episode 13: Where Do You Get Your Images For Presentations?


  • Visual Communication for a design studio encompasses anything that is seen: words, photos, iconography, video, on slides, print pieces, billboards, trade show large format displays, webpages and HTML email campaigns. Troy, Nolan, and Sandy jump  into the murky waters of images – what images are legal to use, favorite resources for images, and design tips for using images in a presentation.

Let’s define “royalty free” so everyone is talking about the same thing.

  • Rights Managed is a onetime charge for the use of a photo one time, and can be purchased as an exclusive (a buy-out) or non-exclusive photo. If the user wants to use the image for additional projects, the image needs to be re-licensed again. What makes a Rights managed licensing agreement attractive is the option for exclusive or non-exclusive use.  Rights managed licenses are typically more expensive than royalty free stock photos, which are often mistakenly interpreted as free photos. Royalty free means that the purchaser can use the photo multiple times on multiple projects with few restrictions.  Royalty free images cannot be purchased on an exclusive basis so other buyers may use “your” image. Both photo types are available through stock photography sources.
  • Side note about Royalty Free vs. Rights Managed. Royalty Free is what we are talking about today, subscription services like iStock Photo, Adobe Stock, Getty Image. You get the image through a subscription and you can use it in as many projects as you want. Rights managed is another term we, as creatives, hear on occasion. It is purchased/licensed for use in one project. If you want to use it in another project, it is another licensing fee.

What royalty free services have you used and see others using?

  • Nolan: In the past, I’ve used iStock, Getty, Thinkstock, but these days, I pretty much stick with Shutterstock.
  • Troy: Thinkstock, Adobe Stock, AudioBlocks, MusicBlocks, Digital Juice are our current subscriptions.
  • Sandy: I use iStock, Bigstock, Thinkstock, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Productiontrax.


Do you do purchase by image or subscription?

  • Troy: Subscription, there is not enough time to deal with watermark images with the virtually unlimited subscription options.
  • Sandy: I use a subscription, but I buy credits vs. the “unlimited” subscription option. I’m still too small to need unlimited.
  • Nolan: Subscription is my preference. I like the “buffet” model vs. a la carte.


Recently, there was a comment from someone in our industry about images from photo service sites that was widely misinterpreted. Basically, the way things were interpreted is that designers cannot purchase and include images in design projects for clients, but that clients need to purchase the images to have legal use. All three of use feel this is not the way the use rights from the companies we use is intended.

  • Nolan: What was interpreted made it seem as though designers, who have purchased a stock image, were not allowed to use that stock image to create client work unless the client themselves purchased the image under their own account. This is simply not the case.
  • Sandy: Use agreements have changed in the transition from print to digital. In general, I would say that a number limits have gone away. For example, in print, the user would be limited to 250,0000 copies. You don’t see that in digital.
  • Troy: My interpretation is if you use an image in a project, the client has rights to use that image – in that project. As example; providing an image on a slide, the client has rights to use that slide, and image. But if the client pulls the image from the slide and uses it elsewhere, then they may not have legal rights to use that image – on the new slide or document. Another issue would be providing a client with a raw stock image that is not in a project file. That is not within use and it would be the same as selling for zero cost. All stock images use stipulations list images cannot be resold.


Partly because of this, Nolan got on the phone last week with the legal department at Shutterstock to ask some questions.

  • Nolan: Rundown of call:
    • Enhanced and Premier licenses (Premier allows for reassignment of license)
    • Competitors have been releasing simpler and simpler usage agreements (but Shutterstock has not yet)
    • Legal Counsel several times answered with “Our license is what we want it to be” / “We wouldn’t interpret it that way…”
    • Presentation falls under “Multimedia Production” (at Shutterstock), which is not good as Multimedia productions have other limitations. As example, there is a $10K cap on production budget for standard license images applied to “Multimedia Production.” So what happens when a presentation design project exceeds a $10K budget…
    • Enhanced license allows for use in “Templates” [for resale], but how a “template” is defined is not really defined
    • We also discussed Editorial vs commercial images


What about using Google or Bing to find images?

  • Troy: Logos, yes; ideas, yes; client project, no.
  • Nolan: “Fair use” is a major component of web-based image search discussions. Also, don’t forget about TinEye.com and Reverse Google Image Search to find a legal version of potentially client supplied image.
  • Sandy: I think this is a no brainer for designers, but educating our clients is so important. Thank goodness the legal departments at many companies are putting the kibosh on “Google” photo use and require a photo library or access to a paid account. Of course, this concept is intimidating to the average user, who still uses Google and asks for forgiveness when caught.


Do you guys use creative commons and public domain?

  • Nolan: Great for specific international and place-based images like the Eiffel Tower or a Tanzanian farmer. There is a lot of information about Creative Commons at commons.wikimedia.org.
  • Sandy: Nope, I play it safe.
  • Troy: Flickr images = creative commons, but that is complex and not an end-all solution as there are many levels of Creative Commons licensing. Overall we try to use our royalty-free image resources as a best practice.


Any other tips, resources or design ideas for using images in presentations?

  • Nolan: JPGs will degrade with Save As, so a good option is to stick to PNGs in your presentations. This makes for a larger file size, but quality is “locked” to what you started with.
  • Troy:
    • Stock images have watermarks for the low-res proofing images. These watermarks can be very subtle, and I have seen many show up unintentionally in client presentations. We have a standard procedure of adding a big “FPO” (For Placement Only) PowerPoint text over each watermarked image as a big visual reminder to update that image before finalizing presentation.
    • With vector .eps art, we also download a .jpg version to see in Windows Explorer.


Resources from this Episode:  

Creative Commons Images Attribution (submitted by listener Mike Hanlon)


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