I just can't find the right photo service or solution

As a hobbyist photographer, often the hardest part after shooting and editing is sorting out where to host my photos. I've tried a multitude of online services over the years but have never found one that I liked mostly due to the fact that I'm not in 100% control of the life of that service. Are they closing down tomorrow, next week, next year? Who knows. This has led me to search far and wide for self-hosted photo solutions but I've yet to find one that hits the mark.

What I've tried so far


Lychee caught my eye a few months ago when I first tried it out based on the sole fact that it didn't look like it was made in the mid-nineties like a lot of others did. It was relatively painless to setup and install and has a decent visual and responsive style. But something felt weird about it for me when I was using it. I realized it was the visual style that caught my eye in the first place. One of the reasons I really like Flickr is that their gallery and stream layout is entirely focused on the photos. In Lychee, there's too little of a focus on the photos for me. It's trying to look too much like a slick "app" instead of showcasing photos.

There were a few other minor issues that could be resolved in time. For example, you can't have titles longer than 30 characters. This was born out of the maintainer using the metadata on his photos in a different way than everyone else. At first there was also no support for IE, not even the latest. This was due to a JS error and the lack of access to IE on the maintainer's part. Thankfully this has been addressed but the initial lack of that definitely gave me pause.

If I could have Lychee with a completely different visual style I'd be good.

Self-Hosted Trovebox

Trovebox has open sourced their front end app, which is essentially the entire product. It worked out of the box without much fiddling required though there are a number of PHP notices being thrown here and there. Trovebox's gallery and album views resemble Flickr's pretty closely which is great. It has private album support, though I think it'd be better to describe it as unlisted albums since they're still there if you know the proper URL.

Trovebox is by far the best solution I've found so far for myself which makes it extra frustrating when it's so close but still so far.

A few things I'd like to see added, which I could work on through pull requests would be:

  • Commenting, possibly with Disqus support
    • There is a concept of plugins in Trovebox but they seems to be broken in some places. I'll need to find the documentation for how to create one.
  • Anonymous favouriting of photos, kind of like the "kudos" system on Svbtle posts.
    • I think Disqus might handle favouriting as well.
  • Ability to control the default sort order for albums. Maybe I'm weird but it seems to be the exact opposite of what I'd like.
    • This can be mitigated by just sharing the link with the embedded sorting in the URL.

My self-hosted photo dream

Here's just a list of things that I'd have if I could have a custom system built.

  • Photo gallery/album layout similar to Flickr
    • Really, a self hosted Flickr usability wise would be perfect. Searching for that is how I ended up finding Trovebox in the first place.
  • Ability to upload to my own site, and share/syndicate that out to social networks
  • When sharing on social networks, it'd take advantage of all the pretty preview possibilities like Twitter cards and Facebook image previews. It is photography after all so it's be nice to have that.
  • Ability for potentially anonymous users to favourite and comment on photos
  • Integration with a commenting system like Disqus

It's really a race between me finding something that does what I want and my own frustration that leads me to build my own. If I did go with building my own, it'd be nice to open source it and I think I would aim to keep the backend photo storage system completely separate from the front end. That way there could be multiple different front ends with a common backend. If I ever wanted to start over UI wise, I wouldn't lose any of the backend features.

Anyways, that's my brain dump of thoughts around photo hosting current and in my dreams. If anyone knows of my perfect solution out there please let me know :) Also, check out Trovebox and Lychee! It's highly possible they'll be the perfect solution for you.

Short URL: http://gl2.ca/3e