“A picture speaks a thousand words.”
This old adage might be a bit of a cliché, but it’s also undeniably true.
The human brain processes visual information an incredible 60,000 times faster than it processes text. So whenever and wherever you’re trying to convey a message, photos and graphics have a big part to play.
And when it comes to presentations, the right images will help you capture your audience’s attention, communicate your story more effectively, and make your info more memorable to boot.
On the other hand, the wrong images can clutter your slides and cloud your core message.
So how do you choose the perfect photos for your slide backgrounds — the ones that will complement and clarify your message, rather than muddling it? Here are our top tips…
- Ask yourself: does this image support my story?
- Get comfortable with white space
- Keep it simple
- Think about color contrast
- Always, always pick high-resolution images
- Consistency is key
- Remember your brand guidelines
- Now you’re ready to choose your pics!
1. Ask yourself: does this image support my story?
There’s no point in using an image just for the sake of it. The prettiest or most evocative photo is meaningless unless it has a strong connection to the content it sits next to.
That’s why you should choose photos that fit your overall topic and the information being conveyed on each slide. A clear link between image and text will help to enhance your message.
And be creative with it. A literal image works fine, but a metaphorical image is more likely to provoke thought and emotion in your audience, helping you to explain even the most day-to-day topics in a more engaging way.
If you’re keen to find a metaphorical or symbolic image, try searching image sites for abstract words. Terms like happiness, progress, or freedom will produce much more interesting image results than group of people or people working.
2. Get comfortable with white space
When we talk about white space or negative space, we’re simply referring to any empty space on your slide that is just plain white (or any other color/texture, but doesn’t have any subjects).
This is the space you’ll reserve for text and other design elements. Without white space, your text won’t stand out and the image will dominate, leaving your message by the wayside, or the slide will appear crowded, overwhelming your audience.
Sure, you may have one or two slides in your presentation which are full-bleed images with no text. But try to avoid this as a blanket approach; a great presentation design brings images and words together harmoniously.
3. Keep it simple
Complex or busy images will clutter your slides. Your audience will struggle to make sense of what they see on screen, or they might find it difficult to read any text that sits on top of the image.
If you want to make it easy for your audience, then you’ve got to keep it simple.
Choose photos that have an immediate, intuitive meaning and focal point. Try to position this focal point to the right or left of the photo (you can crop the image down if you have to), and leave plenty of white space around it for text, as discussed above. This will keep your image and your text in balance and allow both to convey their message effectively.
Bonus tip: if your photo features a person in profile, have them looking toward your text rather than away from it. Studies have shown that our brains are hard-wired to follow the gaze of other people, even when they appear in images. So position your photos according to this rule and your audience will be subconsciously drawn to your slide’s written content.
4. Think about color contrast
It’s not just about what’s in the image you’re using, but the overall impact it creates.
You might think that really colorful and high contrast photos will help to capture your audience’s attention, but it’s actually low contrast photos (that don’t contain a wide range of dark and light color tones) that work best.
Pick a largely dark-toned image and white text will stand out when placed over it. Likewise, dark text will pop when it sits on a light-color background.
Images are important, but you still need to make sure your text is clear! It has to be easy to read, even for someone sitting at the back of the room. So don’t let your image color drown out your copy.
5. Always, always pick high-resolution images
You may have found the perfect image, with spot-on symbolism and low contrast tones… but if it’s not high-res enough, it has to be a no-go.
Any image you use should be great quality. Pictures that are grainy, blurry, or too small will pixelate on the screen and make your presentation look amateurish, compromising your message.
If you’re searching online for photos to use, you can filter your results so that only the biggest come up. On Google Images, for example, simply click ‘Tools’ then ‘Size’ and then ‘Large’.
Some image results may be too big, some may be too small. Either way, whenever resizing an image make sure to retain the original aspect ratio. If you don’t, you may end up with a photo that looks stretched or squished.
Remember that your presentation will inevitably create an impression of you, your brand, and the information you’re conveying. You don’t want an audience to doubt, even for a second, that you or your message are of top-level quality and professionalism.
6. Consistency is key
Do your presentation photos add up to a cohesive story? Photos should be an integral part of your presentation design, not something you source and add at the last minute.
Having your imagery in mind throughout the entirety of the design process will help you to achieve consistency.
And it’s not about one perfect image; you need a whole set of images that follow a common thread, both in terms of their aesthetic style and their meaning.
For instance, if you’ve picked out a few black and white photos, stick with that theme and use black and white images throughout the presentation.
Also, try running through your presentation with the images only. Would you still be able to present? Is the narrative still clear? If yes, then you’re on the right track.
7. Remember your brand guidelines
Every brand has its own personality: serious and reliable, fun and playful, cutting edge and inspiring, or honest and down-to-earth.
Whatever the qualities of your company or organization, your presentation should convey the same values. Incorporating your branding will help to confirm your credibility and allow you to stand out from the competition.
You can bring your brand into a presentation by choosing photos that echo the brand’s color scheme, subject matter, and style.
For instance, an eco-friendly brand might use presentation imagery full of natural blue and green tones, and include photos of the great outdoors. Or a financial services company might opt for a mainly dark blue, black, and white palette, and images that convey precision and expertise.
If your company has them, refer to brand guidelines as you design your presentation. Otherwise, take a look at the types of colors and images on the company website, then use these as your style guide when finding the right images for your slide backgrounds.
Now you’re ready to choose your pics!
Selecting the right background images can make or break a presentation design.
If you really want to grab an audience’s attention, and help them to understand and remember your message, finding the perfect photos is key.
Choose simple images that support, rather than detract, from your text. Tell a story with your photos — don’t let them overpower your words, find harmony with white space and image sizing. And always keep brand guidelines in mind.
Looking for more presentation inspiration?
At SlidesCarnival, we have a huge library of Google Slides and PowerPoint templates that are completely free to download, edit, and customize. Browse the collection to find great design ideas that are sure to make your presentation stand out.