31 May 2012

Finding photos

Walking home last night, I spotted this big beautiful moth near our library:

I took out my smart phone, got a picture, did some simple editing (cropping and rotating), and shared it online within a few minutes.

I mention this because it reminded me of a saying: “The best camera is one you always have with you.” Many of us usually have a camera at hand. And not a camera that takes low-resolution, grainy images, but something that gives you pretty decent result with a little effort.

Yet despite the ease of getting high-quality digital images, when people are looking for images to put on their poster or presentation, the first stop for many people is Google Images. That’s okay, as long as it’s not the only stop. For instance, I was helping on student with a presentation, and complained about the low-resolution image he had of a piece of equipment. He replied, “That’s the best picture I could find in Google Images.”

“Wait. Stop,” I said. “This is a piece of equipment that you yourself are using to do your own research, right? It’s sitting in your lab?”


“Do you have a camera?”


“Then take your own photo!” I said, miming a cuff upside his head.

The best photos will often be the ones you take yourself.

Failing that, there are also stock photo companies, which can be cheap and useful. Unfortunately, stock photos can also be cliched and banal. I’ve just resigned myself to seeing “science” represented by people wearing white lab coats and safety goggles, surrounded by flasks full of multi-coloured liquids, pipetting something. (For an antidote, check out This is What a Scientist Looks Like!)

I am a big fan of Flickr. First, they are more likely to have higher-resolution images. More importantly, if you go to their advanced search page, you can scroll down and select “.”

The bottom line: The fastest way to make your poster more attractive is to add photographs. Photographs are real, recognizable things that will almost always provide a more immediate entry point for your readers.

No comments: