Before reading, please note that I work for the company who makes this WordPress photography plugin.
There are many methods of displaying, selling and proofing photographs outside of WordPress. For example, many photographers use services like SmugMug and Zenfolio to handle the displaying and selling tasks. A fantastic proofing solution is ShootProof, which many wedding photographers jump on. But what about those photographers who use WordPress? Those photographers who run their own websites and want completely control over every aspect of their websites? “There’s an app for that.”
Okay not really
But there is definitely a plugin for that. Two in fact.
I was going to write a brief introduction to WordPress, but I figure that if you are reading this you already understand what it is. So there is no reason for me to go over what you already know. But I will talk briefly about something important in WordPress, called galleries.
WordPress has a feature built-in called Gallery. It is very basic, allowing you to have a thumbnail grid by default. Or you can install Jetpack, which is free, that allows you to have additional display styles.
The biggest downside to the built-in Gallery feature is the lack of organization. The Gallery feature uses the unorganized Media Library, just as if you were to upload and add a photo within a blog post. That means there is no easy way for you to go to the Media Library and find a Gallery you already created.
Aside from that, the built-in Gallery option is nice, and very basic. If you all you need to is display your photos in a basic gallery then you are good to go out of the box.
But if you want to do more, then you have many more options.
WordPress Photography Plugin
In the WordPress space there are a variety of gallery plugins available. Some do the same thing as Jetpack, adding extra display styles on top of the built-in Gallery system. Which means your gallery is still not organized.
Others have some more functionality to segregate the galleries by whatever you name it. Fantastic! But the problem is that they still only add new display types on top of the built-in system.
If you do a Google search, or a search in the WordPress plugins directory, for the term Gallery then you will see the many options available. One stands out above the crowd. I’m proud to say, as the Community & Blog Wrangler for the developer of the plugin, that NextGEN Gallery is the most popular gallery plugin for WordPress. With nearly 12 million downloads when I am writing this, NextGEN Gallery is actually one of the most popular WordPress plugins ever. Even when put against the many other types of plugins available.
There is a reason for that, and I want to explain the biggest difference between “us and them”. This is not to serve as a selling point, but rather an education.
Most of the gallery plugins available are designed for developers or general WordPress users. That’s perfectly fine and works great for those needs.
NextGEN Gallery is designed specifically for creatives, like photographers. The features included are not for developers, they’re for you – the photographer.
If you think about products in general, one that is designed with you as the customer in mind will likely be better for your use. Right?
I mentioned earlier that there are two plugins to display, sell and proof your photographs. Those are NextGEN Gallery and NextGEN Pro. Let’s dive into those.
The Gallery Plugin
NextGEN Gallery is the core plugin to drive your galleries on your site. Not necessarily each individual image you add to a blog post. I am referring to your portfolio.
The way NextGEN Gallery works is unique from most other gallery plugins. The photos you upload and organize are kept completely segregated from the Media Library. That gives you full control over every part of the URL structure of your site from what the users see and what robots see (search engines).
To make that clearer, here is what an image URL would look like using the Media Library:
As you can see, the URL contains the year and month that the photo was uploaded. That might be ok for some WordPress users, but for those who want more control can do so. Here is what an image URL look like using NextGEN Gallery:
In that URL, /gallery/ can be whatever you want. That is the name of the master folder for all your photos in your portfolio. Then /places/ is the name of the gallery created. Of course the filename is what I set it to before uploading.
In addition to organizing individual galleries, there is also an albums feature. Albums contain galleries, or other albums. I like to explain an album as the box that contains each portfolio. As an example, a wedding photographer may have a few portfolios:
- Trash the dress
On your website, each of these could be included in one album. That way when a visitor lands on your portfolio page they see each of those galleries organized nicely. From there they can choose which they want to view.
Many photographers also find watermarking important (although I personally do not), and that is also possible with NextGEN Gallery. It is done permanently using text or graphics as the watermark. Because it is done permanently, we added an option to back up original uploads so if you make a mistake you can always revert to the original and start over.
Each of the display styles included in the plugin are all responsive. That means if you are using a responsive website design then on smaller screens like phones and tablets, that it will adjust accordingly.
There are even more functions included in the plugin, but I figured I would cover the essentials useful to photographers.
Selling Photos w/ WordPress
Now that you understand what NextGEN Gallery is all about it is time to dig into NextGEN Pro. We built the premium add-on to the free NextGEN Gallery plugin to handle even more of the tasks photographers need. It all starts with the Ecommerce base layer.
Photographers need a way to sell and accept a variety of things regarding their photos:
- Create multiple pricelists
- Sell prints
- Sell digital downloads
- Accept selected proofs from clients
- Obtain comments on individual photos
NextGEN Pro can do all that, on your own WordPress website. The coolest part of NextGEN Pro is that every is built on top of the popular gallery plugin, so you aren’t needing to reorganize anything. And you can be sure you’re using a plugin that thousands of others are successful.
Each of the NextGEN Pro Ecommerce features are new, which means that as it grows, it is growing based on customer feedback.
The pricelist options in the plugin are very flexible. You can create unlimited amounts of pricelists containing only print options, only digital downloads, or both. You can duplicate pricelists to remove the need to manually create new ones from scratch. You can add a priceless to entire gallery and override specific photos to use another, or no pricelist.
The print sales aspect of the plugin is done manually. That means when the order comes in you find the photo on your computer and order the print from your favorite lab, or print it yourself. Lab integration is something we want to do, but other popular requests are taking priority at this point in time.
Digital downloads, however, are 100% automated. Remember that “Backup Originals” feature I mentioned earlier? One of the cool parts of NextGEN Gallery is that it can keep your original backed up, nice and large, and display a smaller version on the front end. That version can be left as is, or be watermarked. When you sell a digital download, the image file distributed to your customer is sent based on the original backup, automatically. That means your customer is buying an non-watermarked image file at whatever size you specify. You can also sell full size if you would like.
NextGEN Pro comes with a lightbox called the Pro Lightbox. It is a full browser and full screen lightbox that can display your photographs extremely large on a desktop and mobile screen. It is very flexible with the options to be customized with your brand colors. Two features in the Pro Lightbox which are popular among photographers so far, are social sharing and photo commenting.
The lightbox includes the most popular social networks for sharing. When shared, if someone clicks on the link it will return them directly to that photograph in the lightbox.
Photo commenting is very useful as well, to receive feedback on a photo from a customer or to have a fun discussion about it. This is also useful if your customer shares their gallery with friends and family.
Proofing is the newest addition to NextGEN Pro. At the moment it is very basic, but has so much potential to grow. That is where feedback from customers is really important of course. The way proofing works is as follows.
You insert a gallery which you want to allow proofs for. Prior to clicking save to insert the gallery, you turn on proofing for that gallery. Once saved and inserted into the page, there is the gallery and below each thumbnail is a star icon. Clicking on the star changes its color to yellow. If you click on the thumbnail for a photo it will load the Pro Lightbox again. Because proofing is turned on, the star icon is found in the lightbox as well. Any selections made in the lightbox is sync’d back to the page, and vice versa.
When all done, the customer clicks the Submit Proofs button and sends the images to you.
What you receive is an email with who submitted the proofs, and a comma separated list of the filenames without extensions.
This list is useful for you to find your photos within Adobe Lightroom or any catalog software you use.
I can’t talk about this powerful WordPress gallery plugin without bringing up the available Lightroom plugin. I mean, you’re a photographer, right? So you’re more than likely using Lightroom.
A developer that goes by AlloyPhoto has created a Lightroom plugin called NextGEN Gallery Export.
I have used the plugin for some time and I love how efficient it helps me with my Lightroom to website workflow.
The way it works is just like Lightroom collections. You create a gallery (which looks like a collection in Lightroom) and then drag the photos you want included.
You set your sizing options, and when ready Publish straight from Lightroom to NextGEN Gallery and in turn, your website.
From there you can insert the gallery on pages or wherever you would like. For me, I already have my portfolio set up so when I update my Lightroom’s NextGEN section, my site is updated in realtime. It’s a beautiful thing.
I know I covered many areas, so I think it is important re-state some things.
With NextGEN Gallery and NextGEN Pro you have the ability to sell both prints and digital downloads. You can also do proofing right on your website without third party software or services.
No matter what, the way you work with NextGEN and how you use it is completely up to you. That’s part of the beauty of the plugins. They are very flexible and can be used in many ways.
Because each photographer has their own workflow, the way their website workflows will also be different.
And if NextGEN doesn’t work for you, and you’re happy with other services, then that is fantastic. Whatever works for your business is what you need to use.
But with that all said, I would love to answer any questions you may have about handling photo sales and proofing on your WordPress website.