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.
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.
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.
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.