Slideshows 2.0

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Creating a good slideshow isn’t just about putting together a group of shots. How those pictures relate and interact can make a big difference. In this article, we’ll talk about how to put multiple images together to develop interesting slideshows, both in terms of how the images should go together and the software and technology that you can use.

How Multiple Photos Act Together
One photo can be limiting when you’re trying to tell a story. Put together a whole set of images, and the effect can be dramatic. That effect is strongly influenced by the order of the images, however, and how photos change from one to another. If you understand some of these concepts, this also will affect the types of pictures you take so you have more choices for your slideshows.

Here are two things to try:
•?Wide shot, medium shot and close shot. This is a classic technique of Hollywood. By shooting more than one type of shot, you can better show off your subject.
•?Connections. Whenever you put two photographs together, there’s always a connection, or at least an implied connection, that a viewer will look for. For example, a child packing a bag followed with an image of a train implies that they go together—people will make that connection even if the child never went on that train!

Group Images Thoughtfully
Simply adding a lot of pictures together doesn’t necessarily help you tell a good story. The pictures must work together to support the story.

Be careful that you don’t have pictures that take away from the story. Whether we like it or not, photographs that are out of place in a group of pictures, no matter how much we like the content of that image, will be distracting and take the viewer out of your story. You can’t throw in any picture of the subject just because you like it if that image is overexposed, has focus problems, is blurry or in any other way will engage the wrong sort of attention from the viewer.

Create Variety
Another thing that you want to be aware of is that your pictures must have variety. If all the pictures look more or less the same (i.e., all shot from the same angle and in the same light), your viewer will get bored and stop paying attention to your story. Mix up your shots with different angles and compositions. Create variety with wide shots, medium shots, close shots and extreme close-ups and details.

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One challenge you’ll face is mixing vertical and horizontal photos. It can be jarring for a viewer to be going along with horizontals and suddenly be forced to reorient to a vertical image. Often, the best thing is to limit your photo selections to all horizontal or all vertical shots. If you do mix them up, be aware of when and how often you do it. This is something to keep in mind when first shooting your images.

Arranging Your Photos
With multiple pictures, consider their order. Your first image should be a strong one that sets the stage for the story. You want to end your slideshow with an image that draws a conclusion.

In between, find ways to group the photos so that they enhance and enrich your story, if you have one, or give some sort of coherent whole to the program. You need to watch out for anything that disrupts and takes away from your story. If you need clear and connected transitions among a group of pictures, be careful that they go well together. If you want to surprise your viewers and make them pay special attention to a particular set of images, you should look for ways to surprise them in your combination of pictures.

The best way to do this is to look at your photos lined up next to each other in a program that allows you to do that. You need to be able to see how photos look next to each other in sequence, and in addition, to play a preview of the images as a slideshow in order to evaluate how they interact with each other and help or hinder the telling of your story.

Great slideshows start when you’re photographing. For example, when capturing a location, take shots from a variety of perspectives, including wide shots from different angles, as well as detail shots. You may not use all of them, but having options lets you put together a more complete story in your show.

Software Options
Many programs offer the ability to look at photos as a group, including Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Apple iPhoto and Apple Aperture. However, while you can create slideshows from these programs, they really don’t offer the best possibilities for the photographer and are frequently weak on flexibility, controls and the use of music.

Programs designed specifically for slideshows work much better. They allow you to precisely work music against images, to change transitions, to change the length of time images are on screen, to use controllable pan and zoom techniques on each photo (often called the Ken Burns effect) and more.

ProShow Gold ( is one of the best slideshow programs on the market today. It allows you to quickly create and build slideshows with many options. You have to be careful about choosing the right output size for this program or you’ll be disappointed in the results (also, you can let ProShow Gold resize your originals correctly for the program). It’s available for Windows only.

FotoMagico ( is a good option for the Mac and offers many similar features. Boinx Software also has a fun slideshow program that runs on your computer (or projected from your computer) called PhotoPresenter and animates images across your computer monitor (great for laptops).

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Music can grab an audience’s attention and build a mood for your story. Music powerfully affects people’s emotions. Changing music can make a slideshow vary from upbeat to sad, negative to positive, encouraging to threatening and so forth.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about music:
•?ProShow Gold and FotoMagico work very well with music. Most image-processing programs do not.
•?If you intend to use a slideshow for any purposes that hint of commerce, including on a website that promotes your photography, you can’t use copyrighted music or you’ll open yourself up to a lawsuit.
•?You can find a lot of noncopyrighted music on the web (royalty-free music is one name for it). A good source of noncopyrighted music is from SmartSound (, a program that allows you to build music to specific lengths for a slideshow.
•?Be careful to use music that supports and complements your images and the story. For example, the use of a song that has the wrong mood and tempo for the story and the pictures won’t be received well by your viewers.

Once you’ve selected your music, preview your slideshow and make some final refinements. Maybe you’ll change the order of a few images to better match the music or remove or replace some images. The final result should feel complete and smooth. Keep these ideas in mind, and you’ll make slideshows that are entertaining for your audience.

iPhone and iPod Touch
While there are many excellent media players on the market, Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch are so common that they have become important places for showing your photos. It’s fascinating to see two photographers come together when both of them have these devices—they’ll share pictures simply by passing their devices back and forth.

If you have one of these media players, it’s easy to put your images onto it using iTunes. Keep your multiple-image slideshows separated from each other, however. If the photos all end up in a big mass storage area, you’ll find it frustrating to share your photo stories because they’ll be mixed in with others.

The easy way to handle a group of images is to save or export them to a specific folder dedicated only to those images. It helps to keep all of your photos either horizontal or vertical so your viewer doesn’t have to keep tilting the device.

Make copies of the images you want to use and resize them for the device (the iPhone and iPod Touch have a screen resolution of 480×320 pixels). Then tell iTunes to import this folder of images. I like to set up a “parent” folder for such slideshow folders—then I simply tell iTunes to always check this folder for new images. It then will erase photos when you remove a folder from this parent folder.

If you want to take it a step further, there are some apps from the iTunes App Store for slideshows that you may find of interest. Photo Show is an inexpensive app that includes templates to create slideshows quickly with many different transitions between the pictures.