Category Archives: Using the Web for Photography

WordPress Twenty Fourteen Theme

One of the new default themes for WordPress is Twenty Fourteen.  Is this a good theme to use for Photographers? This theme has a nice magazine layout and handles images well, supporting a “Featured Image”, which is the image that appears above this post.   The complexity is that there are several different options on how this featured imaged can be displayed.  If the right side bar is enabled in the WordPress theme, the image will be smaller.  If you use featured content at the top, you have an option to select either a grid format, with a reduced image size, or a slider approach where the image takes the full width.

To control the crop you would need to crop before uploading your image to WordPress.  I setup a custom crop in Photoshop.

By experimentation, I discovered that an image 1038 wide by 576 high will work best for all scenarios.    Otherwise it will crop an equal amount off the top and bottom of the image, assuming the original ratio is 3:2, as is the case for most DSLRs (the ratio of 35mm film).  In Photoshop I setup a custom crop ratio using 1038×576 that makes it easy to crop the image before I upload to Word Press.

2014CropFirst

This ratio is 1.80:1, which is close to that used in wide screen cinematography.  However most advanced still cameras use a ratio of 1.5 (3:2), which is not as wide.  It is a weakness of the WordPress Twenty Fourteen theme and so far there is not an easy way to customize this theme to use a different aspect ratio.

How about the images inside the post?  They don’t get cropped to a set aspect ratio as the featured image does.  Since the images inside the post are click-able to view the full image, you may want to use a larger size.  I often pick a width of 1920 pixels, which is as wide as most monitors now days.  A color version of the featured image would then appear as shown below, but if you click on it, a full size can be viewed.

FJK201401--7

However you can see that when viewed inside the post this image is not very large.  With this theme only the featured image, at the top, is large while those inside the post are constrained, even though I used an image with a width of 1920 pixels.  This may be enough of  reason to not select this theme for displaying your photography.

One of the advantages of the Twenty Fourteen theme is that it rescales for mobile devices.  If you look at how it looks on a smart phone, you can see the advantage of using a featured image for each post.  Both the left and right side bars disappear and the right content sidebar is accesible from the drop down.  Each post has the image to the left and the title to the right, which makes this a very friend theme for a smart phone.

IMG_0935

Yet Another PhotoBlog Plugin

I installed the Yet Another Photo Blog (YAPB) plugin for Word Press and have used it to upload this photo of Crater Lake.  If you click on the photo it should enlarge to fill the width of this blog.

I also setup a separate blog with a theme that is YAPB ready.  So far I only have a few images up there.  When you are importing a file with the EXIF data there, it will use the date taken to set the published date for the blog entry.

The theme supports a mosaic of the photos as shown below.   If you go to this Photoblog, you will see the latest image uploaded.  Click on it to cycle through other images.  Select Mosaic and you will get thumbnails of all the photos, from which you can select which image to view.  Click the image below to go to this PhotoBlog to test it out.

Sharing Photos on the Web

Three Approaches to Photo Sharing

There are basically three approaches to sharing your photos online. You can upload your photos to a online photo sharing service, you can create your own galleries to be loaded onto your own website, or you might sign up for a blogging service and create a photo blog.

For the first category there are many options, both free and fee based. One of the most popular photo service is Flickr, operated by Yahoo. It offers free, but limited accounts and is supported by many programs. My only comment about Flickr is that I find it to be difficult to view images on it and does not have the best user interface. Personally I prefer the offering from SmugMug, which charges an annual fee but offers unlimited photo uploads.

If you would rather post your photos on your own website there are many tools that allow you to create galleries of your photos. What tool you might use depends on how you manage your photos on your computer. This artile is written for those who use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you use a Mac and the iPhoto program, I will write about those options in a seperate article.

If you wish to create a photo blog then you have the option of either installing blogging software, such as WordPress, on your own webiste or sign up for a free blog account at a place such as blogspot, operated by Google. This article is created on my own website using the WordPress software. I will not be covering photo blogs futher in this article but will focus on the online photo sharing sites and creating your own photo gallery for hosting on your own site.

Previously I wrote about the Web feature in Lightroom and how easy it is to create a web gallery. I decided to also try a program that I had used previously, JAlbum, and compare those two approaches with what I usually use, SmugMug.

I should also note that I shoot all my photos in RAW. I previously wrote about why you should shoot in RAW. The reason I mentioned this aspect is that any photos that are placed on a website need to be converted to another format, such as JPEG, before they are posted. That step has some bearing on the effort required to build a web gallery using Lightroom with RAW images.

Let’s start with the common things. I use Lightroom to import the photos and do some post processing. Some things I use Adobe Photoshop CS3 for, but in all cases, I am also using Lightroom for managing my photo library. Lightroom has some nice features to help you sort out which photos you wan to use, including marking a photo as a pick, assigning a rating, or creating a quick set.

Once I have the group of photos I want to publish to a website, then the different methods I could use include the following.

Online Photo Gallery

The simplest approach is to upload your photos to one of the online photo services. There are several advantages of using an online photo gallery:

  • No need to have a website
  • Offsite backup of your photos
  • Easy access since such sites have built in navigation to select you individual galleries and to navigate wthin each gallery
  • Easy sharing of images in items such as blogs or email.
  • Visitors can not only view your photos but can order prints if you allow them to.

I have an account with SmugMug which allows me unlimitted uploads. There are also free services including the popular Flickr as well as many other services. There is a Lightroom plugin that works with SmugMug. So all I need to do in Lightroom is to exported my images directly to SmugMug. See the dialog box below on who that is done.

The process handles any temporary conversion to JPEG files, using my Lightroom post processing, before uploading. Inside the dialog box I can create the album where to put the photos. Like othere services such as Flickr, SmugMug handles all the gallery creation and menuing system. So in a matter of less than a minute I am finished and can go walk away while the images are uploaded.

You Own Hosted Photo Gallery

Some do not want to use a online photo sharing site and would prefer to host on thier own webstie. There are some advantages to this approach including:

  • You can use your own identify
  • Extensive customization can be achieved on the gallery interface

But this approach also has many disadvantages:

  • You must have a website and use some of your disk space.
  • It usually requires several steps to first create the gallery and then upload it
  • It may be difficult to get a link of a particular photo to use in something like an email or blog
  • You have to create some way for users to navigate to your individual galleries, which might mean creating a HTML page with hard coded links.
  • Viewers can not usually order printes and may not be able to download the images, even if you want them to be able to.

Lightroom Generated Gallery

As I previously mentioned Ligthroom has a Web feature. This is also simple to use because once I have the photos selected, Ligthroom will create all the files needed for an online gallery, including JPEG files with the post processing, and the navigation for the website, and then upload them using FTP to my personal website.

There are limited templates to pick from and that galleries are rather straightforward. It takes a bit of extra effort compared with SmugMug, but when I am finished I have a stand alone gallery. It is not tied in with my other galleries so I would need to have my own index page I would need to edit so others can find my photos.

JAlbum Generated Gallery

The last method is the most time consuming and in many ways the one with the least desirable results. JAlubm is a free and excellent program. Because it is an open source program, developers have written many templates to choose from. I just picked one that came with the program. Starting with my selected photos in Ligthroom I had to first export the images to a JPEG file, saving them in a temporary location on my hard drive. I then needed to start JAlbum and import those same images. Creating the gallery is rather straightforward and once I am done the program will even FTP them to my website. But as was true with the Ligthroom created gallery, I end up with a stand alone gallery and it would be up to me to create some index page so people could find the gallery

Click on the links below to see how each gallery looks, all using the same group of photos.

Method
Ease of Use
Integrated Gallery
Photo Sharing Tools
End Result
SmugMug Excellent Yes, SmugMug handles all navigation Excellent, using in blogs, slideshows, ligthbox Excellent, well integrated with other galleries
Lightroom Gallery Very Good No, stand alone gallery Limited Very good, but limited templates
JAlbum Good No, stand alone gallery Limited Great selection of templates but many are quirky.

So when I look at what SmugMug offers me the easiest path to publishing my photos and provides a lot of other support such as the menuing system and ways to share individual photos in things such as a blog. So that is what I will continue to use. For those occasions where I feel the need to place a gallery on my own website I will use the Web feature in Lightroom.

Adobe Lightroom Web Feature

I was reviewing this tutorial from the Digital Photography Connection about the Web panel in Adobe Photoshop Ligthroom and wanted to give it a try.  I had just taken about 15 shots of our new one week old grandchild and the other grandchildren and thought they would be some good photos to use to create a web gallery.

I usually post my photos to a SmugMug account I have and able to do that directly from Lightroom.  But I liked the idea of creating my own web gallery.  I first did some quick processing of the photos using  Lightroom and then created a web gallery which I have posted here.

There are several templates you can select from.  I picked a Flash based one.  You can change all the titles, and the colors of the templates, saving those chagnes if you wish.  This template allows you to view individual pictures or run a slide show.

This again shows the power of Lightroom.  From the initial step of importing the photos from the camera, through post processing, to creating a web gallery, I was able to do all the steps right from within Lightroom.

I have used other software to create web galleries, such as the well done program JAlbum. Since I shoot in RAW and did some post processing.  To use a program like JAlbum I would need to use Lightroom to export all the photos with the changes I had made to JPEG files first.  I would then need to start up Jalbum and import those JPEG files.

By using Lightroom to create the web gallery, there was no need to export the photos as JPEG files and then reimport them.  That was all handled by the Web feature in Lightroom.  Looking at the files, I see it created various sizes of each photo, Large (980×650), Medium (780×520) and Small (678×450) along with thumbnails.  It also created the index.html file, the javascript files and a flash file.