If your business depends on showcasing your abilities or your past work, then surely you need a portfolio-based website. Generally speaking, it’s easier to convince potential customers with a display of your past accomplishments. You can let images speak for you, and as we all know, a single image can speak a thousand words. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll find that there are a great number of gallery and portfolio plugins for WordPress that can help you build amazing websites.
While there’s no hard and fast rule, generally, a single page collection of images is referred to as a gallery. A visitor can click on these images, and they will open in a lightbox. Usually, galleries have no pagination. On the other hand, a portfolio is also a collection of images, but it can have many pages. Further, clicking on an image will link to the portfolio item that you’ve created.
WordPress does come with a built-in gallery feature, but it’s short on aesthetics and functionality. Using plugins to build galleries and portfolios with WordPress is a better alternative. The plugins you choose need to be fast, cleanly coded, easy to use, and responsive.
Theme or Plugin
You should also know that it’s not always necessary to use plugins. Sometimes, your theme can help build beautiful portfolios as well. Many themes do come with built-in capability to create galleries and portfolio websites. However, before you reach out for a theme, you should be aware that switching to another theme somewhere down the line can be quite messy.
Here’s why you should choose a plugin over a theme to handle your portfolio:
- Generally, themes are for handling the design aspects of the website, leaving plugins to handle functionality.
- Using a theme for a portfolio or even other functions locks you to that theme. When you move to another theme, all the portfolio-related data will still be available in the database but will not be visible in the new theme. That’s not the case with plugins. You can port all content safely to a new theme without loss of data.
- A portfolio-theme-based website curtails your freedom to change themes in the future.
A portfolio website is super important for photographers, artists, and other creative folks. That’s not to say that a portfolio website is irrelevant to others. Indeed, many websites use portfolios to display varied content. For example, a corporate can showcase its team, an online store can display products and services, and professionals like architects or NGOs can use it to show off completed projects. Essentially, anyone who has anything to showcase can use a portfolio website to display stuff that they want the world to see.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the gallery and portfolio plugins for WordPress. By and large, this list is a collection of free plugins, but a few premium plugins are included as well.
Free Portfolio Plugins for WordPress
A number of quality portfolio specific plugins are available for free download from the WordPress plugin directory. Many of them enjoy a high rating and can help you build galleries and even complete portfolios in a straightforward manner. Some of the popular plugins are.
With over a million downloads, NextGEN is a versatile plugin that can handle anything, from simple photos to complex requirements of professional photographers, visual artists, and other professionals. It gives you the ability to totally manage your gallery. It allows you to upload, rearrange or sort photos, and make beautiful albums by grouping galleries. You can also edit thumbnails and import meta data.
With the free plugin, visitors can view the images in two gallery formats—slideshows and thumbnail—as well as in a compact or extended album. The size, color, style, lightbox effects, timing, and transitions can all be varied. You can manage all the settings from the Gallery Tab on your Dashboard.
Envira Gallery Lite
Envira Gallery is a favorite with thousands of photographers and designers. As this plugin allows you to work in a familiar WordPress environment, creating a gallery takes only minutes. The user interface fits nicely into the WordPress admin area and is easy to use. Creating a new gallery is as easy as creating a new post. The plugin is responsive, and so your images will look good on all screen sizes. The authors claim that Envira is the fastest gallery plugin for WordPress, and that’s good news for SEO.
Once you upload your photos, you can create galleries with them. Then, you can go on to make albums with the galleries. Not only that. With the click of a button, you can add portfolio items anywhere on your WordPress site.
The drag-and-drop builder helps to add and reorder images. The settings can be altered to adjust the number of columns and the height of the rows, enable lazy loading, select the size, theme, and caption for lightbox, and more.
The premium plugin packs in extra features like mobile-specific settings and options to add videos and social sharing buttons. Creating a filterable gallery is also possible with the pro version as you have the choice to add tags. It also allows you to split the gallery over multiple pages and to add a gallery widget.More info / Download
Creating a gallery using Foo Gallery is almost like creating a new post in WordPress. The plugin adds a button in the post editor, which you can click to create a gallery. Within a few minutes, you can have stunning responsive galleries that load pretty fast on your website. Besides that, you get crisp thumbnails as well.
The built-in media library helps to manage images. A next-gen importer tool helps to import galleries and images. Besides, you can drag and drop images to arrange them in any order that you want. While you can style both galleries and albums with CSS, you can also choose to go with the built-in gallery templates that are bundled with the plugin. The basic version supports a decent lightbox, but for many other features, including one to add videos, you’ll have to opt for the premium extensions.More info / Download
Projects by WooThemes
Projects by WooThemes is a suitable and easy-to-use plugin to display a portfolio of projects. The plugin is also a good choice for professionals and developers since developers can extend the plugin’s functions using hooks and filters. The plugin combines well with many other WooCommerce extensions and can prove to be useful on a WooCommerce website.
It uses the built-in WordPress functions to create portfolio items. These items can be slotted into categories and displayed on an entire page. Using shortcodes, it’s possible to insert these items anywhere on the site. A single item can occupy an entire page, and you can include full project details like URL, description, or images.More info / Download
Awesome Filterable Portfolio
With the Awesome Filterable Portfolio, you can design your own portfolio and then make it filterable. The plugin comes with a number of effects and animation presets that you can use to customize the portfolio. The portfolio is filterable using jQuery animation and hover effects.
The plugin is available in many languages, and using a shortcode, you can display the portfolios you create on any page or post.More info / Download
Custom Content Portfolio
Custom Content Portfolio is designed with creative people like photographers and artists in mind. The plugin author reveals that his main reason for developing this plugin was to allow users an option to switch themes without losing any content. Any developer can build a theme on top of this plugin as well.
With the help of the plugin, you can create individual projects for your portfolio, and you can tag and categorize them. Creating new projects is much like creating new posts or pages. Project details like image, URL, and description can be added, and portfolio permalinks can be customized. You can make select projects sticky. Moreover, if you combine the plugin with a role management plugin, you can allow others to have access to portfolio management on your website.
All in all, this plugin is a complete portfolio management solution that works fine with most standard WordPress themes.More info / Download
Gallery by BestWebSoft
Gallery by BestWebSoft is a straightforward plugin that lets you add as many galleries and albums as you please to your website, all with a few easy clicks. It’s a good fit for a website that publishes images regularly and for web development agencies.
It allows you to add categories to galleries, so you can sort the galleries for viewing. You can set the default sorting order for images and galleries, and display a gallery categories widget. Go ahead and customize the border width and color, and upload any image file format. You can also add comments to galleries, descriptions to each album and images from the media library.
The paid version has several features that enhance the lightbox and increases the scope for interaction with viewers. You can add a description to the lightbox, add a button using custom URL, or even Like buttons for social media. It also allows you to switch the layout from Grid to Masonry. The plugin is multilingual and supports RTL.More info / Download
Photo Video Gallery Master
Photo Video Gallery Master is an excellent plugin for displaying any content in the gallery format, with CSS3 hover animation. Photos, videos, links, and more can find a place in the gallery, and even in a lightbox.
Not only can you build any number of galleries with this plugin, but you can also upload multiple images at a time. The drag-and-drop feature will help to arrange the images in an order that you like. Each gallery can have its own shortcode and settings. Further, using a shortcode, you can publish the gallery on any page or post on your website.
Users can work from a friendly dashboard to build a portfolio. The paid plugin comes with some additional features.More info / Download
Premium Portfolio Plugins for WordPress
Sometimes, you may need a specific function in your portfolio plugin, or you may need a higher level of support in building a portfolio. In such cases, it may be wise for you to opt for a premium plugin. Many of the plugins in the list above have premium versions that are, feature-wise, superior to the free versions. The three plugins that follow are available only as paid plugins and are truly rich in features. They help you build grids that can hold any piece of content, including portfolios.
Go Portfolio is one plugin that’s truly rich in features yet simple to use. It’s a complete solution for creating and managing portfolios. Using the Admin Panel, you can create portfolios in minutes and integrate it into your WordPress. The plugin is compatible with Visual Composer, as well as with many WordPress themes.
You can create totally new custom post types with many media elements, or you can use existing portfolio types. By inserting a shortcode into a single post page, you can create a post teaser. It’s also possible to create filterable and responsive grid layouts and to customize them. The horizontal and vertical spaces in the grid can be customized with the help of the built-in editor and select sizes for thumbnails and lightboxes. Again, using the editor, you can also import and edit templates.
The plugin comes with 35+ demos. It supports WooCommerce, so you can set up a product display with this plugin. Different thumbnail and lightbox types are possible—image, audio, and video—with existing images. It’s a versatile plugin that lets you customize a great deal and is suitable for any website, from a huge corporation to an individual blog.More info / Purchase
Essential Grid is not a pure portfolio plugin in the sense that it can handle anything that is to be placed in a grid, including portfolios. It’s a complete solution to display different content formats, including iframe content, in highly customizable grids. It includes a visual skin builder, numerous ready-made skins, and the ability to export the skins you design. It’s also possible to change the skin for specific posts. Additionally, you can animate the elements and view the changes even as you make them in the preview.
The plugin helps you build a portfolio of blog posts, custom posts, WooCommerce products, or ordinary images. Specifically, you can select content by categories and tags. The completed grid can find a place anywhere on your website with a shortcode. If you lack ideas on how to use this plugin to design your portfolio website, the examples on the demo pages can provide some inspiration.More info / Purchase
Media Grid has a no-fuss approach to portfolio building. It’s designed to provide grids in which to display galleries in an effective manner. The plugin includes a visual builder that allows you to build your own grid using drag and drop.
The lightbox in Media Grid can handle HTML and scripts to keep your portfolio pages light. A real-time search feature helps find content in larger grids. The plugin is responsive and can adapt in size from full-width images to sidebar elements. The plugin supports all media types, including audio and video. It comes with integrated support for WooCommerce and has its own pagination system. Media Grid is also optimized for search engines.More info / Purchase
That rounds off our list of plugins. With so many plugin options available for free, you really should not hesitate to add a gallery or portfolio to your website. We’d love to hear about your choice of plugin and your experience with it in the Comments below.