Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hunting for a self-hosted photo gallery

A friend asked me for my advice for software she could use to host photos on her website.  I've been out of the gallery game for some time, but I started by checking out the old favourites I was familiar with.


Gallery

This is one I used personally for many years, though not recently.  I read a few barbs that complained it was aging poorly, and might be in need of a complete rewrite.  The 3.x series code has been in development since 2008, so there may be some truth to that.  Without the chance for a full install I had to rely on a test drive on OpenSourceCMS, a demo site.  With no photos loading up the database I can't say how the performance is, but I found the default look pleasing enough and the admin panel was fluid and intuitive.  Both the outside look and admin areas are themeable, and themes are downloadable from the project site.  For a test drive,  click here.

Coppermine

Some of the reviews I read complained it lacked a usable admin panel and simple configuration.  I found the admin panel acceptable, although very basic.  This might be appealing if it were not for the lack of easy theming.  If you want to change the look of this picture software, you won't be doing it from the web interface. Try the demo for yourself.

Now, onto the new: of couple of contenders I hadn't heard of: 4images and Zenphoto.

4images in its default skin looked... dated, like it developed a default skin in 2002 and never changed it.  It was clearly skinned by a programmer, not a designer, and the technical feel extends into the control panel.  It lacks the friendly feel of Gallery and the super spartan approach of Coppermine.  Links are on the side menu, and there are a lot of fields to tinker with.  It will probably be intimidating for the average user who just wants a personally-hosted replacement for the more simple feeling social media picture hosting sites they use now.  Anyway, if you have design chops, there is the ability to make it look better on the outside.  I ducked around and saw a number of pleasing installations on the web.  For a look at the default appearance and admin functions, visit the CMS demo.

Last: Zenphoto, which was supposedly was worth a look, owing to good looks and a low-learning curve.  So I clicked on their own demo site, and this is what I saw:



I guess they're awfully sure of their upgrades being successful, given that they didn't bother to check.  Perhaps that's a good thing? Or perhaps I should continue my search?

Anyway, it was back to my favorite demo site for another try.  And I liked it!  Of the four, ZP looks and feels the most modern.  The admin panel is even nicer than Gallery and the theming looks very simple (with 5 themes preinstalled).

Were I in the market, I'd start with a test run of Zenphoto, then try Gallery if I wasn't satisfied.  For a sample of the Zen experience, go here.

Addendum

Kudos are due to Zenphoto for finding this article and responding to me in about 12 hours, despite the fact that I hadn't contacted them yet.

Update: Jan 2014

After some painful upgrades with Zen, reminiscent of the error screen above, I decided to go with Gallery instead. While it's less beautiful to behold, I can't complain about the stability.