At some time in our lives, chances are we will be involved with the planning of a funeral or memorial service.   When a loved one passes, we tend to look back at the photos and think of our memories of that person and want to honor them in a special way.  Creating a Memorial slideshow or Celebration of Life Video is one way to help deal with the loss and share the memories of the loved one with others.

To help minimize any stress at an already stressful time, I want to offer a guideline of things to keep in mind when gathering photos for this type of video.  This comes from someone who has personally been involved with the planning as well as creating videos for funeral/memorials.

Choosing the photos to include in the video

Don’t worry about gathering all the photos that include your loved one; just focus on the most special photos. Why?  The main reason is there is not enough time to gather the photos, and you’ll be limited to either time or number of photos to include.

I personally like to tell a story with the photos.  From the time the person was born, including their parents and grandparents.  Then as the person grows through childhood, maybe college, then on to marriage, children and grandchildren.  Do you have photos from college, working career, hobbies, special trips, and special friends?

  • Think of their story and maybe organize in a chronological order.
  • Does the funeral home or other service have a limitation on time or number of photos to include?
  • Assuming this is for an older person, did they have more than one child?  It may be challenging, but try to have same number of photos for each child.
  • This doesn’t have to include just photos.  If you have one or maybe a few short video clips to include, that’s a great addition to telling this person’s story.

Choosing the music to include in the video

Choosing the music is almost as important as choosing the photos.  The music helps set the tone.  Did your loved one communicate in any way what music they would ever like at their service?  Did they have any favorites?

  • Choose music that the loved one chose, or personally liked.
  • How long are the songs?
    There’s a balance to choosing the songs and syncing the timing with the number of photos.  This is the last thing you want to worry about right now.  Just make sure someone has given you a guideline on the number you need to choose.

What if I want to help with the collecting and/or scanning photos?

Okay, here is where I prefer to scan myself.  However, if you truly feel the need to help with the scanning process then here’s my guideline.

  • Clean each photo of dust with a clean lint free cloth or very soft bristle brush intended for photos.   You may not see the dust of photos with the naked eye, but trust me it’s there.  And those little pesky white dots will show in the slideshow.
  • Clean your scanner.  Dust also collects here, even if you keep the lid closed.
    For pete’s sake, if you don’t have a photo scanner don’t take a snapshot of the photos with your phone.  Think of seeing that skewed photo on a big screen at a funeral home or church.
  • Scan at least at 300dpi and saved to JPG.  PDF is not the same as JPG.
  • For pete’s sake…if at all possible, please don’t download photos from Facebook.  Try to get the originals.  It’s like comparing a 1″ photo to 4″ photo.
    The photos are immediately decreased in size they are uploaded to Facebook.

The Venue

Where the video is displayed is a third key component to making the video look nice and memorable.  If you or someone you’ve hired is creating the video, then here are some questions and tips to keep in mind.

  • What is the screen format?  This is either square (4:3) or wide (16:9).
    This makes a huge difference if you’ve created the video in wide screen and the venue has a  square projection.  The results will be that some of your content is cutoff.
  • What media can the venue handle?
    Blue Ray, DVD, USB/Flash drive?  If flash drive, what is the file format?  AVI, MP4, etc.
  • Does the venue have a screen or will it be shown on a wall?    And what is the color?
    You wouldn’t think it mattered until you create a video that has more of a vintage look, then take it to a church with no screen and beige walls.  Believe me, it matters.

Final Tips:

  • Are there any special messages you would like to include at the beginning, ending, or even the “chapters” of their life?
  • What is the look and feel you would like to convey?  Was their favorite color blue?  Were they part of the military?
  • Take your final product at least a day ahead of time, if at all possible.
    Definitely before the service.  You want to make sure the DVD, video and sound are all working properly.  And that the tech person at the venue is there.
  • Do family members want copies?
    Be sure to label the DVD jackets, that someone has collected money.  What ever arrangements have been worked out.
  • And, finally, below is an approximation of how long a video might be based on music and photos. 



I hope you find this article helpful.  However, if you are in need of a Celebration of Life video or for another event, please feel free to contact me.