Anyone looking for a budget slideshow-creation program could do far worse than PhotoStage Slideshow 8. And if that sounds like faint praise, we don’t mean it to be: there is better software out there among the best photo slideshow software (opens in new tab) and apps, but you’ll pay more for it, and PhotoStage is available for free for home use. It’s a bargain.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, however. It lacks a few features you might find elsewhere, especially on Movavi Slideshow Maker 7 (opens in new tab), which has more tools and options than you’ll ever use, but the tools it does have work well, and you’ll certainly be able to create a fine slideshow using this software.
PhotoStage Slideshow 8: Features
As with many other apps in this particular niche, PhotoStage Slideshow 8 takes the form of an apparent video editing app, with a timeline at the bottom of the interface onto which images, music tracks, transitions and the like can be dragged. There’s an automatic mode that will do all this for you, provided all your images are in the same folder, and there’s a choice of copyright-free music you can download, plus themes that place an appropriate backdrop behind your images.
Set this going, and it zips through your images, displaying each for a few seconds before changing. You can choose to randomize the transitions, some of which are very George Lucas, but otherwise you don’t have much control over how it comes out.
The manual mode is the place to go if you want to go crazy with the creativity, as this opens up the Effects and Animations panels for you. From these, you can animate your photos so they drift across the screen, and make them almost unrecognizable using the effects filters. The effects stack, so if you want to you can create some wild effects this is the place to go. Images can also be edited to change their brightness and color balance, as well as cropping into them, changing the length of time their slide appears in the slideshow, and rotating them.
The animations on offer include zooming into and panning across an image, making them ripple or spin, having raindrops or balloons fall onto them, or add scratches and a bit of wobble for an old-film look - although the sprocket holes promised by the effect’s icon don’t appear.
You can add text across your images, including a particularly good ‘typewriter’ style that adds each letter one at a time. You can also add timers, text in waves, and even one that looks like the opening crawl of a Star Wars movie.
Audio can be faded in and out, and you can record your own narration. There is an enormous number of sound files that can be downloaded from the NCH Sound Library, from nature sounds to sports noises, bicycle bells to classical music.
PhotoStage Slideshow 8: Ease of Use
When the app first opens, you’re presented with a screen that points out the various parts of the app. This is good enough to get you an overall impression of how things work, and the rest of the app does its best to be user-friendly. Drop down the Help menu, and you’ll find video tutorials, a technical support page, and a community forum. NCH is the developer of the popular VideoPad (opens in new tab), PhotoPad and WavePad apps, along with many others, and it has a bustling website.
The app is generally quite straightforward to use, with actions such as clicking on a transition between slides on the timeline bringing up the transition palette just as you’d expect. Export options are excellent, from simple video files all the way up to full-blown Blu-ray discs. You can set the resolution, the file format, and even the compression engine that’s used to create the file (although there’s no h265), and there are some handy presets depending on the file size and quality you desire. The app can also publish to HTML 5, direct to cloud storage or YouTube, or with a file designed for legacy devices such as the iPhone 3G.
It’s not all good news, however. We found that, in the preview, parts of the previous image remained after the transition, staying at the edges while the next image played. In one example, a jigsaw-piece-shaped chunk of the previous photo stayed in the middle of the screen after all the other pieces had moved out of the way. Luckily, this didn’t persist into the exported video file, but it certainly made us wonder if it would. We also found that, while trying to see the effect a filter or animation was having on our selected image, the app would jerk to another photo on the timeline, meaning we had to manually move back to our selected image each time we made a change.
Should you buy PhotoStage Slideshow?
For an app you can get for free, this is generally excellent. There is lots of competition in this particular software sector, from dedicated slideshow apps as well as addons to video and photo editors, so it’s good to see NCH providing such a quality piece of software.
Sure, there are a few niggles, but nothing we couldn’t live with as it’s not an app we’d use very often. If you see yourself creating slideshow after slideshow every day, then it’s worth looking at one of the other apps higher up our list of the best photo slideshow software. If you’re a more irregular user, then this free app will most likely do very well indeed, or at least make a good starting point.