Funeral Slideshows - 10 Unusual Things
By Jane Lehmann
When a loved one dies, lots of folks decide to create a
funeral slideshow to remember and honor them. There is
not usually a lot of time, and often the most that can
be achieved is to gather the available photographs and
have them thrown into some kind of semi-automatically
generated funeral slideshow. And that's just fine. After
all, it's about the person - it's not about the
But what if you want to do a little better? What if you
have the time and you know a bit of video editing and
can hold your own in iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. How
do you improve on the tried and tested (but just a bit
worn out) traditional funeral slideshow? How do you
create memorable tributes to loved ones which - more
than just being shown at the funeral service - will be
treasured for years to come. How do you create a funeral
slideshow that becomes an heirloom?
Well, don't say goodbye to those photographs. The basis
for any funeral slideshow will still be images.
Although, a little care in restoring photographs with
Photoshop - and some thought as to how you pan across
them and where the virtual camera lands will repay you
many times over in audience appreciation. And don't
forget captions. Haven't we all attended funerals and
sat through endless images wondering who it is we are
looking at? We care, we are there after all, but who are
all these people? Is that the granddaughter; is that the
son John who never visited? you ask yourself. But
without captions, there are no answers. So, the first
thing to include in your knockout slideshow is captions.
1. Picture Captions
When you gather the photos, get some information about
them. Find out the time, place, people and occasion of
the photos. And when you do, include that as a caption.
If you are unsure, look on the back! There is often a
description - and some photo processing labs from the
1960s onwards helpfully printed the processing date on
the back of the picture.
You can copy photos with a digital camera, but scanning
Scanning? You will need to scan to get images into your
editing program. And there is a bit of "black art" in
scanner settings with all that confusing malarkey about
dots or pixels per square inch (dpi or ppi). Luckily it
is not that complicated: Print requires 300 dpi/ppi to
reproduce the original at the same size. Video and
digital screens are usually happy with 72 dpi/ppi. So,
you should scan at 72dpi right? (We are talking about a
funeral slideshow that is going to be projected,
probably from a video DVD.) If you are going to all the
trouble of scanning anyway, you might as well scan at
300 dpi/ppi for images 4" x 6" and larger. If the
original image is smaller than 4" x6", scan at 600 dpi/ppi.
And if you are scanning a small photograph negative or
slide, 1200 dpi/ppi or even 2400 dpi/ppi is your
Back in the day, folks had what we called a "hand" -
they could really write! If you are lucky enough to find
the person's fetching handwriting on the back of one of
those photos you are scanning, make sure you scan that
and have it included (possibly with a split screen). You
should always try to include samples of the person's
handwriting. It may be from that photo description - but
it could just be an old (possibly last) shopping list,
or it might be a letter written a long time ago or even
recently. It may be a signature from a driver's license
OK. But what else can you include in the montage apart
from photos - and captions? Well, the trick to going
from ho-hum to oh-my is to gather as much and as varied
material as you can. The goal is to capture and preserve
the uniqueness of your subject.
A death is almost always the occasion for families to
reunite - kids fly in (often from across the country -
or even further afield) and family and friends' thoughts
turn to the good times and all the happy memories. Some
people will be composing and presenting eulogies. So you
should take advantage of these unscheduled reunions and
record succinct memories of the subject from those
friends and family. You should find the time to do this
informally before the funeral.
Some people may not be flying in or may not be able to
attend the funeral for whatever reason. But your funeral
slideshow can still feature them or their stories. Where
you are unable to record the person directly, tape them
via webcam. No webcam? Record their voice over the
telephone (Skype can help with this). Once you get to
assembling the slideshow, you can play the voice over an
image of the person telling that story.
4. Poems and sayings:
Death, for all its pain, is a fillip to consider the big
issues in life. And a collection of sayings or homilies
that the person lived by or which express their hopes
and beliefs helps us to focus our thoughts. Sometimes a
person was known for their bon mots or their humor.
Examples should certainly be included as simple text
screens or as text "crawls".
5. Old video footage
Almost inevitably, there will be video footage of the
deceased somewhere in a cupboard on one or another
member of the family. You just have to ask around. Maybe
a birthday or just a family barbecue. Nothing brings a
person back into our memories better than video -
ideally with audio also.
You may need to get some old 8mm, 16mm or super 8 film
converted into a digital form so you can add a clip of
that to your funeral slideshow. But here's a hint: don't
just go for the cheapest. Some converters don't even
look at what they are doing with your priceless old film
and the final result can be very dark, or very light, or
it may have horrible ragged black edges.
6. Cards and letters
I mentioned handwriting above, so let's now focus on
cards and letters.
Grandparents - particularly - avidly collect cards and
artwork from their grandchildren. Have you ever met a
grandparent who throws away a single picture or letter
from a grandson or daughter? Well, these items can also
also be included in the funeral slideshow to demonstrate
how loved and honored the person was in life.
Depending on the length and complexity of the life, it
can help to tell the story by using narration.
Now, one member of the family is often designated to
present an overview of the person's life at the funeral
service. That same person is usually well placed to
supply narration or voice over for the visual elements
of the funeral slideshow. Sometimes it's enough for the
person to review the images and other visual material
then say a few words about some of them. (Any modern
computer lets you hook up some kind of mic. to get a
8. Clippings and memorabilia
What, are we tailing about the President here? Actually,
most people at the end of a long life have a scrapbook
somewhere with some now yellowed and brittle news
clippings about themselves. It might be a recipe they
submitted, an announcement of their engagement,
attendance at a charity ball or similar event, or it
might be high school sports. Or, you may have someone
seriously famous on your hands with a whole book of
Other folks keep memorabilia like athletics, football,
swimming or golf trophies. Or they have traveled or led
a busy business life and the house or office is full of
tchotchkes. You can film or photograph these things and
add them to the funeral slideshow.
9. A DVD box cover:
OK. Home stretch. Having put together a stunning funeral
slideshow, you should burn it to DVD and have it boxed
so that it is properly identifiable and records the
significant milestones of the person's life. You add the
best portrait of the deceased you can find, maybe in a
collage with some images from their youth. You can also
include maps right there on the box (you should include
them in the slideshow too of course).
Family and friends will likely want their own copy of
your funeral slideshow so it's worth making the project
attractive as well as recognizable.
10. A web posting
Why not? With the vast choice of free, online web
hosting available, lots of people decide to post their
funeral slideshow on the internet so that it is
available anywhere at any time from any computer for any
friend or any family member.
Funeral slideshows can be so much more than a hum-drum
cycle through the old family album. The freedom and
options we now have can give the deceased a kind of
immortality that was undreamed of only 10 years ago. You
may have the skill and patience to create a truly epic
tribute to the life now passed. If you don't - but feel
that they deserve it, then there are professionals to
help who have made funeral slideshows a specialty.
Death might be considered life's single greatest
challenge and its single greatest tragedy. But it is
only in death that we come to appreciate the true gift
and miracle of a life. Funerals help us understand this.
And folks should use the eruption of emotion and energy
that inevitably accompanies these sad occasions to
create a fitting memorial to their loved one.