If you want to make your presentation more visually appealing — and go beyond the standard Microsoft clip art — there are many online libraries of free and paid images available.
Knowing what you can and can’t use however can sometimes cause confusion, so here are some pointers as well as 15 sources for both paid and free images to help make your next presentation stunning (and legal).
Guidelines for Using Images
Copyright and permission: Just because it’s easy to copy something doesn’t mean you can legally do so. Unless you have explicit permission to use an image, don’t use it.
Paid vs free images: With so many free images available, you might never need to pay for one. However, paid images sometimes have better quality and fewer restrictions. (For example, you might not need to acknowledge the creator.)
Image quality: Your images should look good on a slide (not blurry or distorted), but they don’t need as high of a resolution as you would use for print. If you’re buying images only for online presentations, don’t spend more for very high-resolution versions. Microsoft suggests that the photo size should match the screen size of your presentation. If you are using a photo for a whole slide, then the resolution will need to be higher.
Photographs vs drawings: Photos are usually more visually appealing, but sometimes icons or clip art are better at conveying an idea. By combining shapes, arrows and small photographs, you can create visually appealing slides that load quickly.
Now let’s look at some sources for free and paid images.
These sites allow you to use their images free of charge and without even crediting the author.
freeimages: An excellent source of free images. You need to register to download images, but that is free.
morgueFile: Another source of free stock photography.
FreeMediaGoo: Small but high-quality collection, many provided by professional photographers.
pixabay: Another collection of free images for your presentations.
Unsplash: Not as comprehensive as some of the others, but they send you 10 very good photos every 10 days. And you can browse the archive for past images.
Free with Attribution
Some images are free, but require you to acknowledge the photographer.
Many of these sites use a Creative Commons licence, which allows you to use the images but only under certain conditions. There are different Creative Commons licences available, so make sure you choose a licence that:
- Allows commercial use (i.e., is not “non-commercial use only”)
- Allows modification (i.e., allows “derivative works”)
- Doesn’t require “share alike” (unless you’re happy to make your presentation available to others under the same Creative Commons licence)
In a presentation slide deck, the most common way to acknowledge the creator is with their name on the slide itself, like this:
Google Images: You should not just copy any images you find on Google, because they are copyright. However, you can filter your search to show images that are labelled for “reuse with modification”.
Flickr: All photos on Flickr are copyrighted, but you can filter your search to include Creative Commons photos that are available for commercial use and can be modified.
FreeDigitalPhotos: An excellent stock library for free and paid images. If you use a free image, you must publish an acknowledgement to the site and the image creator on the slide that the image is used or in a list of references.
Creative Commons Search: This search engine allows you to search many Creative Commons sites from one place.
Big Stock Photo: One of many good stock photography sites. One of its best features is that you can sign up for a month and download five photos a day. This is a very cost-effective way to purchase a bunch of photos for a specific project.
iStockphoto: One of the oldest and most popular stock photo sites (and it now includes audio and video as well). You can either buy images individually or through a bulk subscription.
Dreamstime: Another image library. One of its best features is its advanced search facility, which allows you to search by image size, price, age of picture and even the main colours in it! It also has a free section.
Icons and Clip Art
Finally, here are some sources for finding icons, drawings and clip art for use in your online presentations.
Iconfinder: An excellent search engine for finding icons to use in your slides. Filter the search so it includes those that you can use for commercial projects.
CoffeeCup Icons Pack: A large collection of (paid) icons you can use in your projects. Many of them are higher resolution than what is required for the web, so they are ideal for presentation slide decks.
If you have any other great sources for images, add a comment underneath this post and share away!
Image credit: Mia Domenico via Unsplash