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Using Photographs in PowerPoint


Using Photographs
Image Formats
Inserting Photos


PowerPoint is all about presenting to audiences - more often than not, people tend to use words rather than visuals. Using visual content such as photographs can convey so much more. In this article, we'll look at ways to optimize your photo content before and after inserting them into PowerPoint. Among other things, we'll also look at some photo effects you can create within PowerPoint itself.

Using Photographs

Photographs are usually sourced from digital cameras and scanners - although many people also use photographs sourced from the Internet and CD stock-photo collections. Whatever photograph you use, do respect copyrights - you don't want to create something from content that is stolen.

Most photographs, especially those obtained from digital cameras and scanners tend to be large in size, often taking up to a megabyte each. Inserting these photographs into a presentation can balloon up PowerPoint file sizes dramatically - thus making them difficult to share, re-purpose and distribute. Ideally, one should crop and compress all photographs in an image editor like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro before taking them to PowerPoint.

Most versions of PowerPoint (and Microsoft Office 97, 2000 and 2002) are bundled with a basic image editor called Microsoft Photo Editor. This program is very rudimentary - but that's probably all you need to optimize photographs.

To resize photographs in Photo Editor, choose Image | Resize and enter the sizes you want in pixels. Photo Editor can also crop images to remove unwanted detail - in addition, the program includes a few basic effect procedures like 'sharpen' and 'smooth'. You'll also find a few special effects like emboss, water color and texturizer within the Effects menu.

For more effective control and creativity, you'll have to look at something more capable like Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. Also, most scanners and digital cameras include a software bundle that contains a fairly capable image editor like Photoshop Elements, MGI Photo Suite or Photo Express.

Image Formats

PowerPoint accepts images in various formats including JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP and TIF. More often than not, you might want to use the JPG format since it's ideally suited for photographs - JPG files are also traditionally smaller in size terms than comparable images in other formats.

Read more about image formats for PowerPoint here.

Inserting Photos

Inserting pictures into a slide is simple - choose Insert | Picture | From File… and choose your picture - by default, PowerPoint's Insert Picture dialog box has a small preview window that shows you a likeness of the image before you actually insert it within the application.

Once you have inserted a photograph, you can add some effects within PowerPoint itself. While a photograph is selected, PowerPoint's Picture toolbar gets activated.

On the toolbar, you'll find various icons that allow you to increase and reduce brightness and contrast. In addition, you can change the photograph to grayscale or a watermark. You can also crop a picture and add a border. Experiment with borders - you can create lined, dashed and dotted borders in various thickness increments and colors - some of these combinations can create unique frames for your photographs.


Some photographs, especially those that have less detail or are blurred can be used as presentation backgrounds. To apply a photograph as a background, choose Format | Background. In the drop down list next to a 'down arrow', select the 'Fill Effects' option.

This will open the 'Fill Effects' dialog box. Within the 'Picture' tab in the dialog box, click the 'Select Picture' button - now you can browse and choose a graphic image from your disk.

Press 'OK' and 'Apply/Apply to All' in successive dialog boxes.


Like other elements, photographs (not backgrounds) can be animated in PowerPoint. PowerPoint 2002 and above offer a far greater degree of control in animation with the new entry, motion path and exit animations than earlier versions.

In PowerPoint 97 and 2000, right click the photograph and choose 'Custom Animation' - you can choose from a variety of animation styles including wipes, dissolves, swivels and zooms.

PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 allow you to apply an entry animation, a motion path and an exit animation to any photograph - you can fine-tune the timings and appearance of the actual animation through a basic timeline.

Look here for a trigger animation tutorial
(works with PowerPoint 2002 and above)


PowerPoint 2002 and 2003 also provide another new feature - picture compression. You can compress one or all photographs in a presentation to reduce the final size of the PowerPoint file. Follow these steps:

  1. Right-click any picture and choose Format | Picture.
  2. Choose the Picture tab in the resultant tabbed dialog box and click the 'Compress' button.
  3. Change the resolution to Web/Screen and choose to apply to all pictures in the document (presentation). Click 'OK' and then 'Apply' to the next dialog box. Click OK again.
  4. Resave the presentation.


Although photographs can add character to a presentation, one needs to be aware of a few guidelines:

  • Never use a photograph that is not relevant to the content of the presentation.
  • Sometimes, you might want to show a process, a detail or an event through a photograph - it is a good idea to include a caption for such photographs, especially if the presentation is intended for distribution to audiences who are going to view the presentation without a presenter.
  • Never use photographs if you are not assured of their copyrights status.

PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences:
PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2011, 2010, 2007 and 2003 for Windows
PowerPoint 2016 and 2011 for Mac
PowerPoint Online for Windows and Mac

Have your ever used keyboard shortcuts and sequences in PowerPoint? Or are you a complete keyboard aficionado? Do you want to learn about some new shortcuts? Or do you want to know if your favorite keyboard shortcuts are documented?

Go and get a copy of our PowerPoint Keyboard Shortcuts and Sequences ebook.

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