I'm also working on a site redesign now post-Panda for a better user experience.
My one site that recovered from Panda 2.2 (without any changes) has a picture on the home page which is about 950 pixels high. The site is about #3 in rankings (behind wikipedia and another popular site). The picture is relevant, high resolution, and perfect. It's at the top of the page, but there's a lot of text underneath it.
I'm not saying anyone should use tall images to recover from Panda, but I have another site which didn't get Pandalized that also has images at the top of pages which are over 500 pixels high, once again with a decent amount of text below them.
Big pictures don't have to degrade the user experience and mine don't. They improve it. The Panda problems I've found for some of my sites are when there's a big pic and little if any text, but the problems would probably still exist if there were small pics and little text, too.