Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Photos In PowerPoint Slides

This makes me appreciate technology!PowerPoint slides are the subject of many articles and posts on the internet. The purpose of this post isn’t to discuss the overuse of  PowerPoint, or the poor quality of many of the slides being created by trainers and presenters, or the fact that if you stand in the dark to show them you might as well go back to a 1960’s era slide show–I’ll write about that some other time–but to suggest a way to enliven the slides and make the text more memorable.

I use PowerPoint slides much as I did overhead transparencies: Text for key points, but with something visual to make the point stick in the minds of participants. One way to do that is to use a few photos in a presentation, much as one might use a photo to add interest to a post such as this one. The attention of audiences is gained immediately when a photo is on the slide, along with important text. (Does the Kodak Instamatic camera look familiar? Remember the flash cube on a stick?)

Of course, technical or professional topics can be illustrated with appropriate photos. And, using photos of people doing the tasks involved with a training topic is an obvious way to put interest in a slide.  Those who have been to my classes know that I use old photos of myself as a police officer as part of my introductory material.  When many in the class know me already I leave out the photos, and inevitably people will ask if I’m going to show them later, because they told others in the class about them.

In addition to these more obvious uses of photos, photos that illustrate a concept are also useful. Photos are particularly useful for illustrating text about personal and professional development, conflict and conflict resolution, setting and achieving goals, workgroups and teams, and then and now. This also allows you to avoid poor quality clipart. (Although I’m not opposed to all clipart–another post topic!)

I often have the photo appear while I briefly discuss a concept, then I have the key text appear. Sometimes I will ask what concept the photo represents, or if anyone has ever seen something like that and thought about the concept we’re going to discuss. When someone says, usually with heavy, but humorous sarcasm that they’ve seen the object, but never thought of that concept, I laugh with everyone else and tell them they will always think of it from now on. I’ll bet that’s true!

 Consider these photos and how they might be used in some of your presentations. Remember, the topics don’t have to be related to the subject of the photo, you only need to link it in some way.

  • Highways, roads, paths, lanes, bridges, street signs and lights, construction zones.
  • Vehicles: Old, new, wrecked, towed, expensive, with bumper stickers, with interesting or funny license plates.
  • Industrial areas: Doors, locks, trucks, security guard buildings, boxes, dumpsters, graffitti.
  • Airports: You can often get great photos of planes taking off, parking lot filled with vehicles, and people.
  • Nature: Flowers, weeds, weather, rocks, water, storms, aftermath of storms.
  • Animals: Domestic and wild, but not doing inappropriate things!
  • People: I’m thinking of having a few students pose for photos illustrating communication scenarios, so I can use them in other classes. If you are training within your own organization, old photos of former or current employees with the office equipment, cars, clothes and hairstyles of the era, can be fun. As a fun farewell after a week-long class, I have sometimes used a photo editor to put faces of students on clipart images. I don’t use those to illustrate important text. And, it was very time-consuming!
  • Almost anything in your home or office can illustrate a point: A book cover, phone, watch, glasses, scissors, pen, key, hot stovetop element, dying plant, broom, or food item.

Photos from stock sites are far too expensive for your purposes, and they look too commercial. The same thing applies to photos from photo and clipart subscription services. I’m not going to preach here about the use of photos from the internet, or photos from magazines or books. Those are usually copyrighted and you may or may not be able to use them legally–that’s up to you to find out and decide. I often look for very old books with old photos, or old magazines and catalogs, as a legal alternative. I have found old photos that were tremendously interesting and that cemented thoughts in the minds of participants.

One surefire method to avoid copyright problems is to take your own photos or use photos taken by others who have given you permission to use them. You don’t need a very fancy camera, tripod or any equipment other than a digital camera with a telephoto lens–although a nice camera and a basic tripod can make it easier to produce some excellent photographic material.  Spend a day or two taking photos now and then. When you download them, think about how all or part of a photo could be used in a presentation. Play around with the photos and topics until you find an interesting nexus.

Insert the photos using the insert/file feature in your powerpoint slide, size it to allow a text box, then type in the text. Do not use more than a few photos in a presentation, and do not attempt to make them all amusing–that will only irritate people.

If you use good judgment and effective photos you will enjoy making your slides, and most importantly, participants will enjoy looking at them. And, anything that captures the attention of participants in a positive way and makes the material memorable, is a good thing.

Here are some photos and scans I have used recently.  How could you use something similar? Challenge yourself to incorporate your own photos into PowerPoint Slides and see if you don’t find it fun and worthwhile for you and the participants.

70 Ford Pinto Teaser Ad.jpgKansas Car Wash Sign-Sarcasm Is Free Here Today-07.JPGJudaculla Rock Postcard-Ancient Rock Markings.jpg








February 20th, 2008 Posted by | Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 2 comments


  1. Me again! I still remember your PowerPoint with the photo of the first mobile phone, and how you tied it into communications, so I can vouch for the fact that it works to use photos. I think you’re a master at using PowerPoint though, because usually I hate to see the screen when I walk into a classroom and yours were interesting all the time. And, don’t ever take out the photos of you in your early career! They are so cute and really show what your work was like then. I figure if you could keep smiling, I sure can now!

    Comment by denisek | February 21, 2008

  2. Thank you, Denise!I found that mobile phone photo while looking through newspaper archives from the 1920s. The article was very positive about the use of mobile phones in cars, and that fascinated me, considering the date. At the time I had no idea how I’d use the photo, but I sure have!

    And, I’ll leave my personal old photos in most of my presentations–though you really shouldn’t talk about them as though they were from way, way, way, WAY back when! 🙂 T.

    Comment by Tina | February 21, 2008

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