The basics of using The Turning Gate website and gallery Lightroom plug ins

Note: this post was originally written during the TTG CE2 era. We're now in CE3 CE4. But everything here still applies and I've updated some references below.

The Turning Gate (TTG) makes a fantastic set of tools that enable you to create beautiful websites and galleries right from within Lightroom. The big advantage of course, is that you can manage every aspect of your site from Lightroom. You no longer have to create images sized for the web, you no longer have to create pages or webs using other software such as Dreamweaver or Expression Web (formally FrontPage). You can do it all right inside of Lightroom.

And though the plug ins are pretty easy to use and implementation is actually quite simple, it can take a little bit to get your head wrapped around the concepts of how all these plug-ins work together.

So I'm going to try to clear it up.

But first, let's take a trip back into the distant past......

....back to the days of 35mm slides.

Back then, if you were shooting lots and lots of slides, you had to have a way of finding them quickly, with or without a computer.

I store my slides in filing folders inside a filing cabinet drawer inside a filing cabinet. One drawer has all "landscape" or "location" kinds of images. Another drawer has images of "things" like flowers, trees, mushrooms. You know, "things".

Inside the "Landscapes" drawer I have filing folders divided into sections of the drawer. One section is National Parks and inside that section are file folders for national parks organized by state and then park (and if I have lots of pictures of a particular park, I break it down further).

...ok, back to the present day.

So, translating that into computer organizing, I might have a folder structure something like this:

filing cabinet

Now of course, I don't organize my digital images this way. That would be tedious and unnecessary. I let the computer do all the work of finding and organizing using the metadata I've added to the images. And besides, in Lightroom, I can set up a structure just like the one I show to the left very easily using virtual folders called Collections. And that's exactly what I do to organize the images that I want to show in my web galleries. It's also the way I organize my gallery folders on my web server. But more on that later.

The idea behind the TTG Lightroom web engines was to enable the photographer to easily create professional looking websites and galleries over which the photographer would have complete control. The gallery concept is ingenious. It's set up so that all you have to do is create and export a TTG gallery from Lightroom, upload it to the proper folder on your web server, and the link to it automagically appears on your gallery index page. No going in and adding links or manually changing pages, no creating thumbnails to display on an index page. None of that.
All you have to do is to put things in the right place.

There are some requirements. You need your own website. This means you need to buy hosting from hosting providers like Blue Host or GoDaddy or the like. Things get complicated, if not impossible, if you're using a free hosting site where you don't have control of where things go or whether they put any content you upload into some sub-folder or another.

Your web host also needs to be running PHP 5.2.6 or newer. Read more about hosting here.

First, let's assume you want an entire website. For that you start with TTG CE4 Pages. (CE stands for Core Elements). This plug-in creates the framework for your website. It creates a Home page, a Galleries index page, Info, Services, About, and Contact pages. It's highly customizable and there is plenty of information on that at the TTG site and my own TTG-Tips site so I'm not going to go into that in this article.

Secondly, you need a gallery. The main image gallery plug-in is  CE4 gallery. There is also the Client Response Gallery and Stage. You can find out more about those here.

So at the minimum, to create a web site, you'll need TTG CE4 Pages plug-in and TTG CE4 Gallery plug-in.

Follow the instructions in the web engine and consult the Wiki for more information. Once you've designed things the way you want, it's time to put it all on your web server. This is where most people start getting lost. So here's what you need to do, step by step.

Export your TTG Pages creation to your desktop or somewhere on your hard drive where you can easily find it. Maybe make a folder on your drive called Web Site/ and store all your exports there. When you export your Pages, you'll be asked to name it. "Pages" is as good a name as any.

The export will create a folder called Pages. Inside this folder will be other folders and files.

Now, using an FTP program, upload the contents of this folder (those other folders and files, not the "Pages" folder itself) to the root of your website. This is often the public_html folder, but that will depend on your hosting provider. These are the folders you should see in the root of your site (note you may have more or fewer files, depending on the pages you choose to include):

pages-exportSee that galleries folder? In just a little bit, that's going to be the really important one.

You should use an FTP client rather than Lightroom's Upload service to do this. More on FTP here.

So now let's create a gallery. My suggestion is to organize your galleries using Collections. There's more on that here and here.

Design your gallery to your liking. Don't forget to fill in the Album Info at the top of the Color Palette control pane. This will be important later. Click the Export button, choose a location, and name your gallery. Naming convention is important. Don't include any spaces in your name, use hyphens or underscores instead of spaces. Read this and follow it, at least the part about characters allowed in file names. Your life will be much easier for it.

OK, now you've got an exported gallery. Let's upload it to your site. Remember that galleries folder? That's where you want to upload your gallery. Upload the entire folder that was created from the export into the galleries folder on your server.

Believe it or not, that's all there is to it. Go to your home page, click on the Galleries link in the menu and you should see a thumbnail representing your gallery along with your gallery's title and description that you filled out earlier in the Album Info section. Click on that thumbnail and behold your gallerific creation.

Now, if you want more levels of gallery organization, like the folder structure I show above, you'll need one more TTG engine: TTG CE4 Autoindex.

It works pretty much like the other plug ins. Design, fill in the Album Info area, export (watch the naming!) and upload. But where does this one go?

Let's say you want to be able to go to your gallery index and instead of seeing gallery links, you want a link that leads to your Landscape galleries and a link that leads to your Portrait galleries. You want to be able to click on these links and go to a page where you see your different galleries. The Landscapes link will lead to a page that displays links to your landscape galleries. I bet you can figure out where the Portraits link will lead.

To accomplish this, take that Auto Index folder you just exported, and upload that to the galleries folder. Let's say you created a Landscapes index and cleverly named the folder landscapes. Put that folder in the galleries folder. Now put all your landscape galleries inside the landscapes folder (which is inside the galleries folder).

Using this technique, you can nest gallery indexes and galleries down as many levels as you like.

If you look at my galleries you'll see I have a Landscapes link. Click on that and it takes you to another gallery index that has links to a National Parks index as well as links to Washington and Oregon indexes and a link to a Vermont gallery.

So let's take that slide drawer/folder illustration from above and translate it into TTG indexes and galleries.

In this example, all the folders with little arrows next to them represent indexes. The plain folders are galleries. The Vermont gallery is on the same level as the National Parks index. So when you go to the Landscapes index, you see a link to the National Parks index and a link to the Vermont gallery.

Not so tough. Just think of your web gallery folder structure as a physical filing system and you should be able to easily keep all this straight.

ADDED NOTE: Matt from TTG has written an excellent post on using TTG Auto Index. Even though it's written for the CE3 version it should answer any questions you might have about using the Auto Index.

ANOTHER ADDED NOTE: This was originally written for the CE2 version. I've made a few updates to the text but some of the links will take you to older documentation. The information is still relevant though and you can usually find updated versions in the CE4 Wiki. And I'll update further as time allows.

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28 responses to “The basics of using The Turning Gate website and gallery Lightroom plug ins

  1. Brilliant! Thanks, Rod. I’ll be sending a lot of new users here. =D

  2. Corey Hoppenrath says:

    Great job. It really helped a rookie building a site.

  3. Thanks Corey, I’m glad it helped.

  4. Paul Gulliver says:

    Found your site from the Turning Gate web site, I’m thinking about using their plugins for my site. At the moment I’m using JAlbum to create the albums but its a bit dis-jointed. Your blog post is very helpful and explains a lot for the beginer – Thanks.

  5. you’re welcome! I’m planning on trying to come up with a few more TTG basics (to go along with some of my photography basics)

  6. Boy oh Boy!

    Hi I’ve been following this thread with interest as I have purchased a few of Matthews’s Lightroom plugins in the past namely the Highside gallery and got them to work on my old website year.

    I also purchased the auto index but could never get it to work so gave up.

    Until yesterday that is when I purchased TTG CE2 Auto Index 5.2.0 and updated to TTG Highside gallery CE 3.1.5

    So here’s the thing…

    I have managed to create some galleries (not uploaded yet) and now I am desperately trying to get the auto index to work.

    When I click on a created gallery on my PC it all works but when I click on the gallery index link from the gallery it says file not found.

    Question is

    Do you have to change this, as seen in Lightroom Auto index CE


    or do you just leave it as is?

    I think I am missing something when I am creating a Auto index.

    As far as I can see I only have to fill in the album title and description.

    What I find confusing is that when I create an Index, Lightroom automatically fills in the thumbnails with images from a whole gallery.

    I will solder on and beat this!



    I’ve got a gallery uploaded but index as you see isn’t working.


  8. Dean, that Gallery Index you’re trying to link to from your gallery is going to a non-existing page. You need to create all those pages using TTG CE2 Pages
    You need to set up an auto index page and then in the navigation area of your gallery, target the link to the auto index page

  9. Also, Matt, just today, posted a very informative blog post helpfully titles “Everything you ever wanted to know about the Auto Index”

  10. Thanks for the quick response.

    My main site is built using Dreamweaver, I’m not using TTG Pages and for the galleries I am using Highside CE and I’m trying to make the index page using CE2 Auto Index.

    I’ve read Matt’s blog post but I’m still confused.

    It’s the linking that’s getting me.



    The Lightbulb will soon be on!

    As you can see I already have an index page up, which I found by manually typing in the address in the browser.

    So now I have to redesign the index page to my liking and as you said “Change the link” on the gallery page. Fingers crossed!

  12. I was just poking around your site. Seems like all the links are working fine. Did you get the linking figured out then?
    If you’re still a bit fuzzy on it, Matt posted a tutorial about linking a couple of weeks ago:

  13. Yes. Thanks mate, It was your comment about changing the link that switched on the lightbulb. I’ve now updated the links on my home page to point to the new gallery index.

    This morning I also added another gallery, it’s that easy once you get the auto index to work. Thanks for your help.

  14. Isn’t it nice that it just works (once you get it figured out)?
    Since I have some nested galleries I’ve created a gallery template that uses absolute URLs for the navigation. That way, no matter where I puyt a gallery in my folder structure, the navigation will always work.
    That’s a whole lot easier for me than having to figure out what level I’m on and figure out how many ../../../ I need 🙂

  15. Hi Rod, I also found you through TTG. I want to say a big THANK YOU for your posts there and here! You have helped me very much. I like your site and look forward to exploring more and learning more from you. Thanks again for sharing much appreciated. Regards.

  16. You’re welcome. Glad I could help!

  17. Rod, a fabulous site. I will spend a few hours here…

    The link to “hosting” seems to be broken.

  18. Thanks Geoff.
    And thanks for the heads up about the broken link. It’s fixed now

  19. I too appreciate your time providing insights and advice on TTG plugins. I like the integration that has made my workflow much quicker and slicker. It is when a curve ball hits me that
    I struggle with what the cause may be.

  20. For the love of God, thank you for posting this article. Finally the lightbulb went off — and it’s so simple in the end! I think it would spare a lot of users’ frustrations if somewhere in the official documentation, it explains that, at least at first, that NO IMAGES will be output with the Auto-Index web engine — and that it is simply creating a “landing page” for that “category/group” of individual galleries (like your Landscapes category, et al.)

    Or perhaps renaming the plug-in “Gallery Bread Crumbs”!

    Anyway, many thanks.

  21. edit: NO IMAGES besides thumbnails, that is!

    My point being that when in Lightroom, and choosing the “Auto-Index” web engine, you are not creating an actual gallery, but only an ummm, err…whadya call it? Oh yeah…INDEX page. lol

  22. Hence the name: autoINDEX 🙂

  23. Thanks for writing this. I have purchased none of these plugins (at least, yet), but I have not started to understand how they work until I got to this article on your page. I’m sure the plugins are great but the lack of clarity on the official page makes me afraid things can only get worse from there.
    Anyway I’ll keep investigating. At least now I understand the basics, thanks a lot.

  24. Matt also has a great tutorial on setting up your first site that runs through all the main settings and where to upload your exports.
    you can find it at

  25. Hi
    Thanks for all your instruction. I just thought that I understood everything but my problem is that the folders and everything just work fine – but when I have been into sub folder and looked on a picture I can’t use the default menu. Not even the home. I will be directed to

    I do understand that this is old article but hope you still read the comments and if you could tell me what I am doing wrong.
    Sorry for my bad english.


  26. HI Choke,
    Most everything looks like it’s working as intended on your site. One problem I found was on this page:
    When on that page and you click on Landskapsbilder the link goes to, which brings up an error. You just need to fix the navigation on that page.

    for the other navigation problems in the sub-indexed galleries, you’re using relative URLs in the navigation (like ../). I’ve always found it much simpler to use absolute URLs in the Navigation target fields ( for instance)

    The even better solution is to manage all your navigation with phplugins, but if you don’t want to do that, just use absolute URLs. In fact, I created gallery and index templates with absolute URLs and have never bothered with trying to use relative URLs.

  27. Rod
    Thanks a lot – I really appreciate you toke the time to help me find my mistake.
    Now it works just fine.
    Just next step then try to implement the “Publisher” tool 🙂 and perhaps update to CE3. But I think I wait have to spend some time with new pictures also.

    You have some very interesting articles on you web. Thanks for sharing and you support.

    Have a great weekend


  28. pingback //: A beginner’s guide to website creation using TTG - The Turning Gate

    […] been written from my own perspective as the developer of TTG plugins. User Rod Barbee has written an excellent tutorial from the user's perspective, and you may which to pay him a visit to check it […]

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