When it comes to designing web pages, simpler is usually better, especially for online photo galleries. Displaying fewer images per page at larger sizes not only looks better at a glance, but makes it easier for your visitors to appreciate your photography. Don’t try to show everything at once; instead, pair or group similar or related images together to create a stronger sense of theme.
It’s pretty much expected these days that if you’re a photographer, you’ll have some kind of web gallery. The good news is that you don’t have to know very much about how the web works to create a home on the web for your photos.
If you’re going to build your own site (rather than using an online service that does everything for you), the first thing you’ll need is a web domain and hosting plan.
If you’re an Apple MobileMe subscriber, website hosting is included in the deal. If this doesn’t apply to you, or if you’d prefer a custom domain, like “www.wesphotos.com,” you’ll need to set up a domain and hosting plan. We won’t go into the details of that process here, but it’s relatively painless. Yahoo!, 1and1.com and many others offer inexpensive domain registration and hosting plans for photographers. You’ll want to get this step done first, so that your hosting can be all set up and ready to go.
You basically have three choices when it comes to building a web gallery. You can build it yourself. You can use features in software like Photoshop and Aperture to do most of the building for you. Or, you can use an online service to handle the whole thing.
We’re going to look primarily at the first two options in this article, chiefly because the online services make it so easy, so there’s not a lot to explain.
So how do you choose which is right for you? Well, if you’re like me, you’re a control freak and you’d rather face a learning curve than suffer at the hands of a template. For us, there’s Dreamweaver and other web-authoring tools to build a site from scratch. Yes, this route takes some time, trial and error, but you’ll ultimately have total control over every aspect of your website’s design and functionality. With this approach, the only limit is the time you’re willing to spend learning.
Using Photoshop, Aperture or another image-processing application that includes a web gallery-creation function is a middle ground between building your own site and using an online service. You’ll still need to set up your own domain and hosting, and learn how to upload files to your site, but you won’t have to worry about writing HTML code, because your software will do this part for you.
If you don’t mind a template and really aren’t that interested in learning to build your own site, then check out some of our recommendations for online services later in this article. Also, these end-to-end solutions are probably the best route for you if you want to sell images from your site, as e-commerce gets a little more complicated than what we’ll tackle here.
Building A Web Gallery From Scratch
For the most flexibility and control over your web gallery, you’ll want to learn some basic HTML and build your own pages. It’s not as difficult as you might think, even if you’re starting with no prior knowledge of computer code. In the example here, I’ve built a simple gallery of two pages-one with vertical images and one with horizontals. Each page has a clean design and simple navigation to get you from one page to another and to send me an e-mail.
Once you learn to build simple web pages like these, you’ll have the basic skills you need to create much more sophisticated pages. It takes a lot more space than we have here to teach you these skills in the context of this article. So, we’ve put a step-by-step tutorial on our website at www.pcphotomag.com/build-a-website. There you can download all of the source files as well as easy-to-follow instructions that’ll take you through the whole process.
To complete this tutorial, you’ll need any image-processing program, as well as software to edit the HTML code. This can be done in something as simple as a text editor, but software like Adobe Dreamweaver will make it much easier.
Automatic Galleries With Photoshop & Aperture
If you’re not ready to jump into writing your own HTML but you want to host your own site, you can create web galleries with your photo software. Many applications offer this capability. There also are plug-ins for Photoshop, such as Media Lab’s SiteGrinder (www.medialab.com), which can help you make sophisticated websites from within Photoshop. For our purposes here, though, we’ll stick to the basic gallery-creation features built in to Photoshop and Aperture.
In Photoshop, start by creating an empty folder on your desktop that’ll eventually contain all of the files you’ll upload to your web server. Call this folder anything you want. Create another folder and place in it all of the images you want to add to your gallery.
Launch Photoshop, and select File > Automate > Web Photo Gallery. This will launch a dialog box where you set up the gallery options. The first drop-down menu displays the styles of gallery templates available. I chose the default “Center Frame 1-Basic.” In the e-mail box, type your e-mail address if you want a link on your gallery for people to send you mail; if not, leave this blank.
Next, select the folder where you placed the images for the gallery, then the destination folder for the gallery files (the folder you created on your desktop).
Finally, set the options for your site. You can change your site’s name, info about you, fonts, the sizes of your images, color schemes, security and copyright settings and more. When you’re satisfied, click OK.
That’s all there is to it. Photoshop will now work a little magic behind the scenes, creating the HTML and files you’ll need for your site, and will launch your default browser so you can preview your gallery. If you want to make changes, launch the Web Photo Gallery dialog again. If you’re satisfied, all you have to do is upload the files in your desktop folder to the root folder of your website.
In Aperture, creating a web gallery is a little different. Instead of a menu command, you create your galley as a subset of an existin
g project folder. Right-click on the project that contains the photos you want to use and select New > Web Page.
Next, in the image browser, select all of the images you want to include and drag and drop them as a group onto the icon for the web page in the Projects pane. Now all of your images are added to the gallery page. Click to edit the default titles and copyright info and set the number of columns and rows and image sizes with the controls at the top of the workspace. When you’re satisfied, click Export Web Pages, and Aperture will automatically create a folder on your desktop with all of the files you need to upload to your website’s root folder.
Using An Online Service
If you’re not ready to work with your own domain and web hosting, there are plenty of options for sharing your photos online. Free services like Flickr do a nice job, but they’re pretty basic.
Online services like ExpressDigital’s PhotoReflect.com make it easy to set up a professional site complete with e-commerce.
If you want to sell your photos, you’re probably better off with a complete solution like those offered by SimplePhoto (www.simplephoto.com), liveBooks (www.livebooks.com), Digital Railroad (www.digitalrailroad.net) and ExpressDigital’s PhotoReflect.com (www.photoreflect.com).
These solutions can be expensive, so they’re not for everyone, but they make it easy to create attractive e-commerce sites and offer tools to help manage your photo business. If you’re a working photographer and you know you want to put your business online, explore these options first and then decide which approach to the web is best for you.