Why I Use Chromecast to View My Photos on Every TV

Why I Use Chromecast to View My Photos on Every TV

If your television has an HDMI port and the abode sports WiFi, I suggest getting a Chromecast and using Google Photos as a modern-day picture frame.

I actually have a love-hate relationship with Google Chromecast. When it first came out, my Google fanboy status was at an all-time high. I was excited about the small little device and immediately bought one. Then I went to use it and realized there was no remote. You could not just pick things on the screen as I had assumed it would work. You needed to do the choosing of what to watch on the phone, then cast it to the television. This just never felt natural to me and I ended up opting for the Apple TV or Roku instead.

Fast forward a number of years and Google Photos stepped in with a new feature called Live Albums allowing you to make select a group of detected faces into a family album and have it auto-update with new photos. I have been using Google Photos since it was Picasa Web Albums, then everything uploaded to Google+ went there, so my family album of myself, my wife, and two boys hit the limit of 10,000 photos right away. Luckily, I was not along in hitting this maximum so the Google Photos team listened and removed the cap. I now have over 11,000 photos and counting in the album.

It was at this time a tweet from David Lieb announcing the Live Albums feature made me mention that I wish my smart tv supported it. You see, there is a funny story about the photos on my television. I have an LG ultra-high-definition Smart TV. Apparently, the software designers insisted that all the consumers would love looking at the same four pictures over and over with no way to really change them. As a photographer, this drove me nuts and I spent way more time than I'd like to admit messing with it trying to get it switched. I even went the official route on the LG forums and suggested it wasn't ideal to see the same photo of some dog I've never met a thousand times.

Sorry, back to the tweet.

Lieb had a practical almost obvious reply.

You can with a Chromecast

It sounded like it was time to pull that Chromecast out of the drawer and try this idea out. Chromecast has always been able to use Google Photos albums as the source of the photos it plays in a slideshow during the ambient mode. But this ability to now choose a dynamically updating album of my favorite people in the world was huge to me.

Lieb was 100% right. It worked so well that I started leaving the cable off and just watching the old photos. As a society we may be capturing more pictures than ever, but if we forget to take time to enjoy them and reminisce a bit then what is the point. I recently added one in my son's room and he loves it. There is always a "Dad, come see this one!" that brings smiles to both our faces.

Now, this does not only have to apply to a family guy like me in a home environment. You can also easily play specific albums. For example, if you have a potential wedding client coming over you could set the album to your best wedding photos. You could potentially have a TV and Chromecast combo going for each of your favorite genres.

I know there are probably a number of alternative ways to achieve something similar to what I'm describing here, but the simplicity and up to the second convenience of the face detection, cloud backup, and album grouping are something I truly enjoy. You really can't go wrong for a device you can get for under $30.

Do you Chromecast? Are there any other ways to do this I should look into?

Lead image source by Andres Jasso.

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7 Comments

Yuri Goytacaz's picture

I've been using Apple TV's screensaver for photo viewing, on a shared album that me and my wife upload photos of our little son and ourselves. (=

Michael B. Stuart's picture

I used to love my Apple TV, but the updates stopped and I'm not an iPhone user so I switched instead of upgrading.
Great to hear you are getting a similar benefit though. Thanks for reading!

Scott Steinson's picture

Get an Android phone and you don't need a Chromecast.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Pixel user, love it there too!

Joachim Strobel's picture

Google photo cuts photos to fit the TV screen. This renders Google useless for me.

Andrew Babel's picture

This page comes up high in search engines when looking for ideas on using tvs to display photos, so I want to comment here.

The 1st Gen Chromecast is limited to 720. The Chromecast 2 and newer are limited to 1080. This includes the Chromecast Ultra 4k - it will only cast from Google Photos at 1080.

I had a similar desire as yours and tried a lot of methods and apps, many with the same result of showing the same photos too frequently. Casting was also inconvenient for something I want running all the time. I settled on buying a bunch of Droid Razr HD phones for about $13 each, using the HDMI out on them and the Fotoo app. Because of the limitations of the HDMI out, the resolution via this method is also limited to 1080, it provided me other advantages. Fotoo has some nice features, such as size to fit - rather than Google Photos crop to fit (though crop to fit is also an option) and does a good job of randomizing the photos in shuffle mode. You can also randomize prioritizing newer photos. Other sorting options are also available. You can pull your photos from a myriad of sources: Google Photos - either the whole account or an album or select albums, dropbox, apple, your local network... I am not associated with the app, just found it to be the closest thing to what I was looking for. The cost of the phone and the app were less than a chromecast and provide me a far better experience.