Find free photos and images for PowerPoint

Photos make great backgrounds for slides, but you need to find the right ones. The secret to finding free images and photos is to know how to use Microsoft’s tools effectively and where to look on the Web.

Find photos in PowerPoint–this is no longer available :(

Many people don’t know how to find photos in PowerPoint.

  1. Choose Insert> Insert Picture > Clip Art or Insert tab>Clip Art/Online Pictures. The Clip Art task pane opens. In PowerPoint 2013, a window opens.
  2. In the Search box, enter a keyword to search for. For example, enter sky.
  3. In PowerPoint 2003 and 2007, click the down arrow of the Search In drop-down list to specify where you want to look. You can leave Everywhere check box checked to look on your , in MS Office collections, and on Microsoft’s Web site.
  4. In 2003, 2007 and 2010, click the down arrow of the Results Should Be drop-down list. Here’s the secret. Uncheck everything except photographs. In PowerPoint 2013, add the word photo after your search term.
  5. Click Go and you’ll get only sky photos.

Find public domain photos on the Web

You often see sites selling royalty-free photos, but you have to pay for them. That may be the way to go if you want the largest selection to choose from. But you can find lots of photos, especially beautiful nature photos, that are in the public domain. This means that you can use them for any purpose, private or commercial. You just can’t copyright them, since they in the public domain.

One site with a great collection — and an excellent explanation of what public domain means and what to watch out for — is PD This site has gorgeous photos that you can use. Here’s a beach picture:

beach photo from PD

beach photo from PD

The U.S. government has three sites with extensive collections of great photos:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a great library of water photos. Here’s an example:
water photo from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

water photo from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

You are supposed to give them credit as in, “Thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.” Of course, you don’t want to do this on a photo that you use as a background for a slide, but you can do it on your last slide or in small print at the bottom of your first slide.

a photo from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Pictures/Graphics site

a photo from The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pictures/Graphics site

The request a credit such as the following: Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • NASA has an extensive photo collection, but it’s not very easy to search and many of the photos are taken for their technical characteristics, rather than their beauty. Nevertheless, you can find some great shots. The main site is at

Try their Earth from Space page. Here’s the eye of Hurricane Ivan and a great photo of noctilucent clouds (they also explain what those are). They also want you to acknowledge NASA as the source (as I’m now doing).

by NASA: Hurricane Ivan and noctilucent clouds

by NASA: Hurricane Ivan

by NASA: a photo of noctilucent clouds

by NASA: a photo of noctilucent clouds

Free photo sites

There are a number of other sites that offer free photos, with varying rules about how you can use them. Some are sites that let photographers contribute their own photos.

An excellent site is (formerly stock.xchng). This is a huge, well-trafficked site. You can upload your own photos, and find zillions that you can use. The site is easy to search, as well.

Another site is morgueFile. It offers free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.

Flickr, which you’ve probably heard of, is another site that lets people contribute their own images. Many are simply personal photos, but you can still find some good ones. Here’s how you can find photos you can use legally:

  1. Enter your search term in the Search box and press Enter.
  2. From the results page, click the Advanced Search link to the right of the Search button.
  3. Scroll down and check the “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” check box.
  4. Check the other two check boxes if appropriate.
  5. Click the Search button.

Wikimedia Commons is the media side of Wikipedia.  As of this writing, it has over 17 million images! Some are in the public domain and some are under Creative Commons license.

ImageAfter lets you search by category or color. These photos are free for most uses.

For photos licensed under Creative Commons, you need to provide attribution. On a slide, attribution can be a text box at the bottom with the photographer’s name (or “handle”) and the link provided next to the photo. This link usually goes to the photographer’s profile on the website.

Do you have a favorite site for legally getting free images? Leave a comment!

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