10 Free and Feature-Packed Gallery Plugins for WordPress
There is hardly a shortage of WordPress gallery plugins right now. They all offer features that enhance the display of images on your site, from adding lightboxes to enabling 3D displays.
However, with choice comes confusion, so in this post we’re going to take a closer look at 10 free options that give professional results and cover a wide range of features.
Some are highly functional while others are minimalistic, and some are super-easy to use while others have a steeper learning curve. We take it all into account below. But before all, they’re free. Many offer premium versions that you can look to upgrade to, but you won’t have to pay a penny for any of the plugins below.
Choosing a Gallery Plugin
While WordPress comes with a built-in gallery feature, the default gallery lacks the functionality and aesthetic appeal that most users want. That’s why there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a gallery option for your site, particularly when exploring free options.
Rating/Number of Installs: If you’re looking at options available in the WordPress Plugin Directory, you can check how many active installs are using the plugin as well as the average rating given by other users. This will give you an idea of just how popular a plugin is, while the ratings provide insight into how well a plugin actually works and if there are any known complaints or issues.
Features: What kind of features do you need? Do you need to display more than one gallery? Do you need animations, lightboxes, navigation, albums, or pagination?
Speed: How fast your gallery loads can impact the user experience of your site, not to mention your SEO. But there’s no point setting up a gallery plugin if you don’t optimize your images so they also load quickly. Your best bet is WP Smush, the fastest, easiest and best-performing image compression plugin for WordPress. We benchmarked WP Smush against its two biggest rivals and it was the clear winner – not only is WP Smush faster and more reliable, it will also save you more space with no visible loss of quality.
Ease of Use: You’ll need to install a plugin to test how easy it is to use, but since you’re looking into free options, what have you got to lose! When you’ve found a plugin you like the look os, install and activate it, and have a poke around in the settings. Try setting up a new gallery. What’s the experience like? Is it easy to style a gallery to look how you want?
With Upfront, you can create beautiful galleries in seconds. Simply drag a gallery element onto the page where you want to display your gallery, drag and drop the images you want to display, and then you can style to your heart’s content. You can adjust everything from the borders and captions to the padding and thumbnail settings.
If you’re serious about styling, you can further fine tune how your gallery looks with custom CSS.
Upfront lets you quickly and easily customize how your WordPress sites looks and functions. Click here to get it completely free on WPMU DEV, along with all our other plugins and themes, when you start a free trial for our 24/7 support, unlimited updates and services.
Interested in Upfront?
Let’s kick off with an easy to use plugin that gives pretty awesome results. Envira Gallery loads galleries quickly and is fully responsive to boot.
This plugin adds an ‘Envira Gallery’ option to the WordPress dashboard. Adding a gallery is a piece of cake – just give it a name and select and/or upload the images you want to include.
Customization settings abound, including columns, thumbnail sizes, animations, layouts, and gutter and margin sizing. The free version comes with just one gallery theme for you to play with.
Galleries can be inserted into any post, page or widget. In the visual editor you’ll notice a button that enables you to insert galleries in a user-friendly manner.
Interested in Envira Gallery?
This is the mother of WordPress gallery plugins. At the time of writing, it’s live on over a million sites.
That said, it has a not-necessarily-impressive 3.1 star rating on WordPress.org, so what gives?
NextGEN Gallery plugin is one of the most popular photo gallery plugins. You can easily add images to a gallery from the Media library, a server folder (within the wp-content folder of your WordPress install), or from your computer.
With NextGEN, you can also set up albums which is a group of galleries. This may be helpful for sites that need to group galleries together.
This plugin adds a button in the visual editor for adding galleries. Upon adding a gallery, you can choose how to display the gallery: thumbnails, slider, image browser, or tag cloud. There are also two display options for albums: Basic Compact (similar to thumbnails) and Basic Extended (more details shown about the album).
The interface is intuitive and you can edit a gallery right from the Visual Editor.
By default, this plugin displays a link to show your gallery as a slideshow if you choose to display your gallery as thumbnails. It will do the reverse (add a link to view your gallery as thumbnails) if you initially display your gallery as a slideshow. This lets your visitors easily choose to preview the gallery as a slideshow or as thumbnails.
Interested in NextGEN Gallery?
The WP Canvas – Gallery plugin extends the default use of WordPress galleries. There are no additional menu items added to the WordPress dashboard with this plugin. Instead, you’ll see additional options on the right side when adding a WordPress gallery to your page or post. The default WordPress options lets you define number of columns and size of images (thumbnail, small, medium and full size).
With the installation of this plugin, the gallery settings expand to include more size options, display options, caption options, and more.
You can display a gallery in a masonry format, as a slider or as a carousel. You can also specify the Popup Size for an image when a visitor clicks on the image. When rolling over a thumbnail on the gallery page, the image fades slightly and the caption pops up to the left of the image when using the masonry layout.
This plugin gives you a variety of options while still using the built-in functionality of WordPress galleries.
Interested in WP Canvas – Gallery?
The Portfolio Gallery by Huge IT lets you add professional-looking galleries and lightbox to your posts or pages. Instead of calling them galleries, this plugin uses the term portfolios. You can easily add images to a portfolio, as well as edit captions, descriptions, and links for each image.
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This plugin comes with a variety of view options for a gallery. This includes the standard thumbnail view, to sliders, lightbox, masonry and pop up content.
A button is placed at the top of the visual editor to ‘add portfolio gallery’ or a gallery can be added by using a shortcode.
The Portfolio Gallery plugin by Huge IT is easy to set up. It loads images quickly and is responsive.
Interested in Portfolio Gallery?
The Gmedia Gallery plugin is a great plugin for quickly sharing photos. When clicking on an image in a gallery, it shows the full size image in a lightbox. You can also easily share an image on a variety of social media networks from the lightbox.
Instead of adding a ‘gallery’ option to the WordPress dashboard, you access this plugin by clicking on the Gmedia button at the top of the visual editor when adding or editing a page or post. By default, this plugin includes a video player and a music player, along with a myriad of options on how to display a gallery. These various display options are referred to as Modules in this plugin.
Seven different modules are installed by default. You can easily add other modules for a mosaic look, for slideshows, sliders, photoblog, 3D sphere, 3D cube and more. A list and demo of each module is available on the plugin page on wordpress.org.
Before setting up a gallery with this plugin, images need to be either in an album, assigned to categories, assigned to tags or in the GP Media library. The only kludgy thing I noticed with this plugin was the need to know IDs of uploaded images. Instead of being able to select an image, you had to insert ID(s) of the desired images. This was not as convenient as just selecting images.
This plugin gives you many options for customizing your galleries. I’m surprised at the number of options available for a free plugin. Along with the many options comes a degree of complexity as well. However, for a free plugin, this gallery plugin offers a lot of options.
Interested in Gmedia Gallery?
The Photo Gallery plugin by Web Dorado displays a gallery using the standard thumbnail display. Upon rollover, the image enlarges slightly. When an image is clicked on in a Photo Gallery, it opens a larger version in a lightbox where you can navigate through the gallery.
This plugin is very easy to use. It adds a ‘Photo Gallery’ option to the WordPress dashboard. Adding a new gallery is very similar to adding a post.
You can embed images from Instagram and Flickr with this plugin. By default, images must be uploaded into the designated directory for this plugin. However, there is a setting under Options for this plugin that lets you easily import images from the Media Library.
This plugin allows you to set a myriad of options for your gallery. You can also designate a text or image watermark for your images and apply this watermark to your gallery images.
The Photo Gallery plugin adds an icon to the Visual Editor for adding a gallery to a page. By clicking on this icon, you can select a layout for your gallery and which gallery you want to display.
The free version of this plugin comes with the traditional thumbnail display, along with a slider, image browser and album display options. Galleries can be combined into albums with this plugin.
Interested in Photo Gallery?
The Foo Gallery plugin lets you display your galleries in a variety of formats. The masonry format is shown above.
This plugin adds a FooGallery option to the WordPress dashboard. You simply choose to Add Gallery to create a gallery, then click on Add Media to add images to the gallery. You can also easily create and add a gallery from the visual editor.
The Foo Gallery plugin comes with a several gallery templates, including a masonry layout and the standard thumbnail display. If you want your gallery to be responsive, there is a Responsive Gallery template.
For most of the gallery templates, you can specify thumbnail size, image link options and other settings – some of them specific to the template being used. A lightbox option is not available automatically with this plugin. The free FooBox lightbox must be installed separately.
Galleries are easily added to a page or post via the Add FooGallery button that is at the top of the visual editor. A shortcode is also available for each gallery.
Interested in Foo Gallery?
The Photospace Gallery plugin extends the default settings for a WordPress gallery. The gallery is displayed as thumbnails on the left side, with the selected image showing in the preview area.
After installing this plugin, you will see a menu item for Photospace Gallery Options under Settings.
These settings let you specify the ‘controls’, whether or not to use paging, and if you want the title, captions and descriptions to appear on the gallery page. You can also specify the change of thumbnails and the size of the preview image.
Showing controls includes options to play slideshow, links to previous/next photos and a download link below the selected image.
This plugin is easy to use and extends the built-in functionality of WordPress galleries to show galleries in a different format.
Interested in Photospace Gallery?
WP Photo Album Plus gallery plugin is a powerful plugin geared towards interactive sites where you want visitors to rate and/or comment on photos, although these options can be turned off. With these options intact, a visitor can click on a photo within a gallery and rate the photo as well as add their comments.
Setting up this plugin is not as straightforward as some of the other gallery plugins. However, if you can decipher the options, it has more customization options than most of the other plugins. The settings page for this plugin is a list of tables. Click on a table to expand it and to update the settings within that table.
Options are numerous with this plugin. The beauty of that is that you can change/update a lot of information from this one screen. You can easily set alt text, tags, descriptions, as well as move or copy the photo to another album. The downside is that it can potentially be confusing.
The uniqueness of this plugin is in all the widgets it provides. There are widgets for Photo of the Day, photo ratings, most recent uploaded photos, top ten photos, albums, featured photos and more.
Interested in WP Photo Album Plus?
You might have heard people argue that that gallery functionality should be available within WordPress core. I personally disagree, and with such a glut of high-quality free WordPress plugins available (with premium versions ready and waiting should you have the need), why limit ourselves to a core implementation?