Buying professional photos for your sales presentations

Pictures in Sales presentations: you are liableSaving on the cost of photos is not good economics

Don’t use Google images, even if your company has a policy of not investing even €200/year in images. The person who is liable is you, the one who uses the image, not the one who supplied it.  It won’t be Google going to court for infringement, it will be you, it is your business. Using unauthorized images in sales presentations is all the worse because you are using them for commercial purposes, to develop your business. The consequences can be extremely serious: it could cost you up to €300,000 in fines and 3 years in prison.
You could, of course, use “only images available for reuse” in the Google images advanced search options. But there is an immutable rule: you will never get your money’s worth. Free photos are often poor quality, pixelated, and not nearly as royalty-free as the site claims.

Buy professional images on specialized sites

iStock ( is the best site, in terms of quality of both its content and its search engine.

  • You can use a combination of several key words, as we did here with “innovation” and “idea”

Keywords for sales presentations

  • You can narrow the meaning of the key word (here, for instance, we limited innovation to concepts and ideas):

Keywords for sales presentations
I also like Thinkstock (, which is less expensive, slightly less content-rich and has a slightly less-good search engine, although it is still highly efficient.
If your unit truly has a policy of not investing a single cent in images, then at a minimum use less expensive or low-cost sites like:

If worst comes to worst, use the sites that are supposedly free (so that in case of a lawsuit you will at least have some chance, albeit tiny, of holding them responsible).

  • Morgue File: high quality images that would have otherwise been on the cutting room floor (
  • Flickr Creative Commons Pool (
  • Image After (
  • Stock.xchng: A free stock photo site now owned and operated by Getty Images. (
  • Everystockphoto search engine (
  • Compflight: images that are approved to be used free for commercial uses ( )
  • Wikimedia: – an open source movement to share high-quality images for nearly unrestricted use (except attribution) (www.Wikimedia Commons)
  • EverystockPhoto: searches Flickr, Stock.xchg and other free picture sites from one search engine (
  • Deviant Art: select “Resources & Stock Images > Stock Images” to find creative commons images. Each artist has their own rules, so it’s a bit of extra effort to check each image and see the artist’s rules posted underneath the picture (Deviant art)
  •  30 Excellent Resources for Graphic Design Freebies: comprehensive and helpful list of free images  (30 Excellent Resources for Graphic Design Freebies)
  • Internet for Image Searching:  A helpful and thorough tutorial for understanding the many different ways to search for images online (Internet for Image Searching)

Try using different key words in your search

Photos are linked to key words assigned by the photographers, some of whom do a better job of indexing their photos than others. You can miss a great photo simply because you didn’t use the right key word in your search. The most obvious key word may not produce the best results.
To minimize this risk when you search for images on a photo site (an image of a boat, say), try

  • Different synonyms of the word (“ship”, for example)
  • Some types or categories (like yacht, steamboat, canoe, etc.),
  • Related words (e.g., fishing, sail, cruise, etc.)
  • Find other key words using the key words listed on the page of an image returned by an early search.

Use Boolean searching

Most sites accept Boolean searches:

  • Separate key words with “AND” so that only the files with all the search terms appear. For instance, dog AND ball returns results that include dogs and balls.
  • Use quotation marks to search for an expression or a phrase. For instance, “dog playing with a ball” generates results that have the phrase “dog playing with a ball” in the title or description.
  • Use “OR” to extend your results to include images containing either of the key words. Dog OR ball, for example, will generate results that include either dog or ball.
  • Use “NOT” to exclude results with the key word in question. In this case, dog NOT ball will produce results for dog but not for ball.
  • You can combine these search methods for specific searches. For instance, “dog playing” NOT ball will generate results corresponding to dogs playing, but without a ball.

Use search filters

Picture serch for sales presentationsSites like Thinkstock and iStockphoto have added a variety of useful search filters to help you narrow your search.
The iStock library, for instance, is divided into categories. These categories correspond to recurring themes into which files are grouped, like Animals, Business or Lifestyle. You can filter your results by clicking on your choice at the bottom left of the results page.  Some contain sub-categories that allow you to narrow your search even more.






Picture serch for sales presentationsOn Thinkstock you can narrow your search by subject (such as “business”), concept (such as “ideas”), people (such as “no people”), style (such as “close-up”) or collection.





Take full advantage of the chosen site’s functions

Photo sites offer a range of tools and functions that can help you in your quest for the right image.
One useful tool is the lightbox, which allows you to save images in a file. Sometimes, you find good images but think you might find an even better image later. In this case, it is useful to add the image to your lightbox so that you can retrieve it easily later.
A lightbox also allows you to compare photos. Don’t hesitate to compare photos by displaying them full screen to see which one evokes the most emotion. You can even copy the protected, pixelated thumbnails to your slides to compare them “in context”.
Another useful search function is the option to increase the number of images per page. Viewing more images at once can speed up your search.
Finally, each site will have unique characteristics, such as the “find similar images” links that allow you to view other photos with a similar composition. This function can be practical when you are trying to find a slightly different version of an image that you already have, or a series of images that fit with the theme of your sales presentation.

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1 comment

    • Lyman Blakney on 05/12/2013 at 15:28
    • Reply

    Google Images is a search service created by Google and introduced in July 2001, that allows users to search the Web for image content. The keywords for the image search are based on the filename of the image, the link text pointing to the image, and text adjacent to the image. When searching for an image, a thumbnail of each matching image is displayed. When the user clicks on a thumbnail, the image is displayed in a box over the website that it came from. The user can then close the box and browse the website, or view the full-sized image.”,

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