How to show images professionally in PowerPoint

I was discussing new topics for the blog with my friend Dr. Amit Ellur. He wanted to know how to show images professionally in PowerPoint. Knowing features and using them appropriately is a good start. But the output still does not look professional.

Typically professional help is sought for critical, high stakes presentations and marketing collaterals. But it is impractical to get professional help for day to day work.

In this article, I will explain how to get professional output without spending too much time and money – and of course – without paying for professional design services. I will also illustrate this methodology with a PowerPoint example.

how to show images professionally in PowerPoint

The problem

Most of us are not professional designers. We don’t understand the principles of design, layout, color theory, textures, gradients, filters and so on -nor are we aspiring to be professionals in that field.

Professional designers do not use Office as the primary tool. They may create presentations for you. But they use many other tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Premier, After Effects, Acrobat, InDesign, Flash, CorelDraw. The final output from tools will be inserted into Word or PowerPoint as the last step.

We don’t know the subject and we cannot hire the subject matter experts. Sounds like we are stuck!

Not really. There is a very simple solution.
It does require some effort. But it is absolutely worth it.

The solution

Start noticing good and appealing professionally created documents, presentations, advertisements, banners, training material, whitepapers, brochures, case studies, etc. which are created by professionals.

Decode the conceptual principles and apply them in your work. Decoding involves trying to think how they have done it (in whatever tool they used) and how you can do it using your toolkit (primarily Microsoft Office).

Your advantage

We just saw what designers have and we don’t have. Now think of what you have and professional designers can NEVER have. That is the domain knowledge and deep understanding of your subject, work, processes, data, experience and contextual knowledge.

Now, with all this advantage, if you simply emulate the work of professionals, you will generate really high quality stuff.

Example: Show Images in PowerPoint

Inserting or copy pasting images in PowerPoint is easy. All of us do it very frequently. But it does not look professional. Fine.

Now think of places where you have seen images being shown all the time – in a professional way – and you will realize that News Channels show it all the time. Often they have just one or two photos – in early stages of a breaking story. And they have to make the most of it. So how do they do it well?

They show the picture with a combination of zoom and pan… with very slow speed. This way, the same picture looks more attractive, alive and interesting.

Let us try the same in PowerPoint. I have three photographs which I want to show more effectively than just a copy paste and entry animation. Taj Hotel – Mumbai, Ferry Building in Auckland and Telecom Malaysia towers in Malaysia. Three photos I have clicked myself.


Which features do we need?

Now it is time to translate the professional rendering of photos into the individual components. We need zoom animation – which is there in Emphasis effects. We also need to PAN the photograph. But there is no pan type animation in PowerPoint. The equivalent of pan is to move the picture using a motion path.

If we combine both these effects (Start with Previous) we should get the desired impact.

This article is not about animation in PowerPoint. Therefore, I am not going to explain the details of the animation. But let me explain the concept.

Show the photograph without animation for a little while

Do not start the animation immediately. Let the viewers imbibe the image first. While their mind seems to have settled down with the cognition of the picture details, start the zoom and pan.

Animation sequence

You can play with various options here. But the plan is similar. Refer to the image below. Apply Zoom (Yellow)  and Motion (Blue) path animation. Put the delays and timings and ensure they start at the right point of time.

Sometimes you may start them together. At other times, you may zoom first (yellow) and then pan (blue) or vice versa. The direction of pan should be determined by the image itself.


Smooth start and Smooth end

Animations which involve some kind of movement have Smooth Start and Smooth End options. Depending upon the time you have chosen, the movement will slowly pick up speed, perform the animation and then slow down to a stop. This leads to smoother animation with jarring, jerky movements.

Effective usage of smooth start and end is very important in getting the output right.


The bounce end option was introduced in PowerPoint 2010. It is a very nice option if used correctly. But hardly anyone has noticed this brilliant addition. It deserves a separate article!

The output

Download the sample presentation, run it and then analyze how this was done. Learn from it. Tweak it, play with the settings and learn.

Download Presentation (1.7 mb) from here

Like it? Hate it? Tell me something!

Do give me your feedback. Post your questions as well. I have used some features which are not mentioned in the article. If you cannot figure them out, ask me.

Alternatively you can also put your version of the file here.

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