By TJ McDowell
Successful photographers know how valuable creating digital content is to building a business. Unfortunately, most good photographers don’t have loads of time to dedicate to web content creation. Pro Image Share is a Lightroom Plug-in aimed at making the creation of web-based image galleries quick and easy for busy photographers.
A quick intro
To get the plug-in installed, you may have to get geeky for a couple minutes. Whether you’re a natural at the computer or not, you’ll be happy to find a step-by-step installation tutorial including screenshots and detailed video instructions on the Pro Image Share website. Getting the plug-in set up on my computer took just a few minutes, and I was up and running. Inside Lightroom, I was a little lost until I re-visited the Pro Image Share website where I watched a video on how to create a simple gallery. After creating my first gallery, it was easy to create new galleries.
Once you choose the folder of images you want for your gallery in Lightroom, go to the Web tab and select the Pro Photo Share plug-in from the Layout Style panel on the upper right. The plug-in will automatically arrange the photos on the web gallery preview panel. In my usage, the preview panel seemed like it has to re-render the entire page including the images frequently. The re-loading of the preview seems like it’s a Lightroom problem, not a plug-in problem, and it doesn’t have an effect on the final product. [Editor's note: I did not experience this issue on an iMac using Lightroom 4. J.Sherwood, Sr.Ed.] After a quick runthrough of the gallery settings, you can either export the gallery to your local computer or upload straight to your website.
To upload to your website, you’ll need ftp access, which is pretty standard if you’re paying for hosting. (It does not work with services such as Zenfolio, Photobiz, or SmugMug because they are more than just a hosting site and do not give you FTP access to their servers.) For me, it took less than 5 minutes for the plug-in to generate my web gallery and finalize the upload to my website. At that point, I had a professional quality web gallery, and I was ready to shoot off the gallery’s URL to my client and have her start sharing with her friends.
Make it mobile
Pro Image Share was built mainly for mobile marketing. I tested it on my Android-based Galaxy S2 and was impressed with how smart the gallery seemed. The images were sized to fit my phone perfectly when I held my device vertically. Then when I switched to horizontal, I was able to see more than a single image at a time. Either horizontally or vertically, scrolling through the images was a breeze. The gallery was simple with just the images—no zooming, menu, or other confusion to get in the way of the photos. When I saw an image I really liked, I could touch the image to bring up a hi-res version of the picture instead.
Clockwise from the upper left are screen grabs from an iPhone 4 showing the Pro Image Share gallery as seen from the Safari interface, the app's vertical display, some of the sharing options you can choose displayed at the bottom of the gallery, an individual image shown with the pop-up navigation menu, and the horizontal gallery display. Images ©Larissa Photography
The gallery looked just as impressive on my office computer running Internet Explorer 9. The image gallery positioned the images to fill my entire screen here, too. Just to see how smart the website was, I resized my browser window and was amazed to watch the gallery magic at work as the images continued to move around to fit my browser size. During a couple of my tests, IE9 ended up having issues correctly displaying the gallery with the images stacking on top of each other. There’s supposed to be a fix out shortly for this issue, and as soon as it’s out, I’d feel confident in posting gallery URLs on our social media sites where people would be browsing on both computers and mobile devices. My editor did not experience any glitches on Chrome, Firefox, or Safari on a Mac computer.
On an iPhone, the display at the gallery link will prompt the user to save the gallery as an app (if they desire). You can design the icon that it creates using your studio logo or whatever you feel is appropriate for your brand.
My app icon for my client Lyndee is on the bottom left.
The Pro Image Share Lightroom plug-in contains probably 30+ options that can be easily modified using the settings interface. While you certainly don’t have to set each one, it’s good to know you have the option to make changes from the default where necessary. Settings are available for everything from studio contact info to what text will be displayed to what colors the gallery will use. You’ve also got the ability to load and save presets for making your gallery look just the way you want it to. Even if there’s a setting you wish you had that’s not configurable through the plug-in, you can always get your hands dirty and dig into the html output yourself after the export to make changes.
I found two settings that were useful right away. The default quality for the thumbnail images wasn’t high enough for me, so I found the section with all image sizes and image quality and made some quick changes. After uploading again, the gallery looked perfect on my phone. I was also having an issue where the progress bar for the images was sticking around even after the images were loaded. I found the setting to completely turn off the loading progress image. Problem solved.
Pro Image Share only costs $69, and that’s a one-time fee. As long as you already pay for website hosting, a small one-time payment is obviously a good deal. Plus, you’ve got access to perpetual support and upgrades with that one-time cost. I had a talk with John Childress the creator of Pro Image Share, and he says that, for him, it’s more about getting the plug-in in the hands of photographers and helping them out with their mobile marketing than it is about making a buck.
To see the Pro Image Share gallery I created while testing the plug-in, visit www.larissaphotography.com/lyndee_gallery/.