How I made free stock photo download page

By July 27, 2015blog

My friend suggested giving away some photos on my website. They don’t have to be great work. They just have to be good enough to be used as background images in website projects etc so she said.

Even after years of somewhat hoarding my photos by watermarking them (usually do that for my fashion runway images) and reserving rights (copyrighted), it didn’t seem like a radical idea. After all, I don’t do anything with those images and it’s not like they are like some kind of ‘work of art’ – ah yes, they are in a way, but I still think I have a long way to go with my craft.

It didn’t take much to take some photos for that very purpose, since looking through old archives to select sharable images would take so much longer, on early cold mornings. That’s when one could get spectacular micro (macro a la Nikon) photos. Having photos made and ready to share is easy but how do I make them downloadable?

I causally thought about, after having looked around various other free stock photography websites, what my page should look like. Here’s the list of things I wanted.

  1. Photos downloadable without having to navigate to another page
  2. Photos laid out in a neat grid format
  3. Page is mobile device friendly (modern standard!)
  4. People could buy me coffee via PayPal (make a small or big donation)
  5. Photos are stored not in the web server space but stored externally (i.e. Dropbox or iCloud or Google Drive) with a cloud storage service.
  6. Photos could be categorised and sortable. This means preview images (low resolution) have to exist in the web server as ‘posts’ so that I could apply tags and categories.
  7. I don’t have to upload photos one by one (That would be a deal breaker as I don’t want to spend too much time maintaining the page)

The list is not in any order of importance. They have been used as criteria for deciding what kind of plugins I need to make the page happen. What I need to point out here is that I am not a programmer, or a web or a front end developer. I’m just a photographer who makes simple websites with the use of readily available themes and plugins.

After a few days of experimenting with different methods, here’s the list of plugins/services I used to make the page to work the way I wanted (according to the seven items listed above).

  • WP Download Manager Pro (Paid)
  • PayPal Donation (free)
  • Quick Featured Images Pro (Paid)
  • 30 minutes of front-end developer’s time (Paid)

The result of all that is now available for you on Photos. The page itself doesn’t look all that special. However, it took some time to make it work. Let me explain.

WP Download Manager Pro

It’s a pretty comprehensive piece of software built by a guy in Bangladesh. They have a slew of add-on programs to go with the WP Download Manager. I had to pay for their Pro version because they following features are not available in a free version:

  •   Bulk Import – this meets (so I thought) criterion 7
  •   Download Stats – didn’t think I’d need it but would be handy to know how many people are benefiting from these images
  •   Custom Templates – really needed it because of criterion 1 

I thought this plugin would fulfil all of the requirements. However, I found out, after trying out their bulk import feature (simple CSV file with various columns), that it was not quite enough. It does do what it says but not completely. The biggest problem is that after loading a bunch of images, they don’t actually show up in the Photos page until I assign a preview image (which have to be stored locally and not in Cloud to make my photos sortable/categorised) for each downloadable item one by one. That clearly defeats the purpose of having a bulk importer although it does save a little bit of time. The guys at WP Download Manager, when I pointed out the obvious flaw of their software, were kind enough to suggest an additional plugin called Quick Featured Images Pro which eventually solved the problem – read on to find out how I got the work around.

The Custom Template was definitely needed because I really didn’t want people to click through to another page (which was a default behaviour of the plug-in) to download actual image files. I’m not selling these images one by one (like other stock photography sites) so there is really no reason for people to move away from the list of photos. That meant I had to modify their ‘download link’ template. I never want to tinker with plugin’s core files as that would jeopardise future updates of the plugin which is critical for website security (in case you don’t know, outdated plugins are one of the key reasons why websites get hacked). With their custom template function, I was able to simply delete all other links, icons, click through and make the page to show list of preview images with download links.

So far so good, but what I ended up with was a list of small thumbnails and download links as text which are not really ideal. That’s when I got my front end developer to help. He spent half an hour tidying up CSS and made the page to look the way it does now.

Quick Featured Images Pro

Lastly, this plugin saved a lot of my time by allowing me to grab attached images – Bulk Importer above could attach images as a piece of content but not as preview images as Featured image. That meant, l could run Bulk Importer to upload multiple images all at once. Then run Quick Featured Images Pro to attach preview images.

wp-download-manager-file-list

So what?

What this means that I could upload several images at once spending perhaps half an hour or so rather than hours across several days to upload new photos for people – YOU – to enjoy and perhaps to use for work.

I hope this was helpful for anyone who is thinking of doing the same thing (saving you time and some headache). Also, you know what I do when I have spare time – stuck with my computer tinkering with websites.

Until next time… ciao.

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