Ok, I’ve been doing a lot of research on web-based photo galleries (way too much, in fact)…
Based on the simple criterion of “free” and “easy”, I arrived at two possible solutions of many, many options:
- Coppermine Photo Gallery (CPG)
Both of these are database server-side applications, meaning that you have all the power of organization, searching, categorizing, at your fingertips, not to mention a host of ways of presenting the gallery.
In my case, I had a few other requirements to make this fly:
- seamless uploading with iPhoto on my Mac, including all titles and description fields I’ve already entered
- ability to post photos to a blog entry from the photo database
- display the photo gallery seamlessly from inside the blog theme, making for a transparent design (the user wouldn’t be aware of two separate databases running behind the scenes)
So to recap, that’s: iPhoto -> photo database -> WordPress
Well, there are two good full solutions out there:
Coppermine Integration — This is a really nice plugin that ties your WordPress database together with your CPG database. On the Write admin page of WordPress, a new toolbar appears with all its functions. It also includes a popup window to visually drop photos into blog posts. So it’s very easy and intuitive to add pictures.
CopperExport — This is the iPhoto exporting plugin for iPhoto. It’s based off the Flickr export plugin which was open-sourced, so if you’re familiar with that you’ll be fine. It’s a very nicely made piece of software. Absent in it though (and the Flickr plugin original) is the ability to make an umbrella limit on all exported photo sizes. For instance, say I want to set an upper limit of 800×600 for all the photos I’m exporting at one time, and some of those are cropped at odd sizes. It’s not apparent in this plugin if the size you apply to all will be forced on each photo or if that’s an upper limit.
I found Coppermine to be very deficient in its theming and overall design out of the box. The them structure is very cumbersome. If you’re used to the fairly straightforward design principles of WordPress and elegant layouts available, you’ll be as frustrated as I was with CPG.
CPG creates copies of all images and resizes them as needed (for thumbnails, etc.). This makes for storage drain eventually.
CPG has no watermarking capability built in. There is a plugin that exists but it’s very difficult to install. I was never able to make it work.
Not exactly a fault of CPG, but it wreaked havoc my WordPress theme Blix caused strange articfacts on the Archives page.
For Gallery2, there’s no such problems with my particular theme. That alone is a nice relief. But more importantly, Gallery is a very robust, cleanly designed, and elegant photo database. As with CPG, there are plugins to make it work for me.
WPG2 — This is the Gallery2 integration plugin for WordPress. It’s much more transparent than the CPG equivalent. There’s no added toolbar. You must manually use tags in your post, so that means you’ll have to log into Gallery to find the album and image names first, then go back to WordPress to insert the tags by hand. Then you’ll have to remember the syntax too!
However, there is a really nice plugin to workaround this and get back the functionality that the Coppermine plugin has inherently: Gallery2 Image Chooser for TinyMCE Version 1.2. Here’s a demo of the plugin where you can log on and try it yourself. I have to admit, it’s actually a nicer live integration of thumbnails than the Coppermine integration. There are a couple more features like being able to insert a text link to an album, and the album hierarchy view. Also, I like the slimmer feel of having it represented as just another button on the TinyMCE (WYSIWYG) toolbar that ships with WP2.0. Slick.
iPhotoToGallery — This is the equivalent iPhoto export plugin. It’s not quite as slick looking as the CopperExport, but it too has one better feature. It has the upper size limit on multiple photos.
Watermarks are built into Gallery2. It’s very intuitive to use on a per-image basis, but there’s no bulk watermarking feature yet.
I love the directory structure of Gallery2. Only the original image files exist on the server. All thumbnails and resized intermediate images are created dynamically. The database creates them on the fly which is very cool. You can even custom crop each image with an overlay reticle. Way cool.
Unique themes can be applied per album.
The user forums & codex are a big help.
The “embedded” mode of Gallery2 is beautiful. Literally as easy as typing in a website address, and the entire gallery can be viewed inside your current blog theme. The CPG world does not have this advantage. You’re forced to create two themes, one in CPG (not an easy task!) to match the work you’ve done in your WordPress theme. With the WPG2 plugin, not only do you have access to your gallery photos from within WordPress (with tags and the Image Chooser), but you also have full embedded access to your entire gallery. It makes for a much richer integration in my opinion.
Check out my gallery here 1
And in my case, where I impatiently jumped the gun and installed Coppermine first and uploaded a bunch of albums worth of pictures, there’s even a script to migrate from it to Gallery2 (script link is dead).
The entire Gallery2 experience is a much more pleasant one. It’s a more robust and logical arrangement of control in both the admin and the user panels. That equals easier, more intuitive navigation.