Where can I get free photos for PowerPoint?

August 29, 2012

Free photos!Boring PowerPoint’s for chumps, and by now we all know that photographs can really elevate a presentation. What they can also elevate are your expenses, because royalty-free photographs can run into some money depending on how many you include.

Some people think that images they find online are free because they are, well, online. This is wrong, and in many cases it is a breach of copyright law to use photos you find online without paying for them. Unless you are given explicit permission, whether it is granted to you in writing or if you have purchased a license, you shouldn’t use photographs you’ve found on the Internet in your presentation. You have to dig deeper than a simple Google image search.

This doesn’t mean there are no free images available to you. On the contrary, there are many ways to get free photographs for your PowerPoint presentations or for personal use that won’t land you in Copyright Court.

  • MorgueFile is a “public image archive by creatives for creatives” that offers thousands of free images.
  • Stock.xchng has a robust search engine and the ability to create lightboxes (collections of photos) which you can share with others.
  • Wikimedia Commons is a vast collection of photographs, many of which are in the public domain. This means that the copyright has expired and you can use the photos freely. Other images are offered under the Creative Commons license, which means that you must “attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.” This is usually as simple as putting the phrase “Image © 2012 Joe Smith via Wikimedia Commons” on or near the image in your presentation. Scroll down the screen to determine what the copyright situation is for each image you find.
  • Use your own pictures. How many of us have a smartphone that can take pictures? OK, you can put your hands down; I can’t see you anyway. If your smartphone takes high-resolution photos then why not use some of these in your presentations? Or you could use your digital camera for better resolution. Images of clouds, grass, city streets, traffic signs, and any number of subjects are just a click away. And you can submit your own photos to MorgueFile or Stock.xchng if you want to share the wealth.

One big caveat

You knew that the other shoe had to drop sometime, right?

Photographs of people require special consideration. If it’s impossible to tell who the people are, such as in a blurred image of a crowd, a hand holding an object, or a foot kicking a ball, then you don’t have to worry. But photographs of identifiable people require a model release — written permission from the subject of the photograph to use the image for commercial purposes (e.g., your PowerPoint presentation). You can get into legal trouble for using a person’s photograph without their explicit permission, especially if your use implies their endorsement of your product or idea.

Stock photography companies take care of obtaining model releases, but there’s not much governance on the free photo sites. If you’re using your own photographs, the same rule applies: get a model release or don’t use pictures of identifiable people.


Free Photo Resources for PowerPoint

July 20, 2011

We all know by now that pictures can often help you to communicate better than words. And that people hate, hate, HATE text-heavy PowerPoint slides. So armed with that knowledge, you set out to transform your boring deck into a beautiful gallery of effective photography. But where do you go for pictures? And what if you’re a big cheapskate frugal and you don’t want to pay for them? There are plenty of free photo resources available to the savvy PowerPoint Ranger.

Clip art windowPowerPoint Clip Art Panel

In an earlier blog post, I told you about PowerPoint’s vast clip art collection. Although it’s called “clip art” there’s more here than just cheesy drawings and animated GIFs. There are plenty of photographs to choose from, and of course they are all free to use.

Not only that, you can edit these pictures in Photoshop or Microsoft Paint to suit your own needs. Follow these simple steps to get an editable picture file:

  1. Place the image you want to edit on a blank slide.
  2. Enlarge it to fit the whole slide.
  3. Right-click on the image and select “Save as Picture.”
  4. Give it a memorable name and save it.
  5. Open this file in Photoshop and edit away!

Free Photo Web SitesEmpty purse

There are many Web sites that offer high-resolution photographs suitable for PowerPoint that are free for commercial or personal use. Here are some of my favorites:

MorgueFile: This site “for creatives, by creatives” offers a dizzying variety of photographs and a decent search engine. They ask only that you share the love by uploading some of your own copyright-free work once in a while.

Wikimedia Commons: With over 10 million photos, sounds, and videos, this is a great resource for all kinds of media. Some media are in the public domain and are free to use practically any way you like. Other media require an attribution, which is as simple as including “Image (c) Joe Blow via Wikimedia Commons” somewhere on the slide.

FreeRange Stock: Again, loads of photos here but be careful because when you search for images the ones at the top of the list are from Shutterstock and will cost you. Not much, but the focus of this blog is on free not cheap.

NASA Images: If you’re doing a space or aeronautics themed deck, then this site is for you! The images are gorgeous and can be used commercially or for personal use.

Before you use an image in a presentation it’s always a good idea to check the terms and conditions of use. Often these vary depending on the image chosen, and can even vary within the same site. Keeping on top of copyright issues is one of the things that separates the PowerPoint pros from the amateurs.


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