Using the Excel Camera tool

By Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D.

Q. I am creating an Excel dashboard but having a really difficult time getting all the tables and charts to fit correctly on the worksheet. Do you have any suggestions?

A. You can use Excel's Camera tool to add images of Excel tables, charts, ranges, and single cells to your dashboard. The tool allows you to place images anywhere on the dashboard and size them however you like.

Even better, any time a change is made to the source data, the images are updated in Excel. Using these images also keeps other users from changing things on your dashboard.

The Camera tool is also useful for other things besides dashboards, such as watching particular cells in a workbook or displaying only certain parts of a large table. The Excel images taken with the Camera tool can also be pasted into other applications, but these images will not be updated when changes are made to the source data.

Click here to access the accompanying Excel workbook and watch a video for using the Camera tool at the bottom of the page.

Note that the content that follows is based on Microsoft Excel 365 for PCs. Other versions of Excel may work differently.

The first thing you will need to do is add the Camera to the Quick Access Toolbar if it is not already there. To do this, as shown in the screenshot below, go to File, Options, Quick Access Toolbar. Under Choose commands from:, select All Commands, then select Camera from the choices that appear.

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Click Add, then click OK. The Quick Access Toolbar should look similar to the one in the screenshot below.

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Now that you have the Camera tool added to your Quick Access Toolbar, select any cell, range of cells, table, or chart, and click the Camera. (Please note that you cannot use the Camera tool on a chart directly. Instead, you use the Camera tool on the cells where a chart is located.)

Once you have captured the image, add it anywhere in the workbook simply by clicking where you want it to be placed. Individual cells within the image cannot be edited because it is just an image, but when you click on the image, the range of cells it references is visible in the formula bar.

As with any picture inserted into an Excel workbook, you can drag the image around and resize it as needed. In the screenshot below, cells A1:J9 were selected, and the Camera icon was clicked. Then I clicked near cell A11, and the image of the table appeared. You can see the range of cells the image is referencing in the formula bar.

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About the author

Kelly L. Williams, CPA, Ph.D., MBA, is an associate professor of accounting at the Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University.

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