I’ve been checking out photo gallery software online, trying to find one that does exactly what I want. Of course, part of that search involves figuring out exactly what I want from gallery software.
Currently my gallery is powered by Gallery2, and while there is nothing wrong with it, I wish it did more. The organizational structure (nested albums) lends itself well to event-based photography, which until recently was all I ever had a need or desire for. I love that it’s customizable; I can change themes, and install modules until it looks like I want, and does almost anything I want. Permissions can be assigned to nearly every task, allowing only registered members to vote on photos, or requiring a password to view certain galleries. Basically, I love that I have complete, neurotic control over every minute detail. But while I like the control, I’m starting to outgrow the nested album style of organization. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk, and take some silly pictures just to play with settings and learn what I can do. If they turn out nice, I’d like to post them to the gallery, but where? They don’t really fit into any of the existing albums, so do I just leave them loose, on the top level? Or do I make a “random” album and drop them in there? In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a bit neurotic about having things all put away and organized.
This is where Flickr tempts me. I don’t like the loss of absolute control, but I really prefer the organizational style. It’s like my Outlook to Gmail conversion; while Gmail has been my primary email address for a year or two now, I’ve only recently converted to using the web interface. Previously, I had been using Outlook , with it’s directory-style email storage. With the switch to the web interface, comes the use of Gmail’s organizational scheme; labels rather than folders. At first I hated labels, just because I was used to folders. But then I discovered exactly what I could do with labels, rather than folders. Email messages could have multiple labels, and show up under each label without needing to copy the email message to multiple folders. Flickr has tagging (which can also be accomplished with Gallery2, via plug-ins), but it also has sets and collections. A set is like a folder, and yet not. Photos can belong to multiple sets, a single set, or to no set at all. The sets can be grouped into collections, and those collections can be grouped into higher order collections. A good example – I took photos at weddings this summer. As I am wont to do, I ended up taking some photos at the wedding, that had absolutely nothing to do with the wedding (nature shots of the outdoors, etc.) With Gallery2, I would need to decide if they were going in the album with the wedding photos, or in another Nature shots album, since they can’t go in both. With Flickr, I wouldn’t have that problem – the photos could go in the set of photos from that wedding, and whatever other set I wanted. I could create a Collection of sets for Family Events where each set is photos from an event, and another Collection for Wedding Prep, with the actual Wedding Set belonging to both collections.
So this is my conundrum; I like how Flickr organizes photos, but I prefer having the control of Gallery2. I would actually consider springing for a Flickr Pro account, because honestly $25 a year isn’t bad for unlimited photos and unlimited bandwidth. But if I could find a free, self-hosted alternate (like Gallery2), I would seriously consider that as well. At the moment I’m trying to determine if there’s a way I can make Gallery2 more like Flickr, but I suspect it isn’t possible. So, do I sacrifice absolute control to get an organizational scheme I like, or stick with absolute control but remain unhappy with how photos are stored?