After going through our guide on deciding the right approach to adding a Portfolio to your WordPress site, you’ve decided to use a Portfolio Plugin with your existing WordPress Theme and set up. Sounds like a plan! Now you need to choose the right plugin and install it. Plugins can be simple to install and configure, but each has its quirks depending on how it is implemented and interacts with your current theme. Selecting the right plugin depends on your use case. We’ve selected some of the best-rated ones for you to compare.
Before diving into selecting a Portfolio Plugin, a reminder that choosing the right hosting solution is critical to maximizing your WordPress install. Here’s a quick list of solid hosting options available to you:
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- For the highest control, select a “Dedicated Server” WordPress host, especially if you’re a large corporation. For a list of the best, dedicated servers that provide WordPress solutions see this page.
What should a WordPress Portfolio Plugin provide?
We’ll be using criteria similar to those we used when selecting a Portfolio Theme. The major difference between using a theme and plugin is that a plugin usually leaves the look and feel of your current set up the same. This means that you’ll need to go back and forth to configure the user interface (UI) of your WordPress site in the Theme Options and in the Plugin Settings. It might also require some adjustment to the CSS and HTML files of both the theme and plugin to get things to look exactly right, especially if you are particular about your graphics; if you’re not familiar with WordPress, HTML, and/or CSS we recommend working with a web designer or developer directly – you can search for freelancers on online marketplaces like Freelancer.com or Upwork.
Another big difference between a theme and plugin is that you’ll need to consider the arrangement of the pages on your site. A Portfolio Theme usually has a site structure in mind, so out of the box, your homepage will have spots for links to the various galleries and collections in your portfolio. Since a plugin works with any theme, you may need to set links to the right spots yourself.
Setting the page structure requires you to set Cover Images. A Cover Image is the photo or illustration you use to represent a gallery so users have a general idea of a collection’s contents. Some plugins make this easy; with others, you may need to set the image manually on your main page as a link to the gallery page.
Another consideration is the Data and Tagging features of the plugin. As with themes, the Portfolio Plugin should provide a way for you to add project related data to each image and the overall collection. It’s also useful if it lets you set links from the images and listings. For example, if you feature a product available for sale via WooCommerce or Shopify, you should be able to link to the store’s listing so users can see the product available for sale. And, if you have affiliate links to these stores, you can earn commissions. More on that in another article.
Finally, you’ll want to consider how the plugin works with the Sliders and Slideshow functions on your existing site. These are slightly different features even if the seem similar in terminology.
A Slider lets you set a group of images to show visitors on a given page and automatically rotates between these images every few seconds. So you might set a Slider on your homepage to push out your best work. You should link the images in the slider to the gallery or collection for that project so that if the user clicks they’ll be taken there. Usually, you’ll have a Slider plugin independent of the Portfolio Plugin, so you’ll have to configure the images and links yourself.
By contrast, the Slideshow feature should be part of a good Portfolio Plugin. When a viewer lands on the page with the collection, the plugin should automatically display the images with a brief delay between each. A good Slideshow feature will provide this “walk-through” functionality so that viewers can also manually click next or back to browse through the gallery as they like.
Additional Considerations WHEN Selecting a Portfolio Plugin
Based on your specific needs, so you’ll want to consider the each of the above features when evaluating how appropriate each of the following plugins is for you. One other specialized concern is password-protection. For example, a photographer might want to password-protect photos from a wedding so that only the authorized customer can see it. You’ll want to check if the plugin provides that out of the box, or if you need to set that within your WordPress configuration. Unfortunately, it seems that password protection is more readily available with Portfolio Themes than with plugins, so if that is important and you don’t want to mess with configuring your WordPress Setup, check out themes instead.
Recommended Portfolio Plugins
We’ve researched the most popular and top-rated WordPress Portfolio Plugins available. Unlike the Portfolio Themes, these are more general purpose and aren’t as targeted towards a specific use case such as photographers or product businesses. We’ve tried to indicate which users – web designers, retailers, photographers, architects, writers, and so on – might find a particular plugin more useful in italics. While most of the features are marketed to visual artists, some of the plugins provide eCommerce integrations out of the box, making them useful for retailers or those who want to add the ability to sell products online.
Go Responsive Portfolio for WP: Lots of customizability. Support for touch devices. Comes with a number of portfolio layouts for specific users like photographers, restaurants, and design firms, which provides a solid base you can then customize to your needs. Supports video and audio media types in the lightboxes and thumbnails. It also supports WooCommerce, making this a good choice if you sell products and want that direct integration.
Photomosaic WordPress: Extends the basic WordPress gallery function with a simple to setup portfolio, that arranges the images into tiles in a “masonry” style display, covering the browser area. This plugin is probably best for image-centric projects (photographers and illustrators vs. writers and product businesses) is simple to set up, and really puts the focus on your visual work. On the other hand, because it doesn’t currently support tagging (since the native WordPress Gallery doesn’t) if you need a lot of organization this might not be the best option for complex grouping of images.
Justified Image Grid: This plugin is great for photographers, designers, architecture and interior design firms. Though it also has some extension for WooCommerce for product business, it’s not as focused on that vertical as the more visually oriented users. A nice feature of this plugin is the easy integration with social media sites, in particular, direct built-in connectivity with Facebook albums and with Flickr. It also has connectivity via RSS to other social media sites like 500px, DeviantArt, Tumblr, Imgur, and YouTube. However, RSS doesn’t allow for as much organization of these galleries as you would get with the built in Facebook and Flickr options. In addition, you need to be comfortable with configuring RSS, and while that’s not extremely difficult, it isn’t always the most reliable or easy to use, when compared to a direct connection, for example, one based on an API.
Media Grid: Another masonry style layout, with an easy to use way to organize images via a “grid builder,” plus support for video and audio formats as well. This makes it a solid option for illustrators, designers, and photographers. In addition, it works well for product businesses with built in WooCommerce support that automatically displays product attributes and ratings, and also has and the ability to add unlimited item characteristics. The latter also makes this a good portfolio option for architects and interior designers who may need to add custom information about projects. The plugin also supports automatic updates of its code; however, if you intend to do a lot of customizations to the setup, we recommend you manually test the impact first.
Grid FX: This plugin supports both grid and masonry (“Pinterest-style”) layouts, with some additional support for post excerpts that go along with the images that make it a decent option for writers and journalists, since you can show a bit more text with your image and feature your WordPress posts in a gallery format. Although a bit tricky to initially configure, this excerpt configuration can be useful to architects and interior designers if you organize each image with a post and then use the snippet of text for the captioning, but that isn’t as nice as having extended item characteristics like you get with Media Grid. Of course, like the other Portfolio plugins here, this portfolio plugin works well for visual artists and photographers. The integration with WooCommerce makes it a good option for product businesses, especially given the plugin’s built-in filtering and sorting features, and the ability to easily customize the buttons in the display as calls to action. Lastly, the support for Audio and Video content in the grid display makes it good for podcasters and filmmakers too. It’s an advanced tool that requires more work to configure but does a lot.
Auto Grid Responsive Gallery: This plugin offers a grid layout and has all the basics of a portfolio gallery, but we think this one will be particularly appealing to photographers, visual artists, or designers with an existing large body of work. The killer feature of this plugin is that the organizational approach it takes eliminates not only coding but even the need to use a web-based User Interface to arrange content, which can be slow and labor-intensive. You just need to organize your images into folders and sub-folders on your desktop, and then use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client to move them to your WordPress server. The plugin will then scan them and automatically build and organize your galleries. So if you are worried about the amount of work it’ll take to put all your images in the right place, this plugin can save you a lot of time. It has just the basics, but for a lot of visually oriented portfolios, it should work just fine.
ZoomFolio: Focused on photographers, this portfolio plugin is designed to be simple to use, but also provides several skins out of the box to make matching the designs to your existing theme and branding a little easier. There isn’t support for product businesses via eCommerce connections, nor are there any fancy configurations for social media import or any extended item characteristics. For photographers who want some control over look and feel but don’t want to get too deep into the weeds on configurations, this plugin is a good option.
Final Tiles: This plugin addresses the mix of vertical and landscape images in a clean “tiles” layout and also supports masonry (“Pinterest”) style designs. It features WooCommerce integration and a series of options for captioning images which allow it to work for product business as well as for architects, designers and others who need to add data to the images, but it is still very heavily visually focused. The ability to build galleries from posts makes it an option for writers and journalists, though it’s not quite targeted to that audience. Support for video services like Wistia and Vimeo also make this a good portfolio option for videographers and filmmakers.
Easy Media Gallery WordPress: A free option. If your needs are simple and you just want to add a basic gallery with some simple customizations, Easy Media Gallery is, well, easy and free. Additional features and customizations are available for purchase, and the free version does limit you to 3 albums/galleries with 15 images each. But if you want something to start with that is free and easy, this does what it says on the box. However, users with advanced needs will want to look elsewhere.
Installing your Plugin
Installing a plugin is usually a simple task in WordPress, though it does require you know where to go in your install to locate the Plugin Settings. Check out our step-by-step plugin installation guide for help with this, once you’ve selected your plugin. Good luck!