The Best Pop-up Galleries for Photography

We’ve been making web designs for Photographers for years, and over that time I’ve tried almost every single JavaScript lightbox popup gallery that there is. With all the trial and error by trying different gallery scripts, I think I’ve finally found the 2 best popup gallery scripts out there. They’re both a little different from each other, and yet very similar. In this post, I’m going to go over the similarities and the differences.

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

PhotoSwipe is an excellent photo gallery written in pure JavaScript. That’s a small additional bonus, in case you’re building a jQuery-free website.

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

Some cons:

  • 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.




  1. Hi there,

    I’m creating a video portfolio website. When you hover over the different portfolio entries, it says “view gallery”.
    Is there a way I could change this to “Watch Video” instead?

  2. Hi Guys,

    Thank you for awesome plugins and other resources to create a website.

    I want to know how to get fullscreen to work on iphone in the gallery? It works fine on desktop.

    1. Hi there,

      These two galleries are the ones we think are the best free options out there. If however, you are having trouble with any of them, don’t hesitate to contact the plugin authors! User feedback will only make them better for everyone 🙂

      Good luck! 🙂

    1. Hi there,

      Our “Easy Photography Portfolio” doesn’t have the option to generate shortcodes, sorry.

    1. Hi Angela,

      You can change the background color but unfortunately, there isn’t any “plugin options” built into any of these two plugins so to change the color, you will need to edit the plugin.

      Google “*plugin name* change background color” and see what comes up! 🙂

      Good luck!

  3. Hi, Did you consider using fancybox3? It works similar to lightGallery, but looks better and has some additional features.

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for the suggestion! We haven’t had the opportunity to use fancybox yet, but it’s a good choice as well – especially if you plan to use it for your own website since it allows free personal use!

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