It makes you look like an amateur presenter.


There can be countless other ways to screw your slides. To save your skin, show your presentation to your family member or close friend before putting it online or broadcasting it before an audience. Trust us, you’ll be saved from many embarrassing mistakes with this exercise. If you have come across any other visual disasters, share with us in the comments below.


Spread the visual literacy by sharing this article with your friends and followers. Here’s a pre-populated tweet to get you started!

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66 thoughts on “11 Dos and Don'ts of Using Images in Presentations”
  1. Peter Mellow
    Peter Mellow
    Great article, thank you! You could include one more thing. Ensure that you use copyright compliant images and attribute the image's author. It's the legal and ethical thing to do.

    1. slideteam
      Well said Peter. Indeed, even if a copyrighted image is being used for educational purposes (fair use), it's common decency to attribute the author of the image. Glad you brought up this point!
  2. Jaime Salcedo
    Jaime Salcedo
    Artículo interesante y útil. Sin embargo en sus diapositivas veo algunos aspectos mejorables; a) tienen mucho texto; b) letra muy pequeña, recuerde la ley Kawasaki: 10 - 20 - 30; c) empleo de muchas seriaciones; d) fondo rojo, hay personas que no pueden distinguir ni el rojo ni el verde.

    It is an interesting and useful article. But I see in your slides some areas for improvement: a) have a lot of text; b) very small print, remember the Kawasaki law: 10 - 20 - 30; c) use of many bulleted points; d) red background, there are people who can not distinguish neither red nor green.

    Thanks a lot.
    1. Anuj Malhotra
      Thank you for those suggestions Jaime. I agree with all of your points but there was a reason why I did not change those. a) There are many presentations that need to be descriptive. The presenter is not projecting them on screen but sending it as an attachment to be read at leisure like Slide in point 2 which has a lot of text. So, I showed how one can make the slide visually attractive without sacrificing the content.
      b) Yes, the Kawasaki law is indeed an invaluable principle, there was scope for me to increase the font size although not 30 for the same reason as I gave above.
      d) The red-green color advice is a great advice. Although many businesses are now opting for maroon color in their backgrounds but we should keep your point in mind too and use it as less as possible. Thanks once again. :)
      1. Kevin
        What if Green is part of your company's brand, is there such thing as a "better" green? Our companies slide background is a varying dark forest green color.

        Thank you!
        1. slideteam
          Definitely there is a "better green" Kevin. Teal green and turquoise green are currently the most popular background colors being used for slides. You should definitely try them out. Even a varying color of dark forest green that you use for your slide background is a good choice since it will lend a rich contrast (when you use light colored text over the background). Check out this image for the different greens you can try for your presentation backgrounds:

  3. Ramakrishna
    Good information for presenters. Audience feel elated if we take care of these issues during presentation.
    1. slideteam
      Yes absolutely, Ramakrishna!
  4. Dr. Vibha Dwivedi
    Dr. Vibha Dwivedi
    1. slideteam
      Thank you Dr. Dwivedi!
  5. Connie
    I appreciated the recommendations and examples in this article. Several were reminders and a few were a new way of looking at presenting content and supporting images. I have a few suggestions:
    - check your company's style guide to ensure you are following company guidelines.
    - don't use colors that may hinder those with color blindness
    - for the authors of the article, proofread and edit your content, check your grammar, look for missing words and subject verb agreement for example.
    1. slideteam
      Thank you for your suggestions Connie! Much appreciated.
  6. Bouchra Bakach
    Bouchra Bakach
    Great and very useful article. I will definitely share it with my faculty.
    1. slideteam
      That's great to hear Bouchra, thank you. :)
  7. Terence White
    Terence White
    Great article,
    1. slideteam
      Thank you Terence!
  8. Devadassen Arassen-PILLAY
    Devadassen Arassen-PILLAY
    Insightful indeed!
    Thank you.
    1. slideteam
      Thank you Devadassen for appreciating. :)
  9. Dr. S. K. Gupta
    Dr. S. K. Gupta
    Important Tips
    1. slideteam
      Glad these tips were useful to you Dr Gupta!
  10. Sk khor
    Sk khor
    If a company logo must be in all slides , can u share where is the good place to put so that we can handle slides with images ? What kind of size of the logo shld be ?
    1. slideteam
      The placement of the logo depends on the template that you are using. If you have lots of white space on the top, logo can be placed there at the top right. If conversely you find good space at the bottom, you can place your logo there. The size of the logo and its placement should be such that it is visible but should not overpower the main message of the slide. Please go through the below link to see some slides created by our custom design services team. You can get a lot of ideas for your logo placement from here:

      P.S. The top right and bottom right are the best if you wish to use logo on all slides. That ways, it won't interfere with your images!
  11. Jane
    Excellent article - so many people could benefit from this!
    1. slideteam
      Thank you so much Jane! :)
    Thanks Mr. Anuj Malhotra
    Great article
    1. slideteam
      Glad you liked it Mr. Ali, thank you.
  13. Abijah Jumani
    Abijah Jumani
    Great Research...!!!!

    What if i want my text to merge with the picture... yet allow the audience to read it as well...??
    Are there any provisions thereto...??
    Plz let me know...
    1. slideteam
      Yes Abijah, there is a provision to do so. Check Hack number 4 we shared in this article. That is the perfect design to meet your requirement.

      And thank you for liking the post. :)
  14. Gianfranco Marini
    Gianfranco Marini
    I'm an italian teacher, Great post. Can I translate your post in italian using your images quoting your name and insert a link to the article?
    1. slideteam
      Hi Gianfranco, yes you may translate our post for the benefit of your readers. As you mentioned, do quote our website name and insert a link that links back to our website. All the best!
      1. Gianfranco Marini
        Gianfranco Marini
        This is my translation of your post
        Thank you again
        1. slideteam
          Looks great. Hope your readers benefit from these tips. All the best!
  15. Gianfranco Marini
    Gianfranco Marini
    Thanks :-)
    1. slideteam
      You are welcome. :)
  16. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
    Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
    I really like the design of the Do slide for “health benefits” (sin 4). I’ll have to try that layout myself!

    One question: Someone showed me that older PowerPoint versions can slightly blur a picture if you apply a default frame from the Format tab. Is that fixed in PowerPoint 2013?

    The sin I was looking out for in this list is #9 – stretching the picture. That makes the presenter look so amateur! And yet you see it in most slide decks.

    I’d be interested in your opinion on this makeover I did of a speaker’s bio slide. The new slide anchors the speaker’s photo on a “belly band”, instead of the photo just “floating” aimlessly. See what you think.
    1. slideteam
      Hi Craig, we tried applying a default frame on a picture in PowerPoint 2013 and noticed the quality of images to be noticeably better. You are right, the picture would get blurred in earlier versions. We also went through your makeover post, those are great tips! You could also try using a different shape and inserting your picture within that shape. Check out hack 5 in our post to know what we mean- . That ways, the image would like a part of the slide and not appear as having been put abruptly. If the picture is of good quality, you could also try vertical split layout and cover one half of the slide with the image. Your tips are pretty handy too! Sorry for the late reply.
      1. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
        Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)
        No problem! Thanks for answering my question, and for your other suggestions too.
        1. slideteam
          It's been our pleasure!
  17. Fityan Nurul Sofa
    Fityan Nurul Sofa
    thanks a lot team
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure Fityan! :)
  18. Chris
    Thanks for the post and the tips.
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure Chris! :)
  19. La Ode
    Thanks for your posting... very useful..I'm an Indonesian teacher. Can I translate your post in Indonesian and quoting your name and insert a link to the origin article from this website?
    1. slideteam
      Hi La Ode, yes you may but please ensure to give us the credit as you mentioned in your comment. :)
  20. Daniela Sellaro
    Daniela Sellaro
    Congratulations! Very good!
    1. slideteam
      Thank you so much Daniela!! :)
  21. Geoff
    Great article- One important question that I really think could be expounded on a bit more- You discussed watermarked images, but more could be said of non-watermarked images. To what extent can web images be used- cover slides designed on wallpapers etc. For example- there is a common image that is accessible at any size all over the internet but is also available for purchase at istock photos. It's not for profit, just for presentation. What should I do?
    1. slideteam
      Hi Geoff, we got your point. The images available on the web may be copyrighted. If it is on istock photos, that means others may have bought it before using it on their website. Even though your presentation is not for profit, we'll advise you to err on the side of caution and check if the image is in public domain before using it. One way to do that is to use is Creative Commons website- All image results on Creative Commons can be used without any fear of copyright infringement. You can also take advantage of free image resources like Pixabay, Unsplas, Gratistography, etc. Hope this information helps you. :)
  22. Amber
    Your post is very helpful,it give me much help,thank you!
    1. slideteam
      Thank you Amber! :)
  23. Dedra
    Thank you for the good writeup.
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure, Dedra! :)
  24. Sherry
    Great article and examples, thanks!!!!
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure, Sherry! :)
  25. Medard Bit
    Medard Bit
    Amazing post. Very informative. Thanks a lot
    1. slideteam
      Our pleasure, Medard! :)
  26. BG Pre Comp
    BG Pre Comp
    Thank you for sharing. Keep posting. Information is really useful
    1. slideteam
      We will! Thanks.
  27. AskariAppLabs
    Everyone wants to make their photos the most beautiful and this blog can be of great help for all those looking to modify their pictures.
    1. slideteam
      We are happy to hear you liked our blog. Stay tuned
    2. slideteam
      Thanks for the appreciation :)
  28. Andrew Walker
    Andrew Walker
    Thank you for this blog. this is a very useful and informative blog about slide presentation.
  29. clippingpixel
    I preferred your page as it tells exhaustively about
    Everything is very open with a precise explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your website is useful.
    1. slideteam
      Your encouragement is greatly appreciated! Glad that my post made a positive impact on you.
  30. Ey Bagay
    Nice article. Very helpful.
    1. slideteam
      We appreciate you taking the time to read this post and leave a positive comment. Readers like you keep our bloggers motivated to continue creating informative content.
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