From the Archives: Tell a Story with a Photo Slideshow

Do you remember the Christmas Tour of Blogs? What a fun project that was! This post is about taking advantage of your photo-editor’s slideshow capabilities to tell a story with pictures and as I was browsing for appropriate photos to use in my example, I stumbled onto my photo “cards” that I used in the tour. So, of course this project gets a Christmas theme!

Just about every photo-editing platform has some form of slideshow feature. If yours doesn’t or it’s too clunky for you, then put your Power Point/Keynote presentation app to work instead. Either way, you can build a fascinating story to share with family and friends. Let’s start by taking a look at the finished slideshow.

Tell a Story with Pictures – The Christmas Tour of Blogs from Moultrie Creek on Vimeo.

There’s no rule stating that a slideshow can only be made from photographs. Why not use your scrapbook skills to create graphic images – which can contain multiple photos – and use them in your project? I’m using iPhoto’s slideshow feature with the Vintage Prints theme. This theme worked best with my portrait-oriented images and it did the least bit of auto-cropping. The background music is Deck the Halls by Richard Freitas – a $1.99 purchase from Vimeo’s Music Store. It’s license lets me use it for public projects such as this without worrying about the DRM-Nazis screaming for my head. The track runs right at 90 seconds so I set the slideshow to time itself with the music. That gives the viewer time to read the captions as well as look at the photos. Once the slideshow was finished, I exported it to video and uploaded it to Vimeo. The entire slideshow part of the project took less than 30 minutes to complete and much of that was experimenting with the various themes to choose the right one for this project.

While the slideshow only took minutes, the cards took a bit longer. They were built in Photoshop Elements. The card background was created using a layer of my red background color, then placing a stylized line graphic over the background and adjusting the graphic layer’s opacity to have it fade into the background. The background was saved as a template file. Photos then had to be selected, each cropped to the same size, placed on the background template and saved as a separate image file. The light colored border around the image gives the look of a beveled edge to the card and the text color matches it. Once each of the cards was finished, it was saved and imported to iPhoto. The toughest part of the original project was cropping and sizing the images to fit in the template.

iPhoto lets me export the slideshow project in sizes ranging from small (fits an iPhone screen) to large (tv and large monitor screens). Nothing says I can’t export multiple copies – each in a different size. I can then email one size, share another on Facebook, post to my family blog or display a larger version on my tv using Apple TV or a Roku box.

Whether simple or complex, a photo slideshow is a great way to tell a story.

Side note: I don’t know about you, but I import a “finished” copy of just about every graphic/scrapbooking project I create into iPhoto. Not only is it inspiration for future projects, but as in this case, it can become the content in a new project.

Family Portrait

Family-Portrait-1996
Family Portrait – actually an out-take where the photographer said something funny, then took the photo. It’s my favorite.

Several years ago – while preparing for one of our larger Christmas family gatherings – my cousin in California asked if I would set up an appointment with a photographer to have a family portrait taken. I liked the idea of a family photo, but doubted that many others in this clan would be thrilled with the idea. Several days later I was downtown running some errands and as I walked past one of those “Olde Time” photo shops the light bulb came on! You know those places – where you dress up in costume and have a photo taken which is printed to look like it was taken ages ago. You can be a gunslinger, a riverboat gambler, a Southern belle or a flapper. Everybody loves these family portraits.

Since we live in a tourist area, we had several studios to choose from and one was large enough to handle our crowd. We were able to use our numbers to get a nice discount on our photos and because we were willing to schedule our appointment as their last shoot before shutting down on Christmas Eve, we didn’t interfere with their walk-in business. Of the 20 people here for Christmas, only 2 didn’t come for the photo. A couple more had to be dragged in, but they turned out to be the ones who enjoyed the experience most.

The process of choosing costumes and comparing each other’s choices created a much more relaxed atmosphere than we would have had for a “formal” portrait. The results were delightful and those photos are treasures! A few years later – at the next big Christmas gathering – the family photo was most requested event option. Who’d a thunk?

Project Keynote Life

What is Project Life? from Becky Higgins LLC on Vimeo.

I love the idea of Project Life but I think it can be done just as creatively without spending a lot of time and money. And, the results can easily be shared to any number of others. How? By using my presentation graphics program (Keynote for Mac or PowerPoint for Windows). These are great scrapbooking tools!

DigitalLife 1

This is one slide from my “daily” album. The custom journaling cards take advantage of Keynote’s built-in design elements. I just created a rectangle shape, chose a color and used a ragged line border. I also used that border for the photos. What’s really nice about this example is that the photo on the left isn’t actually a photo – it’s a 10-second video clip.

If you want to add embellishments, that’s quite easy. Keynote users will find Jumsoft’s Toolbox for Keynote [Mac & iOS] and Toolbox for MS Office offer a number of gorgeous themes for photo albums as well as delightful graphics and other embellishments at very reasonable prices. The toolbox app is actually a catalog of these elements and you make in-app purchases for the ones you want. Many of them are free.

A Letter Archive Option

From the Gazette archives . . .

A while back there was an interesting discussion in the Technology for Genealogy group on Facebook about handling letters – scanning, transcribing and displaying them. It’s a great discussion and full of useful suggestions. Since I’m also working on a collection of letters, it’s been very helpful.

Grandpa’s letters.

My project is a collection of letters my grandfather sent my grandmother before they got married. She came to the tiny Holland, Georgia, community to teach school in 1908. There, she met my grandfather. She was only there for one year before moving on to teach at other rural schools around Georgia. For the next five years, they corresponded – and met occasionally – until he finally convinced her to marry him in 1913. He died in 1921 so these letters and a few photos are our only connection to him.

I’m slowly scanning and transcribing the letters using Keynote, Apple’s presentation graphics app, as my publishing tool. As you can see here, each page of the letter gets its own slide with both the page’s image and its transcription. I chose Keynote because it is a very flexible platform. Each slide can be treated as a separate entity to be quickly reordered or even pulled out of one presentation file and inserted into another. Slides can be duplicated for use in other projects. I can quickly export a presentation as a PDF document, an HTML slideshow or a video. I even have the ability to export each slide as an individual image file.

Currently I’m building each letter as a separate presentation file, but as this archive grows, so do my options for creating things from them. For example, I can pull out an individual slide as a graphic image to include it as a figure in another document. I can combine several letter files – like those he sent discussing a trip to Lookout Mountain – with new and old photos to build a slideshow documentary. Add some narration and that slideshow can become a video documentary.

Keynote is my presentation app of choice, but PowerPoint, Presentations (from the WordPerfect suite) and Impress (from OpenOffice) all have much the same capabilities and would all work well for this type of project. And, if you’re looking for an online archive platform for these project files, Scribd will store and display them quite nicely. You won’t get the multimedia capabilities of the online slide-sharing platforms, but your transcriptions will be searchable.

Take another look at your presentation software. You may find it has many uses for presenting your family’s history.