Using an iMac as a photo frame

My first Macintosh computer was a white iMac G4 with a beautiful 17" floating screen above, what some have referred to as an upside-down bowl, a computer enclosed in a half-circle case.  It was gorgeous really.  My wife Eliza bought it for me for our anniversary and I used it as my main computer for a while before "going mobile" by using an iBook as my primary computer.

So a few years ago we began to ask ourselves: "What should we do with our now out-dated iMac?"  Clearly its value isn't worth the hassle of putting it up on eBay. Its guts aren't powerful enough to pawn off on a friend or family member.  Lets use it as a photo frame!

iMac photo frame

The iMac, setup in our living room. Photo credit: Eliza Devroe.

After all, this computer is really a work of art.  Obviously the industrial design of this particular model of iMac doesn't hold up to the needs of modern consumers, and perhaps was limiting from a technological stand point - but there is no second guessing it looks cool even to this day.  Sure there are those that would say they don't like the look of the iMac, for one reason or another, but - I'm not one of those people and neither is my wife.

A few years went by before I finally got off of my duff and made it happen.  As if it was an incredibly difficult thing to do!  Here is how you use an iMac as a photo frame in under a minute.

Turning on file sharing

Sharing System Preference Panel

The first thing you'll need to do is open Mac OS X's system preferences and turn file sharing on.  This will allow anyone on the network to access whichever directories you designate safe.  We'll use this as our way to transfer the photos we want to display on the iMac.

Sure, we could have easily just created a shared mounted drive where we keep all of our photos in our library, but we didn't want every single photo to show up in our living room.  Also, having control over what shows up on the iMac is a fun little project in and of itself.  I remember we had a LOST party one time and, while we were watching the show on TV, the iMac was silently showing photos from the previous season of LOST using the Ken Burn's effect.

In our case, we simply stuck with the default "Public" directory structure since Mac OS X already has that ready to go in every user account.  I created a new directory within the Public directory where we could store any and all photos that we'd like the iMac to display.

Setting up the screensaver

Another built-in feature in Mac OS X is to be able to use any directory as a source for the a photo-slideshow screensaver.  All I needed to do was set my preferences for the screensaver (ie. the amount of time I'd like each slide to show up, etc.) and point it to the right directory on the hard drive.

To set your screensaver, just add the correct directory with the button.

Within a matter of minutes we had some sample photos showing up on the iMac and they looked beautiful.

Making it easy

Eliza is "the photo queen" of the house.  While I enjoy taking photos as much as anyone, Eliza lives and breathes photos.  Seriously, I'll have to have her talk on my site sometime about how she's arranged all of the photos (and there are hundreds) in our house based on whether or not some one is a friend, family member, etc.  I love the way Eliza has chosen to decorate our home with photos of all the various events, vacations, and times spent with family and friends.  As we walk around our apartment we're constantly being reminded of some of our favorite times.

Back to making it easy.  Eliza is "in charge" of choosing the photos that show up on the iMac.  Being that she doesn't like traversing a long list of directories in order to put a few photos on the iMac, we've setup a simple shared folder right in her Finder's sidebar.  If the iMac is on, that directory can be easily accessed and photos dragged into it.  The very next time the iMac's screensaver starts up, the new photos are added to the random queue.

At last count I believe we had near 1,000 photos being displayed in random order.  Nearly every person that has ever visited our home has commented on the iMac photo frame.  We're glad our visitors enjoy the photos as much as we do.

Now it is your turn.