How To Make Your Own Bar Bat Mitzvah Photo Montage

Q: I love those slideshows where you see photos of the bat mitzvah child over the course of her life. Should I hire someone to make one and, if so, what should I pay? Or is it easy enough to make one myself?

Some photograhers and videographers are now offering montage or "vide-ode" services. In New York, they start at around $600. Also, has just launched a new service of video packages at $399. (See advertisement on right.) If you prefer to create one yourself, read the article that follows to decide if you have the time and technical know-how (or absence of technophobia) to learn to make your own photo montage. Only you can know whether this is a job worth outsourcing or one you'll enjoy and savor doing yourself.

First, go through all your old photo albums and digital images and select the pictures you love most. Decide if you want show them in thematic groupings, chronological or random order. You can combine thematic with chronological by showing baby then toddler then middle school photos, then switch to showing current photos of your child doing all her different activities, then showing her with clusters of various relatives and friends. Word of caution: close friends and relatives may feel hurt if some are shown but not others. Remember to be diplomatic and include everyone within a certain group (assuming they'll all be at the party).

Next, if the pictures are on paper (as opposed to digital images) scan them in a scanner. This converts them into digital images. If you don’t have a scanner, borrow from a friend, find a computer or photo shop that offers scanning services or purchase one, which you'll find has many uses long after the bar/bat mitzvah is over. There are several hundred models with the lowest end costing about $50, the highest, for professionals only, running about $1,500.

Your next step is to create the slide presentation. If you feel daunted about using a computer, check with your kids. Many at this age have already had a computer course where they have learned how to create a slide presentation. There are a number of software packages for this purpose.

Which to buy? Consider these factors while shopping. One key point is to find out how you are going to project the presentation. If your party venue only has a DVD player, you need a software package that can burn the presentation to a video DVD.

Alternatively, if you are going to use a computer connected to a projector, any one of a number of “presentation” packages will work. One example is PowerPoint from Microsoft which is available for both Windows and Apple computers. Created on a computer, PowerPoint allows you to arrange the digital images in the order you like as well as place captions on top of the photos, if you so desire. Rather than trying to learn this program from scratch, we suggest recruiting someone from your circle of friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers to lend a hand and help create the presentation for you. If this proves fruitless, roll up your sleeves and learn to do it yourself. It isn’t hard and it’s a skill you’ll have forever.

At this point, it's probably worthwhile to decide if you would prefer to make this presentation as a surprise for your child or if you would like to involve him in the process of creating the montage. If the latter, choose a software program he's familiar with. This way, he'll feel empowered and able to veto any ultra-embarrassing pictures.

Once you’ve finished making the presentation, you need to figure out how to show it at your actual party. Find out what kind of audio-visual equipment the venue has. Some have computers and screens ready to go; all you need to do is hand them a CD. In this case you’ll need to burn a CD of your presentation. Again, we suggest you call on a friend or computer services store that offers this service. Alternatively, your venue may have only a blank wall or retracting screen upon which to project your montage. In this case, you’ll need to bring a laptop computer and a special computer projector to the venue itself. Again, if you can’t find someone who owns these items, consider making the purchase yourself. In either case, we recommend delegating the job of bringing the equipment to the venue and setting it all up to a highly trusted techie friend; most likely, you’re going to be too busy or distracted to focus on this job.

Summary of decisions to make:
1) Will the presentation be from a computer or a DVD player?
2) Do you want to involve your kid or surprise your kid?
3) Do you want to include videos or just still shots?
4) Will you use just digital photos or analog photos (remember they require a scanner)?
5) Will the presentation proceed chronologically or thematically?
6) Who are the people who absolutely must be included?

Video-DVD software packages
Roxio Easy Media Creator
Pinnacle Studio (Win)
Toast Titanium (Mac)
Ulead VideoStudio 9.0 (Win)
Adobe Premiere Elements (Win)

Software packages for making a computer presentation
Microsoft Powerpoint


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