Online Photo Galleries
The modern web is more focused on multimedia than ever, with video, podcasts, and more exploding in popularity.
The research shows that images beat text when it comes to getting more social media shares, comments, and engagement.
Photo gallery websites are an important part of the visual web.
Sharing Your Photos Online
Are you a photographer who wants to create an online portfolio or an entrepreneur planning a niche image sharing site?
Perhaps you just want to share your wedding album with your family and friends.
Sharing Photos Online: Social Media vs. Gallery Site
Creating your own website photo gallery is a good way to share your images while maintaining control over the look of your displays and the use of your images.
Sharing your photos on social media might be an easy way to send them to friends and family, but if you dig deep into their terms of service, you will find that by uploading your photos, you're giving up a lot of control over how they are used.
How to Share and Maintain Control over Your Photos Online
If you want to maintain control over your images, but you still want to share them online, creating your own photo gallery website is a great way to do both.
Maintaining control over your images is especially important if you are a professional photographer. Creating your own image gallery is a little more involved than simply uploading them to your social media accounts.
You have many options to consider when it comes to what software you will use to display those photos on your site.
The Purpose of Online Photo Galleries
Images are large files. Large files take much longer to load than smaller ones.
If your website displays a large number of images, your site can become slow to load. This can frustrate site visitors or drive them away.
For professional photographers, visitors leaving the website means lost business.
People looking for photographers want to see images, but they want to see images quickly.
Photo Galleries and Thumbnails
The purpose of a photo gallery is to show a set of thumbnails or small versions of a larger image. You can serve up a large number of thumbnails easily, and sometimes, all of your thumbnails will load faster than even one image.
Your visitors can then take a look at your thumbnails.
If they are interested in seeing a larger image, they can click on the image to load the full-size. Your visitors are therefore only waiting for an extended period of time for images that they do want to see.
Organizing Thumbnails Elegantly
Finally, you need a way to organize your thumbnails in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Any method of organizing your thumbnails, typically in some type of grid, is considered to be a photo gallery.
Think of it as the digital equivalent of a physical photo gallery on the wall of a room.
Popular Photo Gallery CMS Software Applications
To create a photo gallery website, you can use specialized software called a content management system (CMS) to manage the content that populates your website.
The following is a list of popular content management systems that focus on all things image sharing.
Let's dive in and learn a bit more about each of them.
Gallery was one of the first open-source photo album organizer software applications.
It has plenty of features like:
- Keyword tagging
- Gallery templates
- Ability to enable your website visitors to upload their own images.
Gallery is no longer actively maintained by the developers as of 2014, but it still has a very active community.
Coppermine Photo Gallery is another open-source photo gallery application.
In contrast to Gallery, it's aimed more towards developers or users with some coding knowledge who want to create a highly customized gallery, rather than casual users who want to quickly create a simple gallery.
The customization features available, as well as the ability to create very high quality, aesthetically-pleasing galleries will appear to photographers in particular.
4images is also a powerful photo gallery application that can support large customized sites.
It has many features including:
- Comment system
- Password protection
- User registration
- Templates system for easy customization of your website's look and layout.
Zenphoto is an all-in-one multimedia CMS that you can use to share audio and video as well as photos.
Zenphoto has a very large number features and is also extendable via a plugin system.
TinyWebGallery is a free photo gallery website application that's appropriate for both personal and business use.
While it does use PHP like other photo gallery CMSs, it does not use a database, but stores all your data in XML files.
Xpoze is a photo gallery application that's geared towards stock photo websites or others who want to sell their photos online (such as self-employed photographers).
It has a batch upload feature that allows you to upload hundreds of files at a time, as well as many other advanced features that make it easy to manage a huge gallery website.
Using WordPress to Showcase Photos
In spite of the many image-dedicated options available (some of which we featured in the section above), one of the most popular ways to display photo galleries on the modern web is by using WordPress.
WordPress is a popular blogging platform and content management system.
WordPress is extendable with plugins, and there are many free and premium plugins available for adding photo galleries to your WordPress-run blog or website.
For photographers looking to create a business website, WordPress' extensibility means that there are lots of opportunities to add e-commerce functionality, such as online ordering or sessions schedule.
Photo-Related WordPress Themes
WordPress Themes are, in a nutshell, the overall user-facing design (akin to templates) for your website. However, themes are much more than that. They control what features and functionality your website will have.
For example, if the purpose of your WordPress site is to display images, there are themes that include photo galleries (and their associated features) right onto the webpage.
This means that you do not have to incorporate any third-party tools to display your pictures, control who access them, and so on. To give you an idea of what types of WordPress themes are available and what they look like, check out the following set of samples we curated:
- Photo Magic
- Portfolio Gallery
GalleryPress is a theme designed for portfolios or personal/business branding. This theme features a simple, flat design, and it is responsive, appropriate for high-resolution screens (like retina displays), and features clean design and typography.
Finally, GalleryPress is fast-loading, so your work will not be bogged down by a poorly-designed theme.
Photo Magic is another theme that is retina-ready, responsible, and well-designed.
Intended for photographers, illustrators, and other creatives, Photo Magic allows you to focus on large photos, comes with lots of gallery and portfolio website options, and a variety of layouts.
You can manage your content via the API.
Photo Gallery is designed for those who want to tell a cohesive story with their images, rather than just displaying a motley crew of images.
Portfolio Gallery is a great example of a theme that marries a website with optimized image displays.
The site design is responsible, user-friendly, and SEO-friendly.
If you are looking for a theme that allows you to showcase your images, while also providing you with space to display written content, this is a great option for you.
What happens if you have a WordPress site, but the theme you are using does not possess photo galleries or sufficient photo related-functionality for your needs? The answer is plugins.
Plugins are packages that you can install to extend the functionality of the core WordPress platform. No matter what features or functionality you are looking for, there is likely to be a plugin that you can use.
Photo galleries and plugins featuring photo-sharing functionality are no exception and are readily available for your WordPress site.
Here are just a few well-rated examples from which you can choose:
Photo Gallery by WD – Responsive Photo Gallery
Regardless of whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer, this photo gallery plugin is a user-friendly, feature-rich option that adds responsive photo galleries and albums to your WordPress site.
You can go simple and create simple photo galleries, or you can upgrade to the premium version, which adds a host of functionality (including the ability to sell your own digital content).
You get access to many different layout options, gallery/album views, widgets, and extensions so you can add features and functionality to your plugin.
Photo Gallery by Envira – Responsive Image Gallery for WordPress
Envira's photo gallery plugin allows you to create both image and video galleries using its drag-and-drop editor.
The company boasts that you can create your responsive gallery within minutes, even if you have no prior experience.
Elvira focuses on performance, which means that your pages will perform better and load faster for your users.
Gmedia Photo Gallery
Despite what you may think based on the plugin's name, Gmedia Photo Gallery is much more. You can think of this plugin as akin to a multimedia manager.
You can manage all your files, create and display image and video galleries, and plays video and audio.
Furthermore, if you are someone who manages their WordPress site on the go, Gmedia offers a mobile app so you can create galleries and the like even when you are on the go.
Using a Site Builder
There is nothing that says you cannot use an all-purpose site builder, even if your website is designed to fill a specific niche.
You may have to take a few extra steps to ensure that you have all the features and functionality you need, but there are definitely perks to using site builders (especially all-in-one options) that may outweigh any pain points you may encounter.
For example, all-in-one site builders come with everything you need to get up and running: web hosting, the tools to design and built your site, and a domain name.
Best Photo Gallery Site Builder Options
Furthermore, for professional photographers who seek to conduct business online, using a site builder might be a good way to build a digital storefront that meets all of their needs.
This is the opposite of using self-hosted WordPress, where you have to set up your web hosting, manage your WordPress core, and make sure everything integrates well with each other.
Some of the best site building options you might consider include:
The Best Option for You
Which is right for you: a photo gallery CMS, or WordPress with a photo gallery plugin?
It depends on your goals for your gallery, and what specific features you're looking for. Professional photographers obviously have needs that are different from those looking to share their kids' photos with the grandparents.
If you only want a photo gallery, with no other content on your site, you might want to browse the photo gallery CMSs to find one that fits your needs.
Look closely at the available features to find one that's a good match for your gallery.
Importance of Having a Blog and Other Features
If you think you might expand your website to include a blog and other features, WordPress might be the better option for you.
WordPress is a very popular CMS with a large community and many themes and plugins available, so you can easily customize your website and find support for any issues you encounter.
If you want an all-in-one package that includes everything you need to get up and running with as little hassle as possible, consider using a full-featured site builder.
Finding the Right Photo Gallery Web Hosting
Once you decide on what software you'll use to create your photo gallery, you can begin to search for a web hosting plan that supports that software.
Most web hosts support the minimum requirements for WordPress, and may even specialize in the software or offer easy one-click installations.
If you've decided to use another photo gallery CMS, be sure to check that your chosen hosting plan supports the software's minimum requirements before you purchase.
Finally, you can eschew the image gallery hosting provider search by opting for an all-in-one solution.
Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is an online photo gallery application?
An online photo gallery for your website is a way to allow visitors to your page to browse and navigate through a collection of images that you choose to display.
There are websites that offer a gallery as a service, but hosting your own means total control over what the user experiences.
How does an online photo gallery compare against social media?
Social media allows users to share photos, but those photos are assigned to your profile, or to a group.
The experience is totally owned by the social media site however, and very often, the company running the site will gain access to freely use and sell your photos through their terms of service.
Running your own gallery protects your intellectual property and lets you define how your photos are experienced.
How does hosting my own photo gallery compare against using a hosting service?
Sites like Flickr, PhotoBucket or DeviantArt are more open about intellectual property than a social network site, and are dedicated exclusively towards showing art.
However, the look and feel of your page is not determined by you as a user other than a few minor tweaks.
The advantage is that you don't need to pay for hosting (unless you elect premium service), but if you use your own web application you get control over the experience.
What is the difference between a photo gallery web application and a photo gallery plugin for a general CMS?
A Photo Gallery is a specific type of Content Management System (CMS), the "generic" type generally has a focus on blogging, or some type of written content.
Most general purpose CMS platforms like Wordpress or Joomla have the option to display photos in a gallery. You can either use the default gallery, or install a plugin that changes the way the gallery is shown.
In some ways this allows more configuration than a dedicated photo gallery application. However, extra configuration means extra work, with a dedicated photo gallery application, setup should be faster.
What type of hosting do I need to run a photo gallery online?
That depends on whether you have a specific gallery application in mind or not.
Most popular options are PHP and MySQL-based, which means that the vast majority of web hosts on the market will be able to provide you service.
Additionally, most quality web service providers will probably have one-click installs available for photo-sharing applications. Getting a photo gallery up and running can be very easy.
Can I use my photo gallery service as a way to sell stock images?
Yes, but you need to pick the right one.
Some dedicated photo-CMS platforms have plugins for eCommerce, or you could select an eCommerce platform and sell your images individually on there.
However, there are potential solutions out there. There is a platform called "Photo Video Store Script" which is a CMS with modern themes dedicated to selling stock photographs.
Other options are StockboxPhoto or Xpoze, but those do not have modern responsive display.
Do I need to know how to code to set up a gallery?
That depends on the application you choose to use, but for the most part a photo CMS exists to make it easier to put up photos without doing any code or HTML.
The majority of options out there don't require code to get started.
However, becoming comfortable with at least Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) will allow you to change the look and feel of your page through color and font selections.
Some tools might let you change the CSS without code, but knowing how to make those changes directly means greater control.
Do I need to be concerned about storage space?
Maybe, some hosts offer unlimited storage space, but they still might have requirements about maximum individual file size.
They also might increase your costs if you go over a certain amount, so be sure to read the fine print. It also depends on how many photos you want to share and at what resolution.
How do I figure out how much storage I'll need?
Raw photos, and even super high-resolution compressed photos can take up a lot of data.
A typical 8k (8000 pixel width) jpg photo will take up around 5 MB of storage, depending on the image quality used, while a PNG will take up closer to 20 MB per file. That means every 50 photographs at 8k is 1 GB.
Just check the file size of your photographs on your computer and multiply it by the number of photos you expect to share.
It is highly recommended that you scale down your image size for use on the web, but if you are selling your photographs, you will need to be able to provide protected links to the high resolution versions.
Do I need to be concerned about site bandwidth?
Again, that depends on how high of a resolution your are going to use on your site, and how many photos will be shared.
While most hosts provide unlimited storage, they often have tight regulation on bandwidth limits for certain cost criteria.
If you are more concerned with download speed then you are with hosting costs, you might consider a host that comes bundled with a content delivery network (CDN).
CDNs use a grid of global datacenters to work together and transfer the image to the users computer from the datacenter with the fastest connection to the user.