The Slideshow Module - Part 2: Tour's End and Some Tips

By Gene McCullagh
June 3, 2011

By now you've had a chance to wander around the Slideshow module and get familiar with some of the controls we looked at in The Slideshow Module - Part 1: Basic Tour. If you haven't spent much time in this module before, I hope the basic tour was helpful and encouraged you to try things out.

Let's finish up our tour of the Slideshow module and then we can talk about a few tips/tricks to make your slideshows snappier. After that we should talk about some issues and concerns with how Lightroom has implemented slideshows and some possible alternatives if you still want more slideshow pizzazz than Lightroom can deliver.

There are only two main sections left for us to visit: the toolbar and the main editing window.

Toolbar thumb

In the middle section just below the main editing window you will find the toolbar. These tools are fairly consistent on only change slightly depending on what you are doing.

  1. The small square to the left will return you to your first slide in the slideshow.
  2. As you might suspect the left and right arrows move you to the previous and next slides. If you are at the first slide and click the left arrow you are taken to the last slide. Conversely, if you are at the last slide and click the right arrow you go to the first slide.
  3. The Use: tool tells the Slideshow module which images to use in the show. You can choose from All Filmstrip Photos which will include all photos in the current filmstrip. Be careful here. If you haven't chosen a collection or some smaller subset then all the images in your catalog will be in the filmstrip. That could be one magnum opus slideshow! Your second choice is Selected Photos. This only includes the images you have manually selected in the filmstrip. Lastly, you can choose Flagged Photos. This will use those images you have marked with a pick flag in the filmstrip. It will not take all of the flagged images in the catalog unless they also appear in the filmstrip.
  4. Next is the preview button. It is current shown as a play button. Press this and the slideshow will preview in the main editing window just above the toolbar. While the preview is playing this button will change to a pause button so you can stop the preview.
  5. The next two buttons are rotation tools. These will rotate the selected adornments (yes - that's what Adobe calls them) 90 degrees counter-clockwise or clockwise with each click. The adornments referred to here are custom text and the identity plate.
  6. The ABC button adds custom text to the slideshow. When pressed a custom text entry box will appear in its place where you can type the text you want to appear. There is also a dropdown to the left of the text box that will offer a rather extensive (and customizable) list of custom text presets. Some of the choices are Caption, Date, Detailed info PRINT, Detailed info WEB, Equipment, Exposure and so on. This allows you to add custom text that isn't static.
  7. The last tool is an indicator showing the current slide, how many slides are in the show, and what the duration of the slideshow is in H:MM:SS format. This ties into the duration controls in the Playback section. As you change the slide and fade durations this indicator dynamically updates to show you the total run time resulting from your changes.

The focus of all these panels, sections, and tools is the main editing window. Here's where the magic happens and where you can see your masterpiece take shape.

Workarea thumb

  1. These are the frame guides. You can adjust them in the Layout section or you can directly grab the guide and move it. If you have guides set to adjust together, moving one will also move the related guides.
  2. This is an identity plate. It can be sized and moved. As we saw earlier, you can also set it to appear above or behind the slideshow images. In this example I have used the rotation tools in the toolbar to rotate the identity plate.
  3. Star ratings. If activated then you can adjust the color, size and position.
  4. Here is an example of dynamic custom text. This is tied to the filename and will change for each image in the slideshow.
  5. If you add a watermark you will see it in the slideshow.
  6. This is the stroke border we can activate and adjust in the Options section.
  7. Unlike item #4, this is a static text overlay. This will be the same for every image in the slideshow. These are created when we choose the text overly tool and type some text into the custom text box that appears in the toolbar.
  8. When adornments are added you need a way to tell Lightroom where to place them in relation to the slideshow elements. This is an example of an anchor. This anchoring system is not extremely intuitive so let's dive a little deeper.

If you look at the box surrounding the custom text in the screenshot you will notice that there are eight anchor points; one are each corner and one at the midpoint of each side. One of these is anchored to either the stage or the image. The stage has eight corresponding anchor points. Each image has eight corresponding anchor points. As you drag the adornment around you will see the anchor line dynamically connect the closest anchor point on the adornment with the closest anchor point on the stage or image. When you find the right spot you're done.

The main difference between using a stage anchor and an image anchor is how the adornment reacts as each slide changes. Anything anchored to the stage is absolute. It stays where you put it regardless of how small or large the images are as the slides go by. However, anything you anchor to an image is relative. It will adjust its position depending on the image shown. For example, if you anchor some text 20 pixels to the left of the image using the midpoint on the left side then that text will always be 20 pixels to the left of the image. If your first image is landscape and then second image is portrait, the text will move in to be 20 pixels to the left of the portrait image.

Well, that's the tour! I hope you are encouraged to explore this module some more. On to a few tips...

Since we just talked about anchoring adornments, here's a tip. You may get frustrated trying to get something anchored to a particular point since as you move the adornment around these anchors keep flipping to connect the closest points. No problem. Move the adornment where you want it. The anchor point on the stage or the image will be a white box. If you click that anchor point it will turn into a yellow box with a black dot (take a look at the stage anchor in the last screenshot). Now you can grab that anchor point and move it to any of the other 15 anchor points available. Your adornment stays where it is and you will see the anchor line connect to the new anchor point. It makes more sense if you try it out. It's harder to explain that to do.

I mentioned that you could have dynamic text. Ad the bottom of the dropdown that appears when you click the custom text tool is the choice Edit... That will open the familiar token editor that you know from many other areas in Lightroom.

Text template thumb

As you can see there are many many choices you can include in your text adornment. These items draw their information from the image shown and change as each slide changes.

If you aren't aware of it by now, you can add multiple custom text adornments by simply clicking the custom text tool when no other custom text adornment is selected. Also, each of these can be independently formatted with the Text Overlays and Shadow controls. Just select one, make the adjustments, select another, make the adjustment, and so on.

There are any number of things you can use to make your shows unique. For example...

Sample Slide thumb

  1. I used a background from onOne's free collection to give some texture to the slideshow stage. Take a look back at a previous article, Free Goodies from onOne, to find out how to get these.
  2. Another example of why the identity plate needs to be renamed. Here I used one of the shots from the catalog, saved as an identity plate. This could just as easily be a shot of the happy couple at a wedding. It is positioned to the left and will remain fixed as the other slides go by.
  3. Just below that is a static custom text adornment. In another setting, say the wedding we just hinted at, it could be the Bride and Groom's names.
  4. To make room for the static portions of the slideshow I disconnected the left guide from the other three so it could be move farther to the right leaving the other guides in place.
  5. Below each slide is a dynamic text adornment that retrieves its data from the caption field. This will be unique for each slide.

So there is an example of using many of the options and elements in concert to make something beyond a simple slideshow.

There are many users I've spoken with that are underwhelmed at the slideshow capabilities of Lightroom. To be honest, so am I. However, that is not to say it is totally useless. It just takes more work to produce a decent sideshow than it should. As hard for me to say this as it is, this is one area where Aperture does a much better job. Slideshows in Aperture have much more flexibility. You can easily include movie clips in the middle of a running slideshow. There are different motion effects, such as the Ken Burns effect. All in all, the Aperture slideshow experience is much more enjoyable then Lightroom's. (That's not enough to make me switch as I find most of the rest of Aperture a much worse experience).

If you are really into doing slideshows then you will want to explore dedicated slideshow applications. On the Mac I recommend FotoMagico from Boinx software. I use this for my slideshows. It's flexible and powerful. It can read Lightroom catalogs directly and will even hook into After Effects if you really want to go crazy and produce cinema quality stuff! There are different levels of the application so the home user can get what they need and the pro get get the higher end capabilities. It's an excellent solution.

If you are on a Windows PC then have a look ProShow from Photodex. Again, a powerful and flexible package with several levels for different users. My PC colleagues tell me it's a great package.

In any case go and have some slideshow fun. They can be entertaining and used in a variety of ways. If you get hooked and want more, branch out into the third party dedicated applications.

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