After spending considerable time reading about - and testing - various self-hosted CMSs, suitable for photographers, I decided to go with Koken. I'm not saying it's a choice I'll live with forever, but for the time being, it (mostly) ticks the right boxes. There were a few requirements I set off with.
First off I wanted simplicity. If there is one notion regarding portfolio/blog sites I strongly disagree with, it is the notion that simplicity is the enemy; that if your coding (or the coding you've paid someone else to do) isn't oozing with creativity, movement and shiny stuff, it gives the viewer a sense of laziness and shows lack of ambition. For me, the more creativity and "bling" in the packaging, the more I think of the photographer as a businessman, rather than an artist. Unfair and judgemental? Sure - but living in a world where various products are constantly being shoved in my face, every minute of every day, I've grown allergic to commercialization and flee from it whenever I can. That includes closing browser windows when the "bling" gets to an unbearable level.
Secondly, I wanted a CMS that adjusts to various devices and operating systems, without much distortion and difficulties. Luckily, it's hard to find a modern system which doesn't tick that box. If, however, you're using a device/OS which fails to display this webpage properly, I'd love to get some details (send me an email, please).
For some, the lack of templates to chose from may be a disadvantage - as far as I can see there are around 3-4 free templates and 3 you can buy. They are all, however, simple, elegant templates, without any "bling" - and switching between them is a breeze.
Thirdly I wanted a system written in PHP, with a fairly simple CSS structure, so if I wanted to make some changes to the code/css, I could do so quickly and effortlessly. From what I've seen so far, Koken ticks that box nicely.
Last, but not least, I wanted a user friendly admin area, where I could do all that is needed in order to i) upload and post pictures and ii) write about photography. Koken is excellent in regards to the first point (uploading and posting). Creating albums, sets and categories is simple and straightforward - and so is changing the order of photographs/albums. So far, any questions I've had regarding the administration has been answered by a simple Google search (note: when reading about the system, however, there were some comments about lack of support).
When it comes to the second point (writing about photography), Koken fails miserably, to say the very least. A simple thing like placing a picture to the side and wrapping some text around it, seems all but impossible - due to the lack of a proper text editor. Sure, I can insert some HTML code to get the results I need, but seriously - why, in 2015, do I have to do that? I've been testing CMSs for a decade now, setting them up on my own servers, just to see what they can do (a strange hobby, I know). Each and every one of those CMSs have had a proper text editor, with the possibility to align images and text in various ways. For years (!!) they have had this possibility - yet Koken, a system "designed for photographers", doesn't cater for text/image integration without actually going under the hood. The shot you see on the side here was placed there after I found (after a lengthy search on Google) a third party plugin that makes it slightly less difficult to insert floating images.
Conclusion? Koken is a simple system which offers a fairly humble, yet beautiful (in my view) way of publishing your images. The admin section offers a lot of possibilities in regards to setting up your albums in the way you like - and any minor changes to the front page template (adding links, changing headings, changing colours, etc) are simple to find and implement. There are not many templates to chose from, which some may find irritating, but for me this is not a problem. At this point in time (after using the system for a few days), the only serious let down is the text editor.
In all honesty, it is such a gigantic let down, that I can't really recommend the system with any vigour. If I give up on Koken in the next few months, it will be solely for this reason - when it comes to blogging about photography, I'll get tired of having to spend minutes doing things all other systems let you do in seconds.
Please note: I am aware of the hypocrisy and arrogance in blasting commercialism, then moaning about a system which is free for all to use. I am, of course, grateful for what Koken is offering - and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
But a review is a review. I can't say a major drawback is perfectly fine, just because the system happens to be free - furthermore, there are free systems out there (such as Wordpress), which are miles ahead when it comes to text/image integration.