Fat Stacks quote from Breaking Bad by Jesse Pinkman

Pros and Cons of Dynamic Photo Galleries with Faceted Search

I publish two huge sites that feature dynamic photo galleries which offer faceted search for visitors. It's a big job to set up but has huge benefits. Read my pros and cons for building these types of websites.

Image of a digital photo gallery

I’m a website gadget junky.  I like trying new things such as navigation features, monetization options, content designs, etc.

It’s not the best use of my time, but I’ve come up with some cool stuff over the years because of my tinkering.

My list of plugins on my bigger sites is ridiculous.

Ironically, fatstacksblog.com is the one site I keep super simple. It’s the simplest site I publish in terms of bells and whistles.  Mostly text and a simple blogging theme.

One nifty feature I’ve spent a long time working on for my sites is what I call dynamic galleries.

What are dynamic photo galleries?

Dynamic photo galleries (or video galleries) are created when you tag photos or videos and they automatically get inserted into an existing gallery or into multiple galleries.

It’s easiest to explain with an example.

Suppose I publish a site on luxury cars.  There are many different types, so I do my keyword research and come up with the following topics.

  • Luxury Sports Cars
  • Luxury SUVs
  • Luxury Sedans
  • Luxury Vintage Cars

Each of the above topics will be one gallery on one URL in which I’ll put photos of the relevant cars.

When I upload luxury car photos, I’ll tag them appropriately.  The tags will reflect the topics such as “Sports”, “SUV”, “Sedan”, “Vintage”.

If I upload a new luxury Sedan photo, I tag it with “Sedan” and it automatically is inserted in the “Luxury Sedan” gallery.

Now suppose that luxury sedan is also a vintage car.  I could tag it both “Sedan” and “Vintage”.  It then automatically falls into both the “Luxury Sedans” and “Luxury Vintage Cars” galleries.  Super fast and super easy.

Suppose I want to add more galleries by color.  I could create sub-galleries for each type of luxury car as follows:

  • Red Luxury Sports Cars
  • Black Luxury Sports Cars
  • Yellow Luxury Sports Cars


I could create separate color oriented sub-galleries for each luxury car topic.  When I upload new photos, I not only tag it by main topic, but I also tag it according to color.  The photo then automatically falls into all relevant galleries.

The number of potential galleries is very high.  I could create galleries by year, price range, etc. for each type of car.

What do I know about these types of galleries?

A lot.  I have two sites that feature hundreds of dynamic galleries with faceted search.  I love building these sites because they’re super useful for visitors and once set up, pretty easy to grow.

Why not just manually add photos to static galleries?

You could do this.  However, there are many pros to creating dynamic galleries.  I set those out below.


1. Continually promote the same URLs

Because you build dedicated galleries, all your links will point to fewer URLs.  Yes, you can have lots of galleries, but each gallery will be unique in that it’s a dedicated topic.  This is great for focusing your social signals and inbound links to fewer URLs.

You also avoid duplicate content because each gallery is created as a separate topic.  If you manually create posts with images, over time you could end up with 10 different luxury sedan posts which could be too similar.  I know this from experience.

2. Add lots of images quickly

Once your galleries and taxonomies are set up, you just add photos as fast as you can and tag them.  They automatically fall into applicable galleries.  This way you can add loads of new content very, very fast – and then promote it like crazy on social media.

3. Faceted / filtered search capability

When you apply taxonomies to each image or custom post type, you have the potential to add faceted search to your site via FacetWP plugin or Content Views Pro (read my Content Views Pro review here).  I use both and both work really, really well.  Play around with both and choose the one you like most.

4. Create lots of unique content quickly

Once you have thousands of photos all tagged with a variety of taxonomies, you can start creating new, unique galleries very quickly.  Going back to our luxury vehicle website – you could quickly create “yellow luxury sports cars”, “yellow luxury sedans”, “yellow luxury SUVs” etc.  The more taxonomies you have, the more galleries you can create… and each gallery is unique.

Caution:  You don’t want to overdo it.  At some point, if you go really long tail such as “red and black luxury sports cars” that may be getting too long tail and too similar to the individual “red” and “black” luxury sports cars galleries.

5. More page views

As your dynamic galleries grow with multiple pages, visitors will visit more pages on your site to go through the growing galleries.

While there are many pros to dynamic galleries, there are some disadvantages.  I set those out below in the Cons section.

6. Incredibly easy to outsource most of the work

Anyone can get and tag images so outsourcing it is a breeze.  I have 2 full time VAs who get images, write alt text descriptions and tag them.  Every day my galleries are updated with new images, which leads to the last pro…

7. Repeat visitors

Because your galleries update regularly, you can continually promote the same URLs and people will take note and revisit to see what’s new.


1. Incompatibility with ad networks and other features

Because most dynamic galleries that incorporate faceted search of some sort are Ajax based, they can conflict with other plugins or features you want to have on your site.  For example, they won’t work on AMP (for now anyway).  I’ve even had an ad network that couldn’t work with them.

2. Ad placement in gallery may be difficult

Because the galleries are created externally to the visually editor, it can be difficult, if not impossible to insert ads inside the gallery such as after every fourth or fifth image.

3. Less control over display

If you like adding captions and perhaps other text under images, dynamic galleries may not enable this unless you do a work around.  I’ve done work-arounds with Advanced Custom Fields plugin.

4. Social media embed issues

If some or many of your photos include social media embeds, that is not possible via the media library.  I’ve tried everything and have hired developers to look into it.  As far as I know it cannot be done.

The workaround for this is to a custom post type for each embed and then have your gallery plugin pull the content of the custom post types.  I’ve done this for one of my sites and it works very well, but it’s more time consuming because you end up creating hundreds or thousands of custom posts.  It’s much faster adding images to the media library and tagging them.

5. No static URL for the image

Have you ever clicked an image on Pinterest or a link on Facebook hoping to find the source and end up not finding it?  It’s annoying.  One problem with dynamic galleries is as more photos are added to the galleries, the older images get pushed to next pages.  I set up my galleries with pagination after 12 or 20 images.  When I add another 12, the previous 12 on the first page get pushed to page 2.

So, if you or a visitor pin an image currently on page 1, at some point that image may get pushed to page 2, yet people who click that pin on Pinterest will end up on page 1 and won’t be able to find the image unless they rip through the pages.  They’ll be annoyed.

One way I’ve attempted to solve this is with the Foobox lightbox which creates a static url for each image in the lightbox.  This is not a perfect fix because not everyone pins or shares an image from the lightbox, but it’s the best solution I have to date.

6. Lots of up-front planning

When building out dynamic galleries, you need to carefully and thoroughly plan out all the taxonomies so that you tag each image thoroughly from the start.  You don’t have to have perfected.  I’ve often added more taxonomies well after the site is launched, but it is good to do some thorough planning from the start and organize your taxonomies.

7. Mobile issue

One issue on mobile is people don’t really click various facets to filter their search.  They just scroll.  Therefore, the faceted search feature is wasted on mobile. However, that doesn’t render dynamic galleries useless on mobile.  The galleries still update automatically as new photos are added via tagging.

The biggest benefit:

The biggest benefit of using dynamic galleries is you promote the same URLs over and over with different images.  As you add new images, that same url enjoys more and more social signals.  Over time you get tens of thousands of social signals to a few URLs.

It’s the same with links.  Other sites link to the same few URLs which is great.

Suppose you didn’t create dynamic galleries, but instead created individual posts for every new batch of 30 luxury sedan vehicles you added to your site.  Over time you’d end up with perhaps dozens of luxury sedan galleries on dozens of URLs.  Not only could that be considered duplicate content by search engines (unless your organized them really well), but you’d be diluting your social signals and inbound links.

Should you use dynamic galleries?

As a person who once upon a time created manual galleries (hundreds of them) and then switched an entire site with 50,000 images into a dynamic gallery structure, I can tell you there are pros and cons to each.

Sometimes I regret switching to dynamic galleries because of the loss of control and lack of static URLs for sourcing.

However, on a balance, I prefer the dynamic gallery set up.  It’s a pile of work, but now that it’s all set up on two sites (two very different niches), I can create extraordinary sites that people really like and build them up for years.

The key is in the planning.

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