2009: the year of stock image fatigue

Today I am writing a speech for a group of university students, so I had the luxury of being able to"go all the way" with creativity, not having to worry about whether visual concepts would be appropriate for the audience.
Eighty slides later, I got tired of many of the images I used and cut back on a lot of them.
  • Page after page of yet another stunningly beautiful image takes the attention away from the presenter and gives the audience the impression of reading a giant coffee table picture book
  • There is only so many funny or shocking images an audience can absorb. One "pie in the face" can be funny, one aggressive guy might be OK, but not ten slides like these. People don't like to look at close-ups of spiders.
  • Metaphors get forced: "I knew he would use that squashed orange to show that we are being squeezed by the competition."
  • Cost: 80 pages with a few trial images per page start to add up.
What you can do to overcome stock image fatigue:
  • (I passed level 0 already: cutting out the cheesy image)
  • Have the courage to go even more minimalistic: use a few words on a beautiful background color (experiment with light and elegant fonts, short words with are extremely large fonts)
  • Re-color stock images so they look more similar
  • Use images that are similar in style, for example just "retro" black & white shots throughout your presentation
  • Use real images from sources such as Flickr (check the license)

5 comments:

Alexis said...

Jan,

I would add another possibility:
* Tell a visual story: pick a few pictures (eventually draw on them with PPT tools) and build a visual link and visual flow between them

For instance: this presentation (this is a presentation designed for SlideShare so adjustments should be done prior delivering it in a conference).

Best,

Alexis

Kathy said...

Jan, YOU may be sick of stock photography, but unfortunately, it doesn't exist in most of the business presentations I see. They haven't caught up yet to the idea of making their slides visual. I WISH they'd use some stock photography instead of slides filled with bullet points.

Jan Schultink said...

Good suggestion Alexis, but as you said better for SlideShare than the conference room

Jan Schultink said...

Fair point Kathy

Alexis said...

Jan,

I think telling (showing) a visual story is good for conference presentations too!

Among visual presentations we can see today -and even, as Kathy pointed it, they are still outnumbered-, I consider most of them are "photo album" presentations.
That is, one photo per slide without visual link between slides.

For instance, to illustrate the message "you are stressed today; acting as a team will help you get more sales", a typical "photo album" presentation could be:
1- Squashed orange (you're stressed)
2- Football players side-to-side (act as a team)
3- Stack of dollars (more sales)

Each photo can be the most wonderful in the world, but what about the story (message) we are telling to our audience?
Such slides are for sure funny or surprising but how do they support our message? Don't they distract more our audience from our message?

I think it is better to build a visual connection between slide illustrations.

For instance, for the same message as above, we could imagine something like:
1- Photo of a people looking like the audience stressed (you're stressed -and here, "people" look like "you")
2- Stack of dollars or other item relevant to the audience -cars# sold ...- (you want more sales / relevant item)
3- Both photos with an arrow draw from the first photo to the second (how to overcome the challenge?)
4- Same as 3- plus a photo of the same people as on 2- but relaxed or working together (act as a team)

Cliff Atkinson often talk about this issue in its webinars on www.beyondbulletpoints.com. He refers to it as a "common storyboard mistake".
Unfortunately, you'll have to become a member of the BBP community to watch the webinars... :s

Best,

Alexis