A lot of families have a movie night once a week, typically on Fridays, so everyone can take a break from the busy week. Our kids love movies, so this is definitely a nice break for us. They also love looking at photos too, yet we rarely sit down as a family and look at our photos together. Then one day an simple obvious solution occurred to me. Before movie night, we will have photo night. The kids can choose one set of photos from a past trip or event and we will all look at them together. Aligning photo night with movie night significantly increases the chances that we will actually do photo night as it doesn’t feel like a new activity to schedule into our busy week. The kids are already going to be sitting on the sofa with eyes glued to the TV.
Viewing photos on your TV is hands down the best experience at home when you have family and maybe friends over as well. We have a modest 42″ TV in this modern age of TVs that are starting to be measured in feet instead of inches. So how do we get our photos on the TV? These days there are a lot of options. We have an Apple TV and I have an iPhone. Apple products have a proprietary technology in them called AirPlay. This allows me to view what is on my iPhone screen on my TV via the Apple TV. On my iPhone, I have a variety of apps that let me access my photos in the various locations I have them, and then AirPlay them to the TV.
We also have a Roku which I’ve played with a lot. It has a Picasa Web Albums channel (app) which I was interested in because I store all my photos on Picasa (which is now part of Google+.) The Picasa app is unfortunately very disappointing. Looking back through hundreds or thousands of albums is essentially impossible. It is just not possible to look at any photos except the most recent ones. My main other gripe with it is that I can only see my photos. I can’t look at photos from any of my friends. So if you want to enjoy your photos from the past, Roku with Picasa Web Albums is not a good solution, especially if you don’t even store your photos on Picasa! If you want more details on the Picasa experience in Roku, I found this blog post review that is quite comprehensive.
Another option, one I have not yet tried because our current Apple TV solution is sufficient, is Google Chromecast. This is a simple and inexpensive ($35) device that plugs into your TV via HDMI and allows you to stream content to your TV from other devices such as your Android phone or even iPhone, much like you can do with Apple AirPlay. What is nice about Chromecast and AirPlay, is that they are platforms that work with the phones nearly everyone has in their pocket. Armies of software developers are working on building applications to leverage their streaming capabilities. This means that regardless of where you store your photos, or which phone you have, there is a good chance Chromcast or AppleTV will be an easy solution for you to view your photos on your TV.
These devices are by no means the only solutions out there to view your photos on the TV. There are countless other devices out there that plug into your TV, or even apps built into your TV, that allow you to view your photos on the TV. What is most attractive to me about Chromecast and Apple TV is that they are both inexpensive devices and offer numerous ways for me to view my photos independent of where I have them stored. Chances are one of these devices will work for you, and offer the most flexible experience going forward should you move your photos to another location or service.
Using some modern high tech devices, photo night can be a fun low tech way for you and your family to take a break and enjoy your photos again.