Hosting your own photos/blog

Executive summary: Recommend me good “photo album” software for my website. Long story with details follow:

Now that I have a backup solution that should work for more than one computer (and the whole computer!), I’m starting to move things around, e.g. photos onto the family PC. Which gets to the issue of sharing family photos with family.

I have my own website. It’s how I’m able to host images like this:

Of course, that’s not the real reason I do it. The real reason I do it is for me to have, y’know, a place of my own, for more useful things such as my own projects (e.g. the NFL Rimbot) and, more to the point, family photos.

It’s had a large number of things in the past, from hand-crafted HTML to home-made PHP to (most recently) iWeb. iWeb was part of a well-intentioned move away from doing everything myself and having someone else manage the photos and writings, but that was a dismal failure due to the realization that iWeb sucks for more than a handful of photos and does bizarre things such as converting ordinary text into images.

I’ve made the decision that I’m going to let YouTube host my videos, but given the quantity of photos I’d like to host and the limited bandwidth required for 'em, I think I’m still best off hosting my own photos.

From my end, I need it to be something that I can export photos into albums easily. I can do it in two steps, converting them into a reasonable size/format from within iPhoto and letting the website software do the rest of the organization, conversion, thumbnails, etc.

It also needs to allow folks to browse a large number of photos easily, and it needs to produce a site that’s lightweight enough for a home DSL connection – e.g., unlike iWeb, the bulk of the load time should be waiting for the photo itself to load and not all of the associated widgets and decorations! And creating a popup to view the images is not desirable.

So… recommend away!

ZenPhoto is alright. I’ve been messign with Gallery2 lately.

that looks perfectly adequate for my needs… thanks, Aszurom!

I’ve never seen so many Simon’s in one place!

Gallery2 drives me batty, I kinda wish I’d just bit the bullet and gotten Flickr Pro instead. PM me if you want to see my gallery btw.

Been reviewing a few lately, and probably going to settle with Smug Mug although I’m using it for commercial purposes - not sure how well the freebie stuff compares.

About the simons… He’s collecting broken ones, wiring them into a disco light show wall unit that will perform to the beat of whatever he pumps through the stereo.

I’ve been using Plogger for years and I have not a bad thing to say about it.

Simply, light, fast, easy to use and blahdy blah. :)

Smug Mug has an app I can download and run on my own server? Shit, might have to just do that if that’s the case. My storage (but not bandwidth) requirements are far too heavy to use the Smug Mug service.

that is some serious, grade-A awesome right there

I use my own quick and dirty gallery written in Flash/Flex3 with a lightweight backend.

Some might consider Flash too “heavy” for a photo gallery, but Flash 9 is damn near ubiquitous and when you start doing things like automatic slideshows it is actually lighter weight and less annoying than AJAXy solutions, IMO. Also, the ability to do fullscreen slideshows and nice bilinear scaling to the correct dimensions of the user’s browser without relying on shitty browser resizing or forcing the user to pick different sizes ala Flickr and whatever is pretty sweet too.

I suppose this isn’t of much use to you though if you want it I’d be willing to share the code. The backend is and uses linq and sql server express so if you aren’t running on Windows it is pretty much a no-go, though the Flash bit may be reusable as a dumb photo client to another backend since it just uses pretty simple XML data from REST-like calls to the server.

This is probably overkill for what you’re doing, but if you ever find yourself in a position where a fuller content management system is actually possible, there are a few good ways to set up a system that will automatically pull everything (either from self-hosting or an external source) that will be a step above things like Gallery2 and such in that, with a little practice, you have a great deal more control over how it all works and looks. This can also be improvise to pull from an external host like Flickr without actually, I believe, landing your users on the site at any point (which is one of the important and common reasons some might prefer self-hosting). It’s pretty rewarding to explore this sort of option because it definitely pays off in the end.

For the seriously quick-and-dirty self-hosting, consider also running exports out of tools such as Picasa or Adobe. These will yield the basic pleasing thumbnail pages etc. (which I have informally tested on a fairly diverse audience). Even better in this area are extensions such as Carousel 3D Flash Slideshow which are free and easy exports that require very little thought. And again, if you do it under a CMS you can maintain a lot of control over the UI and the design with, in this case at least, somewhat minimal effort.

Whatever you do, if you do stick with self-hosting, be sure you always utilize caching on the backend.

Edit: Oh and CCZ, I’m curious, have you compared the offerings of Flash to those of jQuery plugins? Some appear to tip the balance a bit away from Flash. For me, anyway. But then again, I’m still doing the math at this point with the (non-commercial/aesthetic) projects that I have in mind.

I use tumblr. It’s the best.

I never really did an exhaustive search for solutions before building my own because the effort required for my own was minimal and I knew exactly what I wanted and I think modifying other people’s solutions to fit what I wanted would probably have been more effort than just coding it up in Flex myself. I’m generally not a big fan of NIH syndrome but in this specific case I think I made the right choice.

My early experience with other people’s AJAX slideshows really left a bad taste in my mouth due to all sorts of slightly off browser differences and random little annoying things like lots of mouse click sound cues coming from some browsers as the page updates occured, etc. I’m sure these issues are more due to immature AJAX code of the time rather than inherent problems with the technology, but as someone who does more non-web coding than web-coding I feel more comfortable in ActionScript 3 than I do in browser JavaScript. Also, as I mentioned, I really like the flexibility of going fullscreen in Flash.

That Carousel demo is cool and I really like some of the things people have been doing with Papervision, et al, but I would never actually use that on my site because IMO it is cool at the expense of practicality. I just want friends & family to be able to go to my site and check out the pictures they want to see without fighting with a UI that is really cool in a flashy sort of way but ultimately kind of gets in the way of actually browsing around in the galleries, especially if you have more than half a dozen photos in a gallery. Those sure are some nice reflections, though!