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photostorycornerWhenever one thinks of Microsoft, they tend to think of expensive crap and bloatware that hogs up their PC. But every now and then, the Windows Wonders come out with a really nice free piece of software, and suddenly you feel a bit guilty for that Bill Gates voodoo doll you made the previous evening when your PC took hours to download the latest security patches.

One of those nice pieces of software is something called Photo Story 3 for Windows, an app which allows you to make professional looking photo slideshows complete with music, your own narration and photo subtitles. It claims you need Windows XP to run it but it is is working perfectly fine on my Windows 7 machine.   You can find out here all the other system requirements needed to make this app work.

So in true MakeUseOf fashion, let’s do a walkthrough of the app so you can see how it all works.


After installing it, just open it up and you will see the intro screen asking you what you want to do first :

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Since this is our first time, we would choose “Begin a new story“.

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At this point, you need to have all your photos ready for importing into the app. Don’t worry too much about the order of the pictures, you can move them around later in Photo Story.   But at this point, get all the photos together in one folder for easy importing.

On the next screen, you’ll see a button called “Import Pictures“. Click on that, navigate to the pictures on your PC and choose the ones you want in your presentation.   Photo Story will then begin to pull them all in. I decided to make a small presentation with my pictures from Cologne Zoo.

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Once the photos are all imported, you’ll see them sitting in a bar at the bottom of the app.

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Now it’s time to rearrange the photos into the order you want them. See the arrow and the X at the end of the bar there? If you want to move a photo, highlight it with your mouse then use the arrow keys to move the photo left and right.  Imported a photo but you suddenly want rid of it?   Highlight it with the mouse then hit the X button.   Bam, it’s gone.

Once you have the photos in the desired order, the next stage is the most labor-intensive stage of the process.   You can (but don’t have to) go through each photo and do several things to it.   The first possibility is adding a sub-title to any part of the screen, like so :

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You can change the font as well as determining where on the screen the text will go.   I obviously didn’t want the text splattered all over the donkey so I moved it down below.

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The next step is to make sure that the photos are just the way you want them.  If you take a look at the giraffe picture above, you’ll see some options.   These include altering the colour of the picture, removing red eye, cropping and rotating the picture (if you fancy your giraffes upside down).   You can also change your pictures into the following styles :

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Now when you have the pictures just the way you like them, you now have an option to record your voice and narrate something for each picture.

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So for my cold and bored donkey picture, I could put on my deep Orson Welles voice and say “this donkey is cold and bored“. Visualise the audience enthralled with the cold and bored donkey coming to life with my voiceover (or more likely, they’ll be wondering where the door is).   Or you could re-tell an amusing story about what happened between you and the donkey when you fell into his enclosure (if it’s legal and there’s no underage kids around).

Just when you think your photo slideshow can’t get any better, the last feature to add, the pièce d’résistance, is the background music!

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Now you can either select a music file from your computer or you can “create” music using the app.   If it’s a private family & friends gathering then I would just go the easy route and put on a bit of Britney.  But if you intend to make this a “public performance”, such as for work colleagues or if you intend posting your slideshow online, then I would create some music.   I don’t know the legal ins and outs of broadcasting copyrighted music in a public venue.

When you hit “create music“, you are presented with quite a few options :

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You can choose different styles, genres, instruments and even moods.   Slow down the tempo for sad moments, speed it up for sexy party moments (Family Guy fans will get that joke).   Set the right intensity and soon you’ll have your audience eating out of your hand.

All that remains to be done now is choose how your file will be presented – will it be emailed?  Will you be playing it back on a mobile phone?  Or will it just be played back on your computer?   Choose your option then let the app create your movie.

Along with Movie Maker Make Quick & Professional Looking Videos with Windows Movie Maker (Part 1) Make Quick & Professional Looking Videos with Windows Movie Maker (Part 1) Read More , Microsoft has given us some good tools for making home movies and slideshows.   But maybe you know of something better, something that beats the pants off Microsoft?   If so, spill the beans in the comments and let us see it.

Photo Story 3 for Windows

  1. Peter
    January 3, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Great program - been using it for a few years.

    I came across a few GOOD support and ideas web sites for it a long time ago but can't remember them.

    Anyone know the support/forum sites for PhotoStory3??

  2. Steffen Binas
    December 12, 2009 at 8:59 am

    For an alternative solution with more possibilities have a look at AquaSoft SlideShow ( http://slideshow.aquasoft.net ). With built in SlideShow Master one can create slideshows with interessting effects in just a few clicks. For users who like to digg into the details the multi track timeline has enough room for experiments.

  3. Marcelle
    December 10, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    This is a popular piece of software in schools. Easy enough for kids to use with enough options to allow some configuration. I really like it myself.

  4. Hoff
    December 10, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I have used this app for many years. It is excellent! You can build quality slideshows quickly with the default settings or customize it to your hearts content. A worthwhile download.

  5. GD
    December 10, 2009 at 8:14 am

    How did you get it to run under Windows 7? My Home premium version of 7 refuses to support it? Is there some XP compatibility setting one needs to know about on 7?

  6. DH
    December 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    excellent program- I used it for putting together the music photo slide show for my own wedding.

  7. Pax
    December 9, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks for article. I hadn't come across this app before and I use a few other photo2video programs. Noticed from looking at a few of the onsite demos that it supports the Ken Burns affect which is a nice touch. Didn't see anything in the way of transitions which is ok but it really does add alot of pizazz to this kind video production.

    Alot of similar programs require a ton of processing power (Muvee, Pinnacle) or are clumsy to work with (Microsoft Video Maker) so I've been on the lookout for something I might be able to run on my netbook. The specs say that I just might be able to do so:-)

  8. Dave
    December 9, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    This is not a new program, but it's one of the best ways to share pictures with others.

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