Sidebards are totally customizable by the admin. They can be turned off, boxes can be put in any order. etc. I'm working on the changes now that will allow users to turn a column off if they don't want to see them when browsing the forums. They'll always be on when viewing the main portal (news) page.
As for integrating with photopost. I'm sure it will be possible, I'm sure it would be possible, it's just a matter of someone taking on the project. I know it was a mod at threadsdev for version 6.x.