The ProShow Blog

Tips, tutorials & inspiration for making slideshows

Making Better Slideshows – Seven Terrific Tips

Intro by SCU President and founder of Marketing Essentials International, Skip Cohen.

It’s Friday and many of you, especially wedding and event photographers are going to be working this weekend. I’m hoping you’ll pick up a few ideas to have in the back of your mind as you’re shooting.

Slideshows are without question one of the very hottest presentation products right now. In fact, I just spent some time at Marathon Press’ MAP Getaway where Suzette Allen and Jon Yoshinaga were instructors. They’re involved in a long list of presentation products involving video combined with still images.

From holiday cards to highlights of a special event for a client, if you’re not offering slideshows you’re missing an incredible opportunity. There’s very little that tops the combination of still images combined with short video clips and music. Remember, you’ve got one goal – to ALWAYS exceed client expectations.

There’s a lot of terrific content in the Photodex blog, all designed to make your work look better and help you to become a master storyteller! This post from their archives by “Leslie” is terrific as she shared seven ideas/techniques to help you produce a more professional presentation.

And, if you don’t have ProShow, click here for a free trial!


7 Tips for Making Any Slideshow Better

Anyone who makes photo slideshows as a hobby or professionally knows that the quality of the presentations can vary quite a bit – we’ve seen videos range from tacky & over-the-top ridiculous, to stunningly gorgeous. Thankfully, you do not need to be a grand master of slideshows (or have tons of spare time) to turn out beautiful videos with ProShow.

The core principles for making any slideshow better can easily be learned and applied by anyone at any level, amateur or pro. Read on to see what tips our design team has to offer for different aspects of the slideshow creation ‘process’, from content prep to adding finishing touches.

    1. Sort the Photo Order BEFORE Starting. For maximum efficiency, sort out the order of the photos and videos you plan to use in your slideshow before launching ProShow. The larger the project, the more crucial this step becomes, especially when using content from multiple contributors with a variety of non-descriptive file names (ex: DSC16798.jpg and IMG0003486.jpg). This will keep your from feeling overwhelmed at the start or worried about accidentally leaving out important photos during the process. Plus, you will spend far less time doing this step outside of ProShow beforehand than if you waited to figure out the order slide by slide.

      Recommended ways to sort the order – either manually rename the files directly in the folder you’re storing them by adding a sequential number to the beginning of the file name (ex: 001_originalfilename.jpg), or use our preferred method of working in a photo manager like Adobe Bridge or Photoshop Lightroom (there are many other options that do the same). First, manually drag the photos into the visual order you want. Then select all the photos you’ve sorted as a group selection, and open the batch rename tool to instantly add a sequentially numbered prefix to all of your selected files.

      Use any photo manaqger's 'batch rename' tool to numerically sort the order of your photos.

    2. Estimate Show Length & Content NeedsOne thing we like to do before starting a slideshow is to quickly estimate the total length of the show and assess content needs. It’s quick and easy to do with our awesome Slideshow Calculator, and it doesn’t need to be a highly accurate projection to be helpful. The idea here is to get a ballpark idea as to how many songs and photos you’ll need (if your show has a set length already), or vice versa – how long your show will end up being based on the amount of content you have. It allows you to avoid awkward fit/timing issues when you’re trying to wrap it up. Plus, it lets you know ahead of time if you need to cut back on the # of photos you plan on using.

      Slideshow Calculator

      Use the calculator to plug in the ‘non-negotiable’ aspects of the show (for example, quantity of photos & videos, or a pre-determined length requirement). The calculator takes this info and works backward to estimate what you’ll need in terms of soundtrack length or pacing to make it all fit optimally.

    3. Use a Limited Variety of Effects. Repeat.To give your slideshow a strong, recognizable style, it is important to be selective and consistent about the effects choices (and other style elements like fonts & colors) used in your slideshow. Using every slide style or transition effect available to you without restraint tends to result in an unfocused feeling of randomness. It would be like dumping your entire spice cabinet into your saucepan, when what you really needed for the meal was just basil, oregano, a bay leaf and salt.

      For most slideshows (excluding really basic shows), we find that limiting your selection of effects to roughly 6-12 slide styles and 4-8 transition effects is ideal for achieving a distinct, stylized look with enough variety. Of course, these are just a few guidelines that can be stretched or minimized further. The point is to limit your palette of options and use them with consistency if you want your audience to see a style pattern in your work. Using the built-in wizard themes in ProShow will automate this process for you. You can also create your own custom wizard themes using any effects you want. If applying effects manually while building a show from scratch, try using the Favorites option in ProShow to enable quick access to your preferred effects. <— Huge time-saver.

      Use the Favorites star option to bookmark any effect in your Favorites category.

    4. Pay Attention to Dark vs. LightSlideshows tend to look best if you follow either of these two approaches:

      1) Consistency Approach – When your slideshow photos are all shot at the same location/event or the backgrounds in the photo have a similar look – choose slide styles (or wizard themes) that share the same, consistent background color (dark vs. light).

      Outdoor/ daytime photos look best with 'light' slide styles.

      For example, for photos of an outdoor wedding, you’ll probably want the supporting elements in the slideshows to feel light and airy to match the feel of the photos. For these, you’d apply slide styles with light backgrounds (you’ll notice the titles of the effects usually end in either a ‘Light’ or ‘Dark’ suffix). The wizard themes also have Light/Dark variants to guide you.

      Pay attention to dark vs light

      For photos shot indoors, at night, or with a dramatic/edgy aspect, ‘Dark’ is usually more suitable. ‘Light’ styles work best with photos shot outdoors, family & kids portraits, daytime-oriented and anything with a clean, airy and modern feel.

      2. Contrasting Approach – When your slideshow project involves using photos with BOTH light & dark content and you are not bound by a chronological order (for example, a portfolio or image showcase video), consider alternating the order of the photos shown, based on the dark/light values & colors in the photos to achieve an interesting sense of contrast from one slide to the next. For example, try to alternate between ‘dark-light-dark-light’ vs. ‘dark-dark-dark-light-dark’. Do the same for colors if you can. Alternate between cool-warm-cool palettes and jump around through the color spectrum instead of clustering too many photos sharing the same color scheme.

    5. Improve Flow with Montages & VideosFlow – in terms of a slideshow, song or movie (anything that changes over time) is somewhat tricky to describe but you can feel it. It’s about energy and its relationship with the structure of the work. Most people can tell if the flow of a slideshow feels good (even if they don’t know why), because there is a feeling of momentum and new things around the corner and because…they don’t feel bored! If a slideshow looks nice but feels dull or a certain part feels ‘stuck in a rut’, the flow needs improvement. To see this concept in action, take a look at the song. If you consider the song’s structure, in most cases, you’ll find that it doesn’t just play 5 verses in a row. There’s a chorus that comes in every once in awhile to break up the pattern and ‘reset’ the feeling of sameness.

      There are different ways to improve flow in a slideshow. Using contrast by way of alternating photo content, mentioned above, can go a long way. Another easy way to improve flow is to throw in surprises (at intervals) such as multi-photo montages & video clips. Throughout your show, every 4-6 slides containing single photos, try grouping multiple related photos into the same slide and apply a montage (multi-photo) effect. (Tip: You can use the ‘Combine Slides’ option to merge multiple selected slides into one.)

      Improve workflow with montages and videos.

      ProShow comes with built-in montage effects you can use, plus you can always add to your collection by getting Effects Packs. Best. Value. Ever. Seriously.

      ProShow Effects Packs

      Video is another one of our go-to flow enhancers. Try interspersing video clips throughout your slideshow (assuming the video is related to the photos you’ve been showing). It is guaranteed to add an unexpected energy and life to the overall presentation. ProShow makes it easy to add video clips just like any still photo. You can even trim the length to just the part you need, using the built-in trimmer.

    6. Save Time with Quick & Easy ShortcutsEarlier we mentioned repeating the use of specific effects throughout your show to strengthen its stylistic identity. However, repetition of effects does not have to equate to tedium on your part. Using the wizard in ProShow to create or remix slideshows will minimize effort if you want the automatic, hand-off approach. For those who prefer to make slideshows from scratch or fine-tune with a few custom changes, you’ll love the time-saving benefits of ProShow’s ‘Copy Settings’ options and ‘Select File’ image swap technique.

      Copy Settings
      In ProShow, there must be at least a hundred options for copying one aspect of your show to another part of the show. When in doubt, right-click on the slide, layer, or setting you want to copy and you will likely see a ‘Copy Settings’ option to expedite your process. It allows you to transfer the slide or layer values for one setting (whether position, style, motion, color, etc.) to another slide or layer as a single instance copy or batch/global copy. If you need to quickly change a font for a recurring caption on 21 slides, this would be the perfect opportunity to apply this handy feature.

      The Copy Settings Feature

      The ‘Select File’ Image Swap Technique
      Slide styles are great to use because they’re fast, virtually effortless ways to transform a still photo into something far cooler and dynamic. However, for those building shows from scratch – manually applying slide styles to dozens of photos, even with 1-click ease, still takes more time and energy than we like – especially if you can’t remember the exact name of the effect. The lazy/smart man’s approach is to simply find a slide in your show that uses the style you want to re-use. Copy and paste this slide (Ctrl+C, then Ctrl+V) to create a copy of that slide anywhere in your show. Open up the copied slide, right click on any photo layers in it (it doesn’t matter if there are duplicates), then click ‘Select File’ to pick another photo to swap in. Even faster, you can just drag a photo from ProShow’s file browser onto the layer and it’ll instantly auto-update, duplicates and all.

      Shortcuts for swapping images in your show.

    7. Add Polish to the Final DeliveryYou know the mantra – first impressions are lasting impressions. Whether you plan to share your finished slideshow digitally (online or on a mobile device), or rather – as a physical disc, there are a few quick and simple things you can do to enhance the professionalism of your delivery.

      For Online Slideshow Videos – Create a Cover/Poster Image
      A video’s ‘cover’ or ‘poster’ image is the static placeholder graphic shown when the video is not in the process of playing. Since the chances are just as likely that your video will NOT be playing vs. playing, when someone is browsing the page it is on, it’s worthwhile to make sure the static cover image properly represents your slideshow in the best possible way. The cover image should draw people in and entice them to watch the video.

      Most sites that support videos (Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, WordPress video display options, etc.) allow you to upload a custom cover image for your videos. If you don’t select a cover image, the default is auto-selected from a random scene in your video. If you’d rather not leave things to chance (we don’t), then designate a specific photo or custom graphic to serve as your video’s cover image.

      Create a video cover image.

      If you have ProShow Producer, you can take advantage of our favorite method, which is to use the ‘Capture Frame‘ option to save a high res static image of any point in a slideshow (yes, you can even print this image if you wanted to). Just drag the Slideshow Scrubber Bar to the point in the Slide List you want, then right-click on the Preview Screen and select ‘Capture Frame’. We often choose to capture a still frame of the show’s title scene for a video’s cover image, but sometimes, we’ll pull it from a particularly exciting spot somewhere in the middle if it sums up the feel of the video nicely.

      For Presenting Slideshows on Disc
      If you’re giving a hard copy of a slideshow on disc, treat it like the gift that it is. Package it nicely so it’s never mistaken for a drink coaster. Not only are there countless elegant disc cases & folio options to consider for your DVD, Blu-ray and CD deliverables, but there are also do-it-yourself case insert & label options that you can print at home. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our free downloadable DVD case templates for Photoshop & MS Word.

      Create custom DVD covers easily with our free templates.

Better Slideshows are Made with Better Tools

You wouldn’t start a trip on an empty tank of gas, or try to chop wood with a butter knife. In order to make the best photo & video slideshows, you’ll need the right tool for the job. With ProShow, it takes just minutes to create a beautiful slideshow video using the automatic wizard and instant effects. From there, you have the freedom to customize as much as you want, with maximum efficiency. To get started on your best slideshow to date, get ProShow 8 today. Upgrade or try it free today.



Skip Cohen is President of SCU, founder of Marketing Essentials International and past president of Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI. He’s been an active participant in the photographic industry since joining Hasselblad USA in 1987 as president. He has co-authored six books on photography and actively supports dozens of projects each year involving photographic education.

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