In this third article in my series on how to use images effectively on your blog, I’ve been investigating slideshows as a way of getting a wider range of images onto your blog. Slideshows enable you to display many more photos than a page full of static photos will allow, without extending your page load time unduly. If you like taking a lot of photos it’s also a great way of showcasing your work and adding value to the blog post you write. To save you the research, you’ll find examples of some slideshows to try below.
Update: Slide.com is shutting down in March 2012
This is the slideshow I have been using regularly on my blog, but I have become dissatisfied with the frolicking sheep that sometimes appear on the slideshow and was looking for a cleaner, less commercial look for my slideshow. You can see my slide.com account and other slideshows at http://www.mybloggingjourney.com/2010/10/30/use-flickr-enhance-your-blog/. Another slideshow application that has a practically identical interface to Slide.com, to the point that I’d say it is either run by the same company or is an imitation, is Imageloop.com.
What I like about Slide.com
- I find Slide.com very easy to use, with plenty of options to customise the way the photos change and add other graphics to the slideshow.
- My Slide.com connects to my Flickr account where I host my best pictures, avoiding the need to upload individually. It can also import photos from other social media sites such as Facebook, Bebo and Myspace.
- Friends can view you Slide.com profile and see all your slideshows
- Slide.com is free
Drawbacks of Slide.com
- I not mad on the Adopt a Pet thing with all those cartoon sheep, that sometimes appears when you launch the slideshow.
Update: Slide.com is shutting down in March 2012
What I like about Animoto
- Animoto bridges the gap between a traditional slideshow and video, as you can put images and videos together and add titles and music.
- It’s free to make a 30 second video (about 12 images) but it’s $30 a year or $3 per video if you want to make longer videos
- You can upload photos either from your own computer, from Flickr which I use or from Facebook, Smugmug, Picasa and Photobucket
- Unlike many slideshows, Animoto allows you to add music, either from their portfolio or from your own computer. It’s a great feature to be able to find music without worrying about copyright implications.
- Once you have completed the video, you can export to your Youtube or Smugmug account. It is a major advantage to be able to present your slideshow on Youtube which has a huge audience and the slideshow will be picked up in internet searches.
Drawbacks of Animoto
- The default is to start the music automatically, which distracts from other elements on your page. To avoid this, be sure to go to the Advanced Options under the Embed code and un-check the Autoplay box. If you need to make this change manually, view the Embed code in your HTML tab and where the code says;
- There is no option in the free version to change the way the pictures move and change
- I don’t think the quality of the images in the free version is very good.
- I suspect that there is more functionality available in the paid version of Animoto, and if you want to try this out, it would probably be worth paying $3 to do so for a one off video, before committing to the annual fee.
3. Built in WordPress slideshow
I was first alerted to the possibility of building slideshows directly into WordPress by Guido at Happy Hotelier who mentioned a WordPress plug-in to do this. However the current version of WordPress (I am writing this in WordPress version 3.0.1) has a gallery function built in – here’s how you use it;
Instructions to use the Slideshow function in WordPress
- On the the left hand side of your WordPress dashboard, find the Gallery Menu and click on Add Gallery/Image
- Click on the Add Gallery tab and type the name of your gallery in the New Gallery box and Add Gallery
- On the Upload Images tab, upload the images you want from your computer making sure they are all the same dimensions, then select the name of the gallery then Upload images.
- On the WordPress Gallery Menu click on Manage Gallery
- Select the Gallery name and specify the gallery details such as tags and description of the photos and slideshow and don’t forget to save your changes.
- On the WordPress Gallery Menu click on Options then go to Slideshow tab
- Now set up the default settings of the slideshow such as size, transitions style, duration, and Save Changes.
- Now on the post where you want to add the slide, On the toolbar above the post Click on the add nexgen gallery button
- Select the correct gallery and check slideshow then INSERT
What I like about the WordPress Gallery Function
- Everything is built into WordPress, so no need to go to other sites
- The slideshow is clean and simple
Drawbacks of the WordPress Gallery Function
- You have to upload the images individually which could be timeconsuming, especially if they need to be edited to make them all the same size.
- There’s no option to import photos from other hosting sites such as Flickr
Picasa is a photo hosting website that is owned by Google and offers a similar function to Flickr or Smugmug. If you already use Picasa in the same way as I use Flickr to host a large number of your photos, then using their slideshow function is the obvious choice.
Instructions to create a Picasa slideshow
- If you do not already have an account with Picasa you will need to create one and upload the photos you want to use into a separate album
- On the My Photos tab, click to open the album you want to use for your slideshow.
- On the right hand side of the page, click Link to this album.
- Click Embed Slideshow.
- Choose your slideshow settings, such as image size, captions, and autoplay.
- Once you’ve chosen your settings, copy the resulting HTML code (Ctrl-C).
- Paste the HTML in the source code for your site (Ctrl-V).
What I like about the Picasa Slideshow
- The slideshow is clean and professional looking with no gimicks
- You have some choice about the size of the slideshow on your page
- The slideshow will be very quick to create if you already have your photos hosted on Picasa
- Picasa is a free application so the slideshow is also free
- You can find more information here on how to set up a Picasa Slideshow
Drawbacks of the Picasa Slideshow
- If you have your photos hosted elsewhere you may find it laborious to upload them specially to Picasa
- There’s no choice of additional graphics or presentation styles as you find in some other slideshows
In the same way that other hosting sites such as Picasa and Smugmug have slideshow functionality built in, Flickr which is the photo hosting site that I use, has something similar. I suppose that the reason I haven’t used it before is that each slideshow is based on a set, and I often have more photos in one set than I would want to use in the slideshow.
However, this is obviously a good option if you already host photos on Flickr, or are willing to create new sets just for a slideshow. Flickr is free to try but the free version only allows a limited number of sets and then you will need to move to the Pro version that costs $24.95 per year. It’s good value if you use Flickr heavily as I do but probably not for the odd slideshow, although you could try it out for free to start and see if you like it.
Instructions to create a Flickr slideshow
- If you do not already have an account with Flickr you will need to create one and upload the photos you want to use into a separate set.
- With the set you want to use open, click on slideshow (top right)
- Once the slideshow is open, click on Share (top right) and then Customise this HTML
- You can now select the size of the slideshow (I would use medium – 500 x 375)
- Copy the HTML below the example slideshow into your blog post on the HTML tab
6. Other slideshows to try
There are many other slideshows available, and you might want to try some of those listed below although I haven’t had time to review them all in detail;
- Picturetrail offers a lot of options in that way you present your slideshow with choice of styles and graphics.
- You can upload photos from Photobucket and Myspace but not from Flickr or Facebook which would be limiting for me
- Picturetrail is free, but I didn’t really like all the questions they asked me and the sales options I was directed to when I first signed in.
- This free application allows you to add transitions, graphics and music
- This is and easy to use option with a wide choice of transition styles and templates
- The lower quality version is free but otherwise you will need to buy points at $8-20 per slideshow to enable you to show a better quality version.
So there you have a comprehensive range of slideshow options to try out and enhance your blog. My recommendations are
- if you are already hosting your photos on a site like Flickr, Picasa or Smugmug, you should try their slideshow function first, especially if you are already paying for a premium account.
- If you just have a small number of photos in your slideshow, then using the WordPress Gallery function may be a good option, although the way you can present the photos is limited. However, the advantage is that you will always have control over where your photos are hosted.
- Otherwise explore some of the other slideshow options I’ve suggested, but be aware that they have to make their money somehow, so you may find that the free version has limitations, or that you’ll have to put up with gimmicks or them trying to sell you extra services.