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Photo Story

A little while ago I discovered Photo Story 3, which is a very cool program which is free for Windows XP users.  Microsoft's page and download link for Photo Story can be found here.  Basically the program animates your photos into beautiful looking slideshows with music or narration or even both.

You can check out a couple I've made (I'm no expert at presentation), so I'm sure with a little time others could get even better results.  The British Isles is one I made a while ago to have a play around with it, and for this guide I made Sky Above (yes astronomy is one of my other hobbies).

Once downloaded and installed, run it and your presented this this dialog box:

Pretty straight forward here, if you want to create a new one, make sure Begin a new story is selected and press next, if you want to edit - you get the idea.  The next screen you get allows you to import photographs you want to use into Photo Story so you can begin working with them.

Click import pictures (marked 1) and you'll be presented with the file open dialog:

Browse and select the images you want to use here, you'll probably find most of your images under My Pictures, you can either select whole directories or you can press CTRL and click a new image to select it too, then press OK - you can always go back and get some more photos if you miss any out.  You're sent back to the import and arrange screen after that.

At #1 you can edit the photo by rotating it, or by changed the colour and brightness.  You can import more pictures still if you missed any out as marked at #2.  At #3 you can change the order of the photos (you can do this in the future along the bar at the bottom too) simply by dragging the images into the new order.  Once you've imported your pictures and they're all the right way up press next to move on.

This new screen allows you to enter text and apply image effects.  At #1 are the basic text controls with allows you to control the font/size and colour, as well as positioning, top middle bottom left and right, simply select a new image from the bar at the bottom to change to the next image or press the arrow buttons on the image preview.  #2 allows you to add effects such as black and white to the images.  #3 again allows you to change the order and select a different image.  Once complete press next to move on.

This is where things get interesting.  At #1 you can control the motion and transition effects of the images - more on this in a moment.  At #2 you can record a voice-over explaining what the image is about etc.  Use #3 to preview the new movements and naration.

By default the program will try and work out the best ways to move between photos itself, but sometimes it does get it wrong.  You can control that here.  By specifying the start and end positions, you choose where it starts displaying the image and where it ends.  Here I've changed it so it slowly zooms into the comet.  Once you've done either press preview to preview the motion, or press save and then close to go back.

By pressing the transition tab at the top we switch to how the computer moves between one image and the next.  There are absolutely loads of different ways - it can fade or it can make it seem like you're turning pages in a book.  Experimentation is probably the best tool here.  If you want to preview click preview and and press save and then close to go back.  Simply press next on the narration and motion screen to go forward to adding music.

To select a piece of music already on your computer click select music.  Alternatively the computer can try and create something for you, to do this click create music.  An important thing to note you can control where the music starts by clicking on an image you'd like it to start from - if you've got a very long Photo Story you may want to fit a few different songs in to cover the whole thing.  Click the preview button to preview the changes and press next to move on.

Finally we're presented with the save dialog.  By default it's got several different profiles which change the quality and size ratio to better fit what you intend to do with the file.  The ones I created above were saved with 'save your story for playback on your computer'.  It's important to note you could still e-mail this file to somebody, and you don't necessary need to use the e-mail setting - this simply makes it a bit smaller to send over e-mail.  The other main options are save to Pocket PC or a Smartphone.  You can have more control over this by clicking settings near the bottom.

To save the file, choose a name and a location to save in the file name section.  Click next to save.  You've probably also noticed the save project button - this is very important, unlike a Word document for example you can't open up the final video and edit it, you need to create a project file if you want to edit the Photo Story again.

That's it!  If you need more help Photo Story itself comes with a very good help guide, just press the help button in the corner of each screen.  I hope this guide provided a rough base on how Photo Story works - of course the key to understanding any software is always experimentation.  Don't be afraid to try something out if you don't understand it.

Last updated 16th of February 2006.