Digital Photo Frames - the minimalist's answer to displaying photos

Note: You will find an a Affiliate Link to SmugMug in this post. That means at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting Simple Family Travel. You can read more about it here.

Is it just me or do you look forward to those “Facebook Memories” that pop up in your feed from several years ago?  Do you actually take the time to go back in your photo storage and look through the memories on your own?  I personally don’t have time to do that, but I’m always delighted to see a picture of the kids when they were tiny, or be reminded of a wonderful holiday from years ago.


Aside from making yearly photo books, until digital photo frames came around, there was really no other way to do it.  Sure you could print out the photos and post them to your refrigerator (or clutter up your shelves), but I simply don’t like the look of too many randomly scattered photos, and the effort to change them is always more than I can get myself motivated to do.  

That’s why we use a digital photo frame.

Digital photo frames have been the minimalist’s answer to photo display for a while now. Their technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, beginning with small expensive frames that only worked with an SD card and progressing to the modern photo frames of today that stream over WiFi or connect through USB sticks. You can even buy TVs now that look like photo frames which will display photos while you aren’t watching your favourite Netflix show.  

In our family we stick to a more simple digital frame (I’m waiting for those photo frame TVs to come down in price) and it has pride of place in our living room.  It also compliments our yearly family photo books nicely.  And it keeps our shelves and walls free from clutter.

On a recommendation from a family friend, we decided to order a PixStar Digital Photo Frame through 3 years ago. I was a little concerned about ordering something electrical from the States, but my friend assured me it would work with no problems here in Europe. All we needed was an adaptor to fit it into the Swiss outlet and we were ready to go. Set up was easy enough and with a couple of clicks I was able to get our photos streaming from my cloud based storage, SmugMug (where all my photos are stored and organised), which was a nice surprise. 

SmugMug isn’t the only streaming service available. You can also link up to your Facebook photos, Instagram account, Google photos and even Dropbox. A convenient feature is that your frame has an unique email address, which you can share with family and friends and get photos directly to your frame. We haven’t use that feature yet, though my friend has.  She sends photos to her aunt’s photo frame on a regular basis, and it’s a thrill for her aunt to see new photos pop up in her photo stream. 


Although I had lots of plans to make specialised photo albums to stream to the frame, I've  kept it simple and just add in photos that we have already selected for our yearly family photo books. But the sky is the limit as to what you display. This year I have already started putting together a folder for each kid on SmugMug which shows how they’ve grown through the years. The plan is to put this album on the frame for the week of their birthday. And one day if I decide to make an actual album just about them, I will already have the photos organised and ready to go. 

If you are interested in setting up a digital frame for your family photos, read on! These instructions are specific to my PixStar digital photo frame, which you can buy here.


1. Decide which photos you’d like to display

The first step is deciding which photos you want displayed on your digital frame. 

I recommend keeping it as simple as possible and displaying and using the same photos you’ve  already chosen for your yearly family photo book.   Haven’t made a yearly family photo book yet?  Get the instructions here.  After making your photo book, just upload the photos directly into a designated folder on SmugMug (we call ours “highlights 2017” or whatever year you are choosing to create). Not only are my photos ready to sync to the digital frame but if something would happen to my hard copy photo book, I could easily make a new one without much effort.

What if you want to display different photos? Maybe you want to stream directly from Instagram, display photos from a specific season or month, or choose a specific theme like Christmas or winter photos. Decide which photos you want to display and create an album in SmugMug (or your host of choice) to house them. You can also upload directly to PixStar where they offer frame owners a small amount of storage. 

Once you have decided on which photos you want to display, it’s time to put them onto your digital frame. 

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 17.27.56.png

2. Connect SmugMug through the PixStar Website

Once you’ve decided on photos and have organised them accordingly, it’s time to sync your SmugMug account to the PixStar website. (Before we continue make sure you frame is plugged in and connected to your WiFi.)

  • Go to the PixStar website and login (or create an account)

  • Navigate to the “Import external pictures” which is located on the left-hand menu under “My Web Albums”.

  • Click on SmugMug (or whichever service you use)

  • Connect to SmugMug or your service of choice by entering your username and password (the password for the photo service, not PixStar)

  • Choose the gallery you wish to display and click on the orange button with a green arrow “Not linked yet - Click to link”. (You’ll come back here if you ever need to un-link a gallery, too.)

  • Once the albums are linked click “view my web albums” to go back to your overview

  • The time it will take to sync to your account is dependent on how many photos you link.

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 17.29.13.png

3. Sync Photos to PixStar Frame

Once your photos are synced with the PixStar Website its time to sync them to your frame. Use either the website or the menu options on the frame to do this. 

  • Through the website: Click on the box above the folder and click on “play selected album on the PixStar Frame” from the buttons at the top. This sends your album directly to your frame. You can only sync one album at a time.

  • On the frame: Use the main menu to choose “My Web Album Pictures” and decide if you want to play a specific folder or all the photos from your connected web albums.

4. Enjoy!!!

Make sure your frame is in a place where everyone can easily see it so you can really enjoy it. We’ve got it down low so that even little Z can enjoy the photos. It is common to find her stopping to watch the photos, and we also find ourselves taking time during the week to stop and enjoy them, too. We love chatting about past holidays, how quickly the kids grow up, and our different hair styles (or lack of hair!).



Our digital frame has been one of the best things we have purchased in the past five years. Finally we have found a great way to enjoy our photos without having to dig through albums on the computer.

Do you display your photos digitally in your home? Do you have a specific brand you like or recommendation for us?