Today, there are more ways to share photos online than ever before, from Facebook to Flickr to Picassa to Snapfish and literally hundreds of more options. However, almost all of these online photo sharing tools have a few negative aspects in common. First and foremost, the provider of the tool makes the rules. That means that if Snapfish goes belly up, say buh-bye to all of your albums. It also means that they decide on the look and feel of the album- from the size of the images to whether metadata is displayed. Second, some photo sharing tools, such as Facebook, claim to own your photos after you upload them which is completely ridiculous. No matter how you look at it, what you gain in convenience with these tools, you more than lose in control over your photos.
Years ago, I used to to code photo albums by hand in HTLM, but since those early days of the web, I have found a stable, free photo album tool called JAlbum. It is an extremely flexible, easy to use tool that can be run locally on your computer or remotely on their servers. The basic premise is that you build a photo album which is static in its very nature. This means that the album is an entity unto itself that can be saved, copied, moved and as long as HTML remains in existence, will be a permanent, unchanging record of how you wanted your photos to appear in the album. Basically, it is the digital equivalent of the old-time, “real” photo albums that sit on your shelf at home. Contrast this with a transient, fleeting view of your photos that online tools provide. As far as I’m concerned, my photos– my memories– deserve better treatment than the online tools can provide.
As with any software tool, there are some tips, tricks, and workflow techniques that can really make the difference in JAlbum’s effective use. Since my usage of JAlbum tends to come in waves, it only seemed appropriate to document the steps and the configuration that I find useful.
- Download JAlbum and install it on your computer.
- Start JAlbum.
- Configure directory preferences
- Set the “My Albums location” under Tools->Preferences and then the Album tab. This is the location where JAlbum will create your albums. In older versions, it used to create the album in the same directory as the photos, but now that it can accept photos from many directories, it makes more sense to keep all the albums in their own separate location from the photos.
- Create a new album if this didn’t happen automatically by selecting File->New Album Project
- The Album Name will also be the directory name that holds the album in the album location that you set in Step 2, although you can override that location if you need to. Generally, I leave this alone.
- Add some photos to the album by clicking on the “Add” button in the toolbar in the top of the main window.
- Modify the album settings by selecting Album->Settings
- On the General page, set the Output directory to a value of “.” Yup, just type in a single period into the whole line, which tells JAlbum to output the album files directly into the album folder instead of a subdirectory.
- On the Pages page, set the “Image linking from thumbnails” to “Link to originals via scaled images”, since it is always nice to be able to download the original file, but it is much easier to flip through an album that has scaled down images
- On the Images page, I leave the default values alone. In particular, I want the JPEG quality to be 100%, Thumbnail size should be pretty small at 130×130 pixels, and Images should be a medium size at 600×600 pixels.
- On the Advanced page, I’m sure to select IPTC Caption as one of the Comment sources, since I want to be able to extract all the wonderful metadata that I previously added to the photos.
- Install and configure the BluPlusPlus skin. Skins provide a very customizable look, feel, and functionality to your albums. I prefer BluPlusPlus for its simplicity and its ability to handle metadata well.
- Since BluPlusPlus is an add-on to the default skins, you will need to download it from the JAlbum skins website and install it per the directions on the website.
- Select BluPlusPlus for the skin and “expedition” for the style on the left side of the main window
- Now back to Album->Settings and there should be a BluPlusPlus page, which has several tabs of its own. On the Slide tab, enable display of some nice metadata by entering the following for the Slide Caption Comment:
- Iptc.Object Name||Iptc.City, |Iptc.Province/State |Iptc.Country/Primary Location||Date||FileName|Dimension|FileSize||Iptc.Copyright Notice
- Create the album by clicking on the “Make album” button in the bottom-left corner of the main window
- After the album is created, you can “preview” the album which really just means that you are looking at the local copy of the album. Since the album is its own static entity, this preview should be the same as the “live” version, but it is housed locally on your hard drive instead of on a web server.
- If you edit the IPTC metadata after you initially added the photos, you may need to delete the corresponding images in the My Albums directory so that JAlbum is forced to really read the metadata.
- Finally, upload the album to a webserver to share with the world.
Keep in mind that these are the steps that matter most to me and that there are infinite ways to build JAlbums and that there are tons of online resources to help you figure out all the different steps. Have fun!