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Piccle logo

Piccle

Piccle is a static photo gallery generator. Purposefully designed with no admin interface, it builds the gallery from the metadata embedded in your image files. You can see a Piccle-driven gallery at https://photography.alexpounds.com/.

Piccle is my current main side project, but it's something I work on for fun.

A Warning About Privacy

Piccle does not strip any of the metadata from your photos; be aware of what you're putting on the internet. Location metadata can reveal where you live or work, and is automatically added to photos by most phones. Your photos may also contain contact info or real names - either your own (eg.) or that of your subjects - though these are unlikely to be added unless you set them up first.

Getting started

Quickstart

gem install piccle --pre
piccle generate -i path/to/your/image/dir # Produces a site in generated/
piccle help # To see more options

Installing Piccle

Piccle requires a modern(ish) version of Ruby. If you don't have one already, then I like rbenv as a Ruby version manager.

The default renderer relies on NodeJS being available in your $PATH. If this isn't possible for you, you can run Piccle with --ruby-renderer – but this is typically 10 times slower.

  1. Run gem install piccle --pre to install the software.
  2. Piccle can run from anywhere, but things will be easier if you created a dedicated directory for it:
    mkdir -p piccle/images
    cd piccle
  3. Place your photos within the images/ directory.
  4. Run piccle. This will take a little while on the first run, but subsequent runs are faster.
    • You don't have to provide any options, but you will probably want to specify your name and your deployment URL. For instance, I run:
      piccle generate -n "Alex Pounds" -u "https://photography.alexpounds.com/"
  5. Take the output in generated/ and deploy it to your web server of choice. You can preview the gallery locally; open generated/index.html in your browser.
  6. You're done!

Available Options

Piccle has two subcommands, generate and geocode. generate is the default task and is the same as running without specifying a subcommand. geocode uses the Data Science Toolkit to look up locations in the database. piccle help generate will display the various options:

  • -i or --image-dir specifies the input image directory. Defaults to [$CWD](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_directory)/images.
  • -o or --output-dir specifies the output directory. Defaults to $CWD/generated.
  • -d or --database specifies which metadata database to use. If it doesn't exist, one will be created. Defaults to $CWD/piccle.db.
  • -c or --config specifies a configuration file to use. Any long option can be specified in the configuration file, apart from this one. Config file settings can be overridden with command line switches, but config files don't "layer" - that is, a home directory config file won't be used to fill in settings if you have a config file in the current directory. Defaults to $CWD/piccle.config.yaml, then ~/.piccle.config.yaml.
  • -n or --author-name sets the name used in the title and site copyright notice. Defaults to "An Anonymous Photographer".
  • -u or --url sets the URL where you'll deploy your gallery. You can generate a site without this, but Atom feeds (so people can subscribe to updates) and OpenGraph tags (which give nice embeds on social media) require a full URL. They won't be generated if this is not set.
  • --debug turns on debug mode, which adds some extra logging.
  • --ruby-renderer uses a rendering engine that does not require your system to have NodeJS installed (instead, it uses a wrapper for libv8). The output is the same, but it's much slower.

Metadata Used

  • Title and description are shown on photo pages, as are shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
  • Camera model is shown on photo pages, and browsable.
  • Date taken is shown on photo pages, and is browsable at the year, month, and day level.
  • Keywords are shown, and exposed as "topics".
  • Location is shown. If your photos have a city/state/country specified in their data, then that's used; otherwise, Piccle will attempt to geocode them based on embedded latitude/longitude.
  • People are browsable, based on the "Person Shown" IPTC field.

Events

Piccle allows you to create named events in a separate YAML file. Each event gets a dedicated index page, and a callout on the main index. It's useful for highlighting pictures from a particular photoshoot, or drawing attention to a trip.

Events must have a name, and must either be at a particular date or within a particular date span (from and to). Events may also be marked as collapsed; collapsed events don't show all their photos on an index page. Instead, they show a quilt tile with some of the photos. It's a good way to avoid flooding your front page with a lot of similar-looking photos.

This events.yaml file defines two events: a photoshoot I did themed around googly eyes, and a trip to the UK in 2019. (The example shows dates only, but you can include times too.)

-
  name: Googly Eyes
  at: 2019-03-23
  collapsed: true
-
  name: UK 2019
  from: 2019-01-24
  to: 2019-02-09

Credits

Geolocation is provided by the free Data Science Toolkit API. The test images are public domain images by Sasin Tipchai, Timo Schlüter, Jill Wellington, and Pascal Vannevel.

License

Piccle is licensed under the Affero GPL v3.

Contributing

I have fairly firm ideas about where I want to take Piccle, so if you want to contribute features please talk to me first! Bugfixes and test cases are welcomed, especially if you can include a public-domain photo that illustrates the bug.


Suggested Tools

I am resisting the urge to write my own metadata manager until I consider Piccle complete. I haven't found an ideal tool for managing metadata yet, but here are some options:

Adobe Bridge

Pros

  • Available for free, without a paid Creative Cloud subscription
  • Lets you build a library of keywords, with a nested heirarchy, so it's easier to use a set of standard tags with your photos
  • Can edit titles, descriptions, and locations
  • Good filtering support: it's easy to find pictures lacking metadata

Cons

  • You still need a Creative Cloud account to download it
  • You must install the Adobe Creative Cloud stuff to get Bridge
  • Can't place photos on a map for adding latitude/longitude.

macOS Preview

Pros

  • If you use macOS you already have it
  • Access the inspector (⌘-I or File → Inspect) and choose the "Keywords" panel to add/remove keywords

Cons

  • Can't edit title, description, or location
  • Can't build a library of tags

Affinity Photo

Pros

  • Lets you edit titles, descriptions, locations, keywords, and add latitude/longitude via a map
  • Is generally a delightful image editor

Cons

  • Longwinded for bulk edits: open photo, switch to Develop mode, change to metadata tab, switch between "File" and "IPTC (Image)" sections
  • No tag library - you must type in a comma-separated string

Automation

You can run Piccle by hand, but it's also ideal for automation. I use Piccle with macOS' built-in Automator tool. A folder action watches Piccle's images directory for added files; when a file is added, automator runs piccle generate and rsync to copy the generated files to my web server. Zero-click publishing! When I finish editing an image I save a JPEG to Piccle's directory, and it's published automatically in the background.


Philosophy

Most photo sharing websites don't support the photography conversations that occur naturally - meaning you can't take introductions like these:

  • "I'm really into portraits at the moment..."
  • "I just got a new camera, and it's great..."
  • "I took a trip to Norway last year, and had a great time..."

And append "... Here, let me show you some pics" in a couple of clicks. Instagram only has hashtags, and you can't filter your own photos by hashtag. 500px gives you some organisational tools (like albums), but puts the onus on you to file the photos in each album. (Flickr has some amazing search features, but limits how many photos you can upload for free and doesn't mesh with a POSSE self-hosting ideal).

Architecture

Piccle is built around two phases:

  1. Reading your photos, and building an Sqlite database of the metadata.
  2. Generating a site. This has two co-operating parts:
    1. A parser, which reads the cached photo data and builds an intermediate data structure with just the data needed to build the site.
    2. An extractor, which pulls out data from that data structure in a way useful for the frontend.
    3. There's also a renderer, capable of generating "index" pages and "show" pages. This doesn't do anything complicated, though; it's basically a proxy between the extractor and a template.

Streams are another key concept. A Piccle stream takes the data loaded by the parser and adds information in its own namespace. Streams are responsible for faceting the data by some part of the metadata; for instance, the DateStream breaks photos down by year, month, and day. The KeywordStream takes keywords from the photos and presents them as tags/topics in the page. The EventStream reads data from events.yaml, and groups photos into a named event. As well as faceting the data, each stream gets the opportunity to re-order its data.

About

A static site generator for photographers.

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