Researching Photo Gallery CMS's [Update]

After a few years of development, all mentioned features on this page have been implemented in Zenphoto. That’s my recommendation.See also Description of the Perfect Photo Gallery for in-depth details on the best solutions currently available, and updated status on those not yet available.

Currently, Noscope is using the very nice CMS, Photostack, for the Photography section. No more. Now using zenphoto.

Photostack allows me to upload a folder full of JPEGs, update a single text file, and voila: an online photo album.

This is how it’s supposed to be. Upload pictures, push the button, and all pages, thumbnails, links and everything are created for you by the little goblin inside the computer. Unfortunately, I’ve grown out of Photostack, and now I need more features. I need a new photo album CMS.

This is where it gets difficult. There are literally hundreds of solutions for people like me. Some have waay too many features. Some (like Photostack), are simple and neat, but miss just the right extra features. That’s where you, Esteemed Reader, comes in to the picture. If my referrer software analyzes you correctly, you are most likely web-savvy and interested in photography. It’s quite likely you know something I don’t.

Note: Michael already wrote an excellent article about this. Unfortunately it didn’t result in a solution, thus this repeat.

Needed Features

These are the features I’m looking for.

  • Upload JPEGs + push a button = Online album
  • Automatically generated RSS
  • Allows descriptions on each photo
  • Allows user comments on each photo
  • Really simple templating system
  • PHP & text files or PHP & SQL
  • As little clutter as possible
  • Not Flickr
  • Cruft free URLs
  • As you can see, if it wasn’t for the fact that Photostack doesn’t allow comments on individual photos, I’d be a happy camper.

Solutions

Here are some solutions that I’ve been looking at:

  • Chris J. Davis’ Visuals
    Pros: Great WordPress integration.
    Cons: Relies on JavaScript, has navigation issues, is limited.
  • PixelPost
    Pros: All the necessary features.
    Cons: Too many features, seems hard to template, navigation issues, cruft in URLs.
  • Gallery
    Pros: All the necessary features.
    Cons: Total feature overkill, lot of work to template, cruft in URLs.
  • Pictorialis
    Pros: All the necessary features. WordPress “compatible” (it’s a fork).
    Cons: Two WordPress’ish installations? Seems to be a lot of work.
  • Coppermine
    Pros: They tell me it has all the right features.
    Cons: They tell me it’s bloated like there’s no tomorrow.
  • LinPHA
    Pros: Has all the features.
    Cons: Look at it! You want me to template that!?
  • 4Images
    Pros: Has all the features.
    Cons: Takes a lot of work.
  • Folderblog
    Pros: Most of the necessary features: Thumbnails, comments, good description system.
    Cons: Truly unbearable category system, no RSS, no automatic thumbnails, limited templating, cruft in URLs.
  • Zen Photo
    Tristan might just make the ultimate system from the bottom up. It might just rock. Update: Tristan did make the ultimate system.
    Pros: All of the good features.
    Cons: I’m told it’s not flawless on Windows-powered servers.
  • Minigal (Demo)
    From what I can see, Minigal actually seems like a viable solution! It seems easily templateable, it has the most needed features, and it’s GPL. Except for the cruft in the URLs, this might actually be it.
    Pros: Does most of what I need.
    Cons: Comment author doesn’t seem to be cookied, no RSS, cruft in URLs, unbearable album categorization system, photos must be placed in root.
  • TinyWebGallery (Demo)
    Like Minigal, this also seems like a viable solution. It does seem as though there’s a bit more work involved, on the other hand, the commenting and URL features seem better.
    Pros: Does most of what I need.
    Cons: No RSS, cruft in URLs, requires PHP Safe Mode off.
  • SPiD (Demo)
    Pros: Has what I need.
    Cons: Requires PHP Safe Mode off.
  • Plogger
    Pros: Great admin, easy install, coments, works in PHP Safe Mode, FTP Upload, automatic thumbnails, cruft-free URLs and RSS in the future
    Cons: Flat storage of photo files (everything in one folder).
  • Hotscripts Image Gallery CMS listing

Suggestions are welcome.
Results

  • Update: I’ve installed Minigal. Removed Minigal. The fact that I can’t categorize pictures into folders killed it for me.
  • Update: Tried TinyWebGallery. It won’t work either. It requires PHP Safe Mode to be off, which it’s not.
  • Update: Tried Pictorialis. It’s good, but it’s got too many remnants of WordPress. It’s simply not mature yet. Plus, it didn’t like that my server runs PHP Safe Mode.
  • Update: Tried Pixelpost. It’s good, but it doesn’t allow for me to upload bulk pictures using FTP. FTP Uploads are available using an addon included in the Pixelpost package. (Thanks Ramin)
  • Update: Tried Plogger. Currently the clear winner of the bunch. Unfortunately it uses a flat structure for storing files. On the upside, there’s an active development on this one. Keep your eyes on it!
  • Update: Zenphoto is the way to go.

60 thoughts on “Researching Photo Gallery CMS's [Update]”

  1. I’ve been through this as well. Eventually, I went for iPAP, though it doesn’t allow user comments on each photo, which appears to be a feature you really don’t want to miss… Markku’s working hard on a new iPAP release, which will have a MySQL-backend, and I’m sure once that milestone is reached, additional features such as comments and RSS feeds will follow at a rather fast pace.

    Interesting write-up, Joen. Good luck on finding the perfect Photo Gallery System!

  2. Jonas Rabbe says:

    You should get a mac , import your photos into iPhoto, get Photon , and create stunning galleries .

    Although Doug Bowman’s tutorial is centered around MT, much of it is valid for WordPress as well, since Photon supports WordPress.

    This is probably the way I will go once I port my blog to WordPress and need a gallery. I am not sure yet if I will use a photography category with sub-categories for albums on the main blog, or a whole blog for the photography, but it will be kick-ass.

  3. Tristan says:

    Ah… I’ve had such a similar problem that I’ve actually started building my own PHP photo app, which you might be interested in. It began out of my use of photostack. After a while, I noticed many, many deficiencies and quite a few bugs, and while I fixed some of the more annoying bugs in PS myself, the improvements I wanted to make warranted doing it my own way.

    Unfortunately I haven’t got very far. Thought of a name though. It’s called “zen photo.”

    Currently I’m in the first stages of implementing the filesystem-based album organization system. That means I can go in any direction I want from there. I wanted to keep it insanely simple and elegant (hence, zen) yet still very powerful behind the scenes, with comments and the ability to be as descriptive as you like with each photo. I haven’t thought of RSS or templating yet, but they’re on the list and shouldn’t be a problem.

    So, basically, I’ve thought of this many times, and there really is a gaping hole in the open source personal photo album app market which demands this sort of elegant solution. I plan to build it. Watch my site for more announcements, and a possible solicitation for feature requests.

    All these promises and the question becomes “when?” — After finals (may), I start summer work, which should leave nights and weekends free for tinkering. Expect an alpha version by July. Or if you want to be realistic, multiply by pi 🙂 Honestly though, I really want to do this; it’s at the top of a list of 3 major web apps I want to build over the next year or so. So, thanks for the outside motivation.

  4. rob says:

    you should take a look at http://folderblog.tetto.org/

    folderblog is a simple and easy gallery system as well. Also in active development to bring it to version 3. I find it a rather easy gallery to use.

    hope that helps

    rob

  5. peter says:

    It seems that Coppermine Photo Gallery offers all the features you’re after – plus a lot more…

    Looking forward to you finding, tweaking and implementing a good solution so I can drop by and ask you stupid questions as usually 😉

  6. It seems that Coppermine Photo Gallery offers all the features you’re after – plus a lot more…

    Haha, nice one!

  7. Joen says:

    Mathias,

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll steer clear of Coppermine for now. If iPAP gets comments, I’ll jump right on it.

    Jonas,

    I’m NOT getting a Mac, okay, stop it! 🙂

    Tristan,

    As I wrote on your blog, I’m very much interested in your solution to this. Go man go!

    Rob,

    I’m looking at folderblog right now. It actually seems like a pretty good solution. I’ll update when I know more.

    Peter,

    Good to see you here finally 🙂

    Mathias is an ex coppermine user, and he hasn’t liked it much. I’m sort of steering clear of that for now.

  8. khaled says:

    I’ve been looking for something similar for a while now (post found here ), in the comments got a few more examples, but none of the ones I decided on fit the bill completely.

  9. peter says:

    Haha, nice one!

    Well, what can I say 😛

    Appearently I read this as the devil reads the bible. Sorry Mathias. I didn’t ignore your post on purpose… 😉

  10. Tristan says:

    Hmmmm… those last two look nice (Minigal and TinyWebGallery). See, it’s things like that that make me want to not build a new one… someone else has always already done it in this big internet.

    Still, I think I could improve on everything, so I’m still goin for it. 🙂

  11. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Jonas,

    I?m NOT getting a Mac, okay, stop it! 🙂

    Well, I don’t know what you use to access and organize your pictures, but maybe there is a plugin or similar to export images from your solution to wordpress. In that case, the remainder of my comment still holds. 😉

  12. Nik says:

    Hey Joen,

    Quick reply, but have you had a look at: Simple Viewer from Airtight Interactive.

    Nik

  13. Nik says:

    Ah, sorry. It’s not really an image CMS, but it’s slightly relevant and hopefully some of your other readers might find it cool.

    This is why I rarely post! 😀

  14. Joen says:

    Ah, sorry. It?s not really an image CMS, but it?s slightly relevant and hopefully some of your other readers might find it cool.

    Actually it is (a CMS), and I have seen it! It’s not bad! I’ve been wanting to use it for a project.

    Alas, I really want that commenting feature. Photostack is quite good — switching to something different has to really be worth it 🙂

  15. Nik says:

    Photostack is quite good — switching to something different has to really be worth it 🙂

    I agree… I use Photostack on another site and I’ve really started to get the hang of how it works – If it had a commenting feature that would be the icing on the cake.

    These two could be a bit contentious but how about a MT Photoblog? 🙂 Or Expression Engine, which has a great Gallery section.. check out an pretty impressive implementation on Collys site.

  16. Joen says:

    Tristan,

    I’m sure you can do a better solution. The very fact that you know exactly how you want it to be is a pretty good pointer. I’m still interested, although I suspect I’ll probably try an intermediate solution until then.

    Jonas,

    Well, I don?t know what you use to access and organize your pictures, but maybe there is a plugin or similar to export images from your solution to wordpress. In that case, the remainder of my comment still holds. 😉

    I actually use Picasa to pick out photos, then I scale’em and FTP’em. I don’t mind that.

    Taking a second look at your suggestion (I did read the dbowman article before), it does seem viable.

    My only worry is that it seems there’s a lot of WP hacking involved, and to be honest, Mr. Bowman’s photo section is totally overkill for what I want to do. I’m not saying they’re not nice, I’m just saying I’m really lazy.

    Nik,

    I have seriously considered an MT solution. MT Photoblogs do work very well. The problem is, if at all possible, I want to avoid CGI and rebuilding as much as possible. Back when I ran MT, that was simply too much work.

    As it stands right now, I’ll be looking into Minigal or TinyWebGallery in the near future. That is, unless something better comes along?

  17. Jonas Rabbe says:

    Joen

    My only worry is that it seems there?s a lot of WP hacking involved

    I must admit, I don’t think it’s that bad. All you have to do is make a theme, my guess is that it involves less hacking than Doug’s MT implementation.

    Anyway, making a gallery in wordpress is on my todo list, although I have more urgent tasks it is becoming more pressing as the number of images in my library is expanding exponentially since I’ve gotten my new Nikon D70.

    I expect to have a gallery up in the next month, then you can have a look at the theme I create and see what you think. Maybe I should make a Kubrick for photo blogs theme…

  18. Joen says:

    I expect to have a gallery up in the next month, then you can have a look at the theme I create and see what you think. Maybe I should make a Kubrick for photo blogs theme…

    A good idea, and I’ll be very interested for sure.

  19. AkaXakA says:

    Joen, great research!

    I’ve been searching for actual usable galleries myself and have been dismayed by the status of them.

    Can’t wait for the Zen Gallery, the one perfect gallery!

  20. I know I am late to this party, but other than saying that rocks that you listed my Visuals, I would be willing to here what you would need added.

    I am working on making a proper plugin for it now, and might be able to give you what you need.

    You have my email, if you are interested drop me a line. Even if you are happy with what you have now, I would love to hear what you would have wanted added, it might benefit others.

  21. craig says:

    im just about to start building a cms gallery site for college……

    anyone know where i can get a good tuorial…..have to build from scratch so none of these plug and play type offerings allowed.

    want to have cms to upload and resize images into folders and sub folders

  22. Subscribing to the comments on this one. Post if you come up with something 🙂

  23. Just wanted to let you know that Markku is working on an upgrade of iPAP.

    Features to be expected:

    1. Admin interface conversion to MySQL
    2. Presentation layer conversion to MySQL

    3. Automatic thumbnails

    4. Simpler template tags, OOP style

    5. Import script from old flat?file database

    6. New template

    7. Code cleanup

    8. Comments [?]

    9. Automatic resize on upload

    10. Flash?based cropping tool [?]

  24. I used iPAP for a while and quite liked it; though Markku seemed to have abandoned it, so I stopped using it since it had a few deficiencies.

  25. Yeah, well don’t the new features look great? 🙂 (Remember that iPAP is pretty much a one-man project. Markku never really abandoned it, though it might’ve seemed like that.)

  26. Have you tried Plogger yet?

    It has some nice features that I have yet to find elsewhere, comments on pictures are possible and it comes with a CC by-sa licence that, while not GPL, opens at least the possibility to tinker with it in order to enhance it.

    On the down side, alas, no RSS (yet) and ‘crufted’ URLs (fixable through mod_rewrite?)

  27. Ramin says:

    Pixelpost allows you to upload a bulk of images using ftp. What you need with pixelpost is the copy-folder addon which is included inside the official release.

    Good luck.

  28. Joen says:

    Update to email subscribers of this thread: Plogger is a good solution (Thanks Serge). View a demo install right here.

    Plogger is easy to use, very nice, does exactly what I want it to, and fills most of my criteria.

    • FTP Upload
    • Auto thumbnails
    • Comments
    • XHTML/CSS based out of the box
    • Nice install
    • Works with PHP Safe Mode
    • Great admin system

    On the downside, Plogger lacks in the following areas:

    • No RSS
    • Cruft in URLs (hackable)
    • Images are uploaded into the “uploads” folder, and then moved to the “images” folder. I’m not sure how identical filenames are handled, but all pictures are flatly stored in the “images” folder, and manually tagged/separated/categorized via the SQL. This is the only area in which Photostack is much better. Very uncool.

    I have yet to explore how the template system works, but it seems very simple to manage.

  29. Mike J. says:

    Joen — Hello, I am the lead developer for the Plogger project. Thanks for mentioning Plogger in your gallery research, I’m sorry you find our flat-file organization “Very uncool.” ;). Just wanted to let you know that duplicate filenames are handled gracefully (by enumerated renaming), and we believe that a file level organization is superflous given that MySQL stores the proper organization in its tables. Since the images directory is managed by the software, what would be the benefit of directory level organization? I guess it couldn’t hurt, but the script derives all of its organizational data from the database, not the file system.

    Also, I thought I should mention to your readers that RSS support and cruft-free URLs are on the horizon for the next release. Also, please drop me a line if you have any gripes or feature requests (besides the ones already listed), I’d love to hear from you.

  30. Joen says:

    Mike,

    It’s a pleasure to hear from you. This article is realy starting to bear fruit.

    I have updated the article to reflect recent developments.

    As for feature requests, I will contact you personally. This comment is just to elaborate why a flat file structure for the photos is uncool, and also why it’s very uncool in the way that it sort of keeps me from migrating away from Photostack.

    Basically, I have fotos in folders on my own computer. One folder for each photo album. It’s easy to work with, and simple to understand. Having it stored in the same way in my online photo album has the following benefits:

    • FTP operations are drastically easier.

      I can find, replace / delete / rename files without looking through 1000 files. I know this could probably be added to the admin system, but IMHO, that is unnecessary clutter. People are used to folders.

    • What if the SQL crashes?

      That would mean a re-indexing of all files. I know, backup! Still, it’s a problem.

    These issues may sound minor, but to me they weigh in quite heavily. If I have one feature request, it is to allow people to store photo albums in descriptive folders via the FTP.

  31. Ryan Duff says:

    I agree with the directory structure. I think in the long run, for a re-import plogger could grab the collections, albums, pictures from the structure and create everything automatically with no user intervention.

    Mike: lets work on this, I’ll bring it up in my next email to you.

  32. craig says:

    am building my gallery for college project – using jupload for multiple uploads…….just a recommendation really. was easy to implememt and has lots of cool features. just at the upload multi file and resize at moment but there are plenty more built in functions…..

  33. Trevor says:

    Having a directory structure is a must (for me), and if the only thing holding you back from adding that as a feature is that it seems unnecessary – it’d be really nice to have it.

    I’d be really interested in a WordPress plugin from Chris J Davis.

    Also, I wonder why nobody is picking up Photostack? If you look at the site, it seems that the project is waiting for contribution, or a fork. Maybe people just like to start with their own code, or maybe Photostack is too buggy… I dunno…

    Plogger looks really nice – and it appears that WordPress integration might not be too far off. I’ll give it a whirl. If it gets integrated into WordPress, will it become GPL, or is it going to stick to CC?

  34. Joen says:

    Also, I wonder why nobody is picking up Photostack? If you look at the site, it seems that the project is waiting for contribution, or a fork. Maybe people just like to start with their own code, or maybe Photostack is too buggy… I dunno…

    If I am to believe Noel, the lead developer of Photostack , Photostack will never have comments as a feature. I respect his opinion, but it is also why I need to migrate.

    Another reason why Photostack isn’t being picked up (I think), is because the code is a mess. Talented developer Tristan tried dissecting it and noted the following :

    Joen ? I have tried dissecting photostack to fix many bugs, and it?s unfortunately atrocious on the inside. While is does use object orientation, it ends up just blowing up the code and making it wholly incomprehensible. The whole thing is built in a single file and I think taking the time to do it my own way would actually be faster than attempting to understand and modify the existing code.

  35. thinsoldier says:

    If you intend to make your photo gallery fit within the visual style of your website,…STAY AWAY FROM COPPERMINE.

  36. Totoro says:

    >thinsoldier : I don’t agree with you. Have a look to a website I’ve done : http://www.mathis-lambert.net

    I agree its not really easy, but you can do it

    > Joen : I’m doing the same search as you (the Holly Graal ?). The little difference is that I’m looking for a CMS tha integrates Photo Gallery AND blog pages … Didn’t find any at this time 🙁

  37. Joen says:

    To the subscribers of this thread:

    I have described in better detail what I want to see in a Photo Gallery CMS. Additionally, I have summed up the current best solutions.

    http://www.noscope.com/journal/2005/05/ultimate-photo-cms

  38. Jorg R?dsj? says:

    I agree with Ryan and Joen. If Plogger can use a directory-structure for storing images, then it would be the silver bullet of galleries when combined with cruft-free urls and rss.

  39. Blinks says:

    I dont see how pixelpost is brought into it. It’s not intended to be a gallery, its a photoblog.

  40. Joen says:

    Blinks,

    I brought in Pixelpost because it is such a good piece of photoblogging software, that it was worth considering for this.

    This not only shows that Pixelpost is good, but also that the landscape of photo galleries has been bleak.

    All my recommendations to Pixelpost on part of photobloggers.

  41. h3 says:

    Just wanted to plug some software I wrote, called ochiba (http://ochiba.x-maru.org/). I think it covers most of the features you requested, although it is a little different in approach than standard photo gallery software (more discussion oriented, in the default layout).

    Most design is in CSS and it uses a PEAR templating system for most of the HTML, so I like to think it’s fairly easily hacked…

  42. cyrus007 says:

    Singapore @ singapore.sf.net is quite a nice and clean photo album software which I have been using on our website for quite some time now. Very easy to give multiple templates for the same set of images. I have two, 1 for normal browsers and 2 for cell phones/mobile devices (http://hindi.bizland.com/newdcc/gallery/).

  43. craig says:

    hey.

    i have just made myself a photo gallery site. its using php mysql for backend……

    probably not what all u guys are looking for but id be interested to see what u thought!!

    i use jupload java applet to make multiple uploads of images which are resized in GD.

    its at http://www.craiglongmuir.com

  44. Dave says:

    Id reccomend Gallery 2. its the best photoblog/CMS ive run into. the community is HUGE and it plugs into just about anything and has features that nobody else has. check it out at Gallery.Menalto.com or gallery.sourceforge.net

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  46. Sturmgas says:

    I was also looking for an understandable gallerysystem. One which is not that difficult to manipulate. After looking into it there where only 2 contesters indeed mg2 (minigal) and zenpoto. What did it for me was the abbility to edit/delite comments in Zenphoto. Havent installed and up and running it but that is matter of time.

  47. Steven says:

    Thanks…. this was a very helpful read.

  48. Wenche says:

    Tried Pixelpost, but even though I’m quite an expert with tweaking templates in WordPress, I just couldnt manage to edit the templates without destroying the templates and URLs within it.. Uninstalled now.

  49. Tristan says:

    Zenphoto is in active development again — http://www.zenphoto.org

    All the features requested above are now implemented, and it’s becoming a very mature product.

    Shameless plug, but I believe it’s a good solution if anyone’s looking.

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