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I found Lightbox Photo™ to be very feature rich and easy to work with.

Software Review: Lightbox Photo Gallery Software 4.x from Lightbox Photo™, Part 1

This is the first in a three-part review covering Lightbox Photo™ Gallery Software from Lightbox Photo™. I have broken this down into three parts because of the scope of this system is pretty large and to try to work it down into a single review would do the product an injustice. In the first part I will cover an overview of the software and look at what it takes to install and setup of the Lightbox Photo™. Part two I will look at what the existing features of the product are, and in part three I will look at what new features have been added to the latest version of the software. So let's look at a general overview and setup of Lightbox Photo™ Gallery Software.

Lightbox Photo™ is a software package that runs on a server and its main purpose is to assist you in creating your own photo sales site. There are three different versions of this product that can handle everything from the independent fine art photographer to someone who wants to set up their own stock photo library business.

The system is very flexible in that it can be set up on your own server as well as on a server run by an independent hosting company. Lightbox Photo™ also has the ability to host it for you. The software is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows, and there are three versions that are available to you depending on your needs.

The standard version is aimed at the freelance artist and will let you create galleries, add images, display your images, accept payment via PayPal, VeriSign, and WorldPay among other payment processors.
Lightbox Photo™ Gallery SoftwareThe professional version is focused to the small studio, collectives, and freelancers by adding additional searching tools and the ability to have multiple administrators with different privileges, as well as additional methods for payment such as offline payment for invoicing, or allowing a customer to pay by methods other than credit card, and shipping options for physical products.

The Enterprise version is geared to those who need to manage multiple artists, use credit systems, and offer subscriptions. If you want to set up your own stock agency, then this is the version you would want, but it also has a number of features that really just about anyone would like. These include the ability to sell sets of images and allowing users to buy frames or other product options.

What do you need to run Lightbox Photo™ Gallery Software? Since this is server software, it needs to be run from a server. This can be one that you manage, or it can be run from an outsourced ISP. That system needs to have installed PHP 4.3.1 or later, MySQL 3.23.58 or later, Apache 1.3 or later (or IIS will work as well), Zend Optimizer v3 or later, a default mail system, FTP for uploads, and a browser for admin.

At its heart, Lightbox Photo™ Gallery is an online gallery and digital asset manager. You can use it (depending on the version) to generate thumbnails, watermark images, create a dynamic user registration system, price, and sell your images online. Each of these can be used as-is or integrated into an existing Web site.

The installation of Lightbox Photo™ Gallery is really very easy and straightforward. You download the product and unzip the package. You then upload the files to your server via the binary mode. What I did was to create a directory under my main site and called it "gallery"; I then uploaded what I had unzipped into that directory.

You then have to change permissions to make some of the directories ready for use. All of this is neatly explained in the documentation. Under Linux and Mac, you may be able to do this yourself. Under Windows, you may have to have your hosting provider handle these permissions. The Lightbox Photo™ people also have the option that they will set it up for you if you can set up permission for them to get onto your site.

Once everything is uploaded, you simply run the setup program that is located in the directory you installed it in. In my case, it was the gallery directory. Then it is as simple as following the on-screen directions. Keep in mind that when you order this software, it is tied to a domain, so you will have to put it at that domain. To run on multiple sites you will need multiple licenses.

Lightbox Photo™ Gallery SoftwareNow that it is installed, there are a couple of files that you will have to manually delete, but then you should be ready to continue to set up your site. To do this, you sign into your admin page, which gives you the ability to configure a lot of features, including how images and orders are handled, customers, photographers, licensing, shipping, payments, promotions, as well as other information. You can get an idea of the areas from the screen above. Click on the screen to get a larger image.

Lightbox Photo™ Gallery will handle sales tax as well as VAT tax. It has the ability to handle quite a large number of payment gateways and has them set up so that all you really need to do is activate and enter your information. It also has the ability to manage and display a variety of media including images, video, and audio.

Lightbox Photo™ Gallery can be used out of the box as a standalone Web site, or integrated into an existing site. As I said earlier, there are three versions and each of those versions can come as branded or unbranded. The unbranded version gives you the ability to remove any reference to Lightbox Photo™ from the site. With the branded, you must keep the "Powered by Lightbox Photo™ Gallery Software" at the bottom of the page. The Standard edition is $399, the Professional is $599, and the Enterprise is $999 with the unbranded versions going for an additional $100 over the base price.

Lightbox Photo™ Software Gallery is fully customizable, but for that you will need to have some programming abilities (or find someone who has these skills). If you don't, the company has an offer to do it for you for a reasonable price. If you want to check out how others have customized their sites, check out the galleries.

All in all, I found Lightbox Photo™ to be very feature rich and easy to work with. It was a breeze to set up, and just as easy to get around in. In the next part I will look at some of those features and what they can do for your business. If you want to set up your own gallery or stock photo site, then I highly recommend that you check out Lightbox Photo™. With the right version, it can get your business started off right.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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