How to build the best Raspberry Pi digital picture frame with Bookworm and Pi3D Picframe (2024 Edition)

I bought my first digital picture frame almost twenty years ago and have been a fan ever since.

If you like taking photos of people, animals, landscapes, or other things, you shouldn’t bury them on your phone. And please, don’t settle for one of those tiny photo frames.

Instead, you should have a 24 or even 32-inch frame, ideally with a 4 K resolution, to enjoy them daily with your family or just for yourself.

But the best digital picture frame isn’t something you can buy. You have to build it yourself.

Over the years, I’ve reviewed many photo frames, and the difference in quality compared to a DIY frame is astounding.

Manufacturers often compromise to keep prices low and volumes high. Luxurious frames don’t sell enough and are quickly discontinued, leaving users with outdated software or cloud services.

And let’s be honest. Some high-end frames are just glorified TVs with unnecessary compromises or lack of features that you really want in a picture frame.

Trust me, friends don’t let friends buy overpriced digital photo frames—they build their own.

Building your own frame isn’t just rewarding; it’s also fun and surprisingly easy.

However, be warned: once you dive into the world of custom digital frames, you might get hooked on tweaking and perfecting your setup. But hey, isn’t that what hobbies are all about?

This website has over a hundred articles. I started it to keep track of my own solutions and to give back to the incredibly helpful community. However, tech evolves, and sometimes, my old instructions become outdated due to software updates or system changes.

My previous photo frame project was built using the Raspberry Pi operating system Buster, which is now two generations old. The current version, Bookworm, brought changes that initially deterred me from upgrading.

However, with the help of amazing people like Paddy, Helge, and Jeff, it’s time for a fresh tutorial on building a Raspberry Pi-powered digital picture frame. As always, I am standing on the shoulders of these giants.

Believe me when I say this is still the best frame money can’t buy (off-the-shelf).

This frame features cross-fading transitions (the only ones you’ll ever need), incredibly clever and beautiful matting options for all formats, Home Assistant control, and no monthly cloud service fees because everything is on-premise. Plus, it’s built for stunning 4K resolutions.

Did I mention you can’t buy a frame like this in the market?

So, without further ado, here are the instructions for building a Raspberry Pi-powered digital picture frame that you can customize to your heart’s content. Let’s get started!

Tested with: Raspberry Pi OS Bookworm June 2024, Raspberry Pi 3B+, 4, and 5; Pi3D: 2.51, PictureFrame 2024 05.31, Raspberry Pi Imager 1.8.5

For more background, I recommend reading the original Raspberry Pi setup article and the background article on PictureFrame, the software that creates those wonderful image transitions.

Installation of Raspberry Pi OS

The easiest way to install Raspberry Pi is to download the Raspberry Pi Imager.

Select your Raspberry Pi model, and choose Raspberry Pi OS Bookworm Lite (64-bit) under “Operating System” and “Raspberry Pi (other)”.

Under “Storage”, select your SD card. Click “Next”, add your OS customization data, and enter some default settings like the name of your pi (hostname), password, wifi, and language & time settings.

Finish by clicking on “Write”.

Once you’re done, remove the SD card from your Mac/PC and insert it into your Raspberry Pi. Connect your power supply and wait for the boot process to finish.

In my original configuration article, there are a lot more details, so if you are struggling with this part, go back and take the time to read it.

Launch the Angry IP scanner to find your IP address. Alternatively, just look up the device in your router.

Open a Terminal on your Mac or Windows machine and type:

ssh pi@192.168.178.xx

with “xx” being the last two digits of your device’s IP address.

The default password is “pi” (or whatever you specified in the Raspberry Pi Imager).

Enter

sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y

to run the latest updates.

Then, install a few needed packages with (this is one line)

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends   xserver-xorg   xserver-xorg-legacy   x11-xserver-utils xinit   python3-pip   libopenjp2-7   libgles-dev   libatlas3-base   libxrender-dev python3-venv -y

and reboot with sudo reboot.

Connect again and enter

sudo sed -i 's/\(^allowed_users=\).*/\1anybody/' /etc/X11/Xwrapper.config

sudo bash -c 'echo "needs_root_rights=yes" >> /etc/X11/Xwrapper.config'

Then, open system configuration with

sudo raspi-config

Make the following changes:

  • Under 1 System Options -> S5 Boot -> B2 Console Autologin as ‘pi’ user
  • Under 2 Display Options, choose D2 Screen Blanking and say “No”.
  • Under 5 Localisation Options -> L1 Locale -> add whatever your country and language is. You might also want to add “en_US.UTF-8” to avoid the occasional (but harmless) error message.

Go back, finish, and reboot. Connect again via Terminal.

Installing Samba network settings

Install the file-sharing software using the SMB (SAMBA) network protocol. This allows you to access your Raspberry Pi on your network to add images and program files easily and remotely.

In Terminal, install Samba, add a user and your password

sudo apt install samba -y

sudo smbpasswd -a pi

Change the SAMBA config file with

sudo nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

I recommend deleting every line by typing CTRL + K. Just hold down the keys until all lines are deleted.

Then, copy and paste this text into the file:

[global]
security = user
workgroup = WORKGROUP
server role = standalone server
map to guest = never

#The following seven lines is fine tuning for macOS users. I you are only using Windows, you don't need to include them. But they don't harm either.

vfs objects = catia fruit streams_xattr
fruit:metadata = stream
fruit:model = RackMac
fruit:posix_rename = yes
fruit:veto_appledouble = no
fruit:wipe_intentionally_left_blank_rfork = yes
fruit:delete_empty_adfiles = yes

[pi]
comment = Pi Directories
browseable = yes
path = /home/pi
read only = no
create mask = 0775
directory mask = 0775

Hit CTRL + O to write the file to disk, then CTRL + X to exit the editor.

If you have any troubles with the Samba configuration, please look at my more detailed article here.

Finally, restart SAMBA:

sudo /etc/init.d/smbd restart

You should now see the name of your Raspberry Pi in your network. Connect to it using your username “pi” (in our example) and your password.

Whenever you reboot your Raspberry Pi, file sharing will automatically start.

Note: If you have a problem editing the SAMBA config file, have a look at this article.

Installing Pi3D PictureFrame

Now, install the best image viewer software that no money can buy, the one and only Pi3D PictureFrame!

You should definitely read the main article on this wonderfully handcrafted piece of software.

What is new with Bookworm is that it requires the use of a virtual Python environment to prevent any unintended spillover from PictureFrame onto other Python applications.

Install the Python virtual environment with

mkdir venv_picframe

python -m venv /home/pi/venv_picframe

source venv_picframe/bin/activate

Now, install PictureFrame with

pip install picframe

If you see something like this, it’s a good sign.

Successfully installed IPTCInfo3-2.1.4 Pillow-10.3.0 PyYAML-6.0.1 defusedxml-0.7.1 ninepatch-0.2.0 numpy-1.26.4 paho-mqtt-2.1.0 pi-heif-0.16.0 pi3d-2.51 picframe-2024.5.31 pysdl2-0.9.16

Configuring PictureFrame

Now configure PictureFrame. You will be asked three questions for the basic configuration settings. Just hit Enter to keep the default for now. You can always change these settings later.

mkdir {Pictures,DeletedPictures}

picframe -i /home/pi/

When

This will configure  /home/pi/picframe_data/config/configuration.yaml
To keep default, just hit enter
Enter picture directory [~/Pictures]: 

appears, just hit Return three times to accept the default. You can always change these settings later.

We need to make two changes in the configuration file right away. Open it with

nano ~/picframe_data/config/configuration.yaml

Search for this entry (in the upper section) and change it to these values.

display_power: 1
use_glx: True

Save and close.

Special step if you have a Raspberry Pi 5

Note: Although this solution works, it creates a 100% CPU load instead of the usual below 1%. So, the Pi will get superhot and might even be damaged. We need to investigate further. If you have a solution, please let me know.

One additional step is only needed for the Raspberry Pi 5, and David Wei pointed it out.

Create a new config file by typing

sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/99-fbdev.conf

and pasting this text into the file

Section "Device"
    Identifier "fbdev"
    Driver "fbdev"
EndSection

Save with CTRL+o and exit with CTRL+x.

Autostarting PictureFrame

Starting PictureFrame is a bit more complex than before, but Helge did a great job hiding the complexity with a few scripts.

Enter

nano start_picframe.sh

and paste the paragraph below

#!/bin/bash
xset -display :0 dpms 0 0 0 &
xset -display :0 s off &
source /home/pi/venv_picframe/bin/activate  # activate phyton virtual env
picframe   #start picframe

Save and close and make the file executable with

chmod +x ./start_picframe.sh

Next, enter

mkdir ~/.config/systemd/user/ -p

nano ~/.config/systemd/user/picframe.service

and paste this paragraph

[Unit]
Description=PictureFrame on Pi3

[Service]
ExecStart=xinit /home/pi/start_picframe.sh
Restart=always

[Install]
WantedBy=default.target

Enable the service and reboot. Don’t forget to connect your display before rebooting.

systemctl --user enable picframe.service

sudo reboot

If you can see the image below, you have installed Pi3D PictureFrame on Raspberry Pi Bookworm successfully!


Add a few pictures to the Pictures directory via the network from another computer (that is why you installed Samba), and they will appear after 200 seconds (the default setting, which you have probably not changed at this point.

Customize PictureFrame to your needs in the configuration.yaml file. For all the details about fine-tuning, read this article.

Et voilà, you got Pi3D Picture Frame running with the latest Raspberry Pi operating system, Bookworm!

Your picture frame installation is now complete. But for tinkering (it never stops), knowing how to control the app’s launch manually, is helpful. Here is what you need to know.

More on starting and stopping

Turning the picture frame script on and off is controlled by the systemctl service.

If you want to know more about how this works, I recommend my article, “The ultimate guide on using systemd to autostart scripts on the Raspberry Pi“.

Starting and stopping PictureFrame at boot

  • Enable service systemctl --user enable picframe.service
  • Disable service systemctl --user disable picframe.service

This setting survives a reboot. If you choose the disable option, you will boot in the console only, and PictureFrame will not start automatically.

Manually starting and stopping PictureFrame

  • Start service systemctl --user start picframe.service
  • Stop service systemctl --user stop picframe.service
  • Stop restart systemctl --user restart picframe.service

Conclusion

Congratulations! You have just built the best digital picture frame that no money can buy!

A big Thank You to Helge, Paddy, and all the forum members who have made this migration happen.

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