Going Beyond Aperture's Web Galleries with free software
( posted by Peter Cohen on 11-15-2007, 11:14 AM )
Aperture has a built-in feature that enables you to create Web Galleries; showcases of images you can transfer to a Web server complete with supporting HTML pages. It's a simple way of getting your pages online, but it's hardly the only way, and you'll quickly run out of templates to show your galleries in an original and interesting format.

Fortunately, there are a lot of free or low-cost visual Web page editors out there designed to help photographers show off their wares without requiring them to know a single line of HTML. In part one of this two-part feature, I'll explore three freeware products that are worth look at. In part two, I'll examine a few of the shareware offerings Mac users have to choose from.


Galerie is a freeware application produced by Myriad Software, a company based in Toulouse, France that's best known for making software for musicians. If you're on a tight budget and you're looking for a basic, free Web image gallery generator that has a surprising number of customization options, you owe it to yourself to have a look at Galerie.

Galerie generates photo galleries using pre-defined templates (about a dozen and a half are included with the software). Galerie generates a folder with HTML pages and images that you can then upload to a server of your choice using FTP or whatever file transfer methodology your system supports.

There aren't any restrictions on the software, though the developers ask that you retain a "Generated by Galerie" text with a link to the download site on the generated thumbnail pages.

The software integrates iPhoto, iView MediaPro, GraphicConverter and Extensis Portfolio. It'll also work with photos and folders dragged from the Finder.

With iPhoto 7, it's trivial to share your Aperture library (you simply select Show Aperture Library from the File menu, then select the Aperture Album or Project you want to use), which makes using Galerie pretty easy. Alternately, if you don't want to clutter up iPhoto with Aperture projects, you can always just export the photos you want to use to the Finder and grab them from there.

You can specify the maximum size you want your photos displayed, adjust thumbnail size and layout, affect spacing, adding titles, dates and comments, and even enable visitor feedback (managed through the developer's servers, which do not host the pictures).

Galerie's preferences give you a fair degree of control over how the pages and data are generated. You can specify EXIF and IPTC metadata to be included with your photos (always good to include copyright ad credit information, for example), and you can also specify whether color profiles are included in generated images, or whether you want to be able to allow HTML tags to be used in comment fields (turning the feature off is good to keep spammers at bay).

The biggest benefit over Aperture's own Web gallery generator is the novelty of new layouts, and the customizability you have over the pages themselves. It's a degree of control that Aperture does not offer, although in Aperture's defense, some of its layouts are a bit cleaner and more professional-looking.

The dozen and a half templates included with Galerie give you enough variation to dress up your pictures in interesting ways, although if you want to create your own templates, you're on your own. The software includes tools for managing images, so you can add or remove images you don't want in there.

Galerie requires Mac OS X v10.2 or later, and is a Universal Binary.


Fastball Software seems to have vanished just as quick as it came -- the company's Web site links now default to a parked Web page hosted by a domain name service company. But if you check VersionTracker, MacUpdate and other software download services, you should be able to find WebGem, a handy utility that takes a decidedly different approach to image gallery hosting.

Rather than using templates and exporting HTML to folders that you can upload to your own service like Galerie, WebGem actually posts the content directly from your own machine. It starts up a simple Web server that hosts pages containing thumbnails of the images you want. The thumbnails even contain drop shadows, offering users a pleasant-looking, if basic, layout for viewing pictures.

WebGem works with both iPhoto and Aperture, sharing individual projects and albums. You can select which content you'd like to share. You can also specify thumbnail size, how many photos you'd like put on each page, what the title of the site should be, an image to go along with the page layout, keyword searches and the ability to turn on and off full-sized image downloads. The keyword search only functions with iPhoto, alas.

WebGem is very limited -- you don't have any control over the Web page design, and the "live" sharing of content in Aperture and iPhoto projects has some inherent shortcomings -- such as what would happen if you archived your Aperture project in the Vault, possible security issues hosting a Web page on your own machine, and the need to keep the host system "tethered" to the Internet to make it available.

But still, if you need a quick and dirty Web page gallery generator that works differently than Aperture's, it's probably worth a gander at WebGem. I'd love to know what happened to the developer, too, as Fastball Software seems to have just dropped off the planet.

Aperture to Gallery plug-in

Gallery (not to be confused with Myriad's Galerie, above) is an open source Web-based photo album organizer. This requires a lot more technical skill in order to set up, because Gallery's developers presume you're sophisticated enough to set up photo management software on your own Web site. But if you are, Ubermind Software has graciously generated a freeware plug-in designed to work with Aperture that will let you export images directly to your Gallery site.

Gallery is inarguably the most difficult of these three solutions to administer and use: You'll need to know how to install software on your Web server (though their instructions are very good), and you'll also need the administrative authority to do so. You may also have to do other things, like change the parameters of your server's PHP initialization files, if you plan to upload large photos.

Having said that, Übermind's Aperture plug-in makes the process of actually uploading pictures to Gallery a home run: You simply identify where your Gallery is located, create (or locate) an online album for the photos you'd like to export, and then click on the Export button. The plug-in does the rest for you -- resizing the pictures, uploading them to your Web site, and generating what's necessary for Gallery to publish them.

Gallery itself features a wealth of customization options -- you can push off processing to PhotoAccess or Shutterfly, install e-commerce modules, enable panoramic image viewing using Java, embed watermarks, and much, much more. It's also a well-supported and frequently updated application. Gallery also determines how the photos are displayed, using a variety of built-in themes. It's all script and database drive, so it's easy to switch to a different look and feel for your photo galleries -- you don't have to manually rebuild pages. There's a limited number of themes, but they're worth checking out -- they're really good.

In conclusion

Of these three solutions, Galerie has the best balance of ease of use and power. Because it produces static HTML pages, changing themes or editing content can be arduous, but the tradeoff is that it's a simple FTP upload to your Web server to get content online. WebGem can help you share photos instantly from Aperture or iPhoto, but it's very limited in how you can actually show your photos. For many Aperture users, they're going to like what they get built in to Aperture better.

Gallery is incredibly powerful, but the learning curve is steep. Once you have it configured, however, this is by far the most robust and full-featured system for getting photos up on your Web site and doing it with a really professional flair. Expect to spend at least a few hours getting Gallery set up unless you're a bona fide webmaster, although Übermind makes getting photos to Gallery via Aperture a lead pipe cinch.

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