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Using Stock Images in Presentations – Part 1

Curation Strategies for the Best Images

Stock photography has been a blessing and a curse for presentation design. With sites like istockphoto.com you can quickly find affordable and professional images. The curse of stock imagery is the effort it takes to sift through thousands of files to find the perfect images to suit your project. There are many stock photo sites of varying price points and quality (i.e., Getty Images, Shutterstock, 123RF) but for the purposes of this article I will focus on iStockphoto.com.

To get the best images for your presentation you need to develop a style of curation (discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content)—a way of approaching the stock photo library which yields the best results in the shortest amount of time. I thought I’d share some of my stock photo curation strategies:

The Idea

When you head to a stock image site, you may have a very specific idea for an image for example, “alarm clock.” If that’s what you need, then search away—you’ll get pages and pages of alarm clocks. However, there are times when you need to cast a wider net with something more conceptual like “sleeplessness.” In which case, I might search using “insomnia” or “tired.” With a broader concept I sometimes perform multiple searches and use the results as a visual “brainstorming” session for ideas. You’d be amazed at how this technique helps you come up with ideas you hadn’t considered.

Refining Your Idea with Keywords and Filters

You type in a keyword, click the “search” button and you’re off and running. You can get fancy by typing a string of comma-separated terms and add quotation marks around a text string to drill down to exactly what you want (e.g., typing “alarm clock” in quotation marks weeds out the wall clocks from your results). I usually start with one or two keywords to see what I get. I can usually tell from the first result screen whether my search is going to yield anything of value.



It’s easy to add keywords to refine the search. Sometimes I add words to narrow the results. I might add something descriptive like “red” or “male.” You might also want to add keywords evoking an emotion like “humor” or “dangerous.”

Another way to narrow your search is to focus on the type of media you’re seeking. For example, if I know I want a photo and not an illustration, I check the photo box to filter out the illustrations, videos, audio and animations. Other filters include price range and creative vs. editorial (images for non-commercial use). There are also some cool filters which allow you define the orientation of the photo (landscape/portrait/square), the color palette and the potential location for copy.



When I find an image with an interesting angle for my idea, I click on the image and click the “Find Similar Files” link. This gives me a new search result using the keyword tags associated with that image. This can be a great way to bring your search into sharper focus or find a family of images to use throughout your presentation.

NEXT POST: Using Stock Images in Presentations – Part 2: Welcome to the Haystack

Real-World Presentation Design is the blog of Radiate Presentation Design. This blog is written for anyone, and everyone, who wants to “step up” their presentation design game.  This blog addresses the real world issues of creating presentations in the modern corporate environment with tips and ideas to help you thrive and survive. And if you ever need help with presentation awesomeness, you know who to contact.