How to View Photos on Your HDTV

Digital photos don't have to be doomed to small screens


by Chris Chiarella

My kids have never seen me take a picture with a film camera, they’ve never seen a flashcube, and have never heard the word “Instamatic.” They are growing up in an all-digital world, but at the same time, they miss the freedom of flipping through an album or even a loose stack of photographs and sharing them with family and friends.

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Modern pictures are too often held hostage inside digital cameras or cell phones. Few ever make it to the printer, and leafing through them on a handheld device offers limited charm. Gone too are the slideshows of old, the living room exhibitions that would make the grandparents glad they made the trip, and everyone else check their watch and fake a headache or a big meeting in the morning.

The good news is that there are several ways to liberate your photographs and display them in grand style, right on your TV.

Your approach for accessing the photos will depend largely upon your choice of hardware. Many models of Panasonic televisions, for example, arrive equipped with an SD card slot, offering perhaps the quickest, simplest way to put your photos on the big screen. If your digital camera stores its contents on a removable SD card (which most cameras use except Sony and some Olympus and high-end DSLRs), you can just pull the card out of the camera, insert it into the TV’s slot, wait for it to be read and then navigate the photos via the remote control.

More common, especially on newer televisions, is a USB port, which offers two further options. First, you can try connecting the camera to the TV via its USB cable (possibly a proprietary plug on the camera end), and the camera might be recognized and its contents accessed. The second possibility allows for a bit more finesse: If you connect the camera to a computer and copy the photos to the hard drive, you can then create a folder with only the images you like best, perhaps even editing them with the appropriate software. Once you’ve created this customized subset, you can drag-and-drop it onto a USB flash drive (a.k.a. thumb drive or jump drive). Then plug it into the USB port and either wait for it to be recognized or actively locate it via the appropriate button on the remote. (Tip: Look for a “Media” button.) There could be some compatibility issues with edited photos, but best to just try for ourselves and hope for the best.

Now, if you’ve set up a home network that links the computer and the home theater via DLNA, you should be able to navigate via the TV to the photographs stored on the hard drive. The particulars will vary with your TV and its individual networking feature, but it should help you find the appropriate folder and display its contents, possibly with zoom and other functions. Web-enabled TVs can also access photo-sharing websites such as Picasa, many with the appropriate application already built-in.

There are also snazzy third-party options like the Apple TV. When this compact $99 box is connected to the TV, it can serve as a receiver for AirPlay-enabled devices such as the iPad and iPhone that can wirelessly push their photos from our hands to the big screen.

And if none of these solutions will work for you, you can go old-school, or at least as old-school as recordable optical disc: Burn a few hundred photos onto a CD-R or DVD-R–or ask your kids to do it for you–and then pop the disc into your DVD player.

No matter how you get there, putting your digital photos on the TV will bring you into the brave new world of the modern slideshow. Although it just might make your guests start looking at their digital watches.


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