Jul 23 2012

Tips for Removing the Background from Images in PowerPoint 2010

Remove the background from one picture so it can be layered on top of another. (c) Thinkstock

When you use images in your presentations, you might run into scenarios where you want to combine two images. In order to achieve the desired effect you may need to remove the background of one image so that it can sit in front of another image. In a past blog post, I explained how to do this in PowerPoint 2007. You can still use that approach in PowerPoint 2010 (Select image > Format > Color > Set Transparent Color). However, Microsoft offers you a new and useful option in PowerPoint 2010 to actually edit and remove the background of an image. Continue reading “Tips for Removing the Background from Images in PowerPoint 2010”

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Feb 22 2011

Layering Technique for PowerPoint Objects

I love layers when it comes to parfait and PowerPoint. (c) Brand X / Thinkstock

Layering can be a useful technique and a potential shortcut in PowerPoint. You can use the order of the objects to create different visual effects that would be difficult or impossible to create by other means. Part of being a PowerPoint ninja is recognizing when a time-saving shortcut is the best approach.

Sometimes building a PowerPoint slide is like building a movie set. You don’t need to build a perfect replica of an entire Mayan temple — just a passageway and a few walls that will be a backdrop to your hero’s adventures. Movie directors and set designers know that only the visible parts of the set are what matter to the film. In other words, as long as your audience is only viewing your slides in the Slide Show view and it achieves the desired visual effect, it doesn’t matter how you construct the actual slide in PowerPoint.

I’ve used this particular layering trick a few times to hide edges within an object. In this case, I wanted to have arrows pointing inwards within this cloud. I could edit the arrows so that they didn’t overlap with the outline of the cloud objects. However, this would be very time-consuming to do as I would need to be careful to not overlap any of the outline edges.

Once I added the arrows, I created a copy of the cloud which I layered on top of the other cloud.

Instead, I created a copy of the cloud image, made its fill transparent, kept the outline the same, and brought it to the front (Home tab > Arrange > Bring to Front). I then roughly adjusted the ends of the arrows so they would be hidden when I placed the transparent cloud directly in front. Essentially, the arrows became sandwiched between the two clouds, and my audience was none the wiser as to how I created the graphic. I’ve used this technique in various ways such as partially filling an object in a different color. Enjoy!

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Jan 31 2011

Five Tips for Finding Good Images for Your Next Presentation

Finding the right images can be a time-consuming exercise. (c)Thinkstock

You’ve read Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen or Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology, and you’re energized to start using more images in your PowerPoint presentations. All of the examples in their presentation design books are amazing. They make it look so easy, but you’ve probably found it’s not as easy as it looks. Searching for just the right image can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating process.

I thought I’d share some practical tips for finding good images for your next presentation (I’ve also done a two-part article on what makes an image good). There are a couple of different scenarios when you’re searching for images. In some cases, you generally know what you are looking for. For example, I might need a photo of a boat, and it is fairly straightforward to accomplish this task on a stock photography site. However, there are times when you don’t necessarily know the subject of your image and you need inspiration. For either scenario, the following tips will help you to be more effective in your quest for good images for your presentations:

Tip #1 – Try various keywords in your search

When you’re searching for images on a stock photography site (e.g., an image of a boat), I recommend trying different synonyms of the word (e.g., ship), specific types/categories of the word (e.g., yacht, steamboat, canoe, etc.), or related words (e.g., fishing, sailing, cruise, etc.). You might want to use a thesaurus or keyword lists on actual image pages to identify other keywords you can use in your image search.

Most of the stock photos are assigned meta tags by the photographers, and some of them do a better job of tagging their photos than others. You may miss out on a great photo simply because you didn’t use the right keyword in your search. The most obvious keyword may not yield the best results.

These are the metatags for a particular image (found on the image page). You can see what other keywords are being used for the same image and see if there's another keyword that is better than the one you're using.

Tip #2 – Get inspiration from other people (via Google)

If you need an image for a more abstract topic (e.g., teamwork, willpower, or arrogance), you may not know where to begin your image search because you don’t have a specific subject in mind. It can be helpful to see what subjects or approaches other people have used for the same keyword. A quick Google image search can yield some great ideas (Note: you might want to adjust the Safesearch settings so you don’t have potentially embarrassing images showing up on your desktop. Seemingly harmless keywords can turn up some interesting images).

Once you have some inspiration from what other people have done, you can then find specific images on a stock photography site. You need to be careful about just taking images from random sites via Google image searches. First, the images may have copyrights. Second, most of the website images are too small or low resolution to show well in presentations.

Google Image search can be a great source of inspiration when you're in a hurry or stuck in a creative rut.

Tip #3 – Realize filters are your friends

Useful search filters on Thinkstock

Many stock photography sites have introduced advanced search filters that can speed up your image searches and also increase your success rate. Sites such as Thinkstock (Disclaimer: I have received a complimentary subscription from Thinkstock) and iStockphoto have added a variety of useful search filters so that you can better target your searches. For example, on Thinkstock you can narrow down your search for “innovation” images by subject (e.g., “business”), concept (e.g., “ideas”), people (e.g., “no people”), style (e.g., “close-ups”), collections (e.g., Comstock images), etc. In addition, some stock photography sites allow you to apply negative keywords to your searches (e.g., not “light bulbs”). In addition, Boolean filters (AND, OR, NOT) and searching within results can help you to narrow down the thousands of images to a more manageable and targeted set of photos.

Tip #4 – Take full advantage of useful site features

Stock photography sites offer various tools and features that can help your quest for good images. One useful tool is the light box, which enables you to save images to a folder. Sometimes you come across decent images, but you’re not sure if you’re going to find a better image around the corner. It’s a best practice to add the image to your light box so you can easily find it if you decide you really do need it.

Another useful search feature is the ability to expand the number of images per page. Seeing more images at a time can speed up your searching. Finally, every site is going to have unique features, and I really like Thinkstock’s “view similar images” feature, which allows you to see other photos with a similar composition. This feature can come in handy when you’re trying to find a slightly different variation of an image that you’ve already found or a series of similar-looking images for a theme in your presentation.

I love the "view similar images" feature on Thinkstock.

Tip #5 – Watch the time clock

Be careful how long you take to find images. You can't get it back once it's gone. (c)Thinkstock

You may be searching for the perfect image – but it’s not jumping out at you. You may be trying the tips mentioned above to find the right image. However, you need to know when it’s time to cut bait and settle for something that may not be ideal or rethink your idea for the image. You can spend hours looking for an elusive, “big bang” image, and still come up empty handed. As I’ve stated many times before, time is the root of all PowerPoint evil. When you carelessly waste your time searching for images, you’re going to have less time to actually build or rehearse your slides. Sometimes a “good enough” image has to be good enough.

Please share any image search secrets that have helped you in the past. An old ninja can still learn a trick or two. Good luck in your future image searches!

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Aug 16 2010

Using Shadow Effects in PowerPoint 2007

Shadow effects can help images to leap from your slides. (c) Thinkstock

Shadow effects can help images to leap from your slides. (c) Thinkstock

One of my favorite new features of PowerPoint 2007 is the ability to add shadows to images, objects, and text. Previously in PowerPoint 2003, you were only able to add shadows to text — that’s it. You would need Photoshop and the necessary graphic editing skills to create professional-looking shadows for anything else. Now Microsoft gives you some Photoshop-like shadow effects in PowerPoint 2007.

Continue reading “Using Shadow Effects in PowerPoint 2007”

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Jun 03 2010

Image Fading Technique in PowerPoint

Image fades can be useful in many ways (just like a good pair of jeans). (c) Thinkstock

Image fades can be useful in many situations (just like a good pair of jeans). (c) Thinkstock

You may have run into a situation where you wanted to fade a part of an image for a PowerPoint slide. By fade, I don’t mean the fade animation effect in PowerPoint. By fade, I mean blending the image into the background color or another solid color of your choice. You may have thought you needed Photoshop to create a fade effect with your images. However, you can achieve a fade effect directly in PowerPoint using an object with a blended transparent gradient fill. Continue reading “Image Fading Technique in PowerPoint”

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