As a veteran DJ and former catering manager who has been around bar and bat mitzvahs for roughly 20 years, I’ve seen my share of photo montages. Some are captivating, energetic, well-produced and of course, sentimental. Others, well… sometimes these photo slideshows are boring, poorly produced, too long, etc.
I’ve also made my share of montages for clients through the years, so I thought I’d provide some tips, tricks and suggestions for families either taking a DIY approach and making their own montage or preparing images and selecting music for a professional to produce the finished product.
Here are some tips to get started:
1. Keep the video to 7-10 minutes ideally. In order to do this, you will need about 100 images, 3-5 songs, and possibly a few short video clips. Keep in mind, people (especially children and teens) have short attention spans and you do not want to lose much time out of your 4 hour reception to show a video.
2. Make sure the photo transitions are paced properly and also interesting. There’s nothing more boring than a montage which shows photo after photo with the exact same transition of a photo sliding in and then sliding out. Depending on the effects, each photo should hang for 3-4 seconds. The “go-to” program for most DIY’ers is iMovie. There’s no doubt you can create an interesting montage in iMovie, but truth be told, this program is very clumsy for making montages and requires a ton of added manipulation to each image. Professionals use far more expensive software but these programs offer a wide array of built in effects to enhance each slide and each transition.
3. Music is key! Picking the right songs for the montage is very important. Be sure to pick songs that have the right energy, right emotion and possibly tie into a theme. (as examples: Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” for a bat mitzvah showing baby photos of a young dancer or John Foggerty’s “Centerfield” for a baseball themed party).
4. Video Clips add interest and a different dynamic. I’m a big advocate for incorporating some cute or memorable video clips. The only cautionary note is the length of these videos far exceeds the 3-4 seconds I suggested earlier for each slide. If you add just 4 video clips that are 30 seconds each, you’ve just added two minutes to your finished product.
5. Image quality… “Back in the day” everyone had physical prints of photos and now these photos are all digital. The great thing about digital images is that the quality can be preserved, however, now we have hundreds of photos from every month of our kid’s lives. Trying to sort through and narrow down to the best is a chore. Also, trying to keep track of the best quality images can also be a daunting task. The image which was captured on a high megapixel camera phone but then texted between friends and eventually posted to social media pages, often results in a downgraded file quality. In a perfect world, every image used in a montage should be a minimum of 1MB to ensure crisp high quality photos, we understand this isn’t feasible but certainly something to consider when selecting photos. Also make sure to scan a physical print, taking a picture of a picture will not result in a high quality image.
6. Time… the last and probably most important tip is don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes to create a montage. Do not wait for last minute! Searching for the right photos could take days in itself. You may find yourself looking through multiple phones, facebook, instagram, hard drives, shoeboxes with printed photos, etc. I’ve heard stories of people trying to resurrect old broken computers in order retrieve baby photos. When you are past this point, and now faced with 400-500 images you like, now you have to start weeding out duplicates or images less important than others. (All while trying to remain politically correct and involve photos of all family members and all friends). When you have successfully accomplished the above, now its time to create the montage. As a professional with the right software, I find myself spending 3-8 hours on most montages. Keep in mind, I’m also not emotionally attached to the photos, so cutting out low quality images and spending time reflecting on old memories does not slow me down. I’ve heard of many families spending weeks on the editing process. Unless you are very creative, good with computers and have plenty of free-time, we usually suggest that you leave the montage creation for a pro. Similar to baking a cake, yes… you can certainly make a small simple cake at home using a boxed mix… but there is no comparison to a professional baker with the right tools and years of experience. At a lavish event, you would rely on the bakery to provide your guests with the best cake experience. We suggest you think comparatively when considering the montage experience.
I hope you found this blog helpful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to call or email. Also remember… google is your friend. Google searches for “montage song suggestions” or “songs for a boy’s photo montage” or “songs about summer camp” are all great ways to find unique or perfectly matched music to your photos.