Tag Archives: photos

Free Photos

deconstructed camera

Deconstructed camera from flickr.com

About a year and a half ago, I posted some links to online resources for royalty-free photos.  Lately, I’ve been reading Presentation Zen (an excellent book and blog for improving your presentation skills) and thought I’d share some additional resources found therein.  If you need photos for your website, newsletter, or classroom, you can use these resources to find lots of images you can use without fear of violating copyright law.  (Of course, I’m not a lawyer, so read the fine print.)

Camera image from morguefile.com

morguefile.com

morguefile.com –  A “public image archive for creatives by creatives” contains lots of great stock photos.  For the sake of comparison, I’ve done a search for “camera” on each site.  See the results for morguefile.com and the terms of service.

camera image from imageafter.com

imageafter.com

imageafter.com – Images from “the raw base for your creativity” are not always as professionally stock looking as some other sites, but one nice feature is you can sort images by color.  See results for “camera” and terms of service.

camera image from sxc.hu

sxc.hu

sxc.hu – Stock.xchng is my personal favorite.  Get access to thousands of very professional-looking, high resolution photos when you sign up for a free account.  See results for “camera” and terms of service.

camera image from compfight.com

compfight.com

compfight.com – The best way I’ve found to search for photos on Flickr that are published with a Creative Commons license.  Results run the gamut from stock-looking to very creative, including the image at the top of this post.  This is a good place to look for something different.  See results for “camera” and read more about Creative Commons.

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Image Size and Resolution

over stretched image

Think this image looks good? Click on it to see it actual size. Yikes!

I made a presentation at Ohio TESOL last week about how to make better PowerPoint presentations.  I’m going to add the audio to my slides by the end of this week (currently, you can only view the original slides sans audio).

Overall, the presentation was very well received.  In fact, I even inspired some people to overcome their fear and give PowerPoint a try.  One such brave soul emailed me the following question about blurry images, which I think is worth sharing here.  It’s a problem that many beginners face when adding images to PowerPoint presentations as well as print documents.  You won’t be an expert until you can fix it.  My response follows.

I loved your presentation last week on PowerPoint.  Being technically challenged, pp has never been at the top of my list to try.  But, after listening to you last Friday, I have put together a small presentation for a listening and speaking one class.  My question is…After I paste and stretch photos from Flicker, they are blurry.  I realize it is probably a simple click, but I cannot find it.  Please help!

I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation and I’m glad you’re diving in  and trying things out in PowerPoint.  I think this is a really good way to learn this technology.

image stretched 900%

Stretching an image to 900% of its original size will result in a blurry or pixelated image.

The issue you’re dealing with is a common one.  It has to do with the size and resolution of the original image you’re trying to add to your presentation.  When you are in PowerPoint, double-click on the image you’re working with to pull up the “Format Picture” menu.  Choose the “Size” tab at the top to see if you’ve stretched your image past it’s original size.  If the height or width under “Scale” is more than 100%, you will probably experience some blurriness or you will start to see all of the pixels that make up the image.  (To really see this, try using a really small image from a website and stretching it to fill your entire slide.  It will get really, really blurry and pixely.)

flickr picture

Click on "all sizes" to find larger versions of images in Flickr.

So, that’s the problem, but what’s the solution?  Well, you need to start with larger original images.  Once you find an image in Flickr, you will see an “ALL SIZES” button right under the title of the picture.  This will take you to the original picture and often give you several different size options.  By choosing the original, you can usually find a version large enough that you will be able to stretch it to fill your slide.  I suggest you double-check after you stretch it though (double-click again to pull up the Format Picture menu) because if it’s more than about 110% of the original size, your picture may look stretched when projected onto a screen even if you don’t notice any problems on your computer.

Something else to consider is the file size of the picture you use.  If you just need a small picture, try to avoid using the largest size.  Using larger pictures increases the size of the file for your final presentation.  While finding room on a hard drive usually isn’t a problem for new computers, on some machines PowerPoint can get bogged down and run slowly if many large photos have to be loaded for every slide.  So, if you only need a little picture in the corner, try using a smaller size image.

I hope that’s pretty clear.  Give it a try and let me know if you’re still having trouble.  Incidentally, I hope to upload an updated version of my presentation complete with audio in the next couple of days.  Watch for it here: http://www.slideshare.net/eslchill

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Writing 1000 Words

Tell me about your bus ride to school...

So, tell me about your bus ride to school...

Getting your students to write (or speak) can sometimes be a challenge.  They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, which got me to thinking: Where can teachers find interesting pictures that might prompt students to write or talk.  Here are some examples:

Photoshop Contest.com

Photoshop Contest.com

Photoshop Contest.com is a website that posts a picture each week for visitors to edit into other pictures.  The results can be fascinating.  The historical decoder device at right used this picture of typesetter’s letters as a starting point.  In addition to generating interesting pictures, trying to tease out which components of the picture are from the original can be an interesting challenge for students.

Worth100.com

Worth100.com

Worth1000.com is similar to Photoshop Contest with a variety of contests for beginning through advanced photo manipulators.  Although the results range in quality and interest, some of the theme categories could generate some interesting writing or discussion.  For example, the subjects in Sports Literalisms and Bald Celebrities may not be universally recognized by students, but Unsung Vending Machines and Less Than Usual require no explanation.  Some of the Literalisms provide interesting visual examples of idioms and other common English expressions.

Compfight.com

Compfight.com

Flickr is a very popular photosharing website.  And, although the sheer number of photos posted means it takes a little more digging to find them, similarly provocative photos can be found.  I often use Compfight.com to search Flickr because it’s very easy to select search parameters like Creative Commons licensed content and Safe Search.   Try searching for terms like manipulate, photoshop, and trick to find pictures that have been digitally edited.  Some, like the example of the car parked on the street have had no digital manipulation, but there is another trick involved.  Can you spot it?  Can your students?

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Simplification now includes Photoshop

We bought a Wii this weekend.  Yes, I purchased 5 Wiimotes months before actually buying the machine they were designed for.  The Wii is a brilliantly simple device.  So much easier (and more fun) to use than the button-riddled controllers of its chief rivals, which explains why Wiis are still sold out at many retailers.

As the Wii has proven, a simple, usable design is the best design.  Most users of most technologies don’t need every possible feature.  And, increasingly, they are choosing to not pay a premium for them.  Other examples of this trend include netbooks (simple laptops that rely on cloud computing power — see Clive Thompson’s excellent article in Wired 17.03), the XO Laptop (the netbook for the One Laptop Per Child project), Apple’s iPhone (just a touch screen), the Siftables I posted about previously, and now desktop applications themselves.

What gradient map would you choose for your new adjustment layer?

What gradient map would you choose for your new adjustment layer?

Photoshop used to be a big, expensive application that put a professional photography studio on your desktop.  Come to think of it, it still is.  But as features multiplied, it became harder and harder to use for simple operations.  (Should I adjust the CMYK or RBG levels in this mask layer to reduce red eye?)  Enter online photo editors.

cnet recently reviewed 15 of them and I was impressed.  All of the basic features I have turned to Photoshop for (waiting 3-4 minutes each time as it boots up) are available, even including layers, masking, and plenty of effects.  Most are free and work as simply as attaching a photo to your email message.  So, if I need a quick picture for a blog post or my Facebook page, I can turn to one of these sites in a pinch and get some editing done quickly and efficiently.  Simpler is better, and now simpler doesn’t have to be bad.

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Royalty-free photos

There are many educational situations in which we might need a good, photographic illustration (in-class activities, websites, header images for blogs like this one, etc.). But, we can’t just publish something we’ve copied from the web. We need photos that people have agreed to share.

Computer terminals inside a modern library.

Computer terminals inside a modern library.

The best site I’ve discovered so far for royalty-free photos is Stock.XCHNG (sxc.hu). After signing up for a free account, users can search a huge database of high-quality and high-resolution images such as “Modern Library,” uploaded by Fred Kuipers. I’ve used these photos extensively to add visual interest to Ohio TESOL Journal. The license agreement essentially allows for free, non-profit use of most photos. This is pretty close to a creative commons license (though I’m not a lawyer and can’t articulate any differences that may exist between the two.

Another way to find royalty-free photos is to use the advanced search on Flickr (Yahoo’s photo sharing service) and check the appropriate creative commons box(es). There are a lot more photos to choose from, but you will usually find less-professional-looking photos. With a little digging, I was able to uncover Chicago-Kent College of Law Reading Room by s5hiara. I’ve often found that if I like photos from one user but not a specific photo, I can click on their name and find more. s5hiara was no exception; I found several more pictures of library in her profile.

The interior of the Chicago-Kent College of Law Reading Room

The interior of the Chicago-Kent College of Law Reading Room

Unfortunately, I did have to dig through countless snapshots before finding something useful to me. (Around page 9 of my search, I came across a user named Old Shoe Woman who had uploaded a dozen snapshots from an educational technology conference in Georgia — not what I was looking for!)

Incidentally, I first got the idea of trolling flickr for creative commons photos from the Radio Lab website. More on Radio Lab in another post.

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