Examples of black and white headshots in circular coloured boxes. Plus an animation of the steps.
Examples of black and white headshots in circular coloured boxes. Plus an animation of the steps.

How to create better headshots in PowerPoint

Sometimes you want to put faces on a slide. Perhaps you want to inject some humanity into an org chart. Maybe you’re bringing feedback to life. Or you could be building a profile on someone - perhaps even yourself.

The photos you have are likely to be of variable quality and style. One person may have provided you with a professional headshot (perhaps looking suspiciously younger). Others may have given you a lovely holiday snap or their Instagram profile picture. Assembled together, the inconsistency will reduce the quality and impact of your slides.

Here’s how to quickly fix that

The good news is that you can easily turn what you have into something that looks a lot more professional – and you can do (nearly) all of it in PowerPoint.

Animated sequence showing the 5 steps described below, as applied to a simple org chart

Step 1: Remove the background

The chances are that you don’t have access to Photoshop, or the experience to wield it. And the remove background tool in Photoshop is terrible. 

Luckily there are now a few good free websites that will do it for you. We currently recommend the Icons8 background remover tool. Or you can try remove.bg.

Before and after images of a photo of a woman with and without background

Step 2: Crop to a square ratio

A square crop of the head and shoulders of the woman in the previous photo

This is the first step to making the headshots all look similar: getting them in a square (1:1) ratio.

A screenshot of how to crop in a square or 1:1 ratio
Select the photo
Picture Format > Crop > Aspect ratio > 1:1
Adjust the crop so the head and shoulders are centred and fit well within the square. If you do this with the white handles holding down Ctrl + Shift, you won’t accidentally squash or stretch the picture.
Press Esc or click away from the photo to apply the crop. You can go back and adjust the crop later if you need do.

There is no way to apply this to multiple photos at once. To save clicks, you can right click on the 1:1 menu option and add it to the Quick Access Toolbar.

You can stop here if this look works for you. But there are three extra steps that you should think about. These are all optional and independent of each other, although we think they work best together.. So pick and choose which work best for the look of your deck.

Optional Step 3: Make them circular

The same head and shoulders image of the woman above, but cropped into a circle
A screenshot of how to crop to a circle

Turning the headshots into circular ‘badges’ is a really nice look, and incredibly easy:

Select all the photos (use Ctrl + click or Shift + click to select multiple items
Picture format > Crop > Crop to shape > choose the Oval

It’s important that you have already cropped to a square ratio, or you will end up with ellipse shapes. If you do have a squashed circle, just set the aspect ratio back to 1:1 as in Step 2.

Optional Step 4: Black and white

Your original set of pictures will have been taken under different lighting conditions and at different levels of quality. Even once you have removed the background, they will still look quite different. 

The easiest fix for that is to turn them all black and white:

Select one photo
Picture format > Colour > Saturation > choose the first option. This is 0% which means black and white.
Select the next picture and press Ctrl + Y (Cmd + Y on macOS). This will repeat the previous action, so will turn that picture black and white.

Optional Step 5: Background colour

Adding a quick fill colour to the photo helps to even out all the photos by making them all appear the same size. If you are using a circular shape, it also shows the whole circle. Again, this is really easy: just apply a Shape Fill colour to the picture.

The circular crop image shown above, but with a coloured background applied

This works particularly well with black and white photos, and helps to apply some of your brand colours to the photos while making them look all very consistent.

Taking it further

While we don’t advise going crazy with this, you could try a different crop shape. Perhaps a rounded rectangle or a teardrop.

Three versions of the coloured background option above using different shapes

Bonus: reduce file size

Adding all these pictures in will inflate your file size considerably. Given that the pictures are not likely to be very large, it won’t hurt to compress them, and remove the bits you have cropped off to make them square. 

Do this once you are happy with the final slide:

Select all the photos
Picture format > Compress Pictures
Check the Delete cropped areas of pictures box
Select the highest quality available from the list, and click OK.
Do you want to learn how to improve the quality of your documents so that they reflect the quality of your thinking? Talk to us to discuss how we can help.
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February 24, 2021

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