Slideshows are one of the most powerful ways to display your photography. With the right song, the right image selections, and the right timing of those images, you can bring your brides (and maybe even some grooms) to tears, all while exposing your work to all of their family and friends as gets shared on their Facebooks, Twitters and email groups.  On the other hand, some slideshows can be pretty ineffective. If it contains unflattering images, if it’s set to a less-than-moving song, or if it’s just plain boring, it’s not going to be enjoyed and shared. To help you ensure that you’re not wasting your time creating ineffective slideshows, here is a step-by-step tutorial on creating powerful, interesting, slideshows.

The Number of Images to Select

The first step is viewing and selecting your images. It’s best to use a good image file management system that allows you to rate, filter, and rename your images like the Library module of Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Bridge. To select an image, either star or flag your selections, depending on your preference, ensuring that you’re consistent throughout the process.

adobe bridge

A common problem that we want to avoid is trying to cram too many images into a slideshow. I’m sure you’ve seen slideshows where the images fly by without giving the viewer the opportunity to appreciate any one of the images. The ideal number of images is somewhere around 100 to 150 images for a single-song slideshow; and while there isn’t a magic number, there are some general rules to follow. Use these rules as a general guideline, but realize that none of them are absolutes and can be broken at any time with an artistic vision.

Average Timing of an Image – Never go below 1.5 seconds per image and rarely go over 2 seconds per image. What does this mean? If the song, for example, is only 3 minutes, you’ll only be able to select a maximum of 120 images. Use the following equation:

  1. Number of Seconds of the Song/1.5 = Maximum Number of Images. Don’t worry too much about the minimum, as too few images is almost never the issue.
  2. Fewer Images with Slower Songs – Each image should be shown, on average for around 1.75 to 2 seconds for slower songs
  3. More Images with Average to Faster songs – Each image should be shown for around 1.5 to 1.75 seconds for average to faster songs like White Dress by Ben Rector or Good Life by One Republic.

Which Images to Select

In general, slideshows are there to serve two purposes. The first is to make the client and their guests excited and happy by portraying their wedding as an emotional, romantic, and fun event (even if it wasn’t). The second is to display our work at its best, absent of any gregarious amateur mistakes and timed to great, fitting music. With that in mind, we have to be very selective on which images we display by following the guidelines below.

Avoid the “Odd Man Out” – For example, if you decide to show each couple in the wedding party during the grand entrance, make sure you don’t show every couple except one. If there isn’t a great picture of that one couple, leave them all out and just cut right to the couple entering the room. The same situation applies to aisle shots for bridesmaids and other situations where a guest, family member, bridesmaid or groomsman should be in the scene or sequence but for some reason or another is not.

Don’t be Afraid to Leave Out Entire Scenes – If you’re too high on the number of images and you’re not sure what else you can take out, consider cutting out entire scenes that are random or out of place, less exciting and interesting, or lacking in typical quality or creativity. The point is, really hammer home certain poignant or important moments, even if, in the process, you have to leave out other good moments and images.

For example, if you have a handful of great shots of the first dance and a handful of decent cake cutting shots, consider keeping all of the great first dance shots that build up the emotion of the moment, even if you have to sacrifice the entire cake cutting scene if it’s lacking excitement. In another example, if the tea ceremony or the door games in a Cantonese wedding are good but don’t necessarily flow with the slideshow, feel free to leave those entire moments out when necessary.

Exclude Most Formals – Unless the subjects in the formals are doing something unique or fun, leave out all of the formals shots as a standard formal, while maybe well shot, really isn’t that interesting.

Include Images in Sequence – A big part of our slideshow style is including slightly different images of the same moment in a sequence. When they are placed together in a fast-moving, video-like sequence, they create an interesting portrayal of a certain moment. In order for this to be effective, there has to be a very similar crop on all of the images used in the sequence. Here are a few examples of images that we would likely place one after another with a quick between the images. Other common moments that work well with this effect are: 1) First Look – sequence of the bride walking towards the groom, 2) The Aisle – sequence of bride walking down the aisle or couple walking back down the aisle, 3) The First Kiss – sequence of couple looking at each other, going in for the kiss, and reacting afterwards, 4) The Grand Entrance – sequence of couple entering the room, and 5) The Reception Dancing – sequence of the couple dancing.


On occasion, combine this effect with the “6) Include Two Identical Images with Different Post Production” point below, going through a set of sequence shots and ending with a transition to a different post production effect.

Include Images with Different Focuses – Like the previous point, this effect requires that the images be very similar in composition (crop). If you have two similar images with different focuses, place them one after the other to create an interesting effect. For example, the image below is of a bride’s mother smiling at her daughter on her wedding day. The image preceding the one below in our slideshow of Betty and Wayne’s wedding at the City Club Bunker Hill has the same crop but focuses on Betty getting ready in the foreground.


Include Images of the Same Moment at Different Focal Lengths – This is especially great for big moments like the first kiss and the first dance. A series of two or three images at the same angle but different focal lengths has an interesting effect for a slideshow. For example, if you have a wide shot of the first kiss (shot directly down the aisle) and a close-up shot of that exact same moment taken from the same angle, place one right after the other.

Organize and Rename Images

After you’ve selected all of your images, organize them. In Adobe Bridge, you can drag and drop your images to rearrange them in the order of your choice. Once the image order is finalized, rename the images (in “Tools” -> “Batch Rename” use “Sequence Number” with “Three Digits”) so that the image names correspond with the image order. After renaming the images, place them in their own folder (in a place that’s easily accessible, as you’ll be using this folder to create the slideshow).

In organizing the order of the images, follow these guidelines:

1) Set the Scene – Anytime the scene changes, i.e. at the beginning of the slideshow, before the ceremony, or before the reception, set the scene with a few images of detail and venue shots. If these don’t exist, at the very least, make sure you start the slideshow with a few non-people shots. Ideally there is a shot of something with the couples’ names, ring shots, bouquet shots, or venue shots. Don’t start the slideshow with night time shots, as this throws the viewer off of the timeline of the day.

2) If Needed, Stray From Actual Timeline – Create the slideshow so that it flows, even if you have to stray from the timeline. For example, if a great shot of the couple looks like it could be a part of the first dance sequence, include it with that set of pictures. On the same note, if a great candid of a guest is taken during the first dance but doesn’t fit the first dance story, make sure you don’t distract from the moment by including it among the first dance images. Moments need to be clumped together. For example, shots of the reception venue, details, and food should be clumped together, as opposed to being presented in the order they were actually taken. On the same note, feel free to save the detail shot of the cake for the image right before showing the cake cutting.

3) Include a Set of Candids Near the End – Near the end of a slideshow, include a set of candids from the reception. Each of these shots doesn’t have to be amazing or perfect, each just needs to scream “fun.” As the slideshow is nearing the end, it needs to be the climax of emotion, the final push to show that it was a fun and great wedding.

Include at least 5-10 of these pictures of people dancing, smiling, and laughing. We’ll talk more about the timing of the images, but in general, you can go through these a bit quicker than the average image in the slideshow.

4) End with Something Beautiful, Fun or Significant – The final image or set of images before the Studio Logo should be something interesting or powerful. This can be a fun group shot at the end of the night, romantic night shots of the couple, ring shots (if they were taken at night), the couple’s exit from the venue, etc. Whatever it is, make sure it’s not a shot of anyone other than the main couple.

Select the Song

Our style of slideshows uses songs that are usually modern, not too classic and romantic. As much as you can, match the wedding with the vibe and style of the wedding. If the wedding was a quick ceremony and a lot of partying, go with a faster, upbeat, and party-centric song. If the majority of the pictures are romantic and emotional, you might consider using a softer, slower song.

Create Show and Adjust the Timing

After the images are selected, arranged and renamed, the next step is to create the actual slideshow using your slideshow software of choice.

1) Upload Song – Upload the song you selected in the “Timing” Tab by clicking the plus sign in the “Music and Templates” tab.

2) Record timing – Time the song by clicking on the “Record Timing” tab and clicking “Fit to Song.” While this isn’t the final timing of the slideshow, it is a good starting point from which we’ll make adjustments.

3) Test the Slideshow – Click “Save & Preview Show” to make sure the average image isn’t moving too quickly or too slowly with the understanding that you’re going to make adjustments to specific images.

4) Delete and Arrange Images – It’s important that you make any last minute deletions and arrangements of your images at this point before you start custom timing your images.

5) Custom Time the Slideshow – Click the “Custom Timing” tab and custom time your slideshow based on the following guidelines:

  • Lengthen the first few images – Make the first few images longer than the average image to introduce the viewer to the wedding; sort of an acclimation rather than throwing the viewer directly into the wedding.
  • Speed up Select Shots – Shorten the length of the shots in sequences, identical shots that fade to and from different styles of post production, and the set of candid shots at the reception. All of these were discussed in the previous sections of this article.
  • Extend the Best Shots- If there’s an awesome HDR image, a perfect crying mother image, or anything else that deserves a little bit of extra time, extend these shots.
  • Shorten Some Shots – To compensate for the extended shots above, shorten some of their surrounding shots.
  • Extend the Last Few Shots – Make the last few shots last a little longer to emphasize the last few powerful, interesting, or emotional images; and make sure you time it well with the ending of the song. For example, if the last note is held out, don’t have the images changing while that note is being held out.
  • Add in the Logo – Add one final image, the studio Logo, to the slideshow by clicking “Add New Photo” in the “Images” tab and finding the appropriate image.
  • Test the Show – Click “Save and Preview Show” to see what it looks like.
  • Make Adjustments – If the show ran too long or certain images were displayed for too long or not long enough, go back and make your timing adjustments and tweak until you’re satisfied.

Upload to the Server and Create Blog Entry

After you’re happy with the slideshow, open an FTP client like Filezilla, log into your site, find the correct folder and upload the folder that you created containing the slideshow to that folder. After that, create your blog entry and enter in the appropriate code before publishing your slideshow. As the detailed instructions for these final step will be different for each user depending on their content management system and hosting services, we’ll leave it at that.