Since this article was written serveral years ago some technology has changed and I now recommend WordPress as the content management system of choice for photographers. This article is still useful for understanding some terms and technologies you will encounter. To read about the latest developments in websites for photographers please visit the new Photographers Resource Page.
There are many ways to display photography or other images on the web. This article as a brief guide to some of the options that are available and some to the important factors to consider when setting up a website to showcase your work.
All the solutions here are open source, use technologies based on open standards and are free to use, customise and build on.
Most websites that display photography use a gallery, a slide show or a combination of the two.
Galleries consist of a page or a number of pages of small thumbnail images which the user can click on to see a larger version at a higher resolution.
These are useful for visitors who are looking for a specific image or two and do not wish to have to browse the whole gallery to find them.
Common features of galleries include:
- Displaying a caption for each image
- Display additional information about each image, for example resolution, camera specifications etc
- Organise the collection of images into albums, grouping them by subject or other category
- Visitor comments
Galleries, like most web-based software consist of a collection of web pages and scripts. Most can be set up by copying the files to a particular folder on your website and uploading your images to a subfolder using FTP or an online file manager. Some galleries will run from a web page on your site which you can then customise, whereas others can be inserted into a page you have created yourself, giving you more control over the layout.
The more advanced gallery programs store all the photograph, album and related information in a database, such as MySQL Not every hosting account will include this so it is important to check that a database is available when choosing your hosting package.
Galleries which use a database are much easier to maintain and allow you to update and organise your gallery using an online administration tool instead of having to copy files to the server, edit text files and resize your images manually.
Many galleries include slide-shows, however you do not need a fully featured gallery if all you need is a slideshow.
There are also a large number of different kinds of solutions for displaying your images in a slide show. These range from the simplest technique of moving through a list of images every few seconds, to visually impressive special effects and transitions.
Both of these solutions involve adding some kind of code to your website and uploading your photos to a source directory on your host server.
Using the Flash option also requires that any visitors to your site have the Adobe Flashplayer installed in their web browser. As any delay in a website loading can put off potential viewers it is important to ensure this is done properly and that if the user is unable to install the flashplayer, a fallback method is available so the images can still be viewed.
This has become even more of an issue recently due to the widely publicised arguments between Apple and Adobe. Apple have banned the use of the Flashplayer plugin on their iPads, iPhones and the iPod touch, claiming that it’s heavy use of the devices processing power will spoil the users experience due to slow loading and crashing. Considering the increasing popularity of Apple’s devices world wide, especially in the design and creative industries, it is a wise move to ensure that users of these devices are not excluded from viewing your work.
Unlike the other options, Flash is not open source but is owned by adobe. As such it is hard to customise one of these slideshows as once the author releases the Flash file it cannot be edited, so usually you only have the option of changing the photos which are displayed.
I would recommend that if you are serious about making a professional looking site with your art or photography that you choose a combination of these two methods. A gallery program which allows you to easily upload, tag and share your images to keep things fresh, and a slide-show which will run without the need for 3rd party plugins to ensure you or your web developer can fully customise the viewers experience.
Below are a selection of links for gallerys and slide-shows. All of these are open source and free to use. Gallery and Coppermine are one – click installs with all Creative Transmissions accounts. All of the slideshows can be used with pretty much any web hosting account as they do not rely on any particular server – side technologies. I would suggest checking them all out to see which suits your needs. There are of course many more out there and new solutions are being developed all the time.
Please note that most of these galleries can be previewed using a number of themes, look for a drop down box at the top of the page to change them.