On the Struggle of Locating High-Quality Images

I’ve been pretty vocal about the need for greater use of images in our evaluation communications. And while I can get most people to vow to halt the use of clip art, finding high-quality images can be a total pain. What’s at our fingertips (i.e., available on Google Images) is a problem because it isn’t often licensed for free use and it sort of sucks. I mean, lots of what’s available via Google Images are the cliche, emotionless images that actually work against the connection we’re trying to make with our audience. Here’s a sampling of what to avoid:

The alien dudes – totally un-connectable

The kumbaya symbol of diversity – so overused, it’s a turnoff

The handshake – cliche and ubiquitous

Susan Kistler, Executive Director of the American Evaluation Association, blogged about other free sites to locate high-quality images and I suggest you bookmark these places.

But oh! The time you can spend scrolling through images! Hours lost!

What’s the solution? Just like you wouldn’t wander around the grocery store aimlessly, you should go into the stockphoto site with a list of appropriate images in mind. Get really specific in the site’s search engine. Tell that thing what you want! Make it do your bidding! Which brings me to the most important point of this post:

You have to know what you want.

The most efficient method of high-quality communication in our evaluation reporting is to invest in 30 minutes of visual thinking. Take this as your hall pass to get out of the office with a sketch pad and just doodle. What images come to mind when you think about your topic, your client, your message? Brainstorm, sketch, and play. Grab a small group of people and ask them to do some free association with you (i.e., “What images come to mind when I say ‘connect'”?). Then you’ll be much better prepared to shop the stock photo site like you shop at the supermarket – as quickly as possible.

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  1. Agreed we certainly need to increase the use of images in our presentations and in our reports. ‘A picture paints a thousand words’ and can be really valuable in weaning us from our text and bullet point dominance in powerpoint.

    Yes, you can spend a lot of time searching and become overwhelmed by the sheer volume so my tips to add to your ideas about setting up your own image library.

    Tip one: go through your own photo’s before the advent of digital – yes you will have to scan them – and you’ll be amazed at how many of the photo’s will be exactly what you were looking for. Also you will enjoy the trip down memory lane.

    Tip two: If you have family members who are doing a photography course/elective as part of their high school or college work, or if you know someone who is doing photography as a course or hobby – ask them to provide you with a dvd/usb/flckr link – to their photo’s. Give them an idea of the types of photo’s you are looking for and pay them for their photo’s. You can negotiate a one off fee or a fee per photo with a photo credit (ideally watermarked into the photo).

    Tip three: set up your photo’s in some ordered filing system eg people, nature, animals, city etc and name and number your photo’s e.g. flower1, cat3. It makes them easier to search for and, overtime, you will refer specifically refer to favourite photo’s by this reference).

    Tip four: take/obtain the photo’s that have immediate relevance to your work first. For example in Aotearoa New Zealand and working with Maori the photo’s that have immediate relevance are mountains, rivers, lakes and culturally iconic images (traditional carvings, wall panels etc). Of course lets not forget the contemporary and becoming iconic images such as a smart phone, laptops and digital cameras etc.


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