Creating a Digital Picture Viewing System on Raspberry Pi: A Comprehensive Guide



In today’s digital age, the Raspberry Pi has gained immense popularity for its versatility and affordability. This credit card-sized computer is a powerhouse of potential, capable of running various applications and projects. One exciting project you can embark on with your Raspberry Pi is creating a digital picture viewing system. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of setting up a digital picture viewer on your Raspberry Pi.

Why Create a Digital Picture Viewing System on Raspberry Pi?

Before we dive into the technical details, let’s explore why you might want to undertake this project. A digital picture viewing system on a Raspberry Pi offers several benefits:

  1. Low Cost: Raspberry Pi boards are cost-effective, making them an excellent choice for DIY projects. You can repurpose an older Raspberry Pi model or invest in a new one without breaking the bank.
  2. Energy Efficiency: Raspberry Pi consumes very little power compared to a standard desktop computer. This means you can leave your picture viewer running 24/7 without worrying about high electricity bills.
  3. Customization: You have full control over the software and interface, allowing you to tailor the viewing experience to your preferences.
  4. Learning Opportunity: This project is an excellent way to enhance your programming and tinkering skills. You’ll gain hands-on experience in working with Linux, Python, and hardware components.


Before we begin, there are a few prerequisites you’ll need to ensure a smooth setup process:

  1. Raspberry Pi: Obtain a Raspberry Pi board, preferably a Raspberry Pi 4 or a later model. You’ll also need a microSD card (16GB or larger) to run the operating system and store your pictures.
  2. Power Supply: Ensure you have a compatible power supply for your Raspberry Pi. The power requirements may vary depending on the model you use.
  3. HDMI Display: You’ll need an HDMI-compatible display to connect to your Raspberry Pi for initial setup and testing.
  4. Keyboard and Mouse: A USB keyboard and mouse will be necessary for configuring the system.
  5. Internet Connection: A stable internet connection is needed to download software updates and additional packages.
  6. Pictures: Gather the pictures you want to display. You can store them on a USB drive, an external hard drive, or even access them from a network location.

Choosing the Operating System

The first step in setting up your digital picture viewer is selecting an appropriate operating system for your Raspberry Pi. While there are several options available, we recommend using Raspberry Pi OS, the official operating system designed specifically for Raspberry Pi. It’s user-friendly and offers excellent compatibility with the hardware.

To get started with Raspberry Pi OS, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Raspberry Pi website ( and download the latest version of Raspberry Pi OS Lite (if you prefer a minimal installation) or Raspberry Pi OS with a desktop environment.
  2. Use a program like Etcher ( to write the downloaded image to your microSD card.
  3. Insert the microSD card into your Raspberry Pi, connect it to your HDMI display, keyboard, mouse, and power supply.
  4. Power on your Raspberry Pi. You should see the Raspberry Pi OS desktop environment on your screen.

Setting Up the Software for Your Raspberry Pi Picture Viewer

With Raspberry Pi OS up and running, it’s time to install the software components needed for your picture viewer.

  1. Update and Upgrade: Open a terminal window on your Raspberry Pi and run the following commands to ensure your system is up to date: sudo apt update sudo apt upgrade
  2. Install Image Viewer: You can choose from several image viewer applications. One popular option is feh. Install it with the following command: sudo apt install feh
  3. Autostart Configuration: To have your picture viewer automatically start when the Raspberry Pi boots, you’ll need to configure the autostart file. Open the autostart file with a text editor: nano ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart

Add the following line to the end of the file, replacing your_picture_folder with the path to your picture directory:

@feh --auto-zoom --fullscreen --hide-pointer --randomize --recursive --slideshow-delay 5 -D 5 /path/to/your_picture_folder

Save the file and exit the text editor.

Creating a User-Friendly Interface

Now that you have the software components in place, let’s make the user interface more user-friendly.

  1. Custom Background: Set a custom background image to give your viewer a personal touch. You can do this through the Raspberry Pi desktop settings.
  2. Autostarting on Boot: As configured in the previous step, your picture viewer will start automatically when the Raspberry Pi boots up.
  3. Keyboard Shortcuts: Create keyboard shortcuts to control the picture viewer. For example, you can set up shortcuts to pause, skip to the next image, or exit the viewer.
  4. Remote Control: If you want to control the viewer from another device, consider installing a remote control application that allows you to change pictures remotely.

Using Your Digital Picture Viewer

With everything set up, using your Raspberry Pi digital picture viewer is a breeze:

  1. Power on your Raspberry Pi, and it will automatically start displaying your pictures.
  2. To exit the picture viewer, press Ctrl + C in the terminal where the viewer is running.
  3. You can also use the keyboard shortcuts you’ve set up to control the viewer’s functions.

Enhancing Your Raspberry Pi Digital Picture Viewer

In Part 2, we covered the software setup for your Raspberry Pi digital picture viewer. We installed the necessary software, configured it to start automatically on boot, and discussed ways to make the interface user-friendly. Your Raspberry Pi is now a capable picture viewer that you can enjoy anytime.

Adding Transitions Between Pictures

To make your picture viewing experience more visually appealing, you can add transitions between pictures using the feh image viewer.

  1. Open a terminal window on your Raspberry Pi.
  2. Edit the autostart file again: nano ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
  3. Modify the feh command to include the --transition option, like this: @feh –auto-zoom –fullscreen –hide-pointer –randomize –recursive –slideshow-delay 5 -D 5 –transition CROSSFADE /path/to/your_picture_folder

Save the file and exit the text editor.

Now, your picture viewer will smoothly transition between images, adding a touch of elegance to your viewing experience.

Setting Up a Screensaver Mode

To prevent screen burn-in and extend the life of your display, consider setting up a screensaver mode for your Raspberry Pi picture viewer.

  1. Create a new script file: nano
  2. Add the following code to the script: !/bin /bash while true; do xset dpms force off sleep 600 # Adjust this value to set the screensaver timeout (in seconds) xset dpms force on sleep 10 done

Save the file and exit the text editor.

  1. Make the script executable: chmod +x
  2. Edit the autostart file again: nano ~/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart
  3. Add the following line to the end of the file to run the screensaver script: @/path/to/

Replace /path/to/ with the actual path to your screensaver script.

Save the file and exit the text editor.

Now, when your Raspberry Pi is idle for the specified time (600 seconds in the script above), it will activate the screensaver, turning off the display to prevent burn-in. Simply move the mouse or press a key to wake it up.

Tips and Optimization for Your Raspberry Pi Digital Picture Viewer

In Part 3, we explored ways to enhance your Raspberry Pi digital picture viewer. We added transitions between pictures and set up a screensaver mode to protect your display.

Remote Management

Remote management can greatly enhance the usability of your Raspberry Pi picture viewer.

  1. SSH: Enable Secure Shell (SSH) on your Raspberry Pi to access it remotely from another computer. You can then use SSH to control the picture viewer, transfer new pictures, or troubleshoot issues.
  • To enable SSH, run the following command on your Raspberry Pi: sudo raspi-config
  • Navigate to “Interfacing Options” and select “SSH.” Enable SSH access.
  • Connect to your Raspberry Pi via SSH using its IP address and your login credentials.
  1. VNC: Set up a Virtual Network Computing (VNC) server on your Raspberry Pi to access its desktop remotely. This allows you to manage the picture viewer as if you were physically present.
  • Install a VNC server on your Raspberry Pi, such as RealVNC or TightVNC.
  • Configure the VNC server and connect to it from another device using a VNC client.
  1. File Transfer: Use tools like SCP (Secure Copy Protocol) or SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) to transfer new pictures to your Raspberry Pi remotely.

Optimizing Raspberry Pi Performance

To ensure smooth operation of your digital picture viewer, consider these performance optimization tips:

  1. Overclocking: If you’re using a Raspberry Pi 4 or a later model, you can overclock it to increase performance. However, be cautious and follow overclocking guides to avoid overheating or instability.
  2. Disable Unused Services: Identify and disable any unnecessary background services or processes that may consume system resources.
  3. Resolution: Adjust the resolution of your display to match the size of your pictures. Using a lower resolution can improve performance.
  4. Use Lightweight Image Formats: Convert your pictures to lightweight formats like JPEG to reduce file sizes and speed up loading.
  5. Regular Maintenance: Periodically update your Raspberry Pi OS, clear cache files, and ensure there is enough free storage space.

Backup and Data Management

Don’t forget to create backups of your pictures to prevent data loss. Consider setting up automatic backups to an external drive or cloud storage. Additionally, organize your picture collection into folders to make it easier to manage and browse.


Sora Shimazaki at Pexels

Lastly, ensure the security of your Raspberry Pi. Change default passwords, keep your system updated, and consider configuring a firewall to protect your device from unauthorized access.


By following these tips and tricks, you can create a reliable and enjoyable digital picture viewing system on your Raspberry Pi. We hope this comprehensive guide has been helpful in your journey to make the most of this versatile and affordable computing platform.

Whether you’re displaying cherished memories or creating a dynamic art installation, your Raspberry Pi digital picture viewer is a testament to the endless possibilities that this remarkable device offers. Enjoy your picture viewing experience, and feel free to explore more exciting projects with your Raspberry Pi in the future.

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