Using images in your presentations: What not to do

What usually happens when creating a presentation is this:

  1. A huge body of text is placed on the slide
  2. With some luck, a little white space remains visible
  3. That white space is filled with one or more small images – for example, a little, white, round character holding a sign that says ‘Strategy’ or the word ‘Communication’ on coloured blocks or a photo of racially diverse people giving a thumbs up

Today, we would like to say loud and clear that this is the WRONG way to use images in your presentation.

Of course, making your presentations visually rich is important. Why? Because the brain processes visual information 30 times faster than verbal information. So if you want to get your point across quickly and effectively, images are the way to go.

That said, there are some important ground rules for using images in your presentations. Here’s what NOT to do when selecting images.

1) Don’t pick cheesy images

Images of people in suits fist-pumping the air, pictures of round, white characters holding signs, words on coloured blocks, 3D renditions of arrows hitting targets, word clouds and the like are all much too cheesy for your presentation. Likewise, Clipart was fun when you were a kid. But you’re all grown up now. So leave the cartoon characters out of your professional presentations.

team-866663_640download-1002802_640 word-cloud-679939_640

We’ve all seen these kinds of pictures a hundred times and, by now, we never darts-155726_640want to see them again. Help your audience take you seriously (and stay awake) by showing them unique pictures they’ve not seen before.

2) No pixelated pictures, please

This is the 21st century so we’ll have no pixels please. We love Pacman as much as the next person, but we beg you, don’t bring the pixels into your presentations. It instantly undermines the quality of your whole slide deck – and thus, your message.

Make sure the images you select are of high resolution. If your image is crystal clear at 1240×768 size, then it will work in your presentation even when splayed across the entire slide. Anything smaller and it will start getting grainy.

3) Wage war against watermarks

Stock image websites seem to have just the image you’ve been looking for, but boy, are they expensive. So what’s the shortcut? Use them with the watermark of course! Actually, no. Do not try this. For one thing, it’s unethical, and for another, it looks just plain sloppy.

Take the time to find an image that doesn’t have logos splashed all over it. Your audience will thank you with more respect and attention.

4) Let’s not break any laws

Where do you go to find images for your presentation? Raise your hand if the answer is Google Images. Now keep it raised because someone’s sure to slap some handcuffs on it. This may come as a shock, but you can’t just use the images that Google neatly compiles to show you.

“But why ever not?” you ask. Well, those images belong to someone else – the people who took the photos or created the graphics. Using them without permission and/or payment is considered stealing, and you could get in trouble for it.

But how then do you source the high-resolution images we insist you have in your presentation? Well, one option is to take them yourself (provided you have decent photographic sensibilities).

Another option is to find those images on the web that the owners have specifically indicated you can use without repercussion. For example, photos from can all be used for free without violating anyone’s copyright. Plus, they’re high-resolution, cheese-free and not watermarked. Jackpot!


Invest the time to find the perfect pictures for your slides. We promise it will make your presentation far more beautiful, memorable and persuasive.

For professional help in creating visually powerful presentations quickly and easily, drop us a message.

PS – Now you know what NOT to do, check out our post on making images work in your presentations.

Join the fight to

Join our movement of rebels to receive nuggets on how to make your next presentation shine bright,  straight into your inbox…