How to select the best photos for slide backgrounds

Duarte Circle D logo

Written by

Team Duarte

Film camera with "Duarte" engraved above the camera lens

Welcome to the Presentation Hacks: Using Photos in PowerPoint video series! In these lessons, a Duarte designer shares some of the fundamental tools of using photos in PowerPoint.

The best PowerPoint presentations have visuals. Why? Because visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, which means you can paint a picture for an audience much faster, with actual photos in PowerPoint.

So often, photos in PowerPoint are used in a way that is distracting to a presenter’s message. 

Whether the photo is too large, doesn’t fit your brand guidelines, or doesn’t contain enough negative space—imagery can play a big role in determining whether your message sticks, or ultimately slips from memory.

To help people better understand how to use photos in PowerPoint effectively, we created a series of YouTube video hacks. In these lessons, a Duarte designer shares some of the fundamental tools of using photos in PowerPoint. 

These are tricks our designers use every day when creating presentations for some of the world’s largest companies. But the best part is, they’re really simple to learn today, and implement in presentations you create every day.

In this first free video lesson, we share the guidelines we follow when selecting the best photos in PowerPoint for slide backgrounds—especially if we’re trying to layer text on top of photos.

Follow these three basic rules when selecting photos for slide backgrounds:

  1. Source low contrast photos
  2. Choose a photo that’s mostly dark or mostly light, not in between
  3. Make sure there’s lots of negative (white) space

You can find royalty free stock photos for free using these sites:

  1. Picjumbo: https://picjumbo.com 
  2. Media Bakery: https://mediabakerymoments.tumblr.com 
  3. Pexels: https://www.pexels.com 
  4. Unsplash: https://unsplash.com 
  5. Death to Stock: https://deathtothestockphoto.com 

Explore all of the videos in this series:

New call-to-action

Illustrated by Rico Larroque


Check out these related courses

Presentation Principles™


Learn presentation basics

Follow a step-by-step method to write compelling stories, amplify ideas visually, and present with confidence while learning at your own pace.

Slide:ology®


Turn ideas into visuals

Use visual thinking and design principles to transform information into effective and memorable graphics for presentations.

Slidedocs®


Create “skimmable” documents

Build helpful pre-reads and impactful leave-behinds with presentation software to support knowledge sharing and decision-making.