What makes a good audio slideshow: the dos and don’ts

This post is part of a series of How to do an Audio Slideshow
Audio Slideshows are a very simple language: a story can be told in a clear and arresting way without big technical effects. Benjamin Charleston explains this feeling really well:
(…)with moving video, the viewers eye is centred – broadly, locked to the framing of the video camera. With still images, the eye roams. It stops and moves and stops and moves. Frozen gestures and expressions kick off a cognitive process – thinking – that moving images simply never do.
Something similar is true of good audio. The best audio blends reportage (‘being me, being here’) with the kind of aural cues that make audiences think and wander off down their own pathways while still engaging with the sound.
Put the two together – great audio documentary and great still images – and you have something that is potentially MORE than great storytelling.
The truth is that audio slideshows make us think and we can construct a story in our mind. But Gather pictures and audio is a struggle, no doubt. However, with practice and research you start to see what you should and shouldn’t do with an audio slideshow. I put together the dos and don’ts to make a good audio slideshow:


  • Show around 8-10 pictures per minutes, explains Paul Kerley BBC’s audio slideshow expert.I made a few experiments about this matter.Here I put just 5 pictures in 1 minute. As you can see it is really slow:

After that I decided to use a total of 15 pictures in 1 minute:

And finally, I follow the advice and used 9 pictures in 1 minute. I works much better:

  • Each photo should appear on the screen for at least 3 seconds but no more than 10 seconds, according to Mark S. Luckie. However, the pace of the story and the length of the pictures shoudl be dictated by the pictures themselves and by the story. If you have shocking and detailed pictures maybe 10 seconds is a good time. If you have pictures that don’t require a lot of attention, maybe 3/5 seconds is enough.
  • Open with natural sound rather with someone talking. Natural sound softnesses the audio slide show and easer the viewer.
  • Have a clear relationship between what is being said and heard. It does not make any sense to have a picture one horse and the person has been talking about cows!
  • Normalize the audio – the final production is crucial to the slide show to make sure that there are not low and high dropouts otherwise people will get distracted.
  • Include a picture of the person who is narrating the story. I always helps, especially if you are short on pictures.
  • Put an amazing photo for the opening and look for a memorable sentence to start to capture people’s attention. The first picture will set the scene. Adam Westbrook says that the the most important thing to consider when making online video it is the first ten seconds. I believe that with audio slideshows the principle is basically the same. Adam gives examples of what exactly should be used in the first 10 seconds:
To show your most arresting images
To use your strongest soundbite
To surprise your audience
To raise a question in the mind of your viewer setting up the big reveal
To get straight into the story
  • Record one or two minutes of the room ambient where you are recording. You can then use it in in between edits (VERY USEFUL)
Let the audio guide the story. It is going to be the audio that is going to tell the story with the help of the pictures. Mark S.Luckie is Digital Journalists’ Handbook is very clear:
(…)the audio is the foundation of the slideshow. Before selecting the photos that will be included in the presentation, you must first arrange and assemble your audio clips into one audio file. The length of the audio determines the length of the slideshow, the number of photos that can be included in th slideshow, and roughly how long each photo is shown”. Pag. 115
Do I need to explain more?
  • Play around with the structure. As Sam says, begin with the ending and end with the beginning. It can make the story mysterious!


  • Put people introducing themselves. I had that question in my mind and I realized that I hated it and it breaks the audio slideshow
  • Have dead air sound gaps. It kills the narrative and you take people out of the moment
  • Use too many pictures , as discussed above, or the viewer will not be able to keep up. However, few pictures will make the audio slideshow very slow and people will start to get bored.
  • Make your audio slideshows longer than 3 or 4 minutesan advice by Paul Kerley
  • Allow background sound/noise to distract you from the narration
  • Use redundant pictures. I read this in one commenFinding the Frame and it makes complete sense. Pictures need to be relevant and tell a story.
  • Use music unless it really suits the piece. Music can benefit the Audio Slideshow but not always. Choosing the right song requires a lot of work and to mix it with the slideshow can be really tricky. Personally, I try not to use music unless  the piece really calls for it.
  • Use poor audio
  • Treat the audio as an afterwards. You can have an story with potential an a lot of good photos but if you don’t prioritize the sound, not only in technical terms, the audio slideshow is doomed.Do you have any more tips? Let’s ear them!