The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon
The 100 best digital picture frames on amazon

Why build­ing your own dig­i­tal pic­ture frame is great fun

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You build your own dig­i­tal pic­ture frame for two rea­sons. Either you just like home brew­ing and tin­ker­ing with elec­tron­ics or you have no oth­er choice because the right thing that you want is just not avail­able on the mar­ket.

Of course, there are good dig­i­tal pic­ture frames out there that you can buy but depend­ing on your require­ments, they may not exact­ly cor­re­spond to what you want to have in your liv­ing room.

How my addic­tion began

In 2005 I bought my first dig­i­tal pho­to frame from Pho­toVu, a US-based com­pa­ny that pro­duced rather beau­ti­ful dig­i­tal pho­to frames with a high-qual­i­­ty mat­ting and frame. The largest size at that time was 19 inch­es screen, but with the mat­ting, it looked quite big. You just insert­ed a USB stick, and it beau­ti­ful­ly dis­played the pho­tos with a great num­ber of ran­dom tran­si­tions between them. It even came with a wifi stick that you could use to con­fig­ure the frame set­tings.

It turned itself on in the morn­ing and off in the evening, pow­ered by Lin­ux. It didn't come cheap at around US$ 1,500, but it was very well built and worth it.

Four years lat­er, the Pho­toVu frame died, but since we had got­ten so used to dig­i­tal ani­ma­tion in the liv­ing room, we ordered a sec­ond one, this time their top mod­el was 22 inch­es. It last­ed until mid-2014 and then it, too, broke.

As the rear cas­ing was com­plete­ly closed, there wasn't much of a repair effort I could under­take.

By then, Pho­toVu had gone out of busi­ness, so the choice of order­ing a third off-the-shelf dig­i­tal pic­ture frame was gone.

Road ahead closed. What now?

I con­duct­ed exten­sive inter­net research of avail­able alter­na­tives but came up emp­­ty-hand­ed because of my list of cri­te­ria that includ­ed a 24 inch­es high-res­o­lu­­tion screen, a 16:10 aspect ratio and great image tran­si­tions (fun­da­men­tal once you get used to it).

My wife kept putting a lot of gen­tle pres­sure on me to quick­ly come up with a new solu­tion because our liv­ing room with­out the dig­i­tal pho­to frame didn't feel the same any­more. You may shake your head but trust me; the right dig­i­tal pic­ture frame caus­es a cer­tain degree of addic­tion!

I had to get an alter­na­tive, fast.

Hav­ing had stopped com­put­er home brew­ing many years ago, I had to get back in the sad­dle and edu­cate me on state of the art. I looked at var­i­ous alter­na­tives like the use of an Apple TV box, but the lack of cus­tomiza­tion options made it a no-go.

Res­cue is nigh

A mem­ber of a pho­tog­ra­phy forum sug­gest­ed to me that I should take a look at the Rasp­berry Pi com­put­er intro­duced in 2012 by a few genius­es in the UK. It didn't quite meet all my cri­te­ria, but it looked like a fea­si­ble home-brewed dig­i­tal pic­ture frame option.

Let's make it count

With lot's of help­ful advice from the Rasp­berry Pi forums from around the world, we had a fresh­ly home brewed dig­i­tal pic­ture frame up and run­ning on the wall with­in a few weeks. WAF was huge, and I was a hero.

Ever since I have built many dig­i­tal pic­ture frames for fam­i­ly and friends and was always eager to see what improve­ments could be made.

I also kept mon­i­tor­ing the mar­ket to see if and when a man­u­fac­tur­er would come up with a large liv­ing room com­pat­i­ble dig­i­tal pic­ture frame. And yes, there are now some large high-end frames that you can buy. But I feel that in the mid-size seg­ment around 24 inch­es, the choice is still some­what lim­it­ed, espe­cial­ly if you want a 16:10 aspect ratio.

What to expect of a great dig­i­tal pic­ture frame?

When I look at a dig­i­tal pic­ture frame, I look at a piece of fur­ni­ture that has to fit into the liv­ing room.

It should look neat, well built and be unob­tru­sive. It's built qual­i­ty should be in line with your style of dec­o­rat­ing.

It should have a dis­play size where nice images can come into effect and not just have a mas­sive mat­ting to make the frame look big­ger.

It should have image tran­si­tions that mul­ti­ply the num­ber of uploaded pho­tos because every smooth tran­si­tion will almost cre­ate a new image expe­ri­ence (more on this most crit­i­cal sub­ject in anoth­er post).

It should be dead-sim­­ple to update the images from wher­ev­er you are, not have a sub­­scrip­­tion-based mod­el and be afford­able.

In short, it should do great pho­tos jus­tice.

Since Pho­toVu went out of busi­ness, I have yet to see an off-the-shelf dig­i­tal pic­ture frame that I would rec­om­mend. I am quite dis­ap­point­ed that most dig­i­tal pic­ture frames a not great. They have small low-res­o­lu­­tion screens, an ugly frame with vis­i­ble but­tons or even big logos, and most of them look like a cheap Chi­na tablet.

Now, to be fair, there are dig­i­tal pic­ture frames like the Meur­al that look beau­ti­ful. But they come at a price, and I am not a big fan of the 16:9 aspect ratio that they have because it crops pho­tos that are typ­i­cal­ly tak­en in 3:2 or 4:3 for­mat, far too much.

A man has to do what a man has to do

On the oth­er hand, it is quite easy to build your own pic­ture frame that you and your fam­i­ly will love.

All you need is a 24 inch­es mon­i­tor (see my post "The right dis­play for your Rasp­berry Pi dig­i­tal pic­ture frame"), a Rasp­berry Pi 4 Mod­el B (rec­om­mend­ed) and a suit­able frame.

The Rasp­berry Pi 4 Mod­el B

Alto­geth­er, you are look­ing at less than US$300 in com­po­nents, depend­ing on the dis­play and frame of your choos­ing.

You will find plen­ty of detailed instruc­tions on this blog to get the right soft­ware up and run­ning quick­ly and add any options that you may like to explore.

I have gone through a lot of research, despair, and pain but with a lot of help from my friends on var­i­ous forums, I have learned every­thing that you need to know to eas­i­ly build a high-qual­i­­ty dig­i­tal pic­ture frame that will make you proud. And shar­ing my knowl­edge is what this web­site is all about.

Con­clu­sion

So, build­ing your own dig­i­tal pic­ture frame still very much feels like the right thing to do. In the end, you will build some­thing you'll love, whether it's in your home, your office, or your busi­ness.