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How to Organize Your Photos in WordPress With WP Real Media Library

This post is part of a series called Digital Asset Management for Photographers (Learning Resource Guide).
How to Use Photo Mechanic to Tame Your Picture Archive and Organize Your Images
From Lightroom to WordPress: How to Create SEO-Optimized Images
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For many photographers, WordPress is the tool of choice to showcase their portfolio. Coming from a full-featured digital asset management tool like Adobe Lightroom, however, the photography and media-management tools in Wordpress can feel a little disappointing. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way!

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to use WP Real Media Library by MatthiasWeb to supercharge your media library and get your assets organized.

Tame Your Media

Media Library Screenshot
This is the stock WordPress media library. Although we can search for a file, the organization options are virtually non-existent. This is where WP Real Media Library comes into play.

I use WP Real Media Library to organize all of the media for Preset Love, a website I created. Preset Love offers free Adobe Lightroom presets and is built on WordPress. It's a complex site: with a media library full of images and preset files, I needed some help to get organized and stay organized. 

Real Media Library
After installing the plugin, your media library screen will be transformed! The Real Media Library plugin gives you the option to organize your images into virtual folders and collections. Screenshot from CodeCanyon.

By the way, this tutorial is for users of WordPress installed on their own domain and webserver, also known as WordPress.org, not hosted sites on Wordpress.com.

Instal the Plugin

WP Real Media is available for purchase through the CodeCanyon marketplace. CodeCanyon is owned by Envato, the same people who bring you Tuts+, and offers many premium WordPress plugins. Although WordPress has many free plugins, I often turn to CodeCanyon because I know the plugins are carefully reviewed and often include support from the authors for a period of time. Check out the WP Real Media Library plugin and purchase it from CodeCanyon.

WP Real Media Library Download
After purchasing the plugin and paying for it via PayPal, I returned to the item page to download it. You can find the download link on the right side. Press Download to download the plugin file.

After purchasing the plugin, it will become available for download in your CodeCanyon account. The easiest way to download it is to return to the item page, where the plugin is now unlocked. Download it to your computer in a place that's easy to find like the Downloads folder or desktop. Then, unzip the file and find the real-media-library.zip file.

Now, login to the WordPress admin panel for your site (typically located at yourdomain.com/wp-admin) and find the Plugins menu on the left side. Choose Add New to jump to the Plugins panel. Then, click Upload Plugin at the top of the window.

Add new and upload
To upload a plugin from your computer, find the Plugins menu on the left side of the Admin panel and choose Add New. Then, click Upload Plugin on the next page that pops up.

Now, you'll need to browse to where we downloaded the plugin file. Select "real-media-library.zip" and then press Install Now. On the next page, make sure to press Activate.

Add Plugin Resized
Once you're on the plugin installation page, browse to the Real Media Library zip file and choose "Install Now." Then press "Activate" on the next screen.

That's it! You've now installed WP Real Media Library. To start using the plugin, just return to the standard Media Library from the admin sidebar that you're accustomed to. 

Organize Media into Folders

One of my favorite features of WP Real Media Library is that it integrates seamlessly with WordPress. It simply replaces the stock Media Library that's built into WordPress. To start using WP Real Media Library, just return to the Media > Library option from the WordPress admin panel.

WP Real Media Library starting point
Once you've installed the WP Real Media Library plugin, your media library will be transformed into a much more robust media organizer. Every image will start off in the "Unorganized" section and can be dragged and dropped into specific folders.

Create a Folder

First, let's create a folder. Folders can be used to organize files in your media library. In my case, I'm going to sort all of my preset preview images into one folder, and all of the downloadable presets (zip files) into another folder.

To create a folder, click on the folder with plus button icon in the upper left corner of the media library window. Once you click it, the plugin will create a new folder in the folder tree at the bottom. I've gone ahead and given it the name "Presets" to sort my preset files into.

New folder media library
To create a new

By default, WP Real Media Library puts everything in an "Unorganized" category that you can see on the left side of the media library. When you click on "Unorganized", you'll see all images that aren't sorted into a folder. Eventually, we'll want to move every media file into a more specific folder so that our media library remains organized.

To move a piece of media into a folder, just drag and drop it from the unorganized list onto the new folder that you created. Spend some time working through the "Unorganized" category and migrate your media into a series of folders.

Drag and drop media library
When I created a new "Presets" folder, the purpose was to hold all of the Lightroom preset files. 

When you move an image into a folder, it doesn't change its location on your web server. This is important because it won't break the link in a post or anywhere that you've already used it. Folders are just a virtual organization tool for sorting your media.

It's easy to move several images at the same time as well. Just tick the checkboxes to the left of all the files you want to move together, and drag and drop them all at once.

Multi Move
In this image, you'll note that I have three files selected using the checkboxes to the left of the image. Now, I can click and drag any one of them to move them all together.

Finally, you can use multiple levels of folders to create a highly organized media structure. With one folder selected in the media library, press the new folder button again to create a second level folder.

Level 2 Folders
To create a second organization level, select a folder that you've already created. Then, press the create a new folder button that's highlighted in the screenshot. You'll notice that it creates a second level of organization, where you can give the folder a name of its own. I'm using multiple levels of folders to separate different types of presets.

Collections and Galleries

WP Real Media Library also offers collections and galleries that you can insert into posts. Collections contain galleries, and individual galleries contain images. Think of these as similar to folders, but with the option to insert them into a stylized grid in a WordPress post. Let's create a collection, then a gallery, and put some images inside of it.

To create a Collection, press the new collection button (shown in the screenshot below) and give it a name.

Create a collection
Create a collection with the new collection button in the media library. It will show in the same folder tree with an image-style thumbnail.

Remember that collections hold galleries. Select the collection that we just created, and the icons at the top of the column will change. Then, press the right icon shown in the screenshot below to create a gallery inside of the collection.

Create gallery
Once you've selected the collection, press the icon shown above to create a gallery inside of it.

Now that we've created a gallery, we can put some images inside of it. I'll return to the Unorganized section and drag and drop images into the gallery. I used the checkboxes to select 11 images, then dragged and dropped them all at once into the gallery.

Move images into a gallery
We can move images into a gallery just as we move them into folders.

All done! Now that we've added images to a gallery, let's go add that gallery to a WordPress post. Create a new WordPress post or jump over to an existing one. On the post editor, find the new Gallery button (it looks like four squares in a grid) on the toolbar and click it.

Add Gallery WordPress post
To add a gallery into a post, find the "Gallery from Media Folder" button on the toolbar. Go ahead and click it and you'll get some new options for how to add the gallery.

Now, you'll see some options for how to insert the gallery. You'll need to use the "Folder" dropdown to select the gallery you just created. You can also tweak the number of columns in the image gallery grid.

Gallery from Media Folder
To finish up the gallery, point WordPress to the gallery you just created using the first dropdown. Then, press "OK."

Once you press ok, WordPress will insert a shortcode that helps insert the gallery into your post draft. Let's press preview to see how it looks.

Gallery in Post
These galleries only take a few minutes to generate and are a great way to show off images in a post. 

Very nice! Galleries are a great tool for adding images in a visually attractive way to your WordPress posts. In the process of getting organized, you can also bundle images and put them into galleries for easy showcases.

Recap and Keep Learning

The WP Real Media Library plugin is powerful for organizing your WordPress site. As your site's media library expands, you'll need a few folders to keep things sorted and organized and this plugin is the perfect solution.

If you're interested in learning more about WordPress, Tuts+ has a great selection of tutorials. This WordPress gallery roundup has a great list of plugins that can be used to show images in WordPress. You might also want to learn about CodeCanyon's selection of form plugins for interacting with your visitors. Finally, if you really want to get started with using the WordPress admin panel, Rachel McCollin offers a handy short course on creating content.

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