Use imagery in a slide effectively

Business Benefits

Incorporate images in a presentation to seamlessly reinforce your message.


Use an image service like Unsplash or Pexels that provides high-quality images available for commercial use.

If you or your organization subscribes to a paid stock image service, then use that as a resource.

There are a several free services that provide high quality, royalty-free images:

Both flickr.com and images.google.com have options to limit search results to images that are available through a Creative Commons license. Note that there are different levels of Creative Commons licenses, and most require some form of attribution of the image embedded in the presentation.

Use pictures that you have personally taken only if they are both appropriate and of sufficiently high resolution, well-composed, and well lit.

Use the search engine for the image service of your choice to find an appropriate image.

If you’re struggling to find a graphic that suits, use free association to come up with different search terms. For example, if you look for an image that represents “idea,” and the images returned for that search term do not work, try searching for “light bulb”.

Depending on the presentation and the audience, consider using some light wordplay and/or humor. For example, if your slide is showing key takeaways from the presentation, you can use an image of a neon sign that says "Takeaway. " Before introducing humor, consider the content, audience, and overall tone of the presentation

Check each image carefully to determine if it might be considered offensive by anyone, not just by those in your target audience for the presentation. If you think it would be offensive, find another image.

Scan any images of people and check if they are diverse enough.

Place your images to have a full bleed - no margin around them - to avoid the image look like it’s floating on the slide.

The ability to do this may be constrained by available options in your corporate template.

Use cropping to make the image fit in the desired space.

All major presentation platforms enable cropping images that are added to slides, and you can use it to place an image in a specific space on the slide.

Never stretch or distort an image to make it fit in a specific space.

If overlaying text on the image, make sure there is sufficient contrast between the text and the image.

The following techniques can help you with this:

  • Use low-contrast images. If the image has a range of colors from very bright to very dark, it can be difficult to find a single text color that is readable across the entire image.
  • Adjust the contrast, exposure (lighter or darker), and transparency of the image.
  • Put the text in a rectangle with a solid fill that is partially transparent. For example, put white text in a black-filled rectangle and then adjust the black fill to be 70% transparent, so the image is still visible behind the text, but it’s darker to allow the text to be more contrasted. Also, you can achieve the same result by putting dark text on a white-filled rectangle with its transparency similarly adjusted