My friends ask me all the time for help with slideshows. They often assume that making a slideshow is complicated or requires expensive software. In actuality, slideshows are very easy to make, especially when you have a good checklist to follow.

First, find the appropriate photos for your “theme.” I made a list of can’t-miss moments for some of the most common slideshow events:


When gathering your photos, grab the highest resolution of any digital image. Some photos may have to be scanned, so be sure to scan them in at a high-resolution. DVD resolution is 720×480 pixels, so make sure all your images are at least that size, otherwise they’ll look distorted.

The amount of photos you need depends on how long you want your slideshow to be, and the length depends on a few factors. If you’re going to have music (which I highly recommend), decide if you want one song or multiple songs. You can always use fractions of songs if you can’t narrow it down to just a few tunes. Your photos should show for three to six seconds each, so plan on ten to twenty photos for every minute of the slideshow. Know your audience – where is this slideshow going to be played? If it’s a birthday party for kids, their attention spans are short. Our birthday compilations for Annie are between two and a half and three and a half minutes (Annie’s First Year and Annie’s Second Year). Wedding slideshows shouldn’t be too long either, because your guests want to eat and dance and celebrate. Think about the circumstances around the event, and plan accordingly.

Once you have all your photos, it’s time to arrange them. I think the most interesting and engaging slide shows are the ones that go in chronological order. It’s fun to watch everyone age in the photos. Arranging them in chronological order also helps naturally tell the story of whatever event you’re celebrating.

There are a few different programs you can use for slideshows. Windows DVD Maker and Windows Movie Maker are two great free programs for PCs, while Mac computers have iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD. I’ve made slideshows with all of these programs and they are very easy to use, with great help and support features should you get stuck.

Title cards can help move a slideshow along. A title card is a slide with just text on it. A slideshow for a wedding or family reunion can benefit from title cards announcing which family is being featured. Sports slideshows can use title cards to differentiate between games. Don’t be afraid to use them – but don’t overdo it. The pictures are the focus.

Transitions between the photos are crucial. Don’t get carried away with special effects like swoops, dissolves, and the like. Simple effects like fading in and out or horizontal and vertical scrolling keep your slideshow dynamic without being distracting. The same can be said for photo effects. Simple zooms, fades, and pans on each photo keeps things interesting.

When your slideshow is done, it’s time to share it! Burn it to a DVD, or upload it to a social site like YouTube or Vimeo. Be prepared for family members to ask for copies of your masterpiece!

You can find more slideshow tips here.

What tips would you add?