5 Free Animated Slideshows

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Coded By Pros!

Coded By Pros!

By Melinda Rainsberger

We’re all guilty of using the Ken Burns effect at some point. Multi-photo slide shows are difficult and unwieldy. Some programs come with presets for image slideshows, some just make it very easy to apply a standard piece of animation to many images. Carousels, image sliders, fade/zoom transitions, falling images, flash photography, and 3D space slideshows are just some of the many ways you can present a photo. In this article, we’ll present 5 of the most common slideshows that you might use, as well as giving you an After Effects project file that creates some of these simple slide shows. This could then be modified to fit your design requirements/images.

All these slideshows use the ‘sequence layers’ feature to some extent. Some use simple keyframing techniques and others use presets or even a mixture to create their effect. You can replace the photos use with your own or use the presets on your own video projects.

Fade/ Zoom

The Fade/Zoom slideshow is made by animating 3 properties at the front end of every layer. Each of the animated properties start out as: Scale (115%), Opacity (0%) and the Fast Blur Effect (50). Each effect is animated to transition to their original settings. Scale goes down to 100%, Opacity goes up to 100% and Fast Blur goes down to 0. This animation takes 40 seconds.  The layers are then sequenced, with a 40 frame overlap. This overlap means the images cross-dissolve into each other.


This is based user point of view style that is popular in many cellphone ads. For even more realism, you could film a real person’s hand, then motion stabilize it and ‘photoshop’ the photos into the hand. The hand is two layers, the thumb is on the top, the rest of the hand is under the photos. In between these layers are the photos. They are a series of layers, sequenced and each one is rotated plus or minus 1 degree to create a bit of movement. The gray shaded background is made with a solid to add a little bit of depth.

‘Flash’ Photograph

Like the Fade/Zoom slideshow, 3 properties are animated before the layers are sequenced. Each of the beginning animated properties are: Tint (100% white), Scale (100%) and Rotation (0x, +0.0). They each end up at Tint (0% white), Scale (73%), and Rotation randomized and end between negative or positive 6 degrees (ox, -6.0 or 0x, +6.0). The layers are then sequenced. While they are offset, each of the layers’ out points are pulled out so that they continue to the end of the composition. This creates the illusion of a stack of photographs that are building. The layer styles Drop Shadow and an inner white Stroke complete the illusion that these are photographs.


Image carousels can be made with keyframes or hard coded with the After Effect’s coding language called expressions. For our example, we’ll keep it small and use keyframes. However, for dozens of images, it’s much easier to use expressions. The Position, Scale, and Opacity animation properties are utilized. Instead of having an “A” and “B” point, they have 3-4 keyframes. This is to create the pause in the middle. If there were simply 2 Opacity keyframes, the image would only fade in or out, but could not fade in and then fade out. To create the reflection, the images are Pre-Composed (nested) and then this new, singular layer is duplicated, mirrored and masked with a fuzzy edge. We’ve also added a light gray shading to the background to create a greater sense of space.

3D World

Zooming around a 3D world will create a very slick presentation for your photos. In this slideshow, the images are arranged in 3D space, but are not animated. The only animated element is the camera. The extra dimensions of 3D space can be a bit confusing though. Try practicing with fewer elements before embarking on a large slideshow presentation.

Custom Mix

The custom mix uses a keyframes and presets, which are then customized a little bit to create a viewmaster-like slideshow. One of the original presets uses expressions–the coding language of After Effects. This configuration is then saved as its own preset. A preset is a effect/keyframe, it is saved as an external file and you can load it again and again to ensure a standard result.

Each of these slideshows use a mixture of effects and keyframes, in escalating levels of complexity. A good way to start delving into animation is to pull apart the working files and examine them. In some ways, After Effects and animation are more similar to the realm of web coding. The technology uses less real-world analogies, or uses analogies only professionals from specialized fields would understand. Having a start file allows you to see how a project is put together—typically the hardest part of animation is imagining what something will be before you’ve made it.


  1. Hi,

    Cool effects, just what I was looking for (esp. the photo dropping one). However, I cannot find the download link. Did you make it available in the end? If so, where can I get it from? Thanks.

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