Where to find amazing pictures for your class content

Imagery can be an effective design tool as you create and present your course content.  Good imagery not only adds good aesthetic elements, but can influence emotion, aid in recollection, and improve comprehension.  Imagery can help to capture and hold attention.  

Consider the two examples below.  On the left is a description of the MyPlate nutritional model.  On the right is the diagram.  Choosing between the text on the left and the imagery on the right, ask yourself: which element captures and holds my attention, how much quickly am I able to comprehend the main points of the image vs. the main points of the text, and which will likely be more effective in helping me recall those main points?

What to Put on Your Plate

Eating the MyPlate way means filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits, adding slightly more veggies than fruits.

Go for a colorful mix. You'll get plenty of nutrients that way.

You should fill the other half of your plate with lean protein and grains, using slightly more grain than protein.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and other meats
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Beans and peas
  • Tofu and other soy products
  • Chicken, turkey, and other poultry
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds (use sparingly)

Whole grains should make up at least half of your grains. That means choosing brown rice instead of white rice, for instance.

The MyPlate icon also shows a glass of milk near your "plate." It's a reminder to include dairy (mostly fat-free or low-fat) in your diet. Calcium-fortified soy milk also counts.


Now, of course the narrative text contains much more information and is vastly more comprehensive than the image.  But it is important to realize that we are not necessarily choosing between only one (text) or another (imagery) as we create and present our content.  In other words, imagery can be an incredibly effective supplement, as it is often the first thing people look at.

So the question is: where can I find good pictures that I can use in my course?  There are many good options.  Often, people initially search flickr, Wikimedia Commons, or FFCU (free for commercial use) for pictures.  These sites let you search for pictures that are free and you can do whatever you want with them.  You can also contribute to their repositories if you have photos that you have taken and would like to share them.  [for more information on Fair Use and copyright guidelines, review our webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwkFNs4R_FI]

There are many places where you can find good, profession, aesthetically appealing photography.  I am going to showcase my favorite platforms:

Pexels is a stock photography site with thousands of free professional pictures that you can download, modify, and use anywhere.  No attribution is required.  The resolution is very high quality and will look good on any device.  Pexels is my personal favorite site.


Pixabay is another repository that is free with over 1 million images that you can download.  In addition to pictures, you can also find  videos, vectors, and illustrations.  Pixabay has a large international community of contributors.


MorgueFile puts a spin on this list because although it is free, you can also sign up for a paid account ($25/year) which will allow you to edit images with enhancements and filters, and create your own categories.  Paid accounts also remove advertisements.


Unsplash is also one of my favorite sites.  It has a very clean and intuitive interface, a good social media presence, and for Chrome users there is a fun browser extension that showcases a fresh image each time you open a new tab.  


Visit some of these sites today and start making your content look amazing and professional.  Remember to review our previous post on design layouts and aeshtetic tips and trick: https://www.tcsedtech.com/blog/2017/10/5/10-tips-for-making-your-powerpoint-slides-effective

Written by Dr. Sean Nufer, Director of Ed Tech for TCS Education System.