Gallery2 vs. Zenphoto

While I’ve been tagging and organizing my backlog of photos, I’ve been thinking about what to do with them when I’m finally ready to start displaying them. Currently the photo gallery is powered by Gallery2, which is ok, but probably does a bit more than I need. My plan is to eventually move everything over to, including this blog, the (potential) “family” blog and the photo gallery. Since I’ll be setting up a new gallery, I’ll have a clean slate and so I’ve been investigating options to find the software that best matches what I want and need. At the moment, the main contenders are the old standby, Gallery2, and a relatively newer solution, Zenphoto.

The biggest criteria to start with is IPTC metadata support. I use Lightroom to tag and organize my photos, including such information as location, title, names of people, photo description and more, all of which is stored in the IPTC headers of each image. I don’t want to have to replicate all that data, so photo software that can parse and display IPTC headers is essential. Both Gallery2 and Zenphoto manage IPTC data with no problem; Zenphoto actually appears to parse out the location information as well as title, description and tags, while Gallery2 only parses out title, description and tags.

I’d love to have software that can manage dynamic or relational albums, so that one image can appear in multiple albums. Unfortunately, Flickr is the only solution I’ve seen that will keep the original photo in multiple locations, with all the comments. Gallery2’s best solution is to make a copy of the image and place a copy in each album, which is less than ideal. Zenphoto has a solution I’m still investigating, which is “saved searchs;” a search can be saved, and will appear as a gallery that can be browsed. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but a definite step in the right direction and the closest I’ve seen any other gallery option come to Flickr.

Zenphoto, for all it’s good points, is not without bugs. The first issue I came across is the inability to create empty galleries. Not a huge issue – you can make albums via FTP, and upload images that way. But using the admin interface, I couldn’t create an album without putting at least one image in it. A little frustrating if you want to create a top level album to hold sub-albums. Another issue is the inability to move photos or albums; apparently there is not yet a way to move things while retaining the comments and such. There are also a few features I’d like to see implemented in future versions of Zenphoto – the ability to re-upload a photo (to replace a photo with a touched up version, while preserving the comments), and the ability to choose what portion of the photo is used for the thumbnail.

Between the two gallery options, it’s a tough choice. Gallery does almost everything I want, plus a lot more that I don’t really want or need. It’s a bit larger, and more difficult for me to maintain on my own. On the other hand, Zenphoto does the basics, without some of the extras. It doesn’t do as much as Gallery, but I prefer the way it does some things. Zenphoto was easy to install, and looks to be easier to maintain. In the end, I’ll probably go with Zenphoto – it doesn’t do everything I want, but it does everything I NEED, and it’s prettier.

7 thoughts on “Gallery2 vs. Zenphoto”

  1. thanks for your informative review. there is just one thing to add: the search of gallery2 is very limited. if you need boolean search (AND/OR.. operators) go with zenphoto.

  2. thanks for the fine review, I suggest ZP, as it’s easier installation and maintenance and powerful enough for most users. as Gallery is over powered and slow.

  3. From my quick playing around with Zenphoto 1.2, it appears that you can move photos from one album to another while preserving comments. You still can’t make an empty album though.

    1. Actually, you can create empty albums – from the admin screen, just create an album, and don’t upload any photos.

  4. ZenPhoto is better than you think.

    I have all sorts of top level albums with no images in them, just sub-albums with images.

    ZenPhoto even grabs thumbnails from these sub-albums and uses them for the top-level albums.

    Finally, I can create these directories/albums either via FTP or the admin screen. It makes no difference. It works.

    Were you using an old version perhaps?

  5. If you decide to use Zenphoto, get ready for constant updates. Since Jan. 2012 there have been 6 updates, almost monthly (Jan 15, Feb 2, March 1, April 4, July 1 and Aug 2)! Not so bad if you maintain one Zenphoto site, but if you are a web developer and support 3 or more with this software, be prepared to set aside at least a day per month to backup, update, test and fix your customized themes for all of them!

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