If you’re looking for the best WordPress gallery plugin for your site, you’ve probably come across the name NextGEN Gallery.
Active on over 900,000 sites according to WordPress.org, NextGEN Gallery is by far the most popular gallery plugin at the WordPress.org plugin repo.
But why is it so popular, and what all does this gallery plugin offer?
In our NextGEN Gallery review, we’ll dig into this popular WordPress gallery plugin and show you everything that it has to offer.
NextGEN Gallery Review: Taking a Look at The Features
NextGEN Gallery offers a deep feature list, which I think is a big part of why it’s so popular with photographers, graphic artists, and other professionals.
You can find plenty of WordPress gallery plugins that can help you create a simple, attractive gallery. But the field gets a lot slimmer when you start looking for advanced image management features, eCommerce integrations, client proofing, and more.
NextGEN Gallery really shines when you start looking at those advanced features. For example, it even has a print lab integration that lets you sell physical prints of your images and automatically fulfill those orders via White House Custom Colour, which is something I’ve never seen in any other WordPress gallery plugin.
But before we get to those advanced features, let’s start at the beginning, because NextGEN Gallery also does the little stuff well.
15+ Gallery and Album Display Options
NextGEN Gallery comes with 15+ different gallery templates to help you display your images. Five are free, while you get access to another 12+ display options in the premium version.
You get basic galleries like a simple thumbnail or slideshow gallery, as well as advanced layouts like mosaic, filmstrip, masonry, and more.
For example, if you just want a simple gallery, you can use the basic thumbnail gallery that’s available in the free version (you can also let people open each image in a lightbox):
If you want to spice things up, you could go with a masonry gallery layout:
Or a filmstrip layout:
Or any one of the 15+ other gallery layout options.
You also get the ability to display multiple galleries in an album along with multiple different album layouts.
For example, here’s an album grid layout. Each item in the album is a separate gallery:
Powerful Image Management
For a few small galleries, the native WordPress Media Library is all you need.
But as you start creating more galleries, keeping track of all those images gets messy if you try to use the WordPress Media Library.
The WordPress Media Library doesn’t give you any way to easily filter out which images are in which gallery/album, which makes it tough to update anything in the future.
Additionally, uploading hundreds of images through the WordPress Media Library is a pain (and can often time out).
To fix that, NextGEN Gallery comes with its own image management interface.
To add images, you can either:
- Upload your own images via the NextGEN Gallery uploader.
- Import images from the WordPress Media Library.
- Import a folder from your server. This last one is great because it lets you bulk upload images via FTP to your own custom folder and then import them to NextGEN.
Then, you can manage all of your images from inside the gallery’s settings:
You can also always go back and add more images to your gallery in the future using any one of the methods above.
Once you’ve created multiple galleries, you can organize those galleries into albums using a really simple drag-and-drop interface:
You also get a convenient “Bulk actions” tool. You can use it to quickly perform the following actions to one or more of your galleries (and all the images inside if applicable):
- Add a watermark
- Create new thumbnails
- Resize the images
- Import metadata
- Recover from backup
For example, you can resize the images across all of your galleries to new dimensions (without changing the aspect ratio):
As you start using more images and more galleries, I think you’ll really appreciate having the management area be separate from the regular WordPress Media Library.
Client Proofing and Lightroom Integrations
If you’re a photographer working with clients, NextGEN Gallery includes some great features to make your life easier.
The biggest one is a dedicated client proofing feature, which lets you create galleries that you can share with your clients for proofing.
As clients browse through the gallery, they can use the “star” icon to proof a picture or also use the “comment” icon to open a comment sidebar where they can leave feedback on specific images:
NextGEN Gallery also has some other features that can fit into your photography workflow. For example, you can publish and manage galleries directly from Adobe Lightroom.
eCommerce and Automatic Print Fulfillment
If you want to sell your photos/images, NextGEN Gallery can help you sell both digital downloads and physical prints.
There are some other gallery plugins that include eCommerce functionality for digital products, but the physical print fulfillment feature is unique as far as I know.
If you want to sell prints, you can either manually fulfill them or connect to WHCC (White House Custom Colour) for automatic print fulfillment.
The eCommerce feature lets you accept payments via Stripe or PayPal. It also comes with other nice features like automatic sales tax calculations (via TaxJar) and an option to offer coupons.
With the eCommerce feature enabled, NextGEN Gallery adds a new shopping cart icon to images in your galleries. When a user clicks that icon, it opens a sidebar where they can choose between physical prints and digital downloads and also select different sizes/features:
Shoppers can then check out using a convenient one-page checkout:
Detailed Settings for Granular Control
Finally, if you want to change anything about how NextGEN Gallery functions, you get a really detailed settings area that lets you manage everything from the look of your galleries to which WordPress user roles can access various gallery functions (and a lot more!):
NextGEN Gallery Pricing: Free and Paid Versions
NextGEN Gallery has a popular free plugin at WordPress.org. Then, there are two premium options.
The free version at WordPress.org makes a good option for simple galleries and lets you create unlimited galleries using five of the free display options.
Then, the two premium versions are NextGEN Plus and NextGEN Pro.
With NextGen Plus, you get access to 12+ new display options as well as helpful new features like social sharing for individual images, image commenting, and more advanced lightbox options.
Then, NextGEN Pro adds support for the eCommerce features, client proofing, and the Lightroom integration.
Here’s how the pricing shakes out:
- Plus – $79 for one year of support and updates and use on a single site.
- Pro – $139 for one year of support and updates and use on up to three sites.
- Pro LIFETIME – $399 for one year of support and updates and use on unlimited sites.
While NextGEN Gallery works with any WordPress theme, the developer also sells a number of photography-focused themes that make a great pair with NextGEN Gallery.
Final Thoughts on NextGEN Gallery
NextGEN Gallery is by far the most popular WordPress gallery plugin, and it’s popular for a reason.
If you’re just a blogger looking for a simple way to create great-looking galleries, there are lots of free gallery plugins that can get the job done.
But if you’re a photographer or other image professional, NextGEN Gallery is definitely at the top of the game.
It’s a great option for:
- Working with lots of images because you can upload images to your server via FTP and then quickly import them to NextGen Gallery. You also get those convenient bulk management tools.
- Selling images online because you can sell both digital and physical prints and automatically fulfill print orders via WHCC.
- Working with clients because you get that nice built-in client proofing feature and Lightroom integration.
If you want to get started with NextGEN Gallery, you can play around with the free version at WordPress.org to see how you like it.
Then, if you do like what you see, you can upgrade to one of the premium versions to get access to more gallery types and advanced features like client proofing and eCommerce support.