Finding images to use in presentations

This is essentially a combination of parts from a couple of previous posts because people keep asking me questions about using images, image sources, and so on. It's great to use images in our communication and publicity, but they need to be used well and with integrity. Any image that has been produced by someone else is their intellectual property. To use it without permission is an infringement of copyright law. It is a moral issue. Whether or not the copyright law as it stands is right or wrong is not the point. Whether or not other people use images without  permission is not quite the point either: it doesn't mean we can do the same, or that you can take an image that someone else has sourced for use on their blog. Blogs should always have attributions for picture sources, which enables you to investigate permissions. If there’s no attribution, you must assume you cannot use the picture, not that you can. Almost all news site photographs are copyright, many from Associated Press, Press Association and Reuters. They’re all very hot on copyright. Using Google image search is a very unsatisfactory way of sourcing pictures. If you use Google or another search engine, you will need to investigate the copyright situation for each photograph you're interested in using - and you'll find that many of them will be restricted. Being unable to locate the information about the copyright holder does not give you the right to use the image (though if you have made a genuine, but fruitless, effort to find this information and then use the image in a one-off context like a Sunday sermon, my guess is that no one would kick up a fuss; you'll need to make your own decisions about that!).

A much better way of finding pictures is by using image libraries (some useful ones are listed below) so that you know you have the right to use the pictures. With the biggest and best libraries, you need to pay you to download the image, which is then royalty free and you may re-use it in any context allowed by the library’s usage licence terms (make sure you check these carefully). Sites like Getty Images (where you will find many news images) can charge hundreds of dollars, but many libraries are quite reasonable. Some are even free, with images donated by people who believe that creative work should be freely available. Some function as a sharing exchange: uploading images earns credits enabling you to download others. As with many things, you generally get what you pay for: images that you need to buy are, on the whole, better than free ones. There are some great exceptions, though, particularly images made available under a Creative Commons licence (see below). Museums and other public bodies often allow images to be used in non-commercial contexts, but you must confirm this before using them. The key is to act with integrity, treating others’ property rights as you would like them to treat yours. If in doubt, don’t use the image.

Another complication with using copyrighted images is the requirement not to make those images available to others. This creates an issue with uploading Powerpoint presentations to a church website. Since they open in editing mode, it is very easy for someone to copy images. There are two solutions to this. One is to save the presentation as a Powerpoint Show (.pps), preferably with password protection to prevent someone editing it. A Powerpoint Show opens in presentation mode, which is what you want to happen anyway. Unless the file is password protected, there is nothing to prevent someone switching to edit mode and taking an image, but it is generally considered by image libraries that this entails a deliberate intention to circumvent a reasonable step which you have taken to protect the copyright material. A second, preferable, solution is to convert the Powerpoint presentation into a PDF file. The easiest way to do this for most people is to use a PDF converter (such as PrimoPDF, a free download from This solution is better as it is more secure and virtually all computer users have software which can open PDFs (Adobe Reader) whereas not everyone can open Powerpoint files.

There is a useful article on sourcing images here (the focus is on images for websites, but much of it is applicable for speakers).


Image sources

crestock (

An excellent image library with a large number of great images. Prices are fairly pricey if you buy images one at a time ($5 for the smallest size), but the packages and subscription plans can be good value - as long as you know you will use the images. I took out a month's subscription to start with, which allowed me to download 20 images a day, but that meant visiting the site every day to make it worth while. Many images on this site are supplied by Crestcok through the Freebie Imagesplug-in for WordPress.

iStockphoto (

A great image library with many very high quality images. It’s another paid-for royalty-free site. Unfortunately, their prices have risen sharply in the last couple of years and it now works out at over £3 to buy a small image (typically 849 x 565 pixels, smaller than the standard projection size of 1024 x 768) or £5 for a medium (typically 1698 x 1131).

Thinkstock (

A newish library which brings together pics from Getty Images, iStockphotos and Jupiterimages. There are royalty-free photographs, vector images and illustrations, and you can download them at the size you want without paying extra for big images. You can either buy a package of downloads - but £39 for 5 downloads is not cheap - or a subscription at £149/month (£125/month if you take out a year's subscription), which is good value as long as you can download 25 pics per day for a month.

Photocase (

A German paid-for royalty-free site with some high-quality images. You need to create an account and buy credits to download images. Unless you buy large numbers, the credits are nearly $2 each, and you need 4 credits to download  a picture big enough to project full screen (at 1024 x 768).

Dreamstime (

A paid-for royalty-free stock library with some high-quality images. You need to create an account and buy credits to download images. It’s quite an expensive site if you buy credits in small quantities: around $1 a credit in small quantities, but you need 4 credits to download an image which is a little smaller than a standard projected image (typically 800 x 533 instead of 1024 x 768 pixels).

CreationSwap (

This is an explicitly Christian site with a mixture of high-quality paid-for and free royalty-free images. There are photographs, images for Powerpoint background, vectors, and templates for posters or leaflets. Because it's church-oriented, it's a great place to find images for very specific Christian themes that you might struggle to find elsewhere.

Flickr (

A social photography site to which individuals upload their own photographs. Many of these are not available for general use, but many users publish theirs under a Creative Commons licence. Use the advanced search ( facility and scroll down to tick the option to ‘Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content’. But note that, although some users’ photographs will appear in the search results, you still can’t use them. Look for the ‘All sizes’ link above the image you’re interested in: if it’s not there, you can’t save the image at a size which is suitable for projecting. Assuming the All Sizes link is there, click on it and you can then choose what size image to download. Remember that the projected image is 1024 x 768 pixels, so you don’t want anything much smaller than that. The Creative Commons licence requires you to attribute the image, so when you save the image, you need to keep a record of the Flickr user. Click on the user-name link and then on profile to find the user’s name. Not all users give their real name, or even a name at all, in which case take note of the user-name itself. The easiest way to keep the image creator’s name attached to the image is to include it in the filename when saving the image. When using the image, you must state that the image is copyright, with the owner’s name, and that you are using the image under a Creative Commons licence (e.g. © Fred Bloggs, used under a Creative Commons licence). You can use an image editor to put this in the image itself, or you can use a text box in Powerpoint to display the attribution. Note that, despite the CC licence, some users ask you to explicitly request permission to use their images, or to notify them of how you are using them. There are times when you may suspect that you are about to use an image in a context with which the image owner would not be happy, so it’s courteous to drop them a line to check first. For more information on Creative Commons licences, see and There are more and more organisations using Flickr to make their photographs available, such as the United Nations Photo’s photostream.

Compfight (

This is a fairly new site, as far as I'm aware, which hooks into the Flickr API in order to allow you to search Flickr in more useful ways. I've only used it a couple of times, but it was quick to find good results, and you can specify what kind of licence you need.

Stock.xchng (

A free site and a reasonable source of images, especially of specific objects. When you search for a subject, you will get results for both Stock.xchng and iStockphotos (see below), so make sure you know which you’re clicking on. Stock.xchng images come in one size, generally much larger than you need for projecting, but some are smaller. Note carefully what the terms of the licence are for each photograph you’re interested in – look at the links under Availability below the image. Most Stock.xchng photographers expect to be notified if you use the image publicly.

OpenPhoto (

Not a particularly well-designed site, but with some good free images. See this postfor instructions on using this site.

morgueFile (

A decent-sized site of good free images which can be used in presentations without restriction. You need to register to use the site.

Image After (

A good-sized free site with some useful images. You don’t need to register to download images, and you can use them in presentations without restriction.

Studio.25 (

A Romanian site, but is available in English. You need to create an account to use these photographs. The number of images is limited, but there are some good quality ones and they may be used in presentations without restriction. It's often painfully slow to use. (

A small site (around 3,000 photographs). The images can be used in presentations without restriction.

RGBstock (

A site for free images which are free for personal and commercial use. The standard of the few photographs I've looked at so far isn't great, but there will be some good material in here too, I'm sure. Like many free image sites, it is associated with – or part of – a commercial site that charges for images, in this case (

I've not yet really used this site, but there seem to be some good images on this site. The name of the site is a little misleading, as the images are only free at a small size (typically 400 pixels wide). That may be fine if you're looking for something for a blog, but is too small for projection. As with many sites, there isn't a vast selection to choose from, and seems to be from a smallish number of photographers. One of the consequences of this is that if you are looking for images of people, it's the same faces over and over again.

Bigfoto (

This is one of the first free-image sites I used, but I'd forgotten all about it until recently. You can use these images in your work without worrying that you are infringing copyright.

NASA ( and

A fantastic resource of space-related images. Also very useful is NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Both agencies make their photographs available completely free. (

As you might expect, this is a useful source of Bible maps.

Other image sources

There are many more image libraries. You will find some listed at:

12 Best sites for free photos, by Mike Williams

You will also find sites of professional and semi-professional photographers, some of whom are occasionally willing to allow an image to be used in a one-off presentation in a non-commercial context. If you find an ideal image from someone like this, drop them a line to ask, but don’t be surprised if they say no. News images are extremely difficult to get permission to use without going through one of the major stock libraries (Getty images is one of the leaders) and you can then expect to pay significant amounts of money. But you can always try contacting the site asking permission for a one-off usage, explaining the context. You may not receive a reply at all, but occasionally you may succeed.

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© Tony Watkins, 2020
The Tony and Jane Watkins Trust oversees and supports the ministries of Tony and Jane Watkins in Christian training, education, and communication. It is a charity registered in England and Wales, no. 1062254.
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