How to Make Your TV Display Art (or Family Photos)

A TCL TV displaying "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte"
Josh Hendrickson

Samsung’s Frame TV is beautiful and expensive. When it’s not in use, it displays works of art. But if you have smart TV already, you can accomplish something similar with an app or Chromecast. Here’s how.

Of course, your TV will use more power if it’s displaying images instead of powered off. That’s the point of Samsung’s Frame TV, too: Rather than showing an empty black screen or a garish home screen, you can display art or photos instead. Whether it’s a Roku, Chromecast, or Fire TV, you can approximate the Frame TV experience.

Choosing Your Images

An image of the Milky Way, taken by NASA telescopes
This image works well on TVs, thanks to its wide aspect ratio. NASA

Before you continue, think about what you want to show on your TV. Some of the solutions below offer built-in art gallery modes that will automatically provide beautiful art for you, so you won’t have to fuss over images.

If you’re using your own photos, remember that selfies, photos you’ve taken in portrait orientation, and old film shots you digitized with a scanner likely wouldn’t look good blown up to your 40+ inch horizontal TV.

But if you’re confident you have plenty of horizontally orientated images taken at high resolution, you should go through them and choose the best of the bunch. If you’re using a Chromecast, you’ll load your photos to Google Photos. For FireTVs you’ll upload to Amazon Photos. Roku TVs can use either images from your phone or Google Photos. And Apple TVs use iCloud storage for their screensavers.  Regardless of the platform, we recommend creating a dedicated album named “TV slideshow” so you can easily remember and find it.

Just keep in mind any storage limits you may face when loading high-resolution images to Google Photos, iCloud photos, and Amazon Photos. Google Photos offers unlimited storage for photos if you let it reduce the size of the picture. If you want full resolution, you only have 16 GBs for free. Amazon Photos gives Prime subscribers unlimited storage space, and everyone else 5 GB’s of space. iCloud offers five GBs of free space and charges $1 a month for 50 GBs of space.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out the Art Institution of Chicago, which hosts high-resolution images of famous artwork, or you could use images from NASA. Family photos that fit everyone in the frame will most likely work well too.

How to Display Images with Roku

Roku screensaver settings dialog, with PhotoView selected.

We think Roku is one of your best options for a Smart TV. If you have one, you can easily display Google Photo albums on your TV, and even set up a screensaver effect to start the album slideshow after a period of activity.

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