WordPress Media Manager Explained

Tech Tip

Inside WordPress you can change the number of items displayed in many of the different sections, such as pages, posts, comments, etc. Simply click on 'Screen Options' in the upper right of your screen, then change the number of items displayed per page and save. You're done!

WordPress’s media manager doesn’t get a lot of exposure, but it’s quite robust and capable if you know how to use it. In this post, we’re going to go over how to access the media manager, upload images, and edit those images for use on our website. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s jump right into it.

Introduction to Media Library

WordPress Media Manager LinkWe’ll start with the media library, as we won’t have access to any of the editing capabilities until we add images for WordPress to manage. On the left-hand menu, under Media, let’s click on Library. Clicking Library will take us to the primary media management section inside of the WordPress Administration. We’ll start with no images as it’s easier to understand what’s available, and then we’ll move into uploading our first image.

Starting on the left-hand side, at the very top, we’ll see the section we’re currently in “Media Library,” and we’ll see a button to add a new image. This is where we’ll add our first image.

WordPress Media Library

WordPress List Grid ButtonsMoving down from there, we’ll see two icons. One that looks like a list and one that looks like a grid; we’ll use these buttons to display images in the library in two different methods, list or grid.

WordPress Media Filter ListTo the right of the list functions, we have a drop-down that allows us to narrow down what is displayed. We can view all items or just a specific type of media.

WordPress Media All DatesNext to the types of media to display, we have a way to narrow down our search by date as well. Since we currently have no images in our library, this will only have the option of “All dates,” but as you add media, this will change, allowing you to narrow down media based on month and year.

WordPress Bulk Selection ButtonNext to that is our “Bulk Select” button. The bulk selection options give you the ability to select several images at once and delete them. Note that this option is only available in Grid view. If you’re in the list view, you will use the “Bulk Actions” drop-down below our main navigation menu.

Adding Media

Now that we have a basic understanding of the media library, let’s move onto adding media. We’ll need media in our library to access the remaining features and functions of the media library.

WordPress Add New ButtonTo add media to the media library, we can do it in two different ways. Either by clicking on Add New in the left Media navigation or by clicking Add New inside the Library management page.

Confusingly enough, each does take you to a different page, but they are essentially the same.

Once you’ve clicked the Add New link, you’ll notice a box with a dotted line around it. This box is where we’ll either drop our images or use the “Select Files” button to open our native selection window. Let’s drag some media to this box.

WordPress Add New Media Screen

So long as there are no errors, your images should now be uploaded. From here, we can click on Library and see the different types of list views.

WordPress Add Media Complete

If you’re a visual person, using grid mode may suit you better as you’ll more easily see all available media inside your library. If you’re looking for a specific date or author who uploads an image, a list view may be a better option. I swap between the two, depending on what I’m doing or my needs at that particular time.

In the list view, there are several options quickly available for managing media. Such as edit, delete, and view. You’re also able to select as many images as you’d like with the checkboxes on the far left, then delete those selections with the “Bulk Action” drop-down. Just be sure this is what you want to do as this is permanent, there is no trash can for media.

WordPress Media Library List View

Now let us move onto the editing capabilities of WordPress, which come standard with the vanilla install. You can add all sorts of extra functions and features for managing media with 3rd party plugins. We’ll go into that in later posts.

Click on an image that you’d like to edit. The next page we’ll see is the meta page for that particular media file. On this page, we’re able to edit the name of the image quickly, add our Alt or alternative text, a caption, and a description. These are all used on your website when using the media file. On the far right, we also have some useful information about the media file and the full path where the media file is stored.

WordPress Edit Image

By default, WordPress will manage your media files by month, then year. For instance, if we upload an image in May of 2020, the folder path would be /wp-content/uploads/2020/05/. To disable this feature navigate to Settings, then Media.

The media options page gives you the option to set your maximum sizes for thumbnail, medium, and large image sizes. It also has an option at the bottom of the page to disable organizing your media files. Disabling this will put all uploaded images into /wp-content/uploads/ with no organization. Disabling organization or editing maximum sizes isn’t advisable if you’re unsure how or if you should.

WordPress Media Options

Editing Images in WordPress

Now that we’re familiar with how the media manager works, as well as how to upload, delete, and edit our media, let’s move into editing images.

WordPress Edit Image ButtonWhile we’re inside of the Edit Media page, look directly under the image you’ve clicked into to edit. You’ll notice a button that reads “Edit Image,” click this link. Clicking this button should slide down an edit window inside of the page you’re currently on.

WordPress Edit Image Screen

WordPress Crop Image ButtonWe have many new options available to us, such as crop, rotate left, rotate right, flip vertical, flip horizontal, as well as several settings on the right-hand side. Most of the pre-set buttons on the top are self-explanatory, clicking each will do what the button reads. The only button that will allow us extra control is the Crop button, let’s click that.

Clicking the crop button will open a new animated box around our image below. With this box, you’re able to drag it to what you’d like to keep, removing the rest. Once you click crop, the image will be cropped to the selection, getting rid of the rest. But don’t worry if you made a mistake, WordPress will keep the original and you’re always able to revert to that original image state.

WordPress Crop Image Example

WordPress Scale and Crop Image

Let’s turn our attention to the options on the right of our image. From top to bottom, we can scale our image, crop our image, and apply changes to all image sizes, thumbnails only, or all sizes except thumbnails.

If we wanted to scale our image to 100 x 100, we could quickly enter that in the scale box and click scale. By default, WordPress will keep to a 1:1 ratio; that way, your image doesn’t get distorted. You can change the ratio below, but you would need to use the crop tool for that. WordPress will not resize your image directly to a new ratio. You would need to do that yourself.

Once you are happy with your edits, be sure to click Update in the far right top corner; otherwise, your changes may not save. You are always able to revert to the original image if you’ve made any mistakes or don’t like the new changes.

How do you use WordPress to manage your media?

How often do you edit your images through WordPress?

Let us know in the comments below! We love helping new website owners, small businesses, or sole-proprietors with their next big project.

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Author: Mike Bowden

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Mike Bowden is the Owner, Project Manager, and all-around knower-of-techy-things at OBS. He's been in the technology industry since he could read and loves anything silicon-based. He's been a WordPress fanboy for well over fifteen years and has seen the good the bad in the industry. He spends most of his time now, helping others build their dream website, hosting, and protecting his clients' websites.
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