Using photos of real company people in your courses

Interesting question came up this morning from an e-learning developer:

"I am creating a scenario for my first presentation, but I want to grab some attention of my sales reps. It would be great to insert the photo of my Sales VP at the start of the presentation. What's been your experience with company folks acting as the picture graphics in your presentations? Is this a very complicated under taking and a task to be wrestled with at a later more experienced time?"

Thoughts?

91 Replies
Wayne Vermillion

Gerry Wasiluk said:

Normally, you shouldn't mix clip art and photos ...

Gerry, you've mentioned this before, but a quick Google search just now didn't yield any studies about it. Is this your group's policy, or is there some research to which you can point me?

I'm presenting at an upcoming ASTD session, in which I'm combining actual Articulate work with ID theory and practice in eLearning. As a practicing curmudgeon, I love to either debunk oft-quoted "Studies show...", like the completely baseless quote about people retaining 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, etc.; or to be able to cite the studies that I'm referencing.

Back to James' preference for quality photos - I agree, and have challenged my local, amateur photography group to provide photos for my program. They get a citable reference, and I get free photos to my specifications.

Gerry Wasiluk

Wayne Vermillion said:

Gerry Wasiluk said:

Normally, you shouldn't mix clip art and photos ...

Gerry, you've mentioned this before, but a quick Google search just now didn't yield any studies about it. Is this your group's policy, or is there some research to which you can point me?

I've mentioned it before mainly for two reasons . . .

1.)  A lot of Articulate developers (and most of ours here at 3M) are SMEs or part-time folks with no formal ISD training who are pressed into service to create e-learning.  It's far easier to tell them to do things--until they are experienced--one way or the other.  Either use photos or one clip-art style.

2.)  When not done well, the results can look amateurish and detract from the learning.  Many folks may not know how to do it appropriately.  The "effect" should reinforce the learning and the course message.

That said, I think folks who truly know what they are doing can produce great results mixing clip art and photos (kinda once you know the rules and are talented, you can break the rules for an appropriate effect).  I think the earlier example with the shadowed figure on the photo shows a very nice use.

I'm currently working on a performance correction course here for HR.  I may mix photos and clip art appropriately in it, just like I did for an HR performance management course last year, which was well received.

Sean Speake

Excellent discussion!

I tend to use stock images for the bulk of my work. That being said, I think what you use depends a great deal on you audience.

I'd happily use an animated character or something like Code Baby for CSR's, or lower level staff. But that sort of thing won't fly if you're developing a course for senior executives. The content also dictates what is appropriate.

I find stock photos (istockphoto.com or whatever source) tend to get quite expensive. If we've built that into our quote to the client, great. If not... well, let's just say that doesn't work out.

As to using employees, I think you also need to consider the lifespan of the course. I recently developed a course that is going to have a relatively short life span (roll out of a new product/service), and is unlikely to be used for much longer than six months. In that case, I had no issue with using an SVP's image (he was also the champion of the service and course).

And I'd echo the sentiment of getting a signed release if you do use the photos. In a previous life I worked in film and television... nothing gets filmed without the talent (background and otherwise) all signing releases first.

I'd even go so far as to recommend including a clause around the manipulation of the image... if I planned to photoshop the image at all,  I'd let the talent know.

But I would stay away from using anything more than an employee's picture. It can be hard to walk and talk (at the same time!), sound natural, intelligent, well-informed and on-message. That's why we hire talent. They make it look easy, but it definitely isn't. And because they're good at what they do, you spend half the time getting what you need, which can save you money in the long run.

I've often said good voice talent is worth their weight in gold.

sean

Gerry Wasiluk

Wow--what a great thread!

One thing that has been hinted at, but not overtly stated, is that sometimes the environment or area being photographed is more important than the people in it.

For example, in a safety training course for, say, a plant, showing the locations of the lockout/tagout cards in an area, or where you dispose of sharps, needs more prominence in the picture than the people.  Showing people the exact places they need to do certain things, and focusing on that, is an effective learning technique and reinforcement.

In fact, for things like this, you can often get by with just showing arms and hands reaching for certain things or doing certain actions--like reaching to grab a lockout/tagout card or putting broken glass in a sharps container.

For other operations, maybe you only need "portions of a person" (sounds kinda gruesome, doesn't it    ). 

For example, demonstrating the proper steps in putting on, removing and then disposing of  safety gloves may only require some person's hands and arms (and mostly "anyone" can do for that).

These approaches do not work for everything (e.g., demoing how to safely lift a box or move a pallet or whatever) but for many things they do.

Steve Flowers

Hi Helena -

I'll rarely find something perfectly suitable at any single resource. You may find some excellent iconic representations of network elements in a creative commons library, within a diagramming tool, or even in the Office clipart libary. Recombining these in a way that's clear and meaningful is often the secret sauce. If something isn't just right, I'll create one from scratch using a variety of references for inspiration.

You'll also find a wide variety of images on stock photo sites. There are many. I rely on these two because of the variety and consistent quality along with the pricing flexibility.

http://www.istockphoto.com

http://www.shutterstock.com

You'll find many of the same photos on each of these sites with a few appearing at one that doesn't at the other. iStock will generally have a greater selection. I like shutterstock's pricing for the sizes of images I usually need (the credits scale better for smaller images).

Wayne Vermillion

Networking and computing images: Although these aren't photos, Cisco Systems provides official icons for their own products, as well as common networking elements, along with people graphics and standard office equipment. In this link, there are icon formats for various media, including PPT, which is the fifth one on the left. In that zipped file, the universal icons start at about slide #18. I've been milking this resource for years for both internetworking and general technical training development.

Working on a tight budget at my present project, I've never even broached the subject of paying for photos. Instead, I've found nearly every photo I've needed for free, somewhere on the 'Net. Google Images has been a great help, especially since I've learned to skip  the pay-to-download sites.

Helena Froyton

Steve Flowers said:

Hi Helena -

I'll rarely find something perfectly suitable at any single resource. You may find some excellent iconic representations of network elements in a creative commons library, within a diagramming tool, or even in the Office clipart libary. Recombining these in a way that's clear and meaningful is often the secret sauce. If something isn't just right, I'll create one from scratch using a variety of references for inspiration.

You'll also find a wide variety of images on stock photo sites. There are many. I rely on these two because of the variety and consistent quality along with the pricing flexibility.

http://www.istockphoto.com

http://www.shutterstock.com

You'll find many of the same photos on each of these sites with a few appearing at one that doesn't at the other. iStock will generally have a greater selection. I like shutterstock's pricing for the sizes of images I usually need (the credits scale better for smaller images).

Thank  you Steve.  I am sure the two sites will come in handy!  I will check them out.  Where do you go to get images from the commons library or Office clipart library?  Do you use a special software when creating images from scratch?
Helena Froyton

Wayne Vermillion said:

Networking and computing images: Although these aren't photos, Cisco Systems provides official icons for their own products, as well as common networking elements, along with people graphics and standard office equipment. In this link, there are icon formats for various media, including PPT, which is the fifth one on the left. In that zipped file, the universal icons start at about slide #18. I've been milking this resource for years for both internetworking and general technical training development.

Working on a tight budget at my present project, I've never even broached the subject of paying for photos. Instead, I've found nearly every photo I've needed for free, somewhere on the 'Net. Google Images has been a great help, especially since I've learned to skip  the pay-to-download sites.

Wayne, thank you for the Cisco link.  I saw some computer images I should be able to use.  What do you do in Google images to be able to skip the pay-to-go download sites and get the freebies?
Steve Flowers

This resource is where I find a lot of really neat things (some for personal projects):

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Most of the icons, pictures, and illustrations here are in the public domain or creative commons. I find it's safer and easier to find things that have a release than to use Google image search (it's hit or miss and copyrisky).

As for the Office Clipart images you'll find some really great guidance on Tom's blog. Like these:

http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/15-interesting-clip-art-styles-for-your-e-learning-courses/

http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/create-e-learning-templates-with-a-consistent-clip-art-style/

As for tools... I use a variety of things. You can achieve remarkable success right in Powerpoint. Beyond that I'll use specialized tools like PhotoShop (less expensive alternatives are available that are just as powerful for most simple tasks) and Illustrator. I find I use Adobe Fireworks more than any other tool, but that's just a personal preference. I like the hybrid vector / raster workspace. We work well together:P

There are other tools that can come in handy for select tasks. Google Sketchup is actually a really easy to use tool that is remarkably handy. Particularly since there is a huge warehouse of models available for free. For example, you might be lucky enough to find some highly detailed computer server elements, routers, and other equipment here:

http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/details?mid=54437bf8bb3effc559955ece6c51935b&prevstart=0

These are all models. You could load them up into Sketchup, sketch together a few connections and depending on your skill / luck end up with a really snazzy looking illustration in three dimensions.

Steve Flowers

I forgot to mention one of my favorite things about the wikimedia commons - the featured pictures.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Featured_pictures

This page lists all of the featured images over time. Some of these are really great and high resolution enough to make a wall print for a very large section of wall in your living room. I love this resource.

Steve Flowers

Hi Helena,

It depends on the license type. I believe all of the images on wikimedia commons are CC - Attribution Share-alike and most are covered under the GNU Free Documentation License. There are some conditions for use but these are open to fair interpretation. In most cases there is an expectation to merely attribute the original source. Any modifications to the original source are also expected to be made available for those that consume the output. All this means is that the original contributor gets credited (a small tag on the image, in the notes, or in a document attachment for "sources" would do the trick) and if used commercially, the modifications to the image aren't locked "in house". This doesn't mean you have to redistribute the modifications. But if someone asks for them, under the license, the modifications to the image (not the whole package) should be freely "regifted on request".

You can find information on Google Sketchup here:

http://sketchup.google.com

Damian Farrell

I recently used a colleague's photo in some e-learning I had to quickly put together for some information security modules.  She was fine about it - we haven't quite got as sophisticated as a release form, but as she knew what it was to be used for, she was fine.

Any close up we had which would show her identity pass was blurred out and this seemed to go down fine with the business. 

However, I think it would be a different matter if her image were to be used on any advertising, for instance or if it were to appear in other courses other than the original.  The original module only went out to a small population also, if this had to go out to the whole business, I think I would have to re-consider (and try and squeeze some cash out of our managers to pay for some images!!!!)

Helena Froyton

Steve Flowers said:

Hi Helena,

It depends on the license type. I believe all of the images on wikimedia commons are CC - Attribution Share-alike and most are covered under the GNU Free Documentation License. There are some conditions for use but these are open to fair interpretation. In most cases there is an expectation to merely attribute the original source. Any modifications to the original source are also expected to be made available for those that consume the output. All this means is that the original contributor gets credited (a small tag on the image, in the notes, or in a document attachment for "sources" would do the trick) and if used commercially, the modifications to the image aren't locked "in house". This doesn't mean you have to redistribute the modifications. But if someone asks for them, under the license, the modifications to the image (not the whole package) should be freely "regifted on request".

You can find information on Google Sketchup here:

http://sketchup.google.com


Hi Steve,

The information you have given me has been so helpful and by the way, wikimedia commons had a computer as their daily feature yesterday, which looked great for my project.

Regards,

Helena 

Larry McIntye

Tracy Parish said:

I have recently done this using photos of various areas/units around our facilitiy and then then place a cartoon host over the image.  I did this to give our users some familiarity in context to the course.  I would make it difficult if we ever wished to sell the course, but it was well recieved.

Image attached of one of our more familiar lobbies.


Tracey,

This exact idea was suggested by a client when I suggested photos of "real people" like "Maria."  My problem is that I can't find enough similar images (style, series). Do you have a good source? I would like to find a source of a complete series like those available in images at eLearningArts.

.