Do you use graphics and photos effectively?

Years ago, we all turned to artists and graphic designers for images.  But today's tools allow us to create our own graphics for many purposes.  Here are tips for how to choose graphics and photos for your articles, presentations, and training. You'll also find tools you can use for editing them.

The most important point to remember in using graphics and photos is that they must illustrate your topic.

Decorative objects distract from your message. People will be trying to figure out how the image relates instead of focusing on the message itself. Choose an image that relates to your message. The following sections tell when to use graphics, when to use photos and discuss editing tools for each.

Puzzle pieces fit into the center

When to use graphics

Graphics are most effective when they:

  • List the steps in a process
  • Show a hierarchy, like an organizational chart
  • Display relationships between concepts, like in a Venn diagram
  • Simplify complex concepts, like statistical information
  • Serve as icons (think: Women's and Mens' restroom signs)

While icons are hard to design, sometimes you will find icons in free or paid graphics sites. Others need to be custom designed by a graphic designer.

Tools for Creating Graphics

SmartArt in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint helps you to create lists, hierarchies, and relationship diagrams. Click the Insert Tab and Choose SmartArt to find lots of choices. You can experiment and change from one to another as well.

Microsoft's Chart tool helps you create graphics for your statistical information. Popular layouts are pie charts, bars, and line graphs.  Simply click the Insert Tab and choose Chart.

In either the Smart Art or Chart tools, you can select a range of effects to attract and keep attention on your graphics. These include color, 3-D, and shadows.

During Ellen Finkelstein's High Persuasion PowerPoint Presentations course, I used more of the color, 3-D, and shadow options for the first time. Now I'm hooked! It's fun, and my slides look clear and memorable.

When to Use Photos

Photos are most effective when you need to show real people, places, and things. Use photos to:

  • Illustrate a metaphor for a concept, such as the one on this post and in some of my last few posts
  • Show individuals and groups of people, like company presidents, board of directors, and staff members
  • Show people at an event
  • Show buildings, rooms, and other company features

Tools for Editing Graphics and Photos

Stock photos usually come with too much in them. To use a stock photo, you need to crop it and edit it to focus on just what you need to tell your story.

Therefore, I was thrilled to discover in Ellen's High Persuasion PowerPoint Presentations course that PowerPoint has some powerful tools for editing graphics and photos. You don't necessarily need to use Adobe Photoshop!

In PowerPoint, you can crop photos, change exposure,  omit backgrounds,  and create shadows on the objects left in the photos.

You can also ungroup free Microsoft graphics, delete the parts that are overdone, as they tend to be, and then use the part you want. I was thrilled! (I cannot say this enough!)

Questions for reflection and comment

  • How well do you use graphics and photos in your blog posts, presentations, and training?
  • Do yours illustrate your key points effectively?
  • How can you improve your graphics and photos?

Resources for further instruction

If you need further instruction on creating and using graphics and photos, see Ellen Finkelstein's website. Her materials are fantastic! She offers excellent how-to articles, free downloads, courses.

Please comment below and share this post with others!


  1. Erika Licon

    Excellent recommendations Holly! Thank you! I am excited to get a slight visual makeover on my wordpress blog page, and I will definitely incorporate your recommendations. Perhaps, I will look into how accessible layout WP revisions are, or wait until December when our webdesigner, my fiance, is done with his CISM exam.

    I love the layout of your website, very clean and modern. Great job!

    • Holly Genser

      Thank you, Erika. I'm glad my tips are helpful to you.

      I also appreciate your comments on my web design. I used Pro Framework premium framework for coaches and freelancers. II created the look and feel myself. Unlike most WordPress frameworks I saw, mine is fully customizable, with an unlimited color palette.

      Best wishes on your your visual makeover!

  2. Thanks Holly. I really like your point about graphics needing to serve a purpose. People can often get carried away and forget that.

    I've found Ellen's articles to be very helpful, too. I especially like her tip about making a photo touch at least 3 sides of the slide when presenting!

    It can be really satisfying picking out what I call "iconic photos" and using them to illustrate points I'm making. To see what I mean, check out these example slides.

    Real icons are sometimes useful, but I love the extra "oomph" that often comes with using photos!

    • Holly Genser

      Hi Craig,

      Yes, I also find it satisfying to choose illustrative photos and edit them for powerful communication. I also do drawings, and I'm working on how to include them in my work here.

      You have wonderful slides and ideas on your blog.

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