How I made a digital photo frame with a Raspberry Pi

The idea of a digital photo frame really appealed to me as I tend to take lots of photos but am reluctant to print them all. Having one would let me display all the photos I want in a nice display without the complication of sending them away to be printed, collecting the photos, putting the photos into frames, photo albums etc. I did price digital photo frames online but liked the idea of building my own, and what better way to go than with a Raspberry PI!

What I used:

  • A Raspberry Pi – I used the Raspberry Pi 3 for this project.
  • Heatsinks – Optional – I haven’t overclocked the Pi so didn’t need them in this case but could be used (If I had any lying around).
  • Pi case – To attach the Pi to the back of the frame.
  • Pi Power adapter – it is important to use the correct power adapter to ensure optimal performance.
  • An SD card – between 4-8GB was plenty as I didn’t use it for file storage.
  • XBMC Image which can be found here.
  • Old monitor / screen & power supply – I used an old Dell monitor that I found at the charity shop.
  • Photo frame – I picked one up from the charity shop for €2.
  • Sandpaper – for the photo frame.
  • Spray paint – as I wanted to tidy up the frame.

Steps I followed:

Source and assemble the parts

1. The first step with creating the photo frame was sourcing the monitor and the frame. A quick trip to the charity shop and I found the perfect sized monitor and a good sized frame to fit around it.

2. When I got home, I started to gather together everything I needed. I had a Raspberry PI and associated gear lying around so I didn’t need to order one and wait for it to arrive. This suited me as I was very impatient to get started with this project.

3. The next step was to take apart the monitor. I did this very carefully using some tools that I bought originally to take apart my old tablet.

4. With the monitor bare, I placed the photo frame over it to see what I was working with. It was almost a good fit but not quite. I needed to use a dremmel to sand away some of the inside of the frame just enough so the frame would slot around the monitor.

5. With the frame now the right size, I started to tidy up some scratches by giving the frame a very light sanding. I ended up liking this worn look so decided against spray painting the frame, at least for now.

Prepare the PI

1. On my laptop, I followed the following tutorial to add the NOOBS installer to the SD card: Tutorial from raspberrypi.org .

2. I hooked up the PI to a monitor, attached a keyboard and mouse, slotted in the pre-loaded SD card and booted it up.

3. As I already had a home media server set up and running in the house, I decided to use this as the source of media for the photo frame.

4. To install the screen saver add-on which would display my images I followed the following steps:

4.1 From the Kodi home screen select Addons > Download > Look and Feel > Screensaver

4.2 Then select the Multi Slideshow Screensaver and select Install.

5. I then tested the screen saver add-on to ensure it worked and once I was happy with this, it was time to start assembling the parts!

Assemble the parts

Now for the fun.
I placed the frame around the monitor, it was a snug fit.
I attached the pi case to the back of the monitor screen.
I added the power cables, turned it all on and watched everything come to life!

Further Improvements

With the photo frame up and running the next step is definitely to find a permanent home for it so that it doesn’t lean against the wall. I am planning to attach a stand that will be durable enough to support the weight.

I may also decide on giving the frame a coat of spray paint should the mood strike me!

I also need to spend some time curating the images that display in the photo frame. Initially I just used a gallery of all of my more recent photos but this includes random photos of documentation, diagrams and the like that definitely don’t have a place in the photo frame.

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