How to Create an Amazing PowerPoint Presentation — Photograph Management

40488-142niqkrwajfjg8rkua9axgIn this article, I’ll show you the best ways to select your photographs and give you tips on how to display them in PowerPoint for maximum effect.

Since your photographs will likely be the most compelling visual component of your PowerPoint presentation, careful thought should go into selecting your images.


Be sure your photographs are relevant to your topic. Inserting cartoons, funny pictures or selfies of you and your dog may get you a laugh, but is that the reason you’re presenting? Focus on quality photographs that support your topic and give context to the message you’re relaying to your audience. We’re going pro and your content has to look professional as well.


As you select a photograph, ask yourself, “Does this photograph add value to my presentation?”

Take Quality Shots

Use only high quality photographs. If your photographs are out of focus, not properly lit, contain extraneous stuff or are crooked, be assured projecting these images onto a large screen will enhance the deficiencies. Your audience will certainly spot these problems and may spend more time concerning themselves with your lack of attention to detail than to your message.


Exception to the Quality Rule

As I’ve described in my book, “The Kick Ass College Guide to Presentations” there are occasions in which poor quality photos are not only unavoidable, they’re desirable. This occurs when the photo is of poor quality to begin with, such as old photos like those taken during World War II. These photos may already have a soft focus or in some cases be damaged. Your audience will have no expectation of superior quality when they can see that the photographs are old and the quality out of your control.


Fill the Frame

This is a basic photography technique used by the pros. When you take a photograph, be sure the subject matter fills the majority of the frame. Ensure that your subject appears up close rather than off in the distance. Avoid unusable imagery taking up most of the picture.

If you’re using photographs from another source, you can still ensure that the subject matter has Filled the Frame by cropping the photo to eliminate unnecessary detail. The result is a great looking photograph in which your audience doesn’t have to search for your subject matter.


Displaying Your Photos in PowerPoint

There are two ways to display your photographs in PowerPoint. Which method you choose will be dependent on the impact you hope to make with your photograph, your need to display information along with your photograph, such as a company logo or text, and personal choice.

Full Screen

I like my photos to be shown by themselves, with no edges, header or background visible. By doing so, the projected image is large enough for the audience to enjoy and the details easy to see. This Full Screen method works to deliver the full impact of your photograph.

To use this method, adjust (scale) your photograph so that it covers as much of the slide as possible. Remember — Fill the Frame.

If the photograph is not the same dimension (ratio) as your PowerPoint slide and portions of the background are still visible, change the background of that slide only to black.


Within the Slide

If you want to display your photograph within your slide, here are some guidelines to ensure a great look.

Small pictures are of no value if the audience can’t see them.

Expand your photograph to the largest dimension possible while maintaining a balanced look with your text, header or whatever you put on the slide. If you need some assistance creating that balance, choose one of the preformatted slides within PowerPoint to place your pictures, text or video into their predetermined locations.

Once you’ve determined the dimensions of your first picture, make all subsequent pictures the same size. This will add uniformity to your presentation. Of course, this may not be possible all the time, especially if you have a combination of photographs oriented in landscape and portrait view. However, haphazard placement of various sized photos onto your slides will appear amateurish.

Position your photographs in the same place on each slide. This will make the transition between slides appear smooth. Otherwise with each slide advancement the photographs (and anything else on the slide) will appear to be “hopping” to their next location on the slide.

Centering your photographs is easiest method.

If you’re unable to center your photographs, then ensure that two sides of each photograph on each slide share common borders. For example, be sure that the top and left side of each photograph are aligned in the same place on each slide. This is especially important when your photographs are of various sizes. This too will add a sense of uniformity and improve the look of the transition between slides.


Photo Brightness

Be aware that depending on the projector used for your presentation, your images may be up to 15% darker than what you see on your computer screen. I highly recommend testing your PowerPoint out ahead of time on the equipment you plan to use for your presentation. If your photographs appear too dark, you can use the editing tools built within PowerPoint to brighten the image to an acceptable level. If your presentation is displayed on a flat panel monitor rather than projected onto a screen, your photographs will more closely match what you see on your computer monitor and may not need adjustment.

Final Recommendation

I will be covering this topic more thoroughly in a future article, but it’s too important not to mention here.

PowerPoint has some great features, including a host of animation and transition options. While it’s possible to have your photographs fade into view, tumble onto the screen and cart wheel back off…don’t. Take the time to select quality images that add value to your presentation. I would much rather see five good quality photographs that provide meaning than twenty photos performing circus acts.

Always strive for quality content and a solid delivery.

How to Create an Amazing PowerPoint Presentation — Kill Your Laser Pointer


If you’re using a laser pointer during your PowerPoint presentations, you need to knock it off right now. Laser pointers make great cat toys but have no place in your presentation. Instead of using a fluttering dot of light, I’ll show you two ways to highlight details in your photographs that will give your presentation a professional look.

You can learn more about my aversion to laser pointers in my book, “The Kick Ass College Guide to Presentations.”


The two methods I recommend for highlighting objects involves either using a circle to identify the detail, or create a “zoom” like effect to enlarge the specific detail for your audience to see.

Using a Circle to Highlight the Detail:

Step 1

Insert your photograph onto a slide, preferably in Full Screen (Read more about my Full Screen recommendation in my article about Photograph Management).

Step 2 (Option 1)

In PowerPoint, use the duplicate command to create a copy of the slide containing your photograph. You should now have two of the exact same slide.

Use the shape tools within PowerPoint to insert a shape onto the second of your two slides. You can use whatever shape you want, but generally a circle works well to encompass the detail on the picture you want to highlight.

Be sure the shape is of a contrasting color to the image behind it. I find that red and yellow tend to work well with most images. Also, be sure the line thickness is sufficient so that it’s visible to your audience when projected onto the big screen.

As you advance through your slides during your presentation, you will come to the first photograph. Say whatever you need to about the photograph, and then advance the slide again. When you do, the transition will be seamless. Your photograph will appear to have remained in place and the circle will show up to highlight your detail.

Step 2 (Option 2)

Create a slide with your image. Now, as described above, place your circle, square or arrow onto the image to highlight the detail.

Using the Animations feature in PowerPoint, “instruct” the circle to appear when you advance the slide.

Because you’ve given the circle instructions to “appear,” PowerPoint will assign the next slide advancement to the arrival of your circle. That means, when you first come to your photograph, the circle will not be visible. You can use this time to discuss the relevance of this image to your audience. When you push the slide advance button again, the slide will NOT advance, but rather the circle will appear.

Using one of these two methods not only looks professional, it lets your audience know that you were prepared to discuss the specific detail you’ve highlighted.


If placing a circle around the detail in the photograph is not going improve your audience’s ability to see it, you may need to “zoom” in on the detail.

Zoom Technique

Step 1

Insert your photograph onto a slide, preferably in Full Screen.

Step 2

I recommend using Photoshop Elements or some other image-editing program for this step. Using the selection tool, select the area of the detail you want to highlight. Copy and save that selection to create its own file/JPEG. Scale the new image to make it larger.

Note: Keep in mind that images with small file sizes may become pixelated as you scale them to make them larger. High-resolution images work best for this process

Display Option 1:

Display the newly created detail image by itself, preferably in Full Screen.

Display Option 2:

Superimpose the newly created detail image over the original image, allowing the original image to be partially seen in the background. This option will require some artistic experimentation, but can look great.

If using Display Option 2, please see Step 2 (Option 2) above for instructions on how to mange your images within PowerPoint.


Taking these extra steps to highlight a detail in a photograph may seem like too much work when using a Laser Pointer would suffice. However…

Using a Laser Pointer is a lazy alternative to creating an excellent presentation.

Incorporating these techniques into your presentation will demonstrate to your audience that the details were important and your approach for highlighting them was well thought out. No laser pointers needed.