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Globe tipsheet: Creating an interesting slideshow

Posted by Angela Nelson, Staff  August 17, 2009 01:59 PM

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Summer still has a couple of weeks to go, but soon it will be time to clean out the cottage, the trunk, and your camera's memory cards. We've all received emails from friends and relatives with a link to view a photo slideshow from a wedding or vacation. And too often, those slideshows are simply every single photo the photographer took, and we're exhausted by the time we get to Slide No. 167.

We asked Globe staff photographer Joanne Rathe for some tips on creating interesting slideshows that tell a story or capture an event succinctly. Here are her thoughts and some examples:

By Joanne Rathe
Globe Staff

Live the moment, preserve the memories. Create the perfect audio slideshow.

Whether you are off on a new adventure or headed to a familiar environment, you can document your vacation and have memories for a lifetime. Still images set to music or a narrative can be the most powerful storytelling medium, and a lot more fun to watch than unedited video.

For an effective story-telling slideshow, you need several components:

Photograph your summer vacation as though you are on assignment for a travel magazine. Shoot a lot. Edit later. You need a combination of wide scenic shots, medium shots, and details, which could be close-ups of food, architecture, signs, or toes. You also need graphic, pretty shots - early morning or late afternoon light, unusual perspectives, surprising pictures of ordinary scenes. And of course, moments.

Editing photos: You want to arrange your photos so they tell a story. You can start with a wide shot or a surprising detail, but keep your photos flowing in a variety of angles. Edit tight! The whole slideshow should be no longer than a couple of minutes. If each slide runs 3-4 seconds, you need approximately 40 photos.

fishing.jpgCheck out Joanne Rathe's slideshow of a girls-only fishing trip
with some of Boston's top female chefs on board the ''Offshore Fun.''

The simple sound solution is to add meaningful songs. Music does wonders for photos.

A more complicated method is to "gather" sound as you would gather images. Start listening. Record interesting ambient sound. The "click, click, click" of a roller coaster going up, the stillness of an early morning, local accents, a quote from your favorite aunt. There are several ways to record sound - a digital tape recorder, a digital video camera (you can convert a clip to a sound file), some cell phones have short recording devices, or simply use your computer's own recording device when you get home and tell a narrative.

Editing sound: You can save files as separate sound files and add them to your slideshow, or you can develop a sound track, mixing several of your sound files with music. If you don't own a PC, you can download a free audio editing program called Audacity.

If you own a Mac, you are all set. All the software you need is probably already on your desktop. iDVD is a great, easy-to-use slideshow program that burns the slideshow onto a DVD that you can watch on your TV. GarageBand is a great sound editing program.

There is a wide range of slide editing programs out there. One of newspaper photographers' favorite programs, developed for journalists telling stories, is Soundslides. It's good for PCs or Macs and is relatively inexpensive. You need to have a completed sound file to begin using this program, which will determine the length of the slideshow.

cookaree.jpg Joanne did this audio slideshow of a Lexington Boy Scout "Cookeree Campout."
The troop cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner outdoors, including turkey and pies.

Keep it short and sweet. Edit as tightly as possible. Keep transitions simple; don't be tempted to use fancy transitions -- it gets very gimmicky. A simple fade is beautiful. Motion in photos gets overused. Save the slideshow to at least two DVDs. As with all digital media, it could get corrupted.

One last recommendation: Since you have a great collection of photos, make prints! Prints are the only thing we know that will last at least a lifetime.

See a portfolio of Joanne's work here.

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