Punch up your presentations with Creative Commons images

4CE0310F-2578-406B-B67A-48107791417A.jpgSo, we all know by now that adding pictures to your presentations make concepts doubly likely to be remembered than text alone, right? (You didn’t know that? Check out Dr. John Medina’s Brain Rules–or at least Garr Reynold’s slide-based summary of three of those rules–before moving on.) Sure, you can use PowerPoint’s built-in clip art, but that doesn’t do much to help your visuals stand apart from everyone else–those stick figures are overused.

So where do you find great visuals, especially if you’re presenting on a budget? You could always grab your digital camera and create them yourself, but if time, environment, or your thumb get in the way, you can always find top-notch images on Flickr for free (licensed through Creative Commons) or really inexpensively through iStockPhoto.

Let’s take a look at how these options work. First, what is Creative Commons and why is it a good thing to know about?

5AF4D654-4D02-48E2-917E-F76588ECBB85.jpgCreative Commons is a non-profit entity that provides an alternative to the traditional, “all rights reserved” copyright. Their approach is “some rights reserved.” This is different from the public domain’s “no rights reserved” model. In Creative Commons, an author or artist can maintain ownership and copyright of a piece of work, while encouraging other uses of that work–including public presentations. A copyright holder can select from a variety of licensing options when choosing the Creative Commons route. Luckily, there are some standardized icons indicating what type of license is placed on an individual work, and thus what you are allowed (or not allowed) to do with that work. Most works licensed with Creative Commons–photos in particular–require you to attribute the work to the original creator, and to not use the work for commercial purposes.

Now let’s look at how this applies to our need for better visuals for our presentations.

6AA1BD85-65D2-4176-8266-ED028A78A968.jpgFlickr is a popular photo sharing site, created in 2004 and now owned by Yahoo!. In addition to the silly snapshots Flickr members post to share with friends and family, professional and semi-professional photographers share their work with the general public. Many of these high-quality images are available with a Creative Commons license, meaning you can use them in your presentations at no charge to you, just as long as you agree to follow those Creative Commons rules (again, generally that you won’t use them for commercial purposes and will appropriately attribute the images’ creators).

Start by visiting Flickr’s advanced search page. You don’t need a Flickr account to use this feature. Type in a keyword or two to guide your search, then scroll down toward the end of the form to the Creative Commons section. At the very least, check the only search within Creative Commons-licensed content box–that should be adequate for most uses, unless you’re planing to sell the work in which you use the image or alter it in some way. Click the Search button to start browsing–you may be surprised at the quality of images being provided for free, essentially, by Flickr members!

Once you’ve found that perfect image, follow these steps to save a high-quality copy to your computer:

  1. Click the image thumbnail you see in the search results. This will show you the image’s full details. The image here is larger, but we should be able to get something even higher in quality!
  2. Click the All Sizes icon immediately above the image. Now we’re getting somewhere!
  3. Look at the list of Available sizes for this image. Click the largest one. (For a refresher on why getting the highest quality image is important, check out David’s tutorial on resolution.)
  4. Drag the image you see in your browser window to your Desktop, or right-click the image and select a place to save the file.

That’s it! Your image is now ready for a slide presentation, GIST file, or other use. Don’t forget to appropriately attribute the photo to the original author–for example, to credit this photo, you might include the text “Photo by Flickr member ruralocity” somewhere on your slide.

Not finding what you want on Flickr, or not comfortable with attributing an image’s creator within your presentation? Another option I really like is iStockPhoto. iStockPhoto has a massive, searchable collection of photography, illustrations, video, and now music to enhance your presentation. This media is not free, and not licensed through Creative Commons, but it’s very affordable–usually just a few dollars per file, as opposed to the hundreds or thousands some other stock media sites charge. That’s not a knock on the quality at iStockPhoto, though–I’ve used images from them on the Content Literacy Continuum site, the Preparing Preservice Educators site, and will be using it heavily on the forthcoming After-school Literacy Project site. Also, since you’re paying for the media, you do not need to attribute the original creator. There are still some rules to how you can and can’t use these files, though; read the agreement carefully before you click that Purchase button.

There you go! Two resources for great visuals for your next presentation (and an alternative way of copyrighting that presentation to boot). I expect to be wowed by your slides this summer!

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Related posts:

  1. License your YouTube videos with Creative Commons for easier sharing
  2. Online resources for free images
  3. Still looking for better visuals? Here are some more options
  4. Demonstration: Find similar images with Google Image Search
  5. 5 places to find free (and legal) images online

Aaron Sumner

Aaron Sumner is the Director of Technology for Research and Development at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. He has worked in web development and instructional technology since 1994.
  • David

    What a great idea, Aaron! I’d never thought to search Flickr this way, but I’ll have to give it a try and see what I come up with. Thanks for the tip!

  • David

    What a great idea, Aaron! I’d never thought to search Flickr this way, but I’ll have to give it a try and see what I come up with. Thanks for the tip!

  • Amber

    Creative Commons looks very interesting! Thanks!

  • Amber

    Creative Commons looks very interesting! Thanks!