What makes a good popup gallery?
Most popup gallery plugins support images and allow easy navigation between images. However, I’ve found that while many plugins lack some basic features that many photographers are looking for. Either that or they look like they were developed back in 1999 and some are.
The two plugins I recommend using are PhotoSwipe and lightGallery.js and they both include a few that both plugins have, that many other lightbox plugins lack:
- Modern, clean and intuitive user interface
- Smart image lazy loading (images are loaded from the server only when necessary)
- Fully responsive
- Full-screen support for devices that support fullscreen API
- Gallery navigation with a Keyboard
- Social sharing built-in
- Easy style customization with CSS
- Retina (high resolution) display support
PhotoSwipe vs lightGallery.js
Which is the right photo gallery for you?
I’ll go over the differences between PhotoSwipe and lightGallery below, so keep reading if you want the full picture, but for those who are impatient and just want the best gallery right now –
here is the TL;DR…
The code for PhotoSwipe is a lot more polished and performance oriented. So if you only need a Photography gallery without thumbnails or videos – I definitely recommend using Photoswipe over anything else.
Photoswipe falls short on the feature availability side. If you’re thinking of including videos in your gallery or you desperately need thumbnail support – you need to take a look at lightGallery.
PhotoSwipe is the best gallery for Photography
I have mostly nice things to say about PhotoSwipe:
- It feels native on mobile devices by providing full touch support.
- Extremely responsive, both in “responsive web design” sense and in that it never freezes or hiccups. Excellent performance.
- In designs that support it, it has a beautiful gallery opening/closing transition
There is one downside, but only for some. The plugin lightweight and optimized for a specific use case and it lacks video and thumbnails support. Personally, I don’t even want Photoswipe to add support for those extra features because it would just add bloat to the plugin and would probably force the author of the plugin to make some compromises. Photoswipe is clean and fast. If that’s what you want – it’s the perfect image gallery for you.
lightGallery.js – the most balanced and versatile jQuery Lightbox
I think that lightGallery.js is exactly what Photoswipe would become if it added support for videos and thumbnails. So if you want video and/or thumbnail support in your popup gallery – you can’t use PhotoSwipe. I’ve tried to work around that in the past. While it’s possible to hack your way around it – let me tell you from my experience – just don’t do it. Instead, use lightGallery.js. The support is there, and with the recent lightGallery 1.5.0 update the performance has improved quite a bit:
What I like about lightGallery.js:
- It has a very good feature vs performance vs easy-of-use balance
- Popup gallery thumbnail support
- Video support
- Gallery auto-play feature
- For developers: easier to plug-n-play than PhotoSwipe
- Not as performant as PhotoSwipe. There is a clear delay when swiping between photos, especially on mobile devices.
- Is dependent on jQuery. Not a big deal for me, since Easy Photography Portfolio is using jQuery anyway.
Which gallery did I choose for Easy Photography Portfolio?
Why not both? 😇
In my experience, most photographers don’t need video support or don’t care all that much for gallery thumbnails. However, “most” doesn’t mean “all”.
Instead of forcing one plugin over the other in the Easy Photography Portfolio plugin (and our WordPress Themes) – I’ve made a decision to bundle both plugins with our products. That way most photographers who only want to display their photography in their portfolios can have the best performing gallery, and photographers who need the additional features aren’t left out.