Tears, Laughter, and Photos: A Memorial Day Slideshow

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Tears, Laughter, and Photos: A Memorial Day Slideshow

A few weeks ago, my uncle tragically passed away from pancreatic cancer. To commemorate his life, I helped prepare a slideshow for his memorial service.

It was a labor of love, and I’m forever grateful for the experience of putting it together. It gave me the chance to see a snapshot of his life and also connect with the people who shared photos of him – people who had wonderful stories and experiences and memories of him. In a way, I got to relive parts of his life as I made the slideshow, and I found myself hoping that it might help the people who watched it relive his life too. Because that’s what memorials are for: a final visit with our loved ones before saying goodbye. A celebration of life. 

I thought I’d share my process here, so anyone else who wants to honor their loved ones can see how I did it. For me, the process was a mixture of tears, laughter, and photos. 

Step 1: Collect Photos

I started by collecting photos from his friends and family. I’d recommend creating a Dropbox account if you don’t already have one. A shared Dropbox folder is the easiest way for people to add photos. Share the folder via email with friends, family, and whoever else you think might contribute photos for the occasion. It was simple to set up, and we were able to collect nearly 1,000 pictures this way. 

Some of the photos for the slideshow

Step 2: Find the Best Photos

I used Mylio to sort through the pictures. This was the easiest way, because with Mylio I could see the contents of the Dropbox folder and know right away when new ones were added. I could then rate images using stars to decide which images would make the final cut.

I did a first pass using four stars; for me, these were photos that I would consider using. Then I carefully reviewed all the four-star images on my second pass, marking the best ones with five stars. That got me down to about 100 photos.

How did I decide which pictures to choose? I used the following criteria:

  • Which pictures told the best stories? Many of these were pictures of people in groups. Pictures where people were interacting with each other felt like they had so much more life. 
  • Never underestimate the power of genuine smiles. Chances are you’ll have quite a few pictures where people are standing together posing for the camera. While these pictures can be nice, we can tell when people are genuinely joyful in pictures and when they are plastering on a grin. So I made sure to focus on pictures where people were authentically engaging with each other. 

Organizing the Slideshow with genuine smiles

Step 3: Organize Your Slideshow!

I continued to use Mylio for organizing. I moved pictures into special folders, then labeled these folders by theme: family, travel, solo, etc. This step got me ready to answer the next question…

Step 4: What Story Are You Telling?

You could be finished at this point and just assemble pictures in random or chronological order. But I’d encourage you to think of your slideshow as a story. So, what story are you trying to tell?

If you’ll be sharing your slideshow at a wedding, you could tell the story of how the two people came into each other’s lives. If you’re prepping for a memorial service like I was, then you’ll want to tell the story of who this person was and how they lived. For my uncle’s story, the photos I got seemed to break naturally into three chapters. 

The first was the story of him growing up in Billings, MT. The second was the love he had for his family. And the third was all of the things he enjoyed doing: travel, adventures, and motorcycles. With these categories to guide me, I had a clear plan for putting the photos in order. 

Rating slideshow photos in Mylio

Step 5: Find Music for your Slideshow

Now that you’ve got the photos and a plan for organizing them, think again about the kind of story you want to tell. Find music that’s relevant and helps tell that story. If the slideshow is for a wedding, ask the participants for a list of their favorite bands and artists. Then, build a Spotify playlist and spend some time listening to it. Even better, see if you can find a song that has particular significance to the couple.

The music is your opportunity to set the emotional tone for the slideshow. The song or songs you choose should be meaningful and intentional. For my uncle Rich’s service, we asked my aunt LouAnn (his wife) what music was meaningful to him. She mentioned that he’d often tell his kids he was “Proud to be Your Old Man”. This song perfectly captured how proud he felt about his family and seemed like a natural complement to the photos we had. As a word of note: it might be tempting to choose a solemn song for a memorial slideshow, since some people think of memorials as solemn occasions. But people in attendance are there to celebrate the life of the departed person, so think of choosing the song as choosing the person’s theme music. It doesn’t have to be somber.

Step 6: Compile the Slideshow

I recommend using iMovie by Apple. 

Polishing the slideshow in iMovie

The major time saver? The Ken Burns Effect. This is an iMovie setting that will automatically apply a zoom in or out to images that you load. This saves a lot of time and adds life to static images (there’s a reason Ken Burns’ documentaries were so highly acclaimed). 

And that’s it. I hope that this is helpful for anyone trying to set up a slideshow. Remember to keep it short and sweet – mine ended up being around 2 minutes and 35 seconds with a fadeout slide of Uncle Rich and the words, “In loving memory” below a picture of him and Aunt LouAnn.