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Best photo slideshow software and apps 2021

Best photo slideshow software and apps 2021
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to displaying your photos to friends and family, there’s little that can beat a good photo slideshow. With the best photo slideshow software, not only do you have complete control over which photos people see - meaning any out of focus or just plain bad ones can be weeded out - but you can add annotations, maps, even music. 

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re working on a home computer, laptop, or tablet, there’s software out there that can help turn a bunch of still images into a dynamic and exciting presentation. We think the best of the lot is Movavi Slideshow Maker 7, which is an easy to use app that still manages to squeeze in video editing tools and even transitions. Free apps about too, especially in the mobile space, where software like PixGram for Android and PicPlayHost for iOS can be discovered.

Many of the apps contain the same basic filters that achieve a similar look when altering your images, so it’s those that shake things up and diverge from the norm that stand out. These slideshow apps are far from being the best photo editing software, however, so if you want to do more with your images, you should look into an app from our handy list on the subject. Organization is important too - as you can’t include an image in your slideshow if you can’t find it on your hard drive - so the best photo organizing apps are worth checking out too.


1. Movavi Slideshow Maker 7: Best photo slideshow software overall

Movavi Slideshow Maker 7: Best photo slideshow software overall

(Image credit: Movavi Slideshow Maker 7)

Movavi Slideshow Maker 7

Movavi is easy to use, and produces great slideshows

Type: Software | Built-in editor: Yes | Works on: PC and Mac

Easy to use
Wide range of file types supported
Loads of effects and transitions
May have too many features for some

Movavi Slideshow Maker 7 is a versatile photo slideshow software package that will get you good results in minutes, and excellent results the more you learn its tools and features. There's a handy montage wizard to get you started, and that may be all you need for most of the slideshows you end up creating - this is very simple to use, even though it has all the hallmarks of an actual video editor.

Movavi includes a whole variety of effects, transitions, and filters to make your slideshows stand-out, and you can use it for everything from fun social media fodder through to serious photo presentations. The more technical video effects like camera pans and zooms will give you more editorial control over your slideshow, while the effects, stickers, and animations will help you keep things entertaining. There are over 160 filters, and more than 100 animation effects, so you can really craft a variety of slideshows. It's ideal for weddings, graduation parties, birthdays and more, as well as more serious stuff like business presentations and showreels.

You can overlay music too, which draws from the library on your computer, and you can mix in videos with your photos if you want to create mixed media. Movavi exports to all the most common photo and video file types, so you don't need to worry about compatibility, and there's an option to save direct to a YouTube channel or - if you want to share on other social media - to Google Drive. The negatives? Well, some may never use many of the features, and could just use a free app, but anyone serious about making a quality slideshow will love what Movavi has to offer.


2. PhotoStage Slideshow 8: Best budget slideshow software

Photostage Slideshow 8: Best photo slideshow software on a budget

(Image credit: Future)

PhotoStage Slideshow 8

A great budget pick, which is also easy to use

Type: Software | Built-in editor: Yes | Works on: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

This program is easy to use
It's also very cheap
Plenty of transitions
Lacks filters
Maybe too basic for some

PhotoStage Slideshow 8 is one of the cheapest options for creating slideshows, and is very simple to use too. It lacks a handful of features you may find elsewhere, but has more than enough for most people to create excellent slideshows. We recommend it for anyone who isn't going to use all of the flashy graphics and transitions offered by other programs. There are no backgrounds, filters or themes, but there are plenty of transition effects to choose from. This includes more elaborate transitions like fading into the next image in the expanding shape of a heart or simply scrolling from one side of the screen to the other.

You can make simple edits such as cropping and rotating your photos, and adjusting contrast, hue and brightness. We found the slideshow playback to be crisp and of good color quality in our tests. This software handles the most common audio and video formats, so you can spice up your slideshows with mixed media. The area where this slideshow software really falls short is in the help and support, but honestly, this program is so easy to use that you likely won't need to contact anyone at NCH for help.

In terms of export, you can save your slideshow as a variety of popular file types, or upload directly to YouTube, Vimeo, or Flickr. Or, if you want, you can save directly to your smartphone or tablet. Simple.


CyberLink PhotoDirector 12: Best photo slideshow software editing tools

(Image credit: CyberLink)

A powerful photo editing program that can create great slideshows too

Type: Software | Built-in editor: Yes | Works on: PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Superb editing tools
Easy to use
You get great results
Expensive for a slideshow app
May confuse some people

CyberLink PhotoDirector 12 has the right balance of features for anyone looking to create professional-looking slideshows. It's primarily a photo editor, with all the tools you'd expect from a full-featured photo enhancement program, but with the option to create slideshows via the 'Create' tab. The reason we recommend PhotoDirector above other photo editing apps is because it's simple to use and it helps you create incredible results with very little effort, even if it does lack some of the more advanced tools that professional editors need.

There are a whole host of tools for enhancing your photos, including things like dispersion effects, which give you the power to animate particles in your images with ease. This can add a serious wow-factor to your slideshows. There are also editing options for cropping, layers, background changes, and all kinds of creative effects to give your photos some zing.

As a slideshow creator it's simple to use, with various headers, overlays, transitions, and everything you need to craft a compelling presentation. Some who want basic options may find it overwhelming, despite its simplicity, so this really is for anyone looking to create pro-looking slideshows. And it's a little more expensive than some other options in our guide. However, there's no denying you get excellent results.


4. PixGram: Best slideshow app for Android devices

PixGram: Best photo slideshow software for Android

(Image credit: PixGram)

PixGram

A free and simple app for making slideshows on Android phones

Type: App | Built-in editor: No | Works on: Android

Free and easy to use
Loads of filters and effects
Share direct to social media sites
Free version has ads

PixGram is one of the best slideshow apps if you want to simply create slideshows and montages on your smartphone. There's a free version and it covers you for almost all the features you need, although you're restricted to three-minute videos/slideshows until you purchase the premium version.

This one is primarily designed to help you set slideshows to music, and to share them direct to social media. You can import images and videos direct from your phone's gallery into the app, and combine it with any music you have purchased and saved to your device. There are plenty of filters to apply to your images, and a decent range of video editing options, but it does lack transitions. What matters most is that this is easy to use, and you can quickly share results to most of the popular social media platforms in a variety of aspect-ratios that each one supports. For example, the 16:9 format suits Facebook, while the 1:1 is perfect for Instagram.

There are definitely limitations here, and if you're using the free version you'll get in-app ads (much like you do in most free apps). Those looking for fancy transitions should consider other options, but anyone who wants to simply create slideshows and montages on their phone, without using a laptop or computer, should seriously consider PixGram.


5. PicPlayPost: Best slideshow app for Apple devices

PicPlayPost: Best photo slideshow software for Apple devices

(Image credit: PicPlayPost)

PicPlayPost

If you want to create slideshows on iOS... PicPlayPost is ideal

Type: App | Built-in editor: Yes | Works on: iOS

Make videos and slideshows
So many effects, stickers and transitions
Free version is poor
Paid version is expensive

PicPlayPost is a surprisingly powerful slideshow (and video) tool for iOS devices. It has a vast number of features, and can craft montages and slideshows in 1080p and 4K, if you have a compatible iPhone or iPad. You can download it for free, but this version is very limited, and you're definitely going to need to subscribe if you're looking to use the majority of the tools. This is expensive, at $6.99 per month (or an even higher one-time payment), so consider if you're really going to use it that much.

There are so many transitions, sticker, effects, and filters - you can get seriously creative with your slideshows and montages. It's simple to use, but there are loads of deep editing options for those who want to create professional-looking presentations and video montages. You can create gifs, slideshows, movies, and collage images, making this perfect for crafting memes too. The slideshows can last up to 30 minutes, and it'll access music from your device.

If you're constantly adding custom videos and slideshows to social media, this is probably worth the price of subscription, especially as you can create videos and images specifically formatted for social channels. If you're looking for something a little more simple, then this is probably a bit much (ironically, though, the free version doesn't offer enough for even basic use).


6. PhotoStory Deluxe 2020: Best for beginners

PhotoStory Deluxe 2020: Best photo slideshow software for beginners

(Image credit: Magix)

PhotoStory Deluxe 2021

A solid photo slideshow maker that's ideal for novices

Type: Software | Built-in editor: Yes | Works on: PC

Very simple to use
Loads of templates and filters
Editing tools are quite limited

If you're new to the whole photo slideshow thing, and you want a no-nonsense piece of software for your home computer, then PhotoStory Deluxe 2021 is just the thing. There's a slideshow wizard to help get you started, and introduce you to most of the main features, and after that the interface is nice and simple. There's a built-in editor too, which lets you enhance and make basic edits to the images you've added, and while options here are relatively limited compared to other editing programs, there's enough here to make your slideshows look rather professional.

You can export your slideshows to most common formats, and there are options for VR slideshows and 360 videos, which is a nice touch. We love the travel map feature too, which allows you to create slideshows that show off all your vacation-snaps. The grandkids will love to see all of those!

There are options to upload your slideshows and videos direct to places like YouTube, although you retain the ability to burn them to a DVD too, in case you want to mail your substantial slideshows to friends, family, or clients. You can simply save them onto your home computer device too. While the editing tools lack features, and we do think this is mid-priced among slideshow creators, it's still worth considering if you're a newcomer seeking to create slideshows to thoroughly entertain your friends and family with.


What features should you look for in slideshow software?

Slideshow software is not proper photo editing software, although the line between the two is becoming increasingly blurred. So while the ability to crop, rotate, and remove the redeye effect caused by having a flash too close to the axis of the lens on the camera are essential, don’t expect too much more than that. 

You’ll be able to arrange your photos according to a theme, and insert backgrounds and transitions between slides. People have short attention spans, so while the best photo slideshow software allows you to insert as many photos as you like, you may be better served by using some organization software to edit them down to the minimum needed to get your point across, then spend some time working on the background music and transitions to make it compelling. The best programs also allow you to record a voiceover, which can work wonders when explaining a complex situation, or sharing news that’s too long to put in captions.

The ability to share your slideshow in an easy to view format is also essential, as what good is a slideshow nobody can watch? Look out for share buttons for social media sites, and being able to export your slideshow as an MP4 video is essential, as this is the format many sites can handle without waiting for conversion, and it creates small files that are good for emailing.

Finally, comprehensive help and support is always worth looking out for, no matter what kind of software you’re looking at. Modern apps can be complicated and have lots of menu options and buttons, so being able to quickly learn what everything does is an important step toward mastering the software.

Tips for creating a compelling slideshow

  • According to Memories Renewed, when it comes to slideshows ten to 12 images are typically displayed within a minute. This means that a 100-image slideshow will likely last ten to 12 minutes. Take this into account when creating your slideshows.
  • For an elegant slideshow, don’t use distracting transitions. Stick with a simple fade between images.
  • Choose music and images that are appropriate for the event. You don’t want to play raucous music or have disrespectful photos at a funeral, for example.
  • Know how the slideshow will be used. If it’s going to play in the background it can go on forever. However, if you’re going to draw everyone’s attention to it as a special presentation, keep it short and simple – three to five minutes. People typically don’t have long attention spans.
  • Add statements from loved ones, when appropriate, to make it extra special.
  • Make sure you run through the slideshow beforehand to make sure everything works properly. Fix any problems. This includes the transitions, graphics and music.

Ian has been a journalist for 20 years. He's written for magazines and websites on subjects such as video games, technology, PC hardware, popular (and unpopular) science, gardening and astronomy. In his spare time he has a pet tortoise and grows his own vegetables.