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?
I was very excited to see this post because ironically, I JUST made a slide show this last week for our Vegas vacation. This is only my second slide show ever and I was kind of surprised at how easy it was to make. I used Picasa 3 and I’m kinda loving what I sloppily pieced together. I think that’s because of the following point mentioned in your post –
“If you’re going to have music (which I highly recommend).”
This point couldn’t be more true for me because I really think this point absolutely makes my video. It’s a Vegas trip and who else is synonymous with Vegas, than Elvis!
PS Last Sunday I had my in-laws (FIL, MIL and MIL’s brother – I know can you say HOLY CRAP!) and specifically came looking for your BBQ Tri-tip recipe to make for them. I saw them again Thursday and they were still talking about it. This was a BIG deal!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
I’ve made DVDs of a baby shower and a family vacation and I must admit I had a LOT of fun creating both. They were gifts so I drove my family CRAZY trying to get it just right. the hardest part for me was finding the appropriate music. Once I did, and applied it to the slideshow, I realized I has to make the slideshow either longer or shorter. I used Windows Movie Maker and I agree it very simple to use. The best part was adding the effects. I’ve been wanting to create another, however, I still have a couple of months to wait before I can begin.
We did a slideshow at our wedding before I walked down the aisle. It was really wonderful!
Thanks for the tips!
Thanks for the tip about making sure scanned pictures are at a high enough resolution for DVD. Last month, I got the idea to make a slideshow as an anniversary present for my husband. I’m planning to put it on a DVD and surprise him with it. I’ve already got most of it done, but now I’ll go back and make sure the photos I had to scan in will look OK on the DVD. Luckily I’ve still got a couple of months to do some tweaking!
Thanks for the tips and the list of suggested photos! There are also some free online programs that will take your uploaded photos and create a slideshow for you, often including music. Some examples are PhotoStory and PhotoPeach.
kari weber says:
I made a slide show to memorialize my dad after he passed away this last February. It was probably the hardest thing I had ever done, emotionally. It took hours to do because I was trying to go back and put tons of photos of him in order chronologically by best guess. He would have been 77 next month, so that is a lot of chronological time! I also had to scan almost ever single picture. Luckily I found out that my printer/scanner (HP Photosmart C4780) lets you put multiple photos on the glass at one time and then it automatically recognizes and selects each photo as a separate file! It was a time saver. Instead of taking days to scan, it only took me hours. I was able to scan between 4-6 photos on each scan, depending on the picture size.
I also found, that although I was organizing by year, there were themes of photos that kept cropping up (him dancing with me at my wedding, my sister-in-law at hers, my mom at their own…or dozens of pictures over the years of him fishing) I found that by inserting a slide like “Fishing Break!” or “First dances” and fitting those groups in at the right time, they have more power together, but don’t disrupt the flow of the chronological timeline.
Lastly, finding just the right music for it was crucial and it took my mom and I several days. We spanned through several songs, and the final movie was almost 17 minutes, but we felt that his life deserved something substantial. It took me tons of times watching it before I was able to get through it in its entirety without losing it. But it is now one of my most prized accomplishments.