Tumblr themes have evolved along numerous, sometimes mutually exclusive paths. Text-oriented themes for writers, for instance, have revolutionized the mutli-panel template, with innumerable design houses offering unique takes on the blog-in-a-blog concept (among myriad others). But photography and photojournalism have always pushed developers to reinvent wheels faster than other creative fields. While a still image persists in one state indefinitely, its presentation always reflects the latest programming paradigm–and the world of microblogging is a perfect microcosm of this incessant, inventive re-presentation.
Below are our picks for the very best of Tumblr’s image-beautifying themes, each with a unique blend of the newest and best features for both professional photographers and amateur photobloggers alike.
5. Effector (carlofranco)
Effector sets the standard for free photo themes. It features infinite scroll, page support, and a surprising wealth of aesthetic customizations (foremost among them selectable image scaling) to keep your blog’s layout even. Effector also boasts an immensely customizable sidebar with massive social media linkage built-in. Minimalist without sinking into monochrome boredom, Effector is the best option for no-budget image portfolios and low-fuss photoblogs.
4. Slideshow (Pixel Union)
Slideshow exhibits a very rare kind of minimalism–one that, on the surface, seems somewhat limited. But Slideshow is amazingly feature-rich and user-friendly: it simply, and tastefully, manages its extensive customizability through an ingenious page layout–with adequate social media linkage and tagging support–and one of the sleekest portfolio slideshows (hence the name) in its class. While it’s not quite as concretely organized as Photofolio, Slideshow is a stealthy, scrollable alternative to High Res’ ultra-stripped linearty.
3. High Res (jstn)
High Res is an impressively stacked anomaly among Tumblr’s $19 themes. Designed specifically for large images and video, High Res features immense customizability, especially resizing, layout, and caption options. A recent update fixed prior infinite-scroll issues and introduced photoset support, with a related promise of photoset layout options in an upcoming update. Among the themes listed here, High Res is perhaps the most archetypically minimalist without sacrificing flexibility.
2. Photofolio (Pixel Union)
Photofolio is among the sleekest of the premium gallery-oriented themes. Featuring one of the smoothest high-res image viewers in all of Tumblrdom, Photofolio is a minimalist grid-view/album-based theme that provides multiple layout options for each photoset, along with custom photo captions and an album/photoset meta-caption–a perfect feature for travel photographers and photojournalists. While it’s not necessarily as feature-heavy as Fluid 2 (see below), Photofolio is perhaps the best option among the more minimal image themes for those wanting impeccable organization without undue textual distraction.
1. Fluid 2 (Pixel Union)
Fluid 2 is the premium, pumped-up, and distilled version of Pixel Union’s longtime favorite free theme, Fluid. Fluid 2 features a slew of radically unique options, including a custom lightbox-esque video player that supports content from myriad video-hosting sites. Of course, this same background-dimming lightbox mechanic is also used for image posts in Fluid 2, making it the perfect theme for bloggers wanting to foreground their content with surprisingly little interface bloat. Custom backgrounds are also supported, as are interactive features such as social media integration, ask, submit, and a smart endless scroll that remembers your readers’ page positions if they click on linked material. Fluid 2 is a utility-laden powerhouse that looks amazing on both standard screens and portable devices–and it’s our pick for the most versatile photography theme available today.