Images: A very brief How Not To

When I’m creating PowerPoint presentations, training guides, posters, and websites I use images.  These images might be photographs or they might be graphics but whichever I use I always follow the same principles. An inappropriately used image is guaranteed to make me shudder slightly at its use but what I find even worse is some of the offenders below:

Pixellated

Pixellated - Photo by Vertigogen

Photo by Vertigogen

Pixellation is when an image has been increased in size so much that you can see the individual pixel squares.

If you have an image that is small in size and you want to increase it you have two options.  Either use a different image or find the original image in a larger size.  There is no way to increase a small image to a large size without it pixellating.

Too small

Comic Strip - Photo by mgrhode1

Photo by mgrhode1

The above image is too small to be able to see and read any of its content.  Sometimes you might want to include a graph or a diagram as an image but you only have a small amount of space to display the image.  One way around this is, on a website, to include the thumbnail of the image but then enable the user to click on the image to view it at its original (and easily viewable) size.

Out of proportion

Big Ben - Copyright 2008, Pilise Gabor


© 2008, Pilise Gábor

Personally I don’t remember Big Ben looking so squat! A common mistake with images is to resize the image to fit your space without keeping the proportions of the original image.  This can result in images that look ‘stretched’.  One way to avoid this happening when you are using an image is to hold down the Shift key when you resize. This tip should work in most software, if it doesn’t, try double clicking on the image and seeing if there is a Size option, you should then be able to Lock Aspect Ratio to ensure your image resizes well.

Why is this important?

Well for one thing images are used a lot here at Beyond Distance Research Alliance and for another it’s very easy to fall victim to the common mistakes when using images.  The above examples of How Not To should make it a little easier on How To use images.

One important thing that I’ll be taking away with me, specifically from my time on the OTTER project, is when looking for images to make sure that they use a Creative Commons licence (all the above images do) which allows me to re-use and re-mix if I need to.  As a final How To when using Google to search images click Advanced Search and select Usage Rights and labelled for commercial use with modification.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

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