Sending a holiday photo to family and friends has become a yearly tradition for many of us, who shoot it ourselves using a high-end camera such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7K SLR-like, $1,000, an inexpensive basic subcompact, such as the Nikon Coolpix S6500, $180, or even a smart phone or tablet.

But why settle for just one photo? Impress everyone with a multimedia slideshow (which is actually a short video file) instead. Here's one I created to demonstrate what you can achieve in a relatively short amount of time, about two or three hours. I used photo-organizing and -editing software, Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 to create the slideshow and Apple's Garageband iPad app to record an original song, “Holiday Photo Blues,” which I wrote just for the occasion!

Like most software, Photoshop Elements includes lots of tools and settings for things suchh as changing the speed at which images scroll by and the length and type of transitions between images. You can make your slideshow as simple or sophisticated as you want. For instance, at the beginning of my slide show, a photo seems to disintegrate as another materializes to take its place. In other instances, it looks as if one image is pushed off the screen by another or a pinwheel effect is used between two photos.

There are other effects that I chose not to use: I didn't use the "apply pan & zoom to all slides" feature. In this setting, the software will either zoom in or zoom out a little bit on each photo, which adds additional movement to the slideshow. It's the sort of effect that the film maker Ken Burns often uses in his documentaries when presenting old photographs.

For more ideas on photography and how to choose a digital camera, check out our buying guide.

Here are other things you'll want to consider.

  • Choose a software or mobile app to create your slideshow. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, but there are other digital-imaging software programs you could use, including Cyberlink PhotoDirector or, if you have a Mac computer, Apple's iPhoto software (which is free, since it comes pre-installed on your Mac computer). There are mobile apps too: Apple has an iPhoto app and there are many others available, such as ProShow's Web Slideshow Creator.
  • Consider what media you'll use. Are you going to work only with photos, or do you want to add short video clips? Do you want to add music, text, graphics, etc?
  • Decide which photos or media to use. Sort through your digital collection to find the right images. If you don’t have an image in digital form, you can scan or photograph prints to digitize them, as I did with the first two images I used for this holiday slideshow.
  • Take time to understand the various software or mobile app tools. No matter what software or app you use, you'll need to spend some time figuring out how the various tools, features, and settings work. For example, because my final audio file (my song) wasn't recognized by Photoshop Elements, I had to use another audio software program to convert it to a type of audio file it would accept (a .WAV file instead of an .M4A file). Here's a tip in case you get stuck: Search for your problem in Google or another search engine if the help in the app or software isn't clear or useful.
  • Determine how you want to distribute your slideshow. One of the final steps you'll want to figure out is how and where you want to distribute your file. For instance, will you burn it to a DVD or other type of disc? Or do you simply want to post it to YouTube, Facebook, or other social networking site? Most software and apps will give you several options. I output my slideshow to the best resolution and frame rate possible, even when I'm just posting to a social networking site, which tends to compress videos. For this project, I posted my holiday slideshow on YouTube, which I could share with friends and family quickly and easily.

Give it a try and have fun. A slideshow is a great way to share special moments during the holiday season.

—Terry Sullivan

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