The Eye of the Beholder

eyeWe’ve all watched, and probably created presentations where the images are either dark, pixelated or cartoonish and thought they were fine. Well, they are not. Viewers, particularly in the last 10 years expect to be a bit dazzled by your presentation. It keeps them interested and gives them the sense that you know what you are talking about, which is a good thing.

Adding photos and graphics to your presentation can be time consuming and difficult. I am often asked the following questions:

  • Why does my image look fuzzy?
  • What’s the difference between vector and raster?
  • How do I take an interesting photo?
  • Where can I get good quality photos?

The first two questions go together. One of the reasons photos and images look fuzzy is because they are too small for the space, so you stretch them to fit. If the image is a vector image, not a problem. If it is a raster image, it looks fuzzy. This is because a vector image is made up of a series of lines. When you stretch the lines, they grow longer. A raster image is made up of a series of dots. The higher the quality, the denser the dots. When you stretch a raster, the space between the dots gets wider leaving empty space. This is why it looks fuzzy (see example below). To keep this from happening, start with a high quality image. The higher the dpi (dots per inch) the better the quality of the image and the less the likelihood of fuzziness. Why not use vectors all the time? That would be nice, but vector images are graphics, not photos. I always suggest that when taking an image you take it at a high quality. You may not need that quality, but you can bring down the size/quality but you cannot increase it, so start with the best.

vector-vs-raster image

How do I take an interesting photo?

Professional photographer Matt Hardy once said, “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” This is true, but most people can be taught to take a good photo by following some rules:

The Rule of Thirds

We generally line people or objects up so they are in the middle of the image. That makes for boring images. What we should do is break up the scene into 9 equal sections. Your most important element, if you have one, should fall on one of the imaginary lines. If you have more than one important element, as is the case in the image below, be sure that there is something interesting in more than one section.


In the top left third, you see the sunlight and the birds. Your eye follows the imaginary swoop of the birds over to the vibrant spring flowers in the bottom right third. In between is color and light and clouds. Imagine the difference if you had positioned the photo so the flowers were directly in the middle. This composition is far more visually stimulating to the eye and the brain.

Follow the Line

The eye automatically follows lines, which makes how you compose your photo important to the feeling you want to evoke. Use lines to lead towards or away from something. In the photo of Dixville Notch, NH below, note the way the road bisects the mountain range, then splits to surround the lake and draw your eye to the Balsams Grand Resort hotel and the color of the autumn leaves against the mountain range. It creates a compelling image that you want to keep looking at and that is what makes for a great photograph.


Getting Good Quality Images

If you have someone on your staff that is a good photographer, that is always a good start. You also need good camera equipment. The quality of the equipment depends on the use. Print always calls for the best quality photograph with at least 300 dpi. Online you can easily use your smart phone to take good quality images.

The set up and the subject are key. Author and professional photographer Scott Kelby, says the key is to take lots of photos and to take them at sunrise and sunset. Of course, that may not meet your needs, but for practice and outdoor scenes, the light is best at that time of day, weather cooperating of course. Good lighting is important, but made less so by the photography software that is available, such as Adobe Photoshop, however, the better the image you start with the less time you need to spend tweaking it.

If you cannot take your own, there are places you can search and buy high quality photos from, including but not limited to:

  • Adobe Stock Photos – the search engine is good and the number of images and the quality is consistent. The cost can be on the high side, so it depends on your budget. Check out the site and take them up on 10 free photos to start. As with all Adobe products, if you don’t have an account (free) you must create one to start.
  • Freestock – A collection of totally free images, icons vectors and videos. The choice is a bit limited, but the quality is good and it is, free, so worth searching when you are looking for an image and can’t afford the cost.
  • Pexels – Another free site for images that are Creative Commons (CC0) licensed. This means, that you can use the photos for personal or commercial use without permission or attribution. The phots are on par with Freestock.
  • Pixabay – A CCO site that has some nice free photos, but it also includes in it’s database sponsored photos. If you click on them, you go to the site and need to pay to download. They do their best to make the distinction between the two, but it can be annoying to see exactly what you want and know you can’t have it. Also, to get the highest quality free image you must sign up (free) and for other images it has a CAPTCHA (unless you are logged in), annoying but ok if it gets you a good quality image for free.
  • – Another CCO site with a reasonable database of photos. The difference is that they are higher quality images and if you sign up with your e-mail address, they will send you their best images of the week, every week.

There are lots more sites out there, but this will give you a start. I will be adding more about creating quality images in the coming weeks. See you next week!



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