It’s 2017. Image / photo gallery plugins for WordPress abound. Choosing the right one can be a difficult endeavor. Should you pay? Which ones are well-coded? Will they render your images properly in all browsers? Will your images and photos look good on a mobile device?
The best WordPress photo gallery plugin for you may not be the best for me. So I’m going to tell you which plugin I feel is the best “one size fits all” plugin for displaying photographs (or any image) beautifully in WordPress.
The Best WordPress Photo Gallery Plugin Should . . .
- be well-coded,
- have a slideshow function,
- work as intended in different browsers,
- display photos properly on mobile devices,
- allow for a variety of displays for the thumbnail galleries,
- be simple to use, and
- be low-cost or free.
The plugin that meets these requirements, for me, is Jetpack.
Some say Jetpack is bloated and slows WordPress down. Don’t believe it! Jetpack is amazing and worthwhile and most WordPress websites could benefit greatly from utilizing its wide array of features.
The Carousel module allows WordPress site owners to display their images as a slideshow. Click on the circle images at the beginning of this article to see Carousel in action. There are more examples below.
The Tiled Galleries module allows for image thumbnails to be displayed in a variety of attractive ways. You’ve already seen the “circles” option at the beginning of this article. Keep reading to see the other options available to display photo galleries.
Does Jetpack meet the requirements for the best photo gallery plugin?
Is Jetpack well-coded?
Automattic, the brains behind WordPress, created Jetpack. They maintain and improve the plugin regularly. If the WordPress people themselves can’t properly code a plugin for their own software, then we have a much larger problem.
Does Jetpack have a slideshow function?
Jetpack does indeed have a slideshow function. It’s the Carousel module. Activate it, and all your current (and future) galleries will load in a beautiful slideshow (or “photo browsing experience” as the folks at Automattic say) that you can (at least partially) customize.
Users can choose a white or black background. EXIF information of photographs can be displayed if desired. Not a lot of customization, but some.
My only complaint about the photo browsing experience is that the photos often display smaller than I would like, especially on mobile devices, although there is a “view full size” option.
Do Jetpack image galleries display properly on all browsers?
Cross-browser compatibility is not a major problem with Jetpack. Jetpack’s image gallery plugin modules work well across the majority of modern browsers.
Of all the image display plugins I’ve experimented with, Jetpack has been far and away the least problematic. If you’ve having a browser incompatibility issue, let me know in the comments.
Do images and photos display well on mobile devices?
Yes and no. The image/photo galleries and slideshows appear as intended on mobile devices, which is a good thing. But at times the slideshow images display at a smaller size than I would like. And the image size can’t be controlled by pinching and zooming.
Fortunately, there’s a “view at full size” link near the bottom of the photo viewing experience. Once clicked, the image appears full-screen and can be controlled by pinching and zooming.
Does Jetpack Display Gallery Thumbnails in a Variety of Ways?
Jetpack displays gallery thumbnails in five unique fashions.
A Basic, Boring Thumbnail Grid
I don’t think a visual is necessary here. This is the basic thumbnail grid you’re used to seeing on websites that don’t really care what their image galleries look like. A few columns with square thumbnails. Boring, but necessary in some instances I suppose.
Gallery Option #1 – Tiled Mosaic with Optional Slide-in Subtitles
Gallery Option #2 – Square Tiles (again with optional slide-in subtitles)
Gallery Option #3 – Circles
Gallery Option #4 – Tiled Columns
Each option provides some interest (well, except the thumbnail grid) worth noting. The tiled mosaic and the tiled column modules are my favorites.
The tiled mosaic module organizes your images into a beautiful rectangular mosaic with a variety of different-sized images.
The tiled column module does the same thing but your image thumbnails, while sized differently, are displayed evenly in columns.
The circles and square tiles modules display your thumbnails, in, well, circles and squares. Jetpack always does its best to display your images evenly across the page so you don’t end up with unbalanced visual displays.
Is Jetpack Simple to Use?
Jetpack is so easy my cat could figure it out. But if you’d like, I’ve written up some specific instructions on how to set up a photo image gallery using Jetpack.
How Much Does Jetpack Cost?
Jetpack costs nothing. Jetpack is completely and unconditionally free. You get the fully functional version for the grand price of . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . nothing!
Huh? What? All that amazing yet simple functionality is completely free? And regularly updated? And carefully and professionally coded by the folks over at Automattic (the people behind WordPress)?
Yep. That’s right.
Alternatives to Jetpack’s Carousel and Tiled Galleries
Are there alternative photo gallery plugins for WordPress? Sure there are. Lots of them. But I haven’t played with them much because I like to stick with the best. I trust the people who make WordPress to make plugins that work for WordPress.
Are there plugins that will give me more options and flexibility than Jetpack? Well, sure. But they usually cost money for the fully functional version. I like Jetpack’s price and I know the quality of the product. More options and flexibility also means more money flying out of my wallet and more difficulties figuring out how it works and more incompatibilities with different browsers and platforms.
So yes, there are options with more flexibility and options. But do you really want that?
And free is a pretty stellar price.
OK. I forgot that the title of this section was called “Alternatives to Jetpack’s Carousel and Tiled Galleries” but I don’t really love any of the alternatives (or I’m just to cheap to pay for them) so if you know of an alternate photo gallery plugin you like better, the comments section is a good place to tell us.
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