Monday, 17 December 2012

Bring your pictures to life

A picture can speak a thousand words.  Pictures can bring a document or presentation to life.  So you wouldn't want them to be dull and lifeless would you?

These days we use all sorts of devices to take photos, not just cameras.  It's great that we can take pictures with phones and tablets, but the quality isn't always that great.  Even snapshots taken on our cameras can sometimes look a bit flat, especially when the British weather fails to provide us with perfect lighting!  In the past we had to use specialist software like Photoshop to correct pictures. Here I'm going to look at a few techniques available in Office 2010 to adjust your photos and bring them to life.

In these examples I am using Word, but these options are also available in PowerPoint.  When you click on a picture in Word or PowerPoint you will see a new tab appear on the Ribbon called Picture Tools Format and the adjustment options shown here are can be found on that tab.

Here's a picture of a duck.

Cute isn't it?
This is the picture as it was taken. 

First of all, we probably don't want those feet in there so we can crop the picture so that we just see the duck. 

Cropping cuts away the edges of the picture - the bits we don't want.  It is useful where we have things in the picture (such as my husband's feet) that we don't want.  Even if the feet weren't there, the image becomes much more engaging when the subject matter (the duck) fills the picture so getting rid of any extra bits is always a good idea.  You should also think about cropping if you have a picture that doesn't quite fit the space you have for it.  Rather than squashing or stretching the image to fit, look at removing any bits that are not necessary.

Don't be scared of cropping - the bits you have cut away are still there in the memory so if you decide you want to put them back in later you can.

Next, the sun had disappeared and the picture is a bit dull and grey.  We can adjust the colour tone and saturation to make the picture seem warmer and richer.  You will find these behind the Color button.
Here I have adjusted the colour tone to it's warmest but I have left the saturation as is.

Finally, while the camera's focus is quite good, the duck wasn't co-operating by standing still so it could be better.  (Seconds after the photo was taken the duck tried to eat the camera and succeeded in taking a lump out of my husband's finger!) 

Using the Corrections button, I have taken both the sharpness and contrast up a level.  Now you can see much more definition of the bird's feathers, making the picture much more life-like.

What else can you do with images?

You can remove the background - this can look particularly effective on PowerPoint slides.  

In Word you can then set text wrapping to 'Tight' so that your text lines up to the shape of the image.  As with cropping, the background is still in memory so you can choose to put it back if you wish.  It works best if there is quite a good degree of contrast between the subject and the background.  You may need to play around with it a bit to get all of the subject included.

Or you could apply Artistic Effects - for example turning our duck picture into a pencil sketch…

You could also try some of the Picture Styles to add a border, frame, shadow or reflection.  These can make the picture stand out from the page more.

Finally, when you are happy with your pictures you will want to save your document or slide show.  Remember that photographs taken with modern digital cameras can be several MB in size.  If you have a number of pictures in your document then your file is going to be huge. Not only will this take up valuable space on your computer or network, but it also means that your document or slide show will be slow to open and to navigate. 

Word and PowerPoint both have a setting to compress pictures.  This reduces the file size in two ways.  First of all, you are given the option to remove cropped areas - remember I said that the bits you cropped away were still there?  They are taking up space so if you are sure you don't want them, get rid of them. 

Secondly it reduces the resolution of the picture.  The level you want to reduce it to will depend on how your document or slide show will be viewed.  If the document is going to be professionally printed you will want to keep a fairly high resolution.  If it is to be viewed on screen then a medium resolution is good.  If it is to be published on the web or if you need to email it to other people then you will want to minimise the resolution and thus minimise the file size.

There are so many picture editing options it would be impossible to show them all.  
Remember, if you need some help working with images in your documents or with bringing your PowerPoint slides to life, call NIMBUS solutions on 07733 341452 or visit to find out more about how we can help.

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