Beautiful imagery can make or break a website.
To start with, everyone performs the eye test when they enter a site for the first time.
I know I do at least.
If a site looks a little bit sketchy, I’m out of there in seconds.
Beyond the first impression, images are great for showing off your work:
- Photographer displaying the photographs they have taken
- Painter and decorator displaying the spaces they’ve decorated
- Graphic designer showing their portfolio
There are almost unlimited reasons to display your photography in galleries on your site, but how do you do it?
Well, with a WordPress plugin of course!
The real question is: which plugin?
What are we Looking For in a Gallery Plugin?
Looks = the way the gallery looks on the site. Is it stylish? Does it fit in or standout?
We want our gallery to look nice.
This sounds simple but it means including a few important features.
The plugin must:
- Accommodate both vertical and horizontal photographs
- Be responsive so that it works on both mobile and desktop
- Be able to choose and crop thumbnails
What we want
- Vertical photos
- Horizontal photos
- Choose, crop and edit thumbnails
- Pre-built gallery templates
Speed = the gallery loads without causing the user to wait.
Gallery plugins can be clunky and slow with bloated code.
We’re looking for a plugin that doesn’t affect site performance, loads quickly and will transition between images quickly.
If there is lag in the site loading or between viewing images then this will prove to be a problem.
What we want
- Fast loading images
- Fast transitions between images
3. Ease of Use
Ease of use = it is simple to add, organize and display images.
Adding and arranging photos on WordPress is a pain in the neck.
The whole point is of using a plugin is to make this whole process easier.
It must be easy to add photographs, reorder images and place the gallery on your site.
In line with this, it would be great if the plugin could pull photos from places we have them stored online.
Places like: Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, Google Drive or Photos.
What we want
- A way to organize or categorize images
- Easy to edit and add photos to galleries
- Easy to edit look and feel of galleries
- Integrations to pull photos from feeds
4. Value For Money
We don’t want a plugin that costs a fortune if there’s an alternative that can do just as good a job for free.
As always, we’re looking to strike a balance between t functionality and price.
Best Gallery Plugins for WordPress
The success of each of these plugins ( and the popularity of Envira Gallery) suggest this is going to be an effective plugin, but let’s look at Envira Gallery on its own merits.
Envira Gallery was created with performance in mind. The plugin manages to be quick, yet still packed with features. Some of which come in the form of add-ons rather than being part of the core offering.
Some of the features include:
- Standalone galleries (a unique
- URL for your gallery so that galleries are not tied to pages)
- Pin it button for Pinterest
- Password protected galleries
- Zoom add-on
- Integrations with Dropbox,
- WooCommerce and Instagram
- Slideshow functionality
Going back to basics, Envira Gallery is pretty easy to use. The galleries can be created with a drag and drop builder.
This can also be used to re-order the image in the gallery.
It’s also mobile responsive.
Within the free version, options are limited. There is only a basic theme and an option to turn the lightbox on and off.
You need to upgrade to the paid version to import photos from Instagram.. The same goes for social sharing buttons, tags and various other bits and pieces.
If you’re going to get everything you want out of Envira Gallery, the paid version is essential.
I’d be looking at the Plus package. Being able to import photos from Instagram and Dropbox is an import feature to me.
It also allows you to protect your work with password protected galleries and watermarks.
Overall, Envira Gallery is a comprehensive plugin. It can do everything that you would be looking for from a gallery plugin as long as you select the right plan. The downside of this is that the right plan is expensive.
Huge-IT Slider is another gallery plugin with both a paid and a free version.
It’s packed full of features and even the free version is quite powerful.
The plugin is really easy to use. Simply go to the plugin in the backend of WordPress and add a new slider. From there, it’s a case of selecting images from the WordPress media gallery and adding a description
There doesn’t appear to be any options to pull images from Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook or any cloud based platforms. All the images need to be added via the media gallery. This is a drawback for me. You can end up spending a lot of time searching for and uploading images.
When it comes to displaying the gallery on your site, all the options are handled in the same area you add the photos.
There are three layout options: Standart (typo maybe?), Carousel and Thumbnail View.
You can also choose the design of the arrows, the animation between images changing and the speed that the images change.
These changes give you quite a lot of control over the look and feel of the image gallery.
The problem when with Huge-IT comes with the speed. Again, there’s a delay of a couple of seconds when the page loads that puts a real dent in the experience.
If you can live with the lack of styling options, the free version is sufficient. It has almost as much functionality as the paid version.
There’s nothing in the paid version that convinces me to upgrade. This makes Huge-IT gallery a really cheap option with quite a lot of functionality.
The backend is extremely easy to use. It’s very simple to create a new gallery and add images.
Within the paid version, you can hook the plugin up to Instagram and import the images from there.
In the free version, all your images have to be in the site directory or in the WordPress file manager. This becomes a bit of a pain if you have a lot of images to upload.
To place the gallery on your site, use the shortcode generator. Then just place the shortcode wherever you want the gallery.
There are a number of layout options that you can choose from to place them on the site.
You can choose from the following:
- Masonry (PRO)
- Mosaic (PRO)
- Image Browser
- Compact Album
- Masonry Album (PRO)
- Extended Album
- Blog Style (PRO)
- Carousel (PRO)
As you can see, there are a lot of options in both the paid and free version.
There are also options for:
- Sorting the images
- Number of columns
- Action upon click
But, there’s only one theme available. It only comes in one style. If you buy the paid version you have the “possibility of editing/ creating new themes”.
It quite a cool little feature to be able to create your own theme. In my view though, I’m using a plugin to make life easy. I don’t want to be wasting time messing about with this kind of thing. There should be pre-built templates.
When the gallery is on the site, it actually looks quite good.
The problem is that it is slow. After you click on an image, it takes a couple of seconds for the image to load. That may not sound like a lot but you really feel that pause. That for me, ruins the experience.
If you can live with the basic theme, then the free version of Photo Gallery is a contender. The downsides are speed and a lack of social sharing buttons.
With the basic paid version, it does everything that I am looking for in a gallery plugin. This is good value at $30 but for me it is still too slow.
The plugin has a proud history going all the way back to 2007. This is forever in the internet world.
NextGen works slightly differently from the other plugins. Instead of working within the plugin itself. You add and create galleries within WordPress pages and posts.
There are three options to add the photographs to the gallery:
- Upload from computer
- From WordPress media gallery
- From site directory.
From here, all you have to do is add the gallery to your site.
Simply go to the page and click on the “Add Gallery” option above the standard WordPress editor.
Start by choosing the type of gallery: thumbnails, slideshow, image browser, tag cloud, compact album or extended album.
NextGen Gallery isn’t the fastest in the world but it’s not as slow as some of the others on this list.
In terms of price, there are three real options: free, plus and pro.
To be honest with you, there’s nothing in either the pro or the plus version that can persuade me to pay for the plugin. There’s just no real incentive to part with the cash given the functionality of the free version.
There are some additional gallery options and full screen lightbox, but I think we can live without these.
In general, NextGen Gallery is a solid option. There are a number of options when it comes to the layout, it’s not the fastest but also not the slowest option, it’s easy enough to use and it’s free.
How Do They Compare?
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What Gallery Plugin Should You Use?
For me, I would be parting with my cash for the Envira Gallery plugin. In my opinion, it’s just better than the rest on this list.
It looks better than the others. Is easy to use – especially with integrations to cloud storage platforms and social platforms.
It’s also significantly faster than the other plugins. This is crucial for user experience across the site as a whole.
However, if you’re looking for the best free option, I’d have to say NextGen gallery is the best option.