Slide Shows

A slide show is a sequence of images setup to be shown in order.  For our purposes most of the images are photographs, but we also include titles, maps, and some text.  The slide show may be stepped through manually so that you can comment on each image, or it can be self-contained.  Self-contained slide shows are made with software tools such as Photoshop Elements or Microsoft Powerpoint. A self-contained show has the images advance automatically in sequence and may include a musical track or audio narration. This tutorial covers the basics of making a self-contained slide show.

The steps of making a slide show are:
  1. Collect the materials you are going to use to make the show. This will include your photos, but also web research on the subject, maps, brochures, and music.
  2. Edit the photographs you are going to use. Adjust color and contrast, crop them, and reduce the resolution to what will be used for the show. You may include separate sections extracted from larger high resolution images.
  3. Put the images in order and tag them for retrieval in Organizer or a similar program.
  4. Make the title slide for the show and any slides that use text, maps, brochure images, and the like. Tag them in Organizer.
  5. Assemble the slide show using the slide program software.  In Photoshop Elements, that is Create > Slide Show...
  6. Review the show and make adjustments.
  7. Cut a DVD or make a file for posting or distribution.
This sounds like a lot of work. After you have done it a few times, guess what, it is still a lot of work. The benefit is that it is an excellent way to show photographs. Photographs are meant to be viewed, not archived.

The running example in this tutorial is an afternoon visit to Jerome, Arizona. Once a mining town, it is now emerging as a tourist town and artist colony. I visited with a friend in July 2008 and took about 70 photos during the trip. That is a lot, but quite a few were three frame sequences for HRDI, and others were multiple frames for stitched panoramas. It boiled down to about 45 images for the show.

Collect Materials

A web search for "Jerome, AZ" turned up some good reference material.  It's for a slide show, not a magazine article, so snippets suffice to serve as a base for captions, commentary, and text slides. I like to put the reference links at the end of the show in case someone wants to follow up on the subject. I noted a public domain old photo I might use. My notes are here.
Jerome map
Including a screen captured map will help orient the viewer of travel slides.

For travel shows it is good to add maps near the start of the show to orient the reader to the location. I use Google Maps to bring up the map images on the computer screen, then do a screen capture.  Pressing Print Screen on your keyboard actually doesn't print the screen, it copies the screen image to the computer's clip board. In the Photoshop Editor File > New > From clipboard brings up the image so it can be cropped and annotated.  Add some bold text for the destination, because the map details may be difficult to read, particularly if the slides get cooked down to DVD resolution.  It helps to use two or three maps to zoom in on the location.  Print Screen overwrites the clipboard every time you press the key, so you can switch over to Photoshop and save the screen image each time, or you can use a program like MWSnap to automatically save the captures with different names. 

If the route to the location is interesting that can be added to the map. Another possibility is to add the locations and directions of individual photo location by adding small arrows to the map. To prepare for adding photo locations save a clean copy of the map at an appropriate scale.  Tag all the the maps and collected images in organizer (Jerome Slide Show in this case).

If you'd like to add a musical track there are Internet sites that offer "free" tracks. The ones I looked at wanted an enormous amount of personal information and only promised sample fragments. Another option is "royalty free," which means that you pay a one-time fee up front, but nothing thereafter. You must read the license agreements carefully, one front allows only ten copies, use only in-house, and use only for sixty days. They offered a three and a half minute track for $40 subject to all those restrictions. There are sites with more favorable terms, but take extreme care. I don't recommend copying something off a CD you own if the slide show is going to be distributed to others. That infringes on copyright laws.

Edit the Photos

First go through the photos and do all the editing and cropping that would ordinarily be done with the full resolution photos.

At that point you should be concerned with the resolution of the final product.  This affects the sharpening and resizing of images when you resize the images to fit the final display.  Also, you have the opportunity of extracting a small are from a 2400 x 3600 pixel image to show in a separate slide.  If you are preparing for DVD output, you may want to do that more often than if you are headed for a computer screen.

In Jerome, the Historical Society was raising funds for a restoration project by encouraging visitors to pitch coins into various receptacles.  I had a wide angle shot of the project from which I extracted a small area to show what was going on. To extract an area first use the selection tool to draw a dotted box around it (shown red below for clarity) then Edit > Copy to put it on the clipboard. Then File > New > Image from clipboard to create a new image.

Restoration project   Pitch In

In the close-up I darken the lettering in the sign and lightened the shadows in the small building. Notice that the coins, mostly pennies (cheapskate tourists), are visible in the close up.

Consider extracting close views of
  • People in general scenes
  • Signs
  • Individual items in store windows
  • Notices tacked up on bulleting boards
  • Fine patterns on surfaces
The Photoshop Create > Slide show ... option offers output as a pdf, a movie file in wmv format, or a DVD that will run on a standard player.  The pdf (Adobe's portable document format) offers resolution choices from 640 x 480 up to 1600 x 1200. Whatever you choose, the software will resize the images to fit that format. If the image shape is different, it will fill with black or with a bland background pattern you choose from a palette. The movie file formats range from 160 x 120 "e-mail size" to 720 x 480 (NTSC video format) or 720 x 576 (European PAL video format). DVDs are NTSC or PAL resolution. I don't trust the quality of automatic resizing to do more than a 2:1 reduction, so if you are headed towards something smaller than DVD resolution, I recommend manually reducing the images to close to the output format using the techniques covered in resizing

For the Jerome slide show I opted for the 1280 x 960 format for a pdf.  I made the title and text slides to fit that exactly.  The pdf will play on most computer screens. If I opt for a DVD output, I'll trust the output software to do the 2:1 reduction required.

Put Photos in Order

Most often the sequence in which you took the pictures is a good order for showing them. In Photoshop the order is determined by the slide show editor. Some possible exceptions to chronological order are:
  • Show broad overviews before individual scenes within the overview: a shot of the main street before the individual stores, a view of the pier before the person fishing. Overviews are often not taken in order; you may walk down one side of the street and back on the other. The whole shop will then not have been taken before the close up of the window. There is no need to try to take them in order, just remember to take overviews when it is convenient.
  • Show the close up extracted from a scene right after the scene.
  • If there is logical sequence suggested by the subject. For example, an overview may show shops in left to right order even if you happened not to visit them in order.
  • If you visit the same place on different days it makes sense to have at least a rough order by time of day. Sunset is logically at the end, not in the middle.
  • Note that slides may be repeated using copies. It might make sense to occasionally refer back to an overview of the street as you show individual shops.
To use the Slide Show Editor, first select all the images you want to include in the show by selecting them in the Organizer layout. Ctrl-click each one to highlight it in blue.  Then call up  Create > Slide show ...and select a project name.  Use the Quick Reorder feature and drag-and-drop to put them in your preferred order.  Save the slide show under the project name, after which the project will appear in the Organizer layout. The onlyway you can get the ordered slides back again is to click on the project in the Organizer layout.  The projects do not appear on the File menu when you bring up the Slide Show Editor. 

Make Text Slides

Title slide
A title slide should include the subject and a picture.
If you set out the sequence of the images first, it will be more apparent where text slides need to be inserted. In the Jerome slide show I noticed that I started with photos in the downtown area and then moved to scenics of the Jerome hillside from the outskirts. I decided to put in a map with some text to mark that change.

I think it best to put an image on the title slide. That is a clue that this will be mainly a picture show rather than a "death by bullets" Powerpoint presentation. For Jerome I chose an overview scene showing the town on its hillside perch. The first images are of the downtown, so the hill view helps set the context.

I fussed with the type fonts to be consistent with an Old West theme. There are web sites (e.g., Urban Fonts, SearchFreeFonts) offering free type fonts to support theming. You might shortcut this nicety to save time. It is more about the images than the fonts. Text slide can be made in the Slide show Editor, but there is more flexibility in making them using the Photoshop Full Edit.

There should be a slide at the end to signal that the show is over. You might include your name, your e-mail address, acknowledgments of people who helped, websites for further study on the topic, and a copyright notice. In the US you have a copyright by default, but it doesn't hurt to show you are interested. Because of the default copyright, if you want to allow the show to be reproduced or to be reproduced with restrictions, you must put in a notice to that effect.

Assemble the Show

Add the text slides to the show and move them to the right locations in the sequence using the Slide Editor. The default timing is to spend five seconds showing each image and then two seconds transitioning to the next.  The transition time is too long for my taste, so I set it down to one second. I like more than five seconds per slide, but I hesitate to inflict much more than five seconds on a general audience. The Jerome slide show lasts four minutes.

There is an innocuous default music track that can be set to repeat, or you can add your own music track. Voice narration can be added to each slide in Organizer, as can written captions. I think music is often the best, even if it is just the default.

Make the slide show at the resolution you are planning for the final output.

Review and Edit

Play though the slide show and take notes. Look for
  • Basic mistakes in image color, contrast, or cropping
  • Detail slides that should be extracted from larger images and shown separately as blowups
  • Problems with the automatic reduction to the selected resolution
  • Slides that do not appear long enough to finish reading or do not appear long enough to appreciate
  • General pacing that is too slow or too fast
  • Slides that need text explanations
Go through the list of problems checking off the needed edits as you make them. Remake the show and give it another check to make sure all the changes worked.

Cut a DVD

DVD and mini DVD
A mini DVD is a good way to distribute a slide show.
Either cut a DVD or make the final pdf  or movie file. DVDs can be mailed out in a plain unpadded envelope; Netflix mails out millions of DVDs that way and they survive. There is a 3.1 inch [8 cm] mini-DVD format that can be burned on ordinary burners and read on ordinary players. These small disks hold about 1.5 GB and could be included with a holiday greeting card.

Movie files can be upload to a site like YouTube if you can put up with the quality limitations. pdf slide shows can be burned to disk or posted on your own web site.  If they are not too large, they can be sent as e-mail attachments.  Some e-mail services have a limitation on attachment size, 5 MB is typical.  There are also online digital delivery services like YouSendIt that allow you upload large files and then notify recipients how to download them. That overcomes e-mail limitations.

The Jerome Slide Show is a 14 MB pdf. To view the sample slide show of Jerome provided here, right click on the link below and Save link as... (or the equivalent on your browser). Then click on the transfered file to display it using Adobe Acrobat Reader 7.0 or later. The show cycles in a loop; hit the ESC key on your keyboard to exit.

Slide show download

The Jerome slide show includes examples of many of the techniques presented on this site. There are distortion-corrected wide angle shots, closeups, stitched panoramas, high dynamic range images, and natural light interiors. Taking pictures was part of the experience of visiting Jerome, but it was not so intrusive as to require putting all else aside in favor of the photography mission. We walked around, enjoyed the sights, and had lunch. Most of the fuss related to photography was later, at home, preparing the images and editing the slide presentation.