Make a professional-looking video slideshow of all your photos and share them with friends and family
he days of pulling out an old projector to show off your latest holiday snaps in slideshow format are long gone, but if you're yearning for an exciting and interesting way of presenting your photos in a format that won't send everyone to sleep then we've got just the tool for you.
Microsoft Photo Story 3 is a brilliant program designed for one thing, and one thing only: to create the best photo slideshow it possibly can. You can edit your photos to improve poorly framed or lit shots for example, add a variety of special effects to some or all of your photos, plus add titles, record your own narration (perfect if you're not going to be able to personally recount the stories behind the photos) and even add your own background music.
Photo Story 3 utilises a wizard-based interface to make things as simple as possible, and the guide below will guide you through each and every step of the process. We recommend making good use of the Save Project button - each time you click it you'll be prompted for a filename, so you can either overwrite your existing project or save it as a new one (a good idea if you're in an experimental mood and want something to fall back on if you don't like what you produce).
Can I run Photo Story 3 in Windows Vista?
Yes, but you'll need to run it compatibility mode, though. After installation, right-click the program shortcut and choose Properties > Compatibility tab. Tick Run this program in compatibility mode and make sure Windows XP (Service Pack 2) is selected. Click OK and the program should now run.
A step-by-step guide to creating your first presentation
1. DOWNLOAD PHOTO STORY 3
Click here to visit the Photo Story 3 download page, then click Download. Validate your copy of Windows when prompted. Once done, click Download - when prompted, choose Save and save the installation file (Pstory.msi) to your hard drive.
2. UPDATE (IF NECESSARY) AND INSTALL
You'll need Windows Media Player 10 or later to run Microsoft Photo Story. If you're running XP you won't necessarily have it. If not, download and install version 11 from here before continuing. Double-click Pstory.msi and click Run when prompted. Click Next, accept the licence agreement and click Next again. Click Next for a third time and the program will install. Click Finish to end.
3. LAUNCH PROGRAM AND GET STARTED
Click Start > All Programs > Photo Story 3 for Windows to launch the program. If your firewall throws up any warnings, give Photo Story the internet and network access it needs. At the opening screen leave Begin a new story selected and click Next.
4. IMPORT PHOTOS
Click the Import Pictures button to start the process of importing the photos you want into your project. Browse to the folder containing your images. Press [Ctrl] + [A] to select them all, or hold [Ctrl] as you click on individual pictures to select them. Click OK and the pictures will be imported.
5. SET RUNNING ORDER AND ADD/REMOVE PHOTOS
Your photos will appear on the timeline at the bottom of the screen. Drag and drop them in place to arrange them in the correct order you want them displayed. Select a photo and click the delete button to the right of the timeline to remove it; click Import Pictures again to add more photos to your collection if necessary.
6. SAVE PROJECT
Click the Save Project button at any time to save your project - give it a name and click Save. Keep saving regularly to preserve any major changes you make.
7. REMOVE BLACK BORDERS
Click this option to crop each photo with a black border. Position the frame to your liking for each photo and click Yes, or click No to leave the current photo alone.
8. EDIT YOUR PHOTOS
Select a photo and use the buttons underneath it to correct colour levels, red eye or to rotate the photo. For more advanced editing options and effects, click the Edit button. The Crop tool works in a similar way to the black border removal tool, except you have greater control over its size and shape. Auto Fix provides similar fixes to the standard buttons. Finally, the Add Effect tab lets you to apply one of ten effects to your photo - if you want to apply the effects to your entire slideshow, tick Apply the selected effect... Box.
9. ADD CAPTIONS AND NARRATION
Once you're happy with your photos, click Next. Select each photo from the timeline to add a text caption to it - you can place the caption, plus set its text font, size and colour. Click Next. Add narration to each photo with a microphone by selecting the photo and clicking Record. Click Stop to finish, and Delete to start again.
10. ADD MOTION EFFECTS
Click the Customize Motion button under your photo. Tick the box and use the tool to select a start and end point for your animation. Click Preview to test.
11. ADD TRANSITION EFFECT
To help move between photos, switch to the Transition tab to choose an effect. Experiment with different effects - click Save when you find one you like.
12. FINISH MOTION AND TRANSITIONS
Use the arrow keys to move between your slides. By default the next slide has the same effect as the previous one - try to use the same effects for continuity purposes.
13. ADD BACKGROUND MUSIC
If you have a chosen music track in mind, click Select Music to load it. Use the slider to change its volume and keep it low if you have narrated over your photos. Alternatively, click Create Music to choose your own soundtrack based on a particular genre, style, mood, intensity, tempo and more - use the play button to listen.
14. EXPORT YOUR MOVIE
Click Next and all that's left to do is choose how you wish to share your movie - on your PC, to send via email or for playing on a portable device. Click Next to finish.
Photo Story 3's photo-editing tools are by necessity rather basic, although they should be perfect for most people's needs. If you need to perform more advanced photo manipulation, such as manually tweaking lighting levels, then load the problematic photo in question into your image-editing tool first to take advantage of its superior editing facilities. If you don't have such a tool, download Paint.NET for free from here and use that.
When it comes to putting your slideshow together, the smorgasbord of options may tempt you into trying everything under the sun - that's fine, but when it comes to finally putting your slideshow together try to tie everything together. Use the same font, size, style and colour for slideshow captions, for example, or limit yourself to one or two transitional effects. Also don't be tempted to record long passages of narration for each slide - instead, keep the comments short and snappy, so the slideshow moves along at a reasonable pace.
One of Photo Story 3's great features is its ability to come up with original background music for your slideshow. If you don't have copyright-free music tracks to play in the background, you can create your own. Photo Story 3 boasts ten different music genres, with a handful of styles for each which can be further customised to suit your mood.
You'll also find a Preview button handily placed on most screens - use this to test the effect or edit you're working on to get a good idea of how it will actually work in practice.
Will my original photos be altered by Photo Story's editing tools?
No - a copy of your photos is stored in your Photo Story file, and it's this copy that's changed; your original photos are left untouched.
How do I change the volume level of my narration?
Click Configure microphone and Set Recording Volume to change the volume level of your microphone. If it's still too low, open the Sounds Control Panel and switch to the Voice tab. Click the Volume button under Voice Recording followed by Advanced under your microphone and look for a Mic Boost option or something similar you can tick to give your microphone's volume level an extra boost.
I had to upgrade Windows Media Player to use Photo Story 3. Does this mean anyone I send the slideshow to will need to upgrade as well?
No - your finished slideshow will work in any version of Windows Media Player from 7 upwards. Windows XP shipped with Windows Media Player 8, and Service Pack 2 shipped with Windows Media Player 9.
Why should I use Photo Story 3 instead of say Windows Movie Maker to create my slideshow?
Photo Story 3 is designed simply and purely for creating video slideshows from still photos. As a result it's configured to make things simpler and better - you'll find many transition and pan-and-zoom effects that aren't available in Windows Movie Maker, for example.
Sharing your slideshow
When you reach the end of the wizard you'll be asked how you want to share your slideshow. The box below reveals how to convert it into a DVD that can be played back on ordinary DVD players and televisions, but Photo Story 3 itself supports a number of different formats: you can save it for playback on a computer, or optimise it to send via email or play on a number of portable devices, including Pocket PC handheld, Windows Mobile-powered Smartphone and portable video player.
Once you've made your choice, Photo Story 3 will create the output file and then give the option of viewing your recently completed masterpiece or of starting another project. And given how easy it is to use, we suspect you won't wait very long before getting stuck in with your next magnus opus...
Burn a video DVD
Like Windows XP there's no built-in facility in Microsoft Photo Story 3 for burning your finished creation to disc. Windows Vista Home Premium users can use the built-in DVD Maker tool following the advice below, while XP users can purchase a special plug-in for Photo Story 3 for US$19.99 by visiting here - once installed, it simply adds an option to the final step of the wizard that enables you to output your finished slideshow to a DVD.
If you're willing to make a little more work for yourself, you can burn DVDs for free. In Photo Story 3, click Settings on the Save your story screen and pick Profile for creating DVDs - PAL from the drop-down menu before clicking OK. Then choose Save your story for playback on your computer and click Next to output your finished movie to your computer's hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium users can launch Windows DVD Maker from the Start > All Programs menu, select the file you created and burn that to DVD; Windows XP and non-Home Premium users should download a free DVD burning tool called DVD Flick from here and use that instead.