In Search of the Best Slideshow Software

I didn't realize what I'd got myself into when I volunteered to put a slideshow together for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. I asked my father to send me some of his earliest pictures so I could scan them. A few days later two large manilla envelopes full of old Polaroids arrived. When I asked if he could send a few recent pictures, he sent a USB stick that contained over 10,000 pictures. 

I spent my evenings sorting through thousands of pictures. The ones I valued the most were those taken when my parents were in their teens around the time they met each other. I enlisted my son to help scan the best ones, and then bring them into Photoshop where they could be repaired. 

After many hours, I had a folder on my desktop which contained the 125 best pictures. I then went looking for a product that would do the following: 

  • Create a slideshow I could upload to Vimeo or YouTube in 1080p. 
  • Automatically sync the show to music of my choice. 
  • Give me some control over animations, styles and transitions. 
  • Be so easy to use that I wouldn't need a manual. 

Over the years I've used a free product from Microsoft called Photo Story to create short picture montages set to music. But it was built back in the Windows XP days, and didn't support resolutions higher than 800 x 600. It was a decent product for its time, but I wanted something more powerful. I spent hours reading reviews on both consumer and professional forums. What I found was a lot of free products that hadn't been updated in many years. 

I'm well aware that video editors such as Adobe Premiere Pro, AVID Media Composer or Sony Vegas can create stunning shows, but I'm not a professional. A wanted a product that was solely focused on creating slideshows. I wanted it to handle the behind-the-scenes magic for me, but still allow for customization. 

A Quora reader tipped me off to a product called ProShow Gold from Photodex. Unlike many of its competitors, it cost $70 which was more than I wanted to spend. I decided to give the demo a try. I installed it, pointed it at my picture folder and fed it a George Winston MP3.  

A few minutes later, I was watching a preview of what I'd created. Using a simple wizard, and without selecting a theme, style or any transitions, it was the best slideshow I'd ever created.  I was blown away. What could I create if I put a little more effort into it?  

The $70 now felt like a bargain. I bought the full version that evening, and installed it on Windows 10. 

I'm not sure why I'm telling you all this. Maybe it's because I'm excited about software again! I used to love trying new email programs, browsers, mp3 players and photo organizers. And then Android and the iPhone came along, and many developers switched their focus to mobile. The cloud took what programs remained and shoved them into my browser. I can't recall the last time I installed a piece of software that was so cool I had to tell my friends about it. Winamp? Chrome? It's been too long. 

And yet that's how I feel about ProShow Gold. It's fun to use. It teeters on the line of doing just enough for me, but not so much that I feel uninvolved.  And, in the end, it makes me feel like I've created something special. 

When I called my parents the next day to tell them my family made it back home safely, my father said my mother had watched the slideshow a few dozen times that day. Given that my mom's health isn't very good, that was the best news I'd heard in a long time. 

Here's a link to the slideshow, if you're interested.