When it comes to showing off your photos, you've got several options, and happily, most won't cost you a dime. Whether you're setting up a formal viewing opportunity for your local photo club, hosting cocktail hour, a birthday party, or maybe you've merely managed to trap a neighbor in your house for a few minutes, the following options will set your pictures free:
This free method produces a bare-bones slideshow, with no control over slide duration, transitions, captions or music (though you could always use iTunes to play music in the background). In the Finder, select the files you want to view — Command-A to select all the pictures in an open folder, of course, and Command-Shift to select consecutive or Command-click to select nonconsecutives. You can also drag within a Finder window to select multiple photos (start your drag to the left or right of the filenames). Next, press the space bar to enlarge the first photo and then enter full screen mode by clicking the double arrow icon at the upper right of the resulting window (circled). In the dark toolbar that appears, click the Play button or use your arrow keys to move to and fro throughout the show.
Like QuickView, you can't customize a Preview slideshow but it gets the job done fast (and free). Launch Preview and choose File > Open. In the resulting dialog box, select multiple photos, or a folder of photos, and click Open (you can also drag a folder or files onto the Preview icon in your Dock or Applications folder). Once the images open in a single document, choose View > Slideshow or press Shift-Command-F; the slideshow automatically plays.
iPhoto's slideshows offer a wide variety of control over theme (visual animation style), slide duration, music, transitions, captions, and much more. To begin, select some photos in iPhoto, or better yet, select an album, since that lets you control the order of your pictures. For an instant slideshow, click the Slideshow button in iPhoto's toolbar and in the resulting panel, pick a theme, adjust music, and so on. Click Play to see the show and wiggle your mouse to summon an onscreen control bar. In Faces view, you can kick off an instant slideshow by Control-clicking a Faces album and choosing Play Slideshow from the shortcut menu.
In contrast, you can create a saved slideshow by selecting an album or multiple photos and choosing File> New Slideshow. Saved slideshows appear as clickable icons in your Source list, so you can tweak them to death now or later — you can even set different transition and speed settings for each slide. Saved slideshows can be synced to iOS devices by using iPhoto to export them as a QuickTime movie, connecting your iOS device to your Mac, and then turning on "Include Videos" in iTunes' Photos tab before syncing (see the Apple TV entry below for more).
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