It seems surprisingly difficult to find a simple lightbox implementation which doesn’t rely on jQuery. I wanted something simple for this site, but did not want to have to re-do any HTML, so came up with a basic JavaScript and CSS solution.

This also turned out to be a useful lesson in “modern” jQuery-less DOM manipulation. I found 10 Tips for Writing JavaScript without jQuery quite useful in this regard.

For the Lightbox/pop-up itself, the Pure CSS Lightbox by Gregory Schier served as an excellent reference and starting point.

Since the code’s pretty small, I’m just going to dump it all here.

In summary, it works by selecting all <a ...> elements on the page which have links to image files (the assumption is these are links to larger images), and attaches a click event listener to go to a hidden lightbox element and set it’s image source to the link target.

This way, a client not supporting JavaScript will experience the same behavior as before, while JS-enabled clients will have the lightbox, hopefully keeping everyone happy.

You can try this out by viewing one of the galleries on this site.

(function() {

  var lightbox; // lightbox parent element
  var img;      // image element

  document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function () {

   * Create the lightbox and image elements, and add them to the body
   * of the document.
  this.initialise = function() {
    this.lightbox = document.createElement('a');
    this.img = document.createElement('img');

    this.lightbox.setAttribute('href', '#_');
    this.lightbox.setAttribute('id', 'lightbox');


    /* now we can look for image links on the page */

   * Search through all links to images on the page. Any image link will
   * have it's target appear in the lightbox, if Javascript is available,
   * otherwise it will function as a normal link, still supporting middle-
   * clicking et al.
  this.scanImages = function() {
    /* find links to png, jpg and gif images */
    var links = document.querySelectorAll('a[href$=".png"], a[href$=".jpg"], a[href$=".gif"]');

    /* for each link attach a click handler to set the image location and
       show the lightbox */, function(l) {
      l.addEventListener('click', function(e) {

        document.location = '#lightbox';

   * Set the image element source to the provided URL.
  this.setImage = function(img) {
    this.img.setAttribute('src', img);


And the accompanying CSS styles:

.lightbox {
	display: none;

	position: fixed;
	z-index: 999;
	width: 100%;
	height: 100%;
	text-align: center;
	top: 0;
	left: 0;
	background: rgba(0,0,0,0.8);

.lightbox img {
	max-width: 90%;
	max-height: 90%;
	margin-top: 2%;

.lightbox:target {
	outline: none;
	display: block;

Just include both of these in your site/page, for instant lightbox magic.