Digital Picture Frames – What to Look For & Interesting Uses For Them

Digital picture frames are are a great way to view your favorite pictures, family vacation pictures, baby pictures, well, you get the picture. You can display either one picture, or run a slideshow of many pictures.

This article explains the features you should keep in mind when purchasing a digital picture frame as well as give some interesting uses of how this handy device can be used in your home or business.

What To Look For

Size

Today’s digital picture frames range in size from 2 inches to up to 40 inches! Yes, that’s right, 40 inches! The most typical size purchased though is from 7 to 10 inches – big enough to display a 4×6 or 5×7 picture. The larger the size, the larger the price.

Decide where you want to place the digital frame first (and make sure it’s near a power source), then you’ll have a better idea of how big the screen should be for viewing.

With digital frames, you have the option of buying a standard 4:3 aspect ratio size or widescreen 16:9 ratio. The 16:9 ratio will stretch your photos and/or cut off your pictures. Most cameras produce pictures in the standard 4:3 ratio, so choose a picture frame with this standard.

Appearance

Digital picture frames come in all sizes and looks. You can buy ones with metal, wood, or even plastic looking frames. Many models now come with interchangeable plates (frames) so you can choose the look that best works with your decor. There are two types of picture finish, matte and glass. A matte finish works best as a glass finish can create glare.

Resolution

Resolution refers to how many pixels are on the screen. The more pixels the better the clarity and richness of the picture. Lately, there have been a lot of good deals out there for digital picture frames. Prices have really come down these past few years. However, check the specs on the picture frame carefully. Many of these “great deals” have low resolutions which means poor display quality. Ensure the picture frame you buy is no lower than 640×480 in resolution. Typically, a 7 inch frame should have resolution of 720×480, an 8 inch should have 800×600 resolution, and frames over 10 inches should have at least 1024×768 resolution.(1)

Display

The best way to ensure you’ll like the digital frame is to test it out first. How does the picture quality look? Do the pictures look vibrant? Do the pictures load fast during the slideshow? If you back away 7 feet, can you see the picture fine? What if you move to the left and right, does the picture show well or is there glare? Most stores do not let you see the picture frame in action, so you might not be able to test this until you get the picture frame home.

Power

All digital picture frames need to be plugged into a wall outlet. Some models have an internal battery or allow for rechargeable batteries so you can pass your picture frame around the room to others without cables. To save money, look for an auto on/off feature in a digital frame. Frames with this feature can be programmed to come on only at night but turn off at a certain hour. This is a great feature and will allow your frame to be enjoyed more. Otherwise, you either 1.) let the picture frame run day and night or 2.) you unplug it when you’re not using it – which is most of the time, thus not enjoying your frame and then you’ll forget about it.

Enhanced Features

Digital picture frames can do more than just display pictures. Many frames also play songs (mp3’s) and videos. Consult the instructions on the box as to which type of formats the frame takes. Different brands accept different formats.

By uploading mp3’s into your frame, you can now show your picture slide shows along with your favorite music. The speakers in the frame offer decent sound and guests are often surprised by the novelty of seeing your pictures along with the music.

Video is another cool feature you can upload into your digital frame. You can upload any videos (ensure the format is supported by your frame). The possibilities are endless – home movies, music videos, movies, tv shows, you name it. Nonetheless, the smooth playing of a video depends on the quality of the picture frame you purchase.

The main benefit here is having your home movies readily accessible to watch at a moment’s notice. If the frame’s internal memory you buy is not large, this is not a problem. You can add your home videos to a large memory card and plug it into your digital picture frame. The video will still play very well.

Most frames come with a remote control so you can change pictures or settings without getting up from the couch. You’ll want to keep the remote nearby as some of the digital picture frame’s functions can only be accessed by the remote control.

How Pictures are Imported

Surprisingly enough, there are several ways to input your pictures into a digital frame:

Memory card – you can take the memory card from your camera and plug it into your digital picture frame to display the pictures right away. Most picture frames take several types of memory cards. If needed, you can buy an adaptor which plugs into the picture frame and allows for additional memory card types. One nice advantage with memory cards is that you can plug your memory card into friends’ or family member’s digital frames while visiting them. Furthermore, if you bought your parents or your grandparents a digital picture, you can give them or mail a memory card to them so they can plug in the latest pics.
USB – to cut out an extra step, you can connect your digital frame to your computer by a USB or mini USB cord. Using either the software that comes with the digital picture frame or My Computer on Windows PC’s, you can copy pictures directly into your frame. There are also some digital picture frames which allow you to use a USB thumb drive to download your pictures.
Wireless – some digital picture frames have Wi-Fi (wireless) capability to connect to your wireless network in your house. The digital picture frame can connect to a specific folder on your computer, so anytime you update that folder with new pictures, your digital picture frame will display them automatically. You can also upload pictures from any device that is Wi-Fi enabled such as camera phones, media players, etc. In addition, with WiFi’s digital picture frames, you can connect to your online picture sites, such as Flickr or Facebook. Wireless works well but be aware that sometimes setting up the digital picture frame to work with your wireless network can be problematic. Furthermore, digital frames with Wi-Fi tend to cost more.
Bluetooth – allows you to send pictures or music from your Bluetooth enabled phone or mobile device to your picture frame. You may also be able to print pictures to your Bluetooth enabled printer.
Phone Line – some frames have a phone line connection. This is handy if you have older parents or grandparents are not familiar with technology but love having the latest pics of your kids. From your computer at home and the software provided with the picture frame, you upload pictures directly into your parents or grandparents picture frame, even if they live across the country. Typically, however, there is a fee for this service.
Cellphone Link – T-Mobile has a new digital picture frame on the market called the Cameo. It retails for $100 but there is a $10 monthly that comes with it. The Cameo picture frame actually has a cell number and e-mail address attached to it so you (or anyone else) can send it pictures directly. You must be a T-Mobile customer to buy the digital picture frame though.
Internal Memory – some digital frames have internal memory so that once you upload your pictures into the device using one of the methods listed above, you can play the pictures directly from your picture frame. Showing pictures directly from the picture frame helps speed up the slideshow of your pictures. Most digital picture frames have internal memories from a few gigabytes up to 80 gigabytes or more. Opt for a larger internal memory – it allows you to enjoy viewing more pictures for longer without uploading frequently.

NOTE: Keep in mind that any pictures you import into your digital frame will be imported exactly as they are. So if your picture is not rotated correctly, it will be imported into your picture frame that way. It is easier to make changes before importing your pictures into your picture frame. However, most digital picture frames do offer simple editing such as picture rotation, cropping, and color correction.

Interesting Uses for Digital Picture Frames

You’ve seen digital frames before at people’s houses. If they are on, they are really appealing and draw your eyes toward them. Some people even have several in one room displaying different “themes” or family activities. Digital Picture Frames are great when you have family gatherings. But do people really have them playing everyday? Probably not.

So, what are some other uses for digital picture displays?

Home – display vacations, events, your kids scanned in artwork, flash cards for kids, family heritage pics so kids know their family members better, motivational messages – who doesn’t need a pick-me up once in a while?
Doctor’s Office – display quotes of the day, pictures of the Dr. and staff, candid moments in the office – these are all ways to help build a relationship with your clients.
Dental – before & after pics of teeth and smiles, reasons why patients should get a whitening treatment done, pictures of happy patients.
Real Estate – a great way to display houses for sale with their prices. Display reasons why a potential client should sign up with your office versus another agent. Show success stories of how you helped families find and move into their dream home.
Retail Stores – display products, promotion announcements, upcoming sales, pictures of staff helping customers, the store’s website address and picture of the website.
Auto Body Shops – a great way to display before and after pics of cars the shop has worked on. Display your guarantee and reasons why your shop is better than the others.
Dealerships – display cars available, explanation of popular car features, on-going dealership deals, biography of the sales people.
Churches – display announcements, upcoming sermon titles, welcome new members, pictures of members at church events, baptisms, youth groups, etc.
Restaurants – display current deals, menu items, your logo, any promotions going on.
Preschools/Schools – display pics of kids playing, promotions, your logo, accreditations, deadlines for sign-ups.
Weddings – show pics of couples’ years together leading up to the marriage. Display pictures of the bride and groom during childhood. Make it even more fun by adding pictures to the frame that you took while the wedding is still going on.
For Sale By Owner – place digital frames through out house displaying features of house, any before and after examples, benefits of the neighborhood, schools, etc.

NOTE: Logo’s, promotional notes, advertisements, quotes, etc. can be made using PowerPoint and saving the slide as a jpeg. Then it can be uploaded into your frame.

Digital picture frames are a great way to display pictures. They can make your old pictures new again and become much more lively than sitting on your computer’s hard drive. However, in reality, you probably aren’t going to use the digital picture frame on a daily basis. If you run the pictures off of the internal memory, you’ll be displaying the same pictures over and over again and the digital frame will lose it’s luster.

Final Words on Digital Picture Frames

Keeping this in mind, if you buy a digital frame, don’t feel guilty if you only use it when you have guests or family over. You don’t need to use it every day. Having guests over is a great way to show them what you’ve been up to – as their interest allows. If they’re intrigued, they’ll watch more, if not, that’s OK too.

The key features to look for in a digital frames, besides quality, would be:

Wi-Fi enabled in order to connect to your home computer to play random pictures from your numerous pictures — an endless variety. Connecting to the Internet would also be valued to display your online pictures or those of your friends.
Having the auto on/off feature would be great – that way you could always have it on and not worrying about remembering to turn it off at night.
A decent size screen – probably at least 10 inches – so you could see the picture well from across the room.

If you’re in the market for a digital frame or are seriously thinking about buying one for a gift, consider first the technical ability of the user. If the user is not technical and has no one in the family to support technology, a Wi-Fi picture frame would be overkill. A USB or memory card digital picture frame works great.