Nov 022009

 Custom Baby Slideshows

A few months ago, I talked to a group at our local senior center about an upcoming class for learning to make DVD slideshows using free software. What a surprise–I was the one who learned! Most of my audience started mumbling things about being “nowhere near able to do that…” I realized that I needed to simplify the process at first, then add details as I go along.

Making basic, beautiful slideshows is not as difficult as it first seems. Especially when you learn a few tricks like pan-and-zoom (the Ken Burns Effect).

So in the spirit of making things easy, here is a simple overview of what it takes to build a nice, cohesive slideshow that people will want to watch again and again:

1. Gather your photos, and have photos scanned that are not already on disk or on your computer. Whether scanning yourself or using a service, be the resolution is at least 300 dpi.

2. Organize your photos into sections by sorting them into 3 – 5 folders (beginning, middle, end). Name the files with letter prefixes, such as “a-baby1” etc. Letter prefixes will help ensure proper sorting better than numeric prefixes. Don’t get too stuck on the exact order of photos, because you may decide to move some around for artistic reasons later.

3. Edit your photos for color fading and red-eye in your favorite free photo editor. If you don’t have one on your computer, try I just discovered this site, and it’s my favorite free online editor so far. Be sure to save each photo as you edit it.

4. Think about your music before you add it. I usually have 2 or 3 more songs in mind than I end up using, then make final decisions after trying the tracks with my photos. It can be difficult to know ahead of time which music will match the flow of your slides best until you see them in motion.

4. Open your favorite slideshow design software or website and read the help file or user’s manual. If you don’t know where to begin, check your PC for Photo Story 3, or go to to download it free.

5. Insert your photos slideshow frames, select motion effects and transitions. Add your music tracks and try them out before making your final draft. Remember that the timing of your music will affect your show length, and you may have to work on adjusting slide timing quite a bit to get it just right.

This should get you started on your show. Remember to buy high-quality DVDs for burning your show if you want to have hard copies. Also, buy labels made just for DVDs. I prefer Memorex labels because their template software seems to work best for my printer. Mis-aligned labels can drive you crazy and waste ink and paper!

Feel free to ask me any questions, and I’ll start posting resources ASAP.