This is part four of a five part series on how I design slides. So far we’ve covered one-idea-per-slide, selecting colors, and selecting a font. Today I’d like to show you how I go about choosing images. Tomorrow we’ll put it all together into a finished product so stay tuned.
There are really three things to think about when choosing images.
1. Show & Tell
Obviously the main reason for using images instead of text is to illustrate what the presenter is saying. If your subject is somewhat abstract or complicated, you may need to be creative in choosing appropriate images. You don’t have to choose the most obvious choice to illustrate an idea. In fact, sometimes it’s good to choose an idea that’s somewhat once removed from the most obvious choice because it engages the audience’s brains and makes them think about why you chose to use a particular image. For example, if you want to illustrate the idea of partnership, you might be tempted to use a picture of two hands shaking in front of a globe. That’s an obvious choice. The low-hanging fruit, if you will. But there are all kinds of other ways to illustrate the same idea. Salt and Pepper, Batman and Robin, Hammer and Nail…you just have to think a little longer to get there. (Note: all of these examples came from page 27 of Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte) By choosing the road (or image) less traveled, you’re certainly on your way to being more memorable.
In our slides, though, we can be pretty straight forward. Let’s look at the text from the slides once again.
Once butterflies are visiting, you can entice them to take up residence by:
Choosing flowers that bloom at different times. Butterflies will stay in your garden if there’s a constant source of nectar.
Providing host plants. Butterflies lay their eggs on host plants and most are very particular. Milkweed, Nettles, and native grasses are the most popular. The prized Eastern Tiger Swallowtail prefers a tree, either a Sycamore or a Willow. The bolder Spicebush Swallowtail prefers Ash, Sassafras, and Tulip trees. If you live on the edge of a field or meadow, you probably don’t need to worry about host plants—there are plenty of them nearby.
Providing shelter from the wind and rain in the form of tall shrubs, vines, and even small trees.
There are all kinds of things we can show here. Butterfly habitats, flowers, various types of plants and trees, several specific species of butterfly, and even some weather formations. All of these should be fairly easy to find images for.
2. Color Scheme
The second thing to keep in mind is the color scheme we chose back on Tuesday. You may remember that we chose one from Adobe Kuler called “Spring Garden”. Here it is again to refresh your memory.
We need to choose images that go along with this color scheme, so the images we select should contain some or all of these colors. It shouldn’t be too difficult, since we chose our color scheme with butterflies and gardens in mind, but this will keep us from choosing black and white imagery, for example. All of the images should look like they belong together.
The third thing to keep in mind is the need for some whitespace. Some images are consumed 100% by their subjects, while some leave room to breathe. It’s this last kind we’re most interested in. This will leave us a place to position the text we want to have on our slides. In my opinion, images with whitespace are often more interesting as well, as the open areas give us a sense of openness and peacefulness that you don’t get with crowded and busy images. For more on whitespace, read the chapter on it (chapter 6) in Garr Reynolds second book, Presentation Zen Design.
We need to make sure we use images that are of a high enough resolution that they won’t appear blurry or pixelated when we use them to fill the background of our slides. Most of the time at least 800 x 600 pixels is about as low as you want to go. Bigger is better in this case, but if you choose an image that’s a lot bigger than that, you’ll be using a large image which will make your file size skyrocket. If you do find a larger image, it’s probably best that you resize it using a tool like Photoshop, GIMP, or even just MS Paint. Also, you may need to crop certain images to make them the size you need. This is fine, as long as you have the right to do so. Check once again with the owners wishes for the use of his/her work.
Seek and You Will Find
The stock photography on iStockPhoto is top-notch and very affordable. There are even tools in the search features that allow you to search for images containing specific colors or with whitespace in a particular place. The only drawback is that the images do cost money, which can make things difficult if you’re on a tight-to-non-existent budget.
The imagery on Flickr has been uploaded by all number of individuals, from casual shutterbugs to professional photographers. But there’s a ton to choose from and much of it is very good. What’s even better is that many of the people have made their imagery available under a Creative Commons license that may allow you to use their images for free, in exchange for your giving them credit whenever you use them. Make sure you pay attention to these rules and respect the wishes of the photo creator.
Using Compfight I was able to find these images which I think meet all three of the above criteria and will work nicely for our presentation.
Image by melolou
Image by brentdanley
Image by Ryan Somma
Image by tanakawho