If you want to produce a photo slide show for a presentation, to put on a social media site or just to email to family and friends, then you need to look no further than Microsoft’s free Photo Story 3 to get the job done. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/photostory/default.mspx.
This is a very powerful little program which can perform such editing tasks as color-correction, brightness and contrast control, rotation, red-eye removal, adding smooth transitions and best of all, complete motion control which allows zooms and pans of your photos. You can also add titles or text on any of the photos and insert pre-recorded music files or create your own with the built in music composer.
What’s amazing is the simplicity and intuitiveness of the product. There is a wizard that prompts you to import pictures, which can be done by simply dragging and dropping your selections from your photo folders then arranging them on the timeline as you wish. There’s an option that you shouldn’t overlook called “remove black borders”. This is especially useful for vertical photos where you need to “crop in” to eliminate the black borders. What’s great is that you don’t have to lose any of a vertical image because you can later use the motion control to move from head to toe if you wish. I wouldn’t skip past the horizontal pictures here, because you can still fine tune them with the crop tool.
Clicking “next” brings the “add a title” page where you select the image(s) you want text on, then type into the window. You can justify left, center or right then adjust fonts, colors, etc. There’s also a drop down menu where you can add effects to the pictures like black and white, sepia , glow and others.
The next page allows you to narrate your slides and customize motion. If you click on the preview button you’ll see the default slide show with preset picture durations and the zooms. It may look fine to you because the zooms are slow and subtle, but the zooms are random which probably won’t agree with you creatively. Clicking “customize motion” enables you to easily set the start and end positions of the zooms and to change the duration that the image is displayed. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to cut off part of a vertical photo because you can pan and tilt to include the whole image. There is also a tab to set transitions, but for the most part, I would stick with the default “cross fade” instead of the cheesy wipes that are included.
The next page allows you to add background music. If you have a song you want to use, click on “select music”, locate a song and open it to insert onto the timeline. You can also use the “create music” button to generate various styles, moods, tempos and intensities.
You’re almost finished now. “Next” takes you to the “save your story” section. You choose to output for a higher quality computer presentation, a mobile phone or for an email. Clicking the settings buttons takes you to a profiles drop-down menu. The default for computers is only 640×480 pixels, so I’d suggest going with the 1024×768 setting to get optimum quality. I would also go with a higher quality email setting unless the show is going to be long. Look at the resulting file size to see if it small enough to be attached to an email. The limit here at San Jac is around 4MB. Save your files to a folder where you can find them. Clicking next will produce the slide show in a WMV (Windows Media Video) format that can be viewed on nearly every computer. You can also click the “back” button and create other profiles of the video.
These instructions/tips aren’t intended to be detailed, because once you get started, it’s so intuitive that you’ll learn more by just experimenting with the creative controls and choosing those that you like
Here’s a brief test show which didn’t take over 5 or 10 minutes to complete. mms://media.sanjac.edu/111/PhotoStoryTest.wmv.
There are, however, a couple of drawbacks that I must mention. The first is that the resulting slide show is in a video formant so some of the resolution of a high quality photo format will be lost (the highest resolution is 1024×768). The second is that the software is designed to be used with Win XP and there isn’t a version for Win 7 at this point. Hopefully, a newer version will be made available soon because this is a program that is worth keeping.