The photo slideshow has revolutionized online journalism and can be seen on nearly every major news site. Many are created in Flash and many more are created using the popular program Soundslides. The problem is building slideshows in Flash can be daunting for the non-technical reporter and Soundslides, while extraordinarily simple to use, costs money. Because many newsrooms face financial difficulty, journalists must cut corners where they can.
In that spirit, the following free online slideshow creators allow the user to blend photos and audio to create embeddable slideshows without spending money on software. Each slideshow was created with the same seven photos (source) and 30-second audio clip. Which one is best? You be the judge.
How easy was it? Very. PhotoPeach’s Java-based uploader and drag-and-drop interface make creating slideshows a breeze. However, users must use audio that currently exists on YouTube, meaning you can theoretically host your audio on YouTube and then search for it. But because the audio is not synced with the actual slideshow, if the viewer were to pause the audio would continue.
(slideshow autoplays, click to view embedded version)
How easy was it? Joggle’s interface isn’t very intuitive and takes a minute to get used to. Fundamentally, the user uploads photos, audio or video and arranges them into a slideshow. The result looks amazing, but the embedded slideshow a) lets the users toggle the speed of the presentation b) autoplays the audio which is a sure way to drive users crazy and c) plays the audio on a loop. Joggle is still in beta, so hopefully some of those quirks will eventually be corrected.
How easy was it? By far the simplest and most user-friendly slideshow creator of those reviewed. The upload and arrangement was much like a friendly customer service agent helping the process along. Flowgram has many features other online slideshow creators don’t: the ability to set individual times for each photo, synced audio that can be uploaded by the user and an uncomplicated drag-and-drop layout. Users can also record audio directly into the slideshow.
The only two qualms are that the resulting widget didn’t show the uploaded photos (kind of important) so another working slideshow was embedded as a demo. Also, there is no way to add captions (Flowgram does offer a notes feature, but it is very bulky), but this can be circumvented by adding captions in an image editing program.
How easy was it? Too easy. Animoto bills itself as “the end of slideshows” and while the creation process is quick and painless, it’s mostly because the online tool does the customization for you. Instead a simple fade-in and fade-out, Animoto “feels” each photo and creates a visually dazzling slideshow based on the audio you provide. While this is great for the casual slideshow maker, professional journalists may not find this tool quite as useful.
And there you have it. The aforementioned tools may not be a replacement for Soundslides, but they do the trick. For innovative alternatives to the photo slideshow, check out Vuvox and Capzles, two sites for presenting slideshows in timeline form. For tips on what makes a great photo slideshow, check out this Poynter column.
Also on 10,000 Words
• How to create, edit and embed audio for free
• 7 Eye-popping interactive timelines (and 3 ways to create one)
• Where to find the best in Flash journalism
• 5 Ways to create a Google Map in minutes