Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding images that show what you really mean

For a post on February 16th in his Presentation Dynamics blog titled Give me hammers hammering Russ Howser discussed a frustrating problem that I’ve also faced. He was searching for a stock image to illustrate how a conclusion should drive home your main point, like the final hammer blow that buries the head of a nail into a board. Instead of the dynamic image he desired, he mostly found hammers just lying there (catalog photos), or being held by themselves without any indication of motion. That’s really no better than the over 150-year old portrait of a carpenter from the US Library of Congress shown above.

As is shown above, for this particular case there are three images from the US Navy on Wikimedia Commons that can be cropped to produce something close to what he asked for. Their resolution might be OK for PowerPoint, but likely isn’t good enough for printed materials.

Showing motion in still photographs isn’t straightforward. One way is to slow the shutter speed down to where some blur is apparent at the hammer head. Typically this requires having the camera on a tripod rather than hand held, closing the aperture  way down, and perhaps also adding a neutral density filter over the lens. Another way is to shoot indoors in a darkened room, open the shutter for a time exposure, and light via a sequence of flashes. Hammering in the dark like that is not recommended though.      

On many occasions I’ve been unable to find a stock image even remotely close to what I had imagined. I’ve tried several approaches to make what I wanted.

When I wanted a photo to show a canned speech I got out a can of water chestnuts, relabeled it, propped it up on my copy stand, and photographed it with my digital camera. That approach produced a more realistic image than I would have gotten if I had started with an image from the Open Clip Art library

In a previous post on raised eyebrows and furrowed foreheads I paused YouTube videos and took screen shots to get images like the one of Kevin Trudeau shown above.  

Another time I wanted to show how with practice the speech anxiety monster gets smaller and more manageable. For that post I used a closeup of a finger puppet for the “before” image, and a wider angle view of it in my hand for the “after” image.

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