Stock Photography: How to look like you know what you’re doing with it

By now we’re all well aware that some stock photography is overused and other stock photography is flat out awful. Before we talk about using stock we have to have a frank discussion on how you’re all using photography.

Slides are the wingman for your presentation. Do not let your wingman be the focus of your presentation, you want to be the focus. So many presenters forget that rule when they sit down to create their decks. They make their slides over-the-top or distractingly cluttered because they have to hand something into their boss and want to look like they did work. Don’t do that. That’s a major fail on all counts. Down with that? Good.

Know that you can use stock photography for good and not evil, you just need to be aware of what you’re looking for. What are you looking for? Good question. Let’s start there.

  1. You want to look for images that get your point across but also aren’t screamingly obvious. Need a supporting image for a “Guiding Principles” slide? Don’t pick a image with an arrow at a fork in the road with the words “RIGHT DIRECTION!” 

Instead, choose something related but less obvious. Don’t know what that is? Consult your thesaurus. Solicit Google’s help. Ask the guy in the cubicle next to yours. What else can symbolize “guiding?” How about a tasteful compass. Great! “How do I figure out what’s tasteful?” I’m glad you asked.
  2. Choose images that people aren’t going to become too focused on or distracted by. You’re looking for subtly, background noise, the visual equivalent to guy in the office that you’ve seen every day for 5 years but still can’t remember his name. You want your presentation to be memorable, not necessarily for your tacky images.
  3. Need images of people? Look for ones that more of a documentary style (people captured in the moment, not posed, or staring into the camera’s lens). They’re a little bit hard to find but like the diamond ring lost in a giant pile of garbage, if you keep digging you’ll find what you want.
  4. Let’s also touch on what’s tacky: shiny or plastic-looking 3D objects. Specifically those little white amorphous people holding or pointing at things. These guys are easy to find, they’re everywhere and inexplicably come up in almost every photo search. But just because they’re everywhere does not mean you should use them. Ever.
  5. Avoid images that have been overused within an inch of our lives. That’s pretty much any variation of: the handshake, the telemarketer, the running businessman, the super businessman, the arrows in bullseye, the generic group of business people showing unity or diversity or just that they’re random people in suits standing in a non-distinct hallway doing god knows what.
  6. “What if I have to use tacky, overused stock photography?” Well, I can’t pretend I don’t do that. I do it, a lot. Sometimes that’s just what the client wants. Buy the largest size available (so you don’t lose fidelity) and crop it so it looks different. Put that piece of junk on the slide in a way that doesn’t seem intuitive and mess around with it. Sometimes it comes out pretty cool. Or just don’t use it at all. It’s very likely no one is holding a gun to your head.

Prepare to be frustrated. Prepare to feel overwhelmed. Prepare to feel like there is nothing out there but a world of photographers with strange chocolate fetishes. All is not lost. Like everyone says, good things take time and are well worth the effort. And when you do find that perfect image, or even that acceptable image, you will be overcome with design euphoria and feel like the genius that you are.

Read more of Cindy’s posts on her blog at

Nonprofits: Increase Your #GivingTuesday Fundraising with a Custom Branded Image

Nonprofits: Want to be seen and heard today? Need a fast and easy way to capture everyone’s attention on #GivingTuesday‬ for your own fundraising efforts?

Download this Word file from Nonprofit Toolkit and simply add your logo, message and URL to maximize your giving season!



It’s fast, it’s easy, and it really stands out from the others with a customized image with your logo.

How do you do it?

How to customize your own #GivingTuesday social graphic from Nonprofit Toolkit:

  1. Download their file. It’s a Microsoft Word document, compatible with Word 2007-2013 by going here:
  2. Add your logo. A PNG or a JPG file will work best. To add your logo right-click on the placeholder (where it says ‘insert logo here’) and click “Change Picture”. Or you can just delete it and add your logo. You might need to change the formatting to get it to show up in the right space.
  3. Edit the text in the middle, or just add the name of your organization, group or school.
  4. Add your donation link. Be direct and send people straight to the donation page rather than the home page. The link will not actually be clickable, so when you post the image add a text update/status as well and repeat the link, so readers can click through.
  5. Convert to an image. To convert the Word document to an image is a simple two-step process: Save as a PDF file, then open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat or your image editor. Resave as a jpeg and you are ready to post to your website or your favorite social network.

To show you how easy it is, we just made a quick one for our friends at the National Marine Life Center:



NOTE: we did not add the actual giving URL due to it’s length, but what we did do was make this image clickable to the giving page:

What are your plans for #GivingTuesday?

If you’d like to learn more about #GivingTuesday, simply go here:

Many thanks to Beth Brodovsky at Nonprofit Toolkit for making this so easy for everyone!

And if any nonprofits get stuck and need help, just ask us and we will help you out.

Social Media Spec Guide Dimensions for Content Designers

Every so often we update an infographic with the latest image dimensions for your Social Media sites. Here is the latest one on record we have. Which will probably change again in 6 months. But, at least for now, you will know all the size dimensions for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. Enjoy!
Many thanks to the kind people over at Radious for updating this one for everyone.