8 Best Tips for PowerPoint Stock Images

Who hasn’t suffered through a dull, meaningless, or distracting PowerPoint slide show at least once in their lives? 

Microsoft PowerPoint is meant to produce visual support material for presentations, and when done right it absolutely can make a difference. 

Images are the best to reach the kind of visual impact your presentation needs. While some points can be better said with custom images –such as infographics, photos of your staff, products, or prototypes–, stock photography is a total win when it comes to supporting concepts, ideas, and thoughts. 

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Today we bring you 8 design tips to create beautiful, compelling material using PowerPoint stock images!

#1 – Use Images that Elevate Your Message

Your PowerPoint images are there to support your oral delivery, but they can also boost up your whole message through visual impact if you choose and use images that are relatable, supportive, and engaging. 

Here’s how to do that: 

Use authentic stock images Go for the raw style at the forefront of visual trends:  photos of real people, in real-life situations. They will resonate a lot better with your audience than overly polished pictures.
Pro-tip – Read the room. The ideal photos will vary depending on the setting in which your presentation takes place. A business or otherwise formal environment calls for assertive and very neat images. An educational presentation can do with more creative, illustrative pictures and the style will vary depending on the audience and the goal –i.e. a student's presentation vs. a professor's–. An informal event gives room for more relaxed, “fun” photos.

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Illustrate in a non-literal way – Conceptual images can have a more meaningful, emotional impact than literal ones. If you’re talking about company teamwork, for example, a photo of a team helping each other climb over a wall in a boot camp can get your message across a lot better than one of a bunch of businessmen in a board meeting.

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Support without going off the rails – Of course, you don’t want to be too conceptual. Staying within the topic is still crucial to retain people’s attention. Following the example above, a photo of a father cooking dinner with his kids might illustrate “teamwork effort” and be warm and engaging, but it’s far-fetched and distracting rather than supportive. 

Engage through inspiration – Making your presentation inspirational isn’t about having your audience thinking about the meaning of life, necessarily. It mostly means to give them food for thought, within your topic: have them ask questions, think of answers, and give a thought to what you exposed, way after you’re done. Inspirational images, which are more abstract and artistic, can achieve this better than any other. Inserting an unexpected, compelling image at a peak point is a simple, yet effective visual trick. 

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#2 – Let the Image Shine

When it comes to visuals in PowerPoint, less is more. The single-image approach is the best to ensure your photo is actually supporting your content. 

If you cramp too much visual information in a slide, it all ends up tangling and losing impact.  One great image is all your slide needs to retain the audience’s attention and engage them with what you’re saying. 

Infographics are very useful to boost up boring data and grab the viewer's attention, so they're better as a single element in a slide.

#3 – Go for High Quality

To win the visual game in PowerPoint, you need to work with professional-grade, high-resolution stock images. While you might be tempted to use free stock photos, there are very few sites that make the cut in terms of quality. And they aren't as legally safe, either.

The best way to go about it is to go for large-sized, royalty-free images and then use PowerPoint’s image settings to adjust it to the slide’s layout, ensuring optimal sharpness and that everyone watching can see it clearly. 

#4 – Put the Layout to Work

A slide’s layout design is more than just to make it all look pretty. It helps organize content strategically to make it more visually poppy. 

Using conventional, Western reading directional cues (top to bottom, left to right) you can display content in the slide in a way that flows with the viewer’s glance, according to how important each bit of information is to support your speech. 

Refrain from using unconventional ways to display content. It might look artsy or disruptive but in practice, most viewers would spend more time figuring out where to look first, than actually taking what’s shown. 

If you’re not a graphic designer, fear not! Many stock agencies offer PowerPoint presentation templates that you can simply customize with your content. And Shutterstock even offers a selection of free PowerPoint templates!

#5 – Rely on Colors

Color is a great aid to support a message and highlight valuable information, as long as you use the right color combinations. Use different font colors to emphasize words, and always look for a contrast between your background and text to enhance readability –light fonts on a dark background or vice versa–. 

This is a great opportunity to use your brand colors and enforce brand awareness, Just remember to keep it simple: no more than 2 colors per slide, and overall don’t use more than 5 different hues in your whole presentation. You want the color to make content memorable, not to take center stage. 

#6 – Choose Fonts that are Optimal for Screens

You must make sure your audience can effortlessly read what’s in your presentation, and that includes a thoughtful font choice. Sans serif fonts are considered the best for reading on digital screens, so you should definitely stay within this font family. 

While using different fonts is a good trick to catch attention and hierarchize your copy, don’t go overboard: don’t use more than 2 font types (and make sure they go well together). Here you can learn more about royalty-free fonts!

Size also matters for fonts. You need the text to be big enough to be easily read and leave room to have bigger headlines. 30p size fonts are a good rule of thumb to get started. 

#7 – Bring Out the Bullet Points

Don’t ever forget the PowerPoint project is just visual support, notecards for your actual, oral delivery of the presentation, so big chunks of text are a bad idea to include. You don’t want people to get lost reading copy on the screen and losing track of your words! 

Bullet points are a presentation’s best friend. You can use them to visualize the core points in your speech, and at the same time, complete the impact of your slides with your tone and verbal emphasis. 

There’s an extreme view that claims presentations should never contain full sentences, but we think as long as you keep it concise, short, and sweet, it’s ok.

#8 – Ascribe to the 6×6 Rule

Speaking of written content, great PowerPoint presentations also tend to follow a six-by-six rule regarding words, which says a slide should never have more than 6 bullet points, and sentences should not have more than 6 words. 

While following this to a tee can be a challenge sometimes, it is a good standard to work with to keep an only essential, remarkable copy in your slides. 

Pro Tip: Avoid having “orphan words” (words that exceed display limits and get moved to a subsequent line). This has an undesired, put-off effect for readers, so if your sentence ends up with one word standing alone, either shorten it or add another word to make it rounder-looking!

Want more tricks? Check our 102 expert tips to create marketing visuals!

Where to Get Stock Images for PowerPoint Presentations

Most stock photo sites' royalty-free license enables using their photos in PowerPoint presentations, but some of them are better suited than others for the task. Here are our recommendations!

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Shutterstock isn't only one of the top companies in their space with one of the largest catalogs of stock images, but they also have a very useful PowerPoint add-in that simplifies your workflow!


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Visme Free Presentation Maker

Visme is a very robust image editing platform. Web-based, this software unfolds various, super-useful features for visual design. One of them is their free Presentation Maker, which is set to transform the way you create presentations and present them to your audience.

This tool comes with thousands of easy-to-edit templates, multiple customization options, and even a recording function to create your own video slides.

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Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is the best stock photo service for design enthusiasts, as it's full of very trendy, inspiring images. And the best, they have their own PowerPoint add-in so inserting their images into PowerPoint slides is very easy!

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iStock (previously iStockphoto), is a leading stock photo agency with a rich catalog that includes budget-friendly and high-end images, according to what your presentation needs.

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Photocase is a stock photo site specializing in unconventional stock photography. Here you will find those artsy, funny, and inspirational images your presentation craves!

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Stock Photo Secrets

The Stock Photo Secrets Shop is the best stock imagery service for small and medium-sized businesses, It full of high-resolution images at very low prices, to make sure you don't break the bank when creating slideshows.

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BONUS: Canva Pro Presentations

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An alternative to PowerPoint, the always easy-to-use Canva has a great feature for presentation design that combines professional-looking templates, millions of high-res stock photos, and very simple editing functionality to create projects easily and with the best results.

Available in Canva Pro –the premium service by Canva–, Canva Presentations is perfect for those who don't have design skills nor know their way around PowerPoint.

Canva Pro has its –a very affordable– cost, but you can also try it out for free for 30 days with the Canva Pro Free Trial!

Bonus Uses for PowerPoint Slideshows

We all know that PowerPoint is software to create slideshows that you play during your oral presentation, as visual enforcement of what you're communicating.

However, these slideshow presentations have additional uses that can come in handy for businesses, especially for marketing and promotion:

  • Newsletters: You can use a quick PPT slideshow to convey a short but impactful message to your subscribers, clients, colleagues, or superiors.
  • Social media: Transform a presentation into a short video slideshow to engage your followers.

The utility of Microsoft PowerPoint isn't limited to a screen or projector, and you can find many more creative ways to exploit presentations for visual impact.

Master PowerPoint Stock Photos to Support your Presentations

Have you thought about using PowerPoint for more than just presentations and reports? If not, it's about time you start!

Remember to apply these 8 tips and tricks, and we'll grant your slideshows will hit the nail on its head!

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Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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