In my previous post, 50by50 – Getting my digital stuff together – Photo gallery – Part 1 of 5 (16a1), I talked about the various approaches I have taken to hosting my photo gallery online — self-hosted, merged with Vimeo / DailyMotion / Youtube for videos, and then SmugMug. But I’ve always wanted to re-patriate the files to my main server, and my new hoster will let me do that now. Sign me up! Oh, wait, I’m already signed up!
The “oh wait” moment was that I realized that I don’t have a good solution anymore for managing galleries and videos on my site. I had a separate install of Piwigo, and it caused a huge load problem with my old hosting solution. Except I realized looking back, it didn’t. It was a plugin in WP that caused the problem, and I had it again with WP on the NEW hoster later. But they were able to fix it. It wasn’t Piwigo. So I could go with Piwigo again (a full separate software install, not just added to WordPress). Or I could try finding a fully integrated solution within WordPress itself.
Lots of people run photo sites with WP as the engine. I’ve tried it in the past, even paid for some apps to try the full version when the trial version looked promising. But I’ve never found a great solution for me. It was worth a try again, but I would have three giant caveats.
First and foremost, it couldn’t mess up my media library. WordPress has a media library where it keeps your uploaded pics and videos. The default version doesn’t have much in the way of abilities to quickly sort or manipulate groups of files, so the last thing I want is 5000 pics and videos all in one little library. Whatever solution I use has to have an ability to create separate media libraries or galleries, or at least allow me to categorize and manipulate them in smaller groups.
Second, it has to handle video. There’s no real point in installing a picture gallery if I can’t manage the videos too — that’s the whole reason I struggled previously. I don’t want to keep doing it manually. If I had to do that, I might as well leave it with SmugMug.
Third, the plugin has to work relatively simply and seamlessly. Some of the ones in the past have had really complicated taxonomies, or hierarchies that made no real sense. I’m not talking simply counter-intuitive, I mean completely backwards logic. Photos go in albums, albums go in sets, sets might form a gallery. The words come from the physical world. But lots of programmers have inverted those taxonomies to put images in sets that go in galleries that then go in albums(???) at the top of the hierarchy. WTF?
If it isn’t making my life easier, and those are the three criteria, I might as well pass. So I decided to give ten plugins a try in WordPress and see how it would go.
This is the most popular gallery in WordPress, hundreds of thousands of users. And I have NEVER been able to get it to work reliably. It’s possible it conflicts with my theme choice, although I’m not sure why. It’s powerful, and it doesn’t mess up the media library. I hear its logic is stable, understandable and works. I don’t know. Because this time around, all I got was the white screen of death — it apparently conflicts with the security plugin I’m using, which blocks part of its pop-up screens for creating galleries. And while I could dance on the head of a pin to make it work, it won’t handle videos anyway. Strike.
B. Photo Gallery by Web Dorado
This one is also popular, and while I wasn’t sure how it was handling the media library or workflows, in the end, it didn’t matter — it handles video only by embeds from other sites (like YouTube), it won’t handle directly-hosted i.e. uploaded videos. Foul ball, strike two.
I feel a bit harsh on this one. From my perspective, Envira is basically crippleware. It says it can and will do all sorts of wonderful things. Which you can try by buying “this” plugin along with “that” addon. Strike three. One batter out.
At this point in the process, I’m looking at plugins that have over 50K users using them, and FG seemed promising for video and workflows. Except it completely messed up the internal media library. Strike one.
E. Huge IT Image Gallery
Like Envira, it has limited options without a bunch of other plugins, and no video. Strike two.
F. Portfolio Gallery
I was hopeful for this one, as it had video options, but like the Photo Gallery by Web Dorado, it only shows embedded videos, not directly-hosted. Strike three, second batter out.
G. Photo Gallery by Supsystic
Of all the galleries, I think this one was the coolest. It has a round layout, and the photos looked awesome in it. I don’t know if I would want it for all photos in my gallery, but as an option, it looked good. But it was tied into the existing media library, and it could only show videos that were already posted / embedded. Strike one.
H. Gallery by bestwebsoft
I was feeling a bit desperate at this point. I had worked my way through all the big names in photo galleries in the repository, and was now down to plugins with less than 50K users. Not looking hopeful at this point, and this one was no different. Pretty basic, and it was integrated with the existing media library. Never even got to figure out workflows or if it would handle video. Strike two.
I. Existing commercial galleries
As I mentioned, I had tried some commercial galleries previously. Social Gallery plugin was one that I tried a couple of years ago when I was hosting the videos elsewhere, and I thought at the time that I would try to just embed them. Except it has no real video options. Foul ball.
I also tried Global Gallery aka WordPress Responsive Gallery, but it too had no video options. Another foul ball.
The most promising one from the past was one called DZS Video Gallery. It has ways to handle locally hosted videos, it is separate from the media library and while a bit raw for workflow, I liked it enough previously to buy andgive the full version a try. Except it never worked. I couldn’t get it configured correctly previously, and the creator offered to fully log in to my site to get it configured properly if I just gave him my full login and password, serving info, maybe the name of my first pet or parent’s middle name. Yeah, it sounded sketchy. Maybe he was on the up and up, but after buying something that he swore worked out of the box, and given I have a relatively vanilla install, the fact that it wasn’t working was not creating much in the way of trust. I just couldn’t get it to integrate and play, and I wasn’t willing to hand over admin privileges to someone halfway around the world that I didn’t know. I tried to get a refund at the time, but no luck. Live and learn, right? Anyway, I tried it again since I already own it, updated the download, still didn’t work.
Strike three, WordPress is out! Or was it?
While WP wasn’t working with standalone gallery plugins, or at least not easily, I didn’t give up on it. I tried a bunch of other plugins that allowed me to manage my media library in different ways, essentially letting JetPack and WordPress handle my gallery on their own, but it was either too manual or didn’t integrate with video. In the end, some of the galleries were pretty good looking, but I just needed another solution, preferably a better one too.