HowTo: My journey through self-hosted photo gallery approaches

Quite soon after creating this blog I found that it is also the perfect place to present selections of my photographs.

During that time I was already using Adobe Lightroom. If I remember correctly it was still version 1.X, but it already had a convenient one-click solution to create web-based galleries out of a collection of photos. So I could easily create one and upload the resulting folder to my webserver. I even was able to customize the generated configuration file in order to modify the title and description of the Flash-based gallery player. And here comes the downside. It was based on Shockwave/Macromedia/Adobe Flash, a nightmare regarding security and stability. Aside from this, mobile devices have become more and more popular that did not support Flash and introduced a completely different way on how to interact with a website. Remember the first time when you were using a swipe gesture to browse through images? An this Responsive web design that allowed you to view webpages and its elements in a size that fit well the screen of your device and not vice versa?

A new technology was needed. On my shopping list I had of course a Free Software-compatible license. It must be simple with no overhead like yet another LAMP-based websuite that needs to be maintained in addition to my other sites. Most importantly it should support these modern meanwhile essential UI/UX paradigms. I ended up with Exactly what I have been looking for and I would still highly recommend it. So I migrated all my galleries by writing a quick & dirty parser to transform Lightrooms gallery config files and the underlying directory structure to the new way of doing things. I even was able to automatically generate new galleries via a Bash-script.

Time passed by and at a certain point I got slightly annoyed by all the manual work. I furthermore wanted to have a way to assign a visibility permission to specific images or whole galleries in order to not just have the option to share them publicly. Moreover LAMP-based websuite have become more and more user- and especially admin-friendly and meanwhile offer even an automatic update feature in case that a new release becomes available. Woohoo!

So currently I am going with Piwigo. Full stack required: Apache, MySQL, PHP and ImageMagick. But it works like a charm. I especially like the bulk upload functionality via FTP and then to synchronize the file system in order to reflect the latest additions or changes in your gallery folders with the database. And they have an App that works with my currently preferred mobile operarting system. The only thing I am really not happy with is that I did not find a single Theme that looks and feels nice and at the same time is actively maintained. For now I am using one of the default themes that look quite old-fashioned … sorry to say.

Let’s see where the journey takes me next. I have heard from a colleague that WP/LR Sync is quite promising as it offers a straight way to directly sync Lightroom with the default media gallery of WordPress. Or maybe I will first and finally reconsider my choice of image management software after a decade with Lightroom. Darktable looks very promising and is Free Software.