Photonic – Gallery and Lightbox Plugin


Photonic is a totally free WordPress plugin provides photo-blogging extensions to the WordPress gallery shortcode. Along with support for Flickr, Smugmug, Zenfolio, Picasa, Google Photos, Instagram and 500px, it provides a host of added functionality with jQuery goodness.

Photonic supports a wide array of features across multiple providers:

Provider Requirements What Can You Show?
Single Photo
(Level 0)
(Level 1)
Albums / Sets / Galleries
(Level 2)
Album Groups
(Level 3)
Native WP Nothing extra needed; works out of the box Not supported Standard gallery photos Standard galleries No such feature in WP No such feature in WP
Flickr Supported User Photos and Group Pools Albums / Photosets and Galleries Collections, with lazy loading Visitors login
Picasa Not supported Photos Albums No such feature in Google Photos Authkey and Back-end authentication
Google Photos Not supported Photos Albums No such feature in Google Photos Back-end authentication
500px Supported User and Generic photos Galleries No such feature in 500px Visitors log in
SmugMug Not supported User photos Albums User tree and Folders Password-protection, or visitors log in
Zenfolio Nothing extra needed; works out of the box Supported User and Generic photos Photosets (Galleries and Collections) Groups and Group hierarchies Password-protection supported, login not supported
Instagram No API key needed, but see instructions for authentication Supported User photos No such feature in Instagram No such feature in Instagram Back-end / server-side

The Need for an API Key (🔗)

Photonic helps fetch photos from various third-party providers, viz. Flickr, Picasa / Google, 500px, Smugmug, Zenfolio and Instagram. Some of these providers require you to sign up for an API key, and I don’t bundle my own with the app for two simple reasons:

  1. Potential rate-limiting
    Let’s say I had bundled my Flickr API key with the plugin and you were using it to show your photos. If you had several thousand photos, the fetching of those photos would get tagged to my id, potentially marking me as a “high use” individual. Flickr might then decide that since I am using my key so much, it should make me upgrade my level of service, or it might block my API key. These are potentially dangerous for both, me, and the end user. As a result, Photonic enforces the use of an individual’s API key.
  2. Usage Restrictions
    Various providers’s Terms of Service mandate that a free API key will not be used for commercial purposes. I don’t make any money off Photonic, so I could use the API key as I pleased. However, if I bundled my API key with the plugin and you used it for commercial reasons, I would be in direct violation of the terms of service, and that puts me at significant legal risk.

Multiple Gallery Layouts (🔗)

By using the layout parameter for the shortcode, you can get five different thumbnail layouts for your photos.

Square Thumbnails - the default

Square Thumbnails – the default

Circular Thumbnails

Circular Thumbnails

Random Tiled Gallery

A cool-looking randomly tiled grid in a justified layout

For those who like Masonry, there’s that too!

And a Nice, Tiled Mosaic!

… And Slideshows as Well (🔗)

In addition you can choose to display your photos as a slideshow, with a running strip of thumbnails, or with bullets for each slide. In essence, you could strip away all the powerful features of Photonic and simply run it as a slider plugin.

See your photos in a slider

Lightboxes (🔗)

Photonic comes armed with an eye-popping array of lightboxes. A lightbox is typically launched when you click on a thumbnail in a gallery. Several GPL-compatible lightbox scripts are bundled with the plugin, and there is inbuilt support for some non-GPL (hence, non-bundled) scripts:

Lightbox Included in Photonic? Auto-slideshow Deep-linking Social Sharing Touch Thumbnails
Colorbox ×
Fancybox × × ×
Fancybox2 ×
Image Lightbox × ×
LightCase ×
PhotoSwipe × ×
Strip × × × ×
Swipebox × ×

See the Lightboxes page for more information.

Shortcode Editing (🔗)

While the basis of the plugin is the tweaking of a shortcode, it can get challenging to remember all the different parameters of the shortcode. So Photonic lets you create a shortcode two different ways:

Adding or Editing a Gallery

Click on either of the buttons

Pick your source

Clicking on “Add / Edit Photonic Gallery” starts an interactive workflow lets you pick your source

Make your choices

Each selection drives the next screen that lets you build out your shortcode

Click on the new "Photonic" tab

Clicking on the “Add Media” button gives you the classical interface, where you can click on the new “Photonic” tab

Click on the individual tabs for Flickr, Picasa etc.

Click on the individual tabs for Flickr, Picasa etc.


The plugin is distributed through the WordPress plugin repository and is supported on the WP Support Forum.