Automatically Generate a Photo Gallery from a Directory of Images: Updated

Two years ago Chris Coyier wrote an outstanding tutorial detailing how you can generate a photo gallery based on the images within two directories: a thumbnails directory and an originals directory. I’ve decided to take his tutorial a step further by showing you how to generate thumbnails for the gallery using PHP. I’ve also implemented a MooTools lightbox: Smoothbox. The following code will show you how to create a beautiful photo gallery by simply dumping your photos in a directory.


copy.clear      { clear:both; }
.photo-link    { padding:5px; margin:5px; border:1px solid #ccc; display:block; width:200px; float:left; }
.photo-link:hover  { border-color:#999; }

The images/links will be floated next to each other. The other option would be to use a table. Booooo.

The PHP: Utility Functions

copy/* function:  generates thumbnail */
function make_thumb($src,$dest,$desired_width) {
  /* read the source image */
  $source_image = imagecreatefromjpeg($src);
  $width = imagesx($source_image);
  $height = imagesy($source_image);
  /* find the "desired height" of this thumbnail, relative to the desired width  */
  $desired_height = floor($height*($desired_width/$width));
  /* create a new, "virtual" image */
  $virtual_image = imagecreatetruecolor($desired_width,$desired_height);
  /* copy source image at a resized size */
  /* create the physical thumbnail image to its destination */

/* function:  returns files from dir */
function get_files($images_dir,$exts = array('jpg')) {
  $files = array();
  if($handle = opendir($images_dir)) {
    while(false !== ($file = readdir($handle))) {
      $extension = strtolower(get_file_extension($file));
      if($extension && in_array($extension,$exts)) {
        $files[] = $file;
  return $files;

/* function:  returns a file's extension */
function get_file_extension($file_name) {
  return substr(strrchr($file_name,'.'),1);

We’ll use three utility functions to make the system work: get_files (retrieves all of the files in a given directory), get_file_extension, and make_thumb (generates a thumbnail image from a source image). These are good functions to keep at hand for other purposes too.

The PHP: Setting and HTML Generation

copy/** settings **/
$images_dir = 'preload-images/';
$thumbs_dir = 'preload-images-thumbs/';
$thumbs_width = 200;
$images_per_row = 3;

/** generate photo gallery **/
$image_files = get_files($images_dir);
if(count($image_files)) {
  $index = 0;
  foreach($image_files as $index=>$file) {
    $thumbnail_image = $thumbs_dir.$file;
    if(!file_exists($thumbnail_image)) {
      $extension = get_file_extension($thumbnail_image);
      if($extension) {
    echo '<a href="',$images_dir.$file,'" rel="gallery"><img src="',$thumbnail_image,'" /></a>';
    if($index % $images_per_row == 0) { echo '<div></div>'; }
  echo '<div></div>';
else {
  echo '<p>There are no images in this gallery.</p>';

The first step is to define a few simple settings which will dictate image paths, the width by which all thumbnails will be created, and the number of images per row. The action begins with rounding up all of the files. With every image in the gallery, we check to see if a thumbnail exists. If a thumbnail doesn’t exist, we use PHP and the utility function above to generate one. When the thumbnail is generated (or there was one there in the first place), we output the HTML link/image. I’ve given the A element the “smoothbox” CSS class so that Smoothbox will make the larger image display in the lightbox.

The MooTools JavaScript / Smoothbox

All you need to do is include the JavaScript file. Sweet.

That’s it! Have any features you’d like to see added? Let me know!

By Rz Rasel Posted in Php

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