How To: Find images for presentations

In my previous posting, I discussed how to save, crop and resize image files.

But where can you find images – photographs, logos, graphics – that illustrate your subject and match the theme of your presentation?

Google Image Search

An obvious place to start is with a simple Google search and select ‘Images’ from the top menu bar. This is a fast way to find images on any topic. But the big danger is the copyright ownership of almost all images. Google warns:

The images displayed in a Google Image Search may be protected by copyright, so we can’t grant you the right to use them for any purpose other than viewing them on the web. If you’d like to use images from our image search, we suggest contacting the site’s webmaster to obtain permission.

So be aware, just saying “Picture copyright XYZ” does not cover you.

Assuming you needs images which are not just for your personal use, but for slides which will be shown to an audience, it’s not worth the risk grabbing one from Google or the trouble of asking the sites webmaster for permission.

Your own photographs

Bali Fabrics Don’t overlook the obvious. Use pictures you’ve taken with your own digital camera or a still from a Flip video. Manipulate them by cropping, resizing and saving to your computer.

I took this picture in a market in Laos and I’m just waiting for the right moment to use it as a the background for a title slide.


Ben FranklinWikipedia has an extensive description of the copyright on uploaded images. This means that most of the images in the various articles have clearly labeled copyright terms of use. For example, the article on Ben Franklin has an image which is a photo of the painting by Duplessis hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. The information page on the image makes it clear that it is a Creative Commons image and “photographic reproduction is … considered to be in the public domain.”


Flickr is an awesome image hosting and video hosting website, now owned by Yahoo!. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. In September 2010, it reported that it was hosting more than 5 billion images. It has very clear guidelines on copyright for the images. Many of images are made available under the Creative Commons license. To find these, choose [Advanced Search] and check box near the bottom of the screen ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content’

Flickr Attribution The cleanest Creative Commons license is the simple ‘Attribution’ which gives express permission to use an image if you give attribution to the owner – usually by inserting their name from Flickr under the photo. It could also be included in a closing frame in a video. If you are planning to deliver in a business setting, be aware of the ‘Non-Commercial’ limitation.

Here’s a great photo of a statue of Benjamin Franklin which I’ve attributed to the photographer:

Ben Franklin_boston
cc licensed flickr photo shared by tonythemisfit

Hint: Compfight is a great tool for speeding up your Flickr searches. Be sure to set ‘Creative Commons = only’ to the right of the search bar.


Ben_Franklin_billfold There’s a number of stock photography sites. is my favorite. The images cost $1-2 each and include rights to reproduce for commercial or non-commercial purposes without attribution. There’s a wide range of photographs and graphic illustrations. This photo of Ben Franklin on the $100 bill came from istockphoto.

I make use of Lightboxes to save multiple pictures for a project, and email Lightbox contents for review by colleagues. While you are spec’ing out a project you can download a ‘Comp’ version – a low-res image with the istockphoto watermark embedded. These work as placeholders in your PowerPoint slides to see if they look right.

Once you decide to purchase simply buy some credits and then download the images you like. You’ll only need to download the smallest size available (the one with the minimum number of credits) which work fine for PowerPoint or blogs.

Other resources

I’ve just given a couple of examples from the sources I use. Garr Reynolds has an extensive list of inexpensive and free sites, with many more suggestions in the comments to his original posting. Presentation magazine also lists sites. Some of the commercial stock photo sites like Getty can be quite expensive. Oliver at Rethink Presentations has a useful comparison table which includes pricing information.

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You may be interested in trying a new free service from The University of Nottingham. This is an automatic license attribution tool, which searches for open resources from Wikimedia and Flickr and automatically attributes the appropriate license, greatly simplifying the whole process. See for more details.

Thanks Andy. That’s an interesting tool. I was able to search for “Ben Franklin Boston” and find the Flickr photo of the statue I used above. I liked the various options to ‘Get image with Attribution’, although I did at first have difficulty with the option to ‘Embed in PowerPoint’ and had to ignore an error it returned before I opened the picture with the Attribution text and logos already displayed along the bottom of the photo.

There’s other ‘attribution tools’ out there, including this one from Alan Levine – which I copied the format from for the attribution style in the statue photo above.

Ian: Great series! Thanks for demystifying the process…and for saving presentations from the curses of copyright violation and clip art.

Another low cost source for images:

More sources:

Unsplash They add 10 new photos every 10 days.

Realistic Shots They add seven new photos every week.

Pixabay Over 320,000 free photos, vector images and art illustrations.

Life of Pix Photos are broken down by category in the gallery.

Gratisography High-resolution and high-contrast photos

Free Nature Stock


Snapwire Snaps



Public Domain Archive

Travel Coffee Book

ISO Republic

Foodie’s Feed


Jay Mantri



Startup Stock Photos

Be sure to read The Ultimate Student Guide to Images which covers by UK and US copyright laws and lists sources for legal images.

Here’s a list of 73 of the best sites to find awesome free images. Courtesy of Canva.

Foter is a source of royalty-free images

Here’s a list of 21 Awesome and Free Stock Photo Sites for Social Media Images from the folks at Hootsuite.

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