As it is with birthdays and vacations, the holiday season means photographs. Besides email, is there an efficient way to share those dozens of prized digital photos with friends and family?
I’m on a quest for the perfect photo gallery application for the Mac. Sure, iPhoto makes photo galleries, but features are limited, designs and styles are anemic, and many free galleries are available that do even more. So, what’s the problem? The criteria for perfection is hard to match.
The Perfect Web Photo Gallery
To start, let me point out that perfect is in the eye of the beholder. Since that’s me, I get to define the criteria for a photo gallery.
I’m on record as saying that iPhoto is nice, but the web page galleries are not.
Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom are improvements, but pricey and not exactly mainstream for the point and shoot photo crowd of which I am a card carrying member.
What must a Mac web page photo gallery have? First, it must be easy to use. Point and click. Drag and drop. Second, it must create a directory of photos and pages and thumbnails to upload.
Finally, it must conform to web standards for XHTML, CSS, et al, and be attractive in all major browsers, including Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Simple, right? Not quite.
The Main Contenders
What’s not to like? Both are free, loaded with features, and create excellent photo albums in many styles, layouts, themes and skins. A completed photo album places all the photos and code in a folder for easy uploading to a web site.
Again, what’s not to like? Where do I begin?
Galerie’s interface is a nightmare, a confusing and misguided attempt to cram every feature and preference into a single window, a plethora of options that only the geekiest among us would love.
JAlbum is easier on the eyes, more drag and drop intuitive, makes for faster preference selections, but suffers a similar fate; disguised by stretching features and preferences to multiple pages.
Both are worthy contenders, and if you’re not picky about the code, make excellent Mac utilities to generate attractive photo albums. However, Galerie and Jalbum do not generate standards compliant XHTML and CSS. The quest continues.
Close, But No Cigar
Photographers who display their creations on web pages know there are a dozen or so gallery applications available, including the popular Lightbox 2.
That brings my quest to Visual LightBox, which is inspired by Lightbox 2. It’s a Mac and Windows application with a simple toolbar, drag and drop, and point and click creation of very attractive web page photo galleries.
Visual LightBox has a number of transition effects, too, and can create a photo slideshow that auto starts. The completed page of thumbnails also has effects, and when a thumbnail is clicked, the larger image pops up, the background turns dark, and the photo is displayed.
The Price Is Right, The Code Has Improved
A variety of navigation buttons and options are available, too. So, if the price is right (free), and it’s drag and drop and point and click, what’s not to like? The resulting XHTML code in earlier versions was horrible. It’s as if the Visual LightBox developers had never heard of W3C web standards. That has changed in the most recent version, which now produces valid code and beautiful gallery pages.
The first gallery I created was gorgeous and displayed beautifully, even in Internet Explorer on Windows—if you want a clean, attractive, elegant photo gallery that is easy to create, easy to navigate, this is the one to get.
Visual LightBox is recommended and produces what is arguably a better result than Galerie and Jalbum, though with fewer styles.
Finally, web page photo galleries are nice and all, but this is the decade of videos. Enter Video LightBox, which does to video clips for web pages, what Visual LightBox does for photographs. It’s simple to use, embeds almost any kind of popular video into a web page, creates attractive web page video gallery themes, ready to be uploaded and published to the world.
Both Visual LightBox and Video LightBox come with an FTP feature built-in, to make uploading easier.
Talk About It: What do you use for a web page photo or video gallery? Share your experience with other Mac360 readers in the Comments section. No, Flickr or Picasa isn’t on my list.