Over the past two years my photo gallery has been populated with countless pictures of all the places and events I have visited. When it first went online it was also seeded with pictures dating back many years, some of the pictures were in fact so old that they had been scanned in from prints which came from the first film camera I’d ever owned.
Times change though and while the gallery (powered by Gallery2) did the job, there were problems. Server load seemed to be a significant issue. Load spikes happened sporadically and plugins which allowed the gallery to work with WordPress compounded the problem. There was also complexities involved in uploading photos. A gallery had to be created, the pictures uploaded to the server, and then the location of these uploads “pointed out” to the gallery script so they could be “imported” to the gallery its self. These initial uploads then had to be deleted to free up space. While uploading pictures direct was possible it was laborious for large galleries such as the kind you create when you return from holiday. Adding titles, captions and comments was also a hassle to the extent where I decided not to do it at all.
I sought a new gallery solution which would primarily address the server load issues but also bring other benefits and found it in the lightweight photo gallery software known as ZenPhoto. The primary attraction was the incredibly small install size of around 1Mb (taking into account that I required few of the plugins and only one theme). This brought with it the performance boosts one would expect from a smaller but well written code base.
The added bonus is the features. There is a file based upload system. You create a gallery in the web interface. This creates a directory on the server. You then upload your original digital camera photos to this directory. ZenPhoto then does the rest; ensuring uploaded pictures are added to the database and that thumbnails and smaller representations of the images are cached. As all this is done on the fly as pictures are viewed rather than all at once, server loads are kept down still further.
Another nice feature is that because the original photos are more easily retained a link can be provided to download the image direct, meaning those with a desire to order prints can do so without contacting me. While retaining the original was an option with Gallery2 it never seemed quite as intuitive and simple to do as it is with ZenPhoto.
Also provided is a built in reader for EXIF data contained within images. While Gallery2 had this feature it came as a plugin (which no doubt incurred performance issues) and needed to be added to your theme. While I’m sure not everyone wants this, I do and indeed consider that it should be standard in all online photo galleries.
The final seriously nice thing is the AJAX supported themes. Simply put this allows you to quickly upload a gallery as described above (in pretty much the same time it takes your connection to upload the images) and then as you step through the images for the first time (I always used to do this anyway to check things were OK) you can add a title and caption to each image by just clicking your cursor on the field, editing the content and clicking submit. The form lets you know when its saved and you can then move onto the next image. It strikes me that this feature alone means that in the time it took me to merely get a large gallery of photos uploaded with Gallery2, I can get them uploaded and also add titles and captions with ZenPhoto.
There is of course the option to customise the URL structure of galleries with ZenPhoto so that when the time comes in the near future to move all my past galleries to the new setup I won’t have to trawl my site updating links which is always nice.
You will no doubt notice that only one gallery is currently online (the long awaited photos of my graduation) but rest assured the other photos will follow soon so the gallery is back to its former glory. Please play around with the new features and leave some comments on some of the pictures if you fancy doing so.
If you like the new gallery or particularly if you decide try out ZenPhoto (or even to use it on your site) I’d be interested to hear from you in comments.