Photo galleries are a incredibly popular feature to add to a website. Depending on the purpose at hand, an entire website can even become a photo gallery. There are more image gallery software options than you can shake a stick at so no matter what type of pics you want to display, chances are the coding has already been done.
However, if you want to find the best photo gallery for your website, first you need to narrow down your choices. To do this, ask yourself a few questions.
What is the purpose of this Photo Gallery?
Are you a professional photographer needing to display your work and hook new clients? Are you just an amateur having fun? Are you primarily interested in the social community around photography?
Maybe photography itself has nothing to do with it. Maybe you need a photo gallery for your site because you are trying to sell your car and want to show people many different pictures of it. Or you are building a website for a broadway show and want to display photos of the stage, show, and cast. On an even more personal level, perhaps you are just looking for a place to upload photos so you can send your in-laws a slideshow of photos from your last vacation.
Knowing WHY you need a photo gallery and WHAT needs you have is important in choosing the technology behind your photo gallery.
Does it need to be on your own website? Or not necessarily?
Perhaps you already have a website and you want to create a subpage for a photo gallery. The Rick Wilcox Magic Theater has a page just for photos from their show and lives. This works nicely for them, as the page just needs to show off their magic show and get people interested in what they do. They don’t need the social aspects necessarily, but they do need the gallery to be a part of their own page.
If you are primarily interested in the social aspects of photo galleries, or are looking for the quick-and-easiest way to build a gallery, perhaps hosting the gallery on your own website isn’t the way to go. Hosting it yourself can isolate you and not yet as many potential viewers as you might if you were part of an already existing photo community. Photo sharing sites are also generally pretty easy to use and you can be up and running in no time.
What kind of functionality does it need?
Do your photos need to be licensed or protected? How many photos are you looking to be showing? How often do you expect to be updating? Do you want advanced functionality like commenting, tagging, or rating of photos?
Do you want fancy animations? Will you be showing thumbnails that link to larger images? Or will just the larger images do? Will this be a “photoblog”?
Do you have a preference for the technology it uses?
Sometimes other technologies can be leveraged in photo gallery software. PHP is pretty common, as a back end language and to do fancy things like automatically read from directories or create thumbnails.
How important is accessibility to this?
Using something like a pure Flash gallery might not be as accessible as you’d like for all users. Then again, if your site is purely a photo gallery, you may not need to be as concerned about catering to the visually impaired as you won’t have much content for them anyway.
Let’s take a look at some options!
Social Photo Sharing Sites
You may have noticed all the random photos from this article are links to Flickr photos. Flickr is one of the largest photo sharing sites on the web and certainly has the most active and involved community. Signing up for Flickr is free (the also have Pro accounts). You can be up and running and have your own Flickr page in hardly any time at all.
Flickr is so loaded with features that it really stands out from the herd. Creative commons licensing, commenting/favoriting, organization, editing, video, geotagging, the list goes on. If you looking for a nice way to share a slideshow, you can link directly to a slideshow with Flickr. And just because your using Flickr, doesn’t mean you can’t embed these photos on your own site. Flickr has an open API, meaning that third parties can build cool tools that interface with Flickr. Take a look at this band’s photo page, which utilizes their Flickr account but embeds the photos directly onto their website.
SmugMug has some interesting features that Flickr doesn’t have. A pro account with SmugMug will allow you to take full design control over your gallery page. Not only choose from their templates, but literally full CSS control. Other major features include heightened security and backup, unlimited storage, API access, and having your galleries be as public or private as you’d like.
Photo Bucket – Free uploading, groups
Picasa – from Google
Gallery – “Your Photos on Your Website”
Gallery is open source software that you can install on your own website (think “WordPress”). It runs on PHP. Lots of features here: commenting, user accounts with uploading, rss feeds, multi-language support, auto rotating, and of course, full customization.
Automatically Generate a Photo Gallery from a Directory of Images
Tutorial and free download on creating your own gallery. PHP does some of the heavy lifting by looking through a directory for you and building the gallery from that.
Another self-hosted and free PHP software package. All the features you would want, but very cleanly put together. Not a bloated mess (like “Gallery” can feel like sometimes). Easy to customize.
FlashDen – Check out the Image Viewers Category on FlashDen. None of these are free, but with hundreds to choose from, you can probably find one that is nearly perfect for you.
Apple’s iPhoto + MobileMe
If you use a Mac and already use something like Apple’s iPhoto to import and organize your photos, their MobileMe service makes it about the easiest thing in the world to create publically viewable photo galleries. Simply select your album and go to Share > MobileMe and it will upload and create an album for you. Here is one I made in all of 10 seconds.
NextGEN Gallery – If you already use something like WordPress, there are a number of plugins available for creating photo galleries right within WordPress. Like this one…