Create a Fab Photo Slideshow for Free

So you’ve taken a bunch of photos.  Perhaps you’ve just got back from holiday with a phone full of those precious snaps you took while away.  Maybe you had a party and grabbed some cool shots on your camera.  Wherever your pictures came from, a key question remains: what to do with those precious memories?

Sure you could download them on to your computer and just leave them there, buried in the depths of your hard drive never to be seen again.  You could upload them to social media and share with friends – not a bad option, if you’re happy to overlook any privacy concerns that might entail – but even in this modern age there’s still something special about putting together your very own slideshow.

Creating a video with your own photographs and adding a ‘rocking’ backing track to accompany them puts you in complete control.  You become creator, producer and director all rolled into one.  There was a time when making something worth watching was pretty time-consuming, not to mention required a reasonable amount of technical skill.

Fret not, those days are gone.  A good-looking photo slideshow can be put together in mere minutes.  Sure, you can spend longer, adding a bit more polish, but decent results are achievable in no time at all.  Better yet, all this is possible with software that won’t even cost you a penny.

For this task we are going to employ the easy to use (and yet remarkably powerful) OpenShot.  So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

Building our slideshow

First, make sure you have downloaded your pics from your camera (or phone) to your computer.  Then download the software from here:

Click the Download button (as shown in the screenshot below).

OpenShot is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.  The website should detect what type of computer you have and automatically download the correct version for you.  Once the file has downloaded, double-click on it to install.  The installation wizard is very simple.  Just accept the licence agreement and install the program.  Once the installation is complete there should be a shortcut on your desktop.  Double-click this to launch the software.  You will be presented with an interface that looks like the one below.

Let’s take a quick moment to get to know the basics of this layout.

The area highlighted with the number 1 is where you will see your “Project Files”.  This is the media you import into the program (for example, photos or music).

Area 2 is the “Video Preview”.  Once you start to create your slideshow, as the name suggests you will be able to preview what it looks like here.

The area labelled as number 3 is the timeline.  Your media will end up in here.  In our little project we will have one “Track” for our photos and another for our background music.

Okay, that’s all we need to know about the interface to get us going (told you it was easy, didn’t I).  So let’s start by importing our photos.  To do this, click the green + button (Import Files) as shown in the picture below.

Clicking this button will open a new window through which you find the photos on your computer (hint: unless you specified otherwise, they are most likely in the “Pictures” directory).  It makes life easier if your photos are all in the same folder, so if this isn’t the case it’s a good idea to do this first.

Let’s assume that you would like to put all of the photos in this folder into your slideshow.  To do this, simply press Ctrl + A on your keyboard to highlight them and then click “Open”.  If it asks if you’d like to import the photos as an image sequence, say no.

The photos will start appearing in the “Project Files” area of the program.  Once they have all appeared (the more photos you have, the longer this will take), you need to select them all again.  To do this, single left-click on one of them and press Ctrl+A on the keyboard once more to highlight them.  Now right-click on one of the highlighted photos and select “Add To Timeline”.

A new window will pop up (as in the screenshot below) and your photos will appear on the left-hand side of it.

If you’d like to change the order in which they appear in the slide show, simply click on the photo you’d like to move and use the up and down arrow buttons at the bottom to move it.  There is also a “shuffle” button next to these if you’d sooner make the order a bit more random.

Now look at the right-hand side of the window.  Here you can select the “Track” number you want to put your photos on.  This is entirely up to you, but for the purpose of this article we’ll use “Track 1”.  Below this you can set the length of time each image shows on the screen.  Here we’ll go for “5 seconds”.

Next up you can set a “Fade”, if you require it.  Letting images “Fade In”, “Fade Out” (or both).  We’re not going to use that here, but feel free if you’d like to.  Again, we don’t require any zoom (the next option), but it’s there should you wish to use it.

Now we can add a “Transition”.  I’m going to use a simple “Wipe left to right”, but feel free to experiment with whichever you fancy.  You don’t usually want the transition to be overly long, just long enough to get you smoothly between photos.  Here I’m going to use the default “2 seconds”.

Once you’ve chosen all of your options, click the “OK” button to proceed.  Your photos will be imported onto the timeline and you can preview how it looks.  Just click the play button in the “Video Preview” section.  This is shown by the red arrow in the screenshot below.

Click the button again to stop the video preview.  You can also see how the photos have been placed onto the timeline in “Track 1” (indicated by the yellow arrow above).

That’s the photos sorted.  Now let’s add some music.

Note, music (audio files) can be obtained from all sorts of places.  You may have a song on one of your favourite CDs you’d like to use as your backing track (Remember if the music is under copyright, you should make sure your final slideshow is only for personal use).  If you’d like to learn how to copy CD tracks onto your computer, check out the “CD Ripping” article.

Back to OpenShot.  In the “Project Files” area, click the green + button (Import Files) again.  This time locate the audio file you would like to use as a backing track and click open.  As you will see in the screenshot below, I’ve imported the file “music.mp3” (shown by yellow arrow 1).

You can add your music to any track other than the one containing your photographs.  In the screenshot above I added mine to “Track 2” (shown by yellow arrow 2).  The music may well be longer than the length of your photos.  If this is the case, hover your mouse over the end of the audio track until the double-ended arrow appears.  If you now hold down your left mouse button, you can click and drag the end of the audio track to line it up with the end of the video (photos) one.

Next hover your mouse over the playhead (indicated by the red arrow in the last screenshot).  A hand will appear.  Drag the playhead to the left until it’s back at the beginning of the video.  Now click the play button again in the “Video Preview” section to watch your slideshow with its newly added soundtrack.

If the slideshow finishes with the music coming to a sudden halt, we can use a simple effect to improve this.  First, right-click the music track on the timeline, and select “Volume”, “End of Clip”, “Fade Out (Slow)” .  As the labels suggest, your music will now fade to nothing at the end of the slideshow.

That’s all well and good but it still feels a little abrupt at the end, with the last photo simply stopping.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fade this into black to give our slideshow a more professional finish.  And we can, very easily!

First, right-click on the final photo (in “Track 1”, in this example).  Note, if the photos are too close together on the timeline to view individually, you can use the “+” above the timeline to zoom in closer (or the “-” to zoom out).  You can also drag the slider, if you’d sooner.  In the menu that appears once you’ve right-clicked your last photo, select “Fade”, “End of Clip”, “Fade Out (Slow)”.  Preview your video now and both the picture and sound should fade out at the end, giving it a much nicer finish.

Right, that’s the slideshow completed.  All that’s left to do is export it as a video file ready to share with the world!  Click the red button (Export Video), as shown by the yellow arrow in the screenshot below.

An “Export Video” window will pop up (as in the example above).  In the “File Name” box, give your slideshow a name.  Click the “Browse” button to select where to save it on your computer.  You can use the “Profile” drop down to select specific video types, or leave it as “All Formats” as I have done so that you can manually select your video options below.

In this example I went with MP4 (h.264) for the “Target”, which is a popular type of video format.  I set the “Video Profile” to “HD 1080p 25 fps (1920×1080), which is Full High Definition, and I set the “Quality” to “High”.  Now click “Export Video”.  How long this takes will depend on several factors, such as the length of your slideshow (the number of photos it contains), and how powerful your computer is.  Note, you don’t need a powerful PC to use this software, but having one will make the process faster.  Once the export is complete, you will have a high quality, full HD video in a common file type.

One last thing you might like to do before exiting OpenShot is also save your project.  This is different from exporting the video. By saving the project file you will be able to re-open the entire project within OpenShot and edit it further at a later date.  It’s always a good idea to do this, even of you don’t think you’ll want to re-edit your slideshow right now – you might change your mind at a later date and, if you haven’t saved the project, you’ll have to start all over again.

So how do you save it?

Click “File” and then “Save Project As…”  Now just give it a meaningful name and save it as you would any other file.  NB. If you do intend to edit your slideshow at a later date, it is also important to keep your files (photos and music) in the same directories as when you created the slideshow, or OpenShot won’t know where to find them when you re-open it.

So there you have it, your very own slideshow, showing off your fantastic photos.  What could be better than that?  Well, what about watching your finished masterpiece on the television and playing it to all the family? (if you’re not sure how to go about this, see the article “How to setup Chromecast”)

If you’d like to see some other cool features you can create using OpenShot, check out the following video.