Web Photo Galleries
|Background: I use web galleries on several of my sites.
On this site I use them for general photography -- often travel pictures.
On my Soccer-Shots.com site I built galleries of individual matches,
grouped for a particular season or match series. In the
past, building theses galleries has utilized a "brute force" method.
For those soccer galleries I would build an initial page with a single table, At the top I would build one, two, or three rows of cells, each cell containing a thumbnail photo. The large, lower cell would be for the featured image and a caption. I would make each thumbnail a selectable link and add some other navigation features. Then I would make as many individual copies of the starter page as there were photos of the match, numbering each in sequence. I'd go through and insert the proper photo in the lower cell, write the caption, and delete the link in the thumbnail for that particular page. Because of the "top-down" layout, it looked to users like the same page just had changing photos. However, looking at your browser's display, you'd see different pages. An example of this can be seen at Soccer-Shots.
For travel galleries I would usually insert a bunch of thumbnails into a table of contents (TOC) page and link to specific pages from those thumbnails or to the beginning of the series from a button. A common set of navigation buttons appeared next to the page header on individual photo pages. You can see the TOC in this site's travel section, as well as an example. Again -- brute force.
The pages were originally built with Microsoft's FrontPage 2003. FrontPage had good and bad points. It generated excess code, was sometimes inconsistent, had features that honestly did not work with any known browser (and that Microsoft knew did not work), wanted you to produce your site using Microsoft's vision of reality -- rather than your own, and a few other disagreeable habits. However, it did allow some repetitive tasks to be done with reasonable efficiency. Microsoft Web Expression (now in version 3) replaced and radically updated FrontPage and is finally aligned with standards.
The problem I faced was that the brute force method was tedious. The process was simple enough that no major technical problems ever surfaced -- you just had to keep all the pages straight in your mind. And you also had to make up your own rules regarding picture and thumbnail size, and a few other features.
I needed to find something a little better...Something that could improve my workflow.
Gallery Applications: A couple of years ago I started surfing around, looking on the web for gallery applications (see some sources at the bottom of this page). There are a number of applications out there, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. Some are pretty crude, and some are very elegant -- perhaps too elegant. As I looked through their features, I realized that I had, in the back of my mind, a few requirements that kept popping up. They were:
The Software: The first product I selected was a product called Web Gallery Wizard Pro (by a company then known as Komotion). While not being "perfect" (and that's a pretty subjective concept) it came closer to my needs than anything else I found. And the good news is that even as I started to use the software, it was being upgraded significantly -- with a name change to "Shozam". Web Gallery Wizard didn't support full frame thumbnails, and it was tied to a 800x600 format. I couldn't modify the templates without going into HTML editing, but the supplied ones were pretty nice and professional looking. These were comments I passed along to the designers.
Shozam was much improved, offering thumbnail options that include full frame, and the ability to modify the gallery/album templates. The 800x600 "problem" is less straightforward. While developing Shozam the designers had data indicating that 10-20% of web users are working at 800x600 resolution and many were using lower resolution. You really don't want to exclude a significant online population by sending them pages that don't fit their screens. Also, making images for rendering in an 800x600 format means fewer total bits -- and that helps folks who are on dialup. And as it turned out, Shozam allowed two switchable primary viewing formats -- the second being one that doesn't show thumbnails and thus frees up screen area for larger photos.
|Web Gallery Wizard
and Shozam in use:
I created a couple of galleries with Web Gallery Wizard for the travel section of this site. I planned on revamping all my galleries, but decided to waiting until the Shozam was released. I have also created two galleries with Shozam using the early Beta software. One duplicates my existing Poland, 2006 gallery on this site (made with Web Gallery Wizard), and the other is a rebuild of an album of photos from a Women's World Cup 2003 match. This allows some comparison between Shozam and Web Gallery Wizard, and between Shozam and my old, brute force method in FrontPage.
Shozam (and before that, Web Gallery Wizard) scaled your pictures automatically for web display, so there is not the full degree of control that some photographers want. However, If you want to make available some of your photographs that are more precisely controlled (in areas such as sharpness and the ratios of reduction from the original images) there is a way to satisfy that. Both Web Gallery Wizard and Shozam allow an option for viewers to see the source image. You activate this capability when you create or modify your gallery and the software builds the appropriate folders that you will upload -- one of them containing the source photos (the images for viewing are in the imgMed, imgLg, and imgOrig folders that Shozam generates). In Shozam this works out to three different size images available: (1) The smallest image in the traditional "QuickView" presentation (with thumbnails on the side), (2) a larger version in the "Large" view (no thumbnails), and (3) an image at whatever size you selected in the "Original" view -- which opens in new window that scales the photo to the window size.
So how do you prepare the images? I do my normal PhotoShop workflow -- cropping, color adjustment, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. Inside Shozam you designate the photos for your album and the resizing is performed by the software. If you choose the option to display the "Original" it will open in a new browser window at a scale adjusted to fit the viewer's display. Save the way you normally do, and make sure you do so in a manner that saves the photo's EXIF data.
If you have standard navigation features (buttons, for example) you an add those to Shozam pages using an HTML editing program. You can also build frames so that your gallery opens in one of them, and your buttons are in one or more other frames. Also, you may wish to use your own "favicon" and so will need to replace the Shozam favicon before you upload files.
How you upload galleries to your web host depends on the host. Mine is pretty straightforward using Ipswitch WS-FTP Pro. There is an upload feature included as the last step in the Shozam software, but I don't use it.
You can see my trial albums through the links below. Both Shozam albums were made by modifying the same template, the soccer album a little more extensively.
You can download the Gallery Theme Mockup and a Shozam Theme Editor worksheet here.
Shozam's Future? Shozam is set up for the screen resolutions of the past (800 x 600). This was marginally acceptable at the time of release, and behind the power curve within a year. That someone would pay $500 for the Business+ version (see below) and not be able to select the screen resolution would charitably be described as a serious oversight.
Today, you can't even install applications in the PhotoShop family onto computers with less than 1024 x 768 resolution. (The table that houses this page is hard set at a width of 975 pixels. That allows for a browser frame and a slider.) Word is that an upgraded edition is in the works...It was stated in July, 2009 that "We hear you and agree that the balance has shifted; we will have more to announce this fall."
prices for Shozam are $249.95 for the Business Edition and $499.95 for
the Business+ version. Business plus allows you to eliminate the "Generated by Shozam" link at the
bottom right corner of the gallery and albums.
Three other editions for personal use are: Lite ($24.95),
Express ($49.95), and Advanced ($99.95).
I'm not really looking for the commerce capabilities, but I need an extra line of text and the only way that works is through the HTML capability of the Business Edition. I think some of the Beta testers were surprised when the prices were announced, especially when compared the the pricing range of Web Gallery Wizard. (By way of comparison, Adobe's Photoshop® costs $649.00)
If you're serious about presenting your photographs, you should
consider spending a little time making sure your monitor is calibrated
-- to some extent. There is a range of solutions, from simple
light/dark/contrast adjustments, to those that use screen mounted
sensors, and even sensors that monitor ambient room light. The
problem is that there are millions of monitors out there, and most of
them were just hooked up and forgotten. That makes it difficult
for you images to be appreciated on their own merit. While you
can't solve their monitor problems, you can at least start out in
The simplest thing you can do is to make sure you have good blacks, good whites, and the right contrast steps between them. A simple online image you can use to make these adjustments can be found at the Photo Friday site. Fairly simple, but this will help you solve some common problems.
Past light/dark/contrast is the range of adjustments relating to color and gamma. Norman Koran's site has information on these more complex adjustments, as well as links to a number of resources.