Facebook is always pushing the importance of using photos to tell your story. Yet they do a generally horrible job of hosting images. Now, I don’t at all claim to be an absolute authority on the subject of uploading photos to Facebook, but I wanted to share my observations and make recommendations based on those.
If you're the type of person who notices that sometimes when you upload images, they look way worse than they do on other websites or in your image viewer on your computer, then keep reading, because I'm going to try an help you with how to go about uploading quality photos to Facebook. :)
Facebook’s own Q&A section recommends that cover photos be sized to 851 pixels by 315 pixels (from here on out abbreviated “px”).
Now, the photos that you take, either with your smart phone, or a digital camera, are not going to already be sized to that ratio. You will need a photo editing software to accomplish this task for you. If you have a copy of Photoshop Elements or something similar, this can easily be done. iPhoto, if you’re a Mac user (sorry PC people… I haven’t used one in 6 or so years, so I’m unfamiliar with your photo programs) will allow you to crop with a custom size ratio, however it doesn’t allow you to specify the actual pixel size of that crop.
[If you don’t have a copy of a version of Photoshop, or another program that will allow you to specify an actual pixel size of the crop, you can always download GIMP: http://www.gimp.org — It’s a FREE, open source photo editing software. It’s actually what I used to use before I got serious with photography and got Photoshop. It’s pretty great for what it is!]
I noticed with the cover photos specifically, that they need to be sized to *exactly* 851px, by 315px for the image to be the best it can be. I experimented with a larger image, but using the same ratio, and the quality was degraded.
Facebook’s cover photo was, by far, the most frustrating thing I experimented with, because it seemed like no matter what I tried (different sizings, over-sharpening an image, etc.), the image just wasn’t very crisp. This is an area where “good enough”, unfortunately just has to be good enough.
As I said previously, I’m not an authority on the subject, so I’m not sure *why*, even after following Facebook’s sizing recommendations, the cover photo always came out the way it did, and I could sit here and make things up about compression and algorithms and whatnot, but the fact of the matter is 851px by 315px got the best results, even if those results weren't as good of quality that we'd hope for.
REGULAR FACEBOOK PHOTOS:
For regular photos, Facebook tells you to resize your images to either 720px, 960px, or 2048px on the long side, for the best results. (It also mentions that if you use the 2048px option, to make sure “high quality” is check marked when uploading, although I think this is check marked by default).
When I *first* started uploading images to Facebook, I used to use the 720px option. Eventually Facebook changed their photo standards enough, that 720px no longer looked acceptable to me, so I switched to 960px. Eventually the same thing happened with images sized to 960px and I argued with myself for quite some time about uploading images at 2048px on the longest side.
Why? Because image theft runs rampant, and while I don’t fancy myself someone important enough to have my images stolen, if my photos were swiped, at least they wouldn’t have a very large version of it. ::shrug::
It’s flawed thinking, but at the time, it made me feel better… at the time.
Eventually I got to the point where I had to decide what was more important to me: keeping smaller files online, or having good quality photos on display.
Guess, which won?
I got tired of linking people to external galleries of the same images I had on Facebook with the disclaimer, “Click for better quality images”. If the first place people are going to see an image, is on my Facebook page, I want to make that impression as good as possible.
So, I finally started uploading my images at 2048px on the long side.
And they looked SO much better.
So whether you’re a photographer, a parent posting photos of your children, or a friend posting photos of that great night out, here are the settings you can use for the best possible looking images on Facebook:
-2048px on the longest side of the image - Make sure that when you are resizing the photo, that your software is keeping the ratio the same or “constraining” the ratio, as most say.
-Set your resolution to 72ppi (pixels per inch)- High resolution photos are usually 300ppi. This is great for printing photos out, however, on the web, all you really need is 72ppi.
Maybe when the interwebz finally goes the way of retina resolution (Hey. Sorry. I told you I’m an Apple gal ;) ), we’ll need to increase the resolution of our images, but so far I have noticed zero difference between uploading an image at 72ppi and 300ppi on Facebook, other than the fact that the 300ppi image takes way longer to load in some cases.
Facebook mentions that you can upload a .png file for possible better quality, but to be honest, I haven’t noticed a big enough difference to worry about that. I used to give .png files, and while they upload just fine on Facebook, and everywhere else I’ve uploaded them to, or seen clients upload them to, the *previews* and *thumbnails* of those images were often discolored or wonky looking in *some* way. So I decided to stick with .jpegs, since I didn’t see a large enough difference between .png files and .jpeg files on Facebook.
UPLOADING FROM DIFFERENT DEVICES:
The last thing I want to mention, is something I just recently discovered. (And by “just recently” I mean, literally yesterday.)
IT MATTERS WHICH DEVICE YOU UPLOAD FROM.
The other day I sent finished images to a client. Hours later, I noticed he had uploaded them to his Facebook page and they looked blurry and soft and I almost died, haha.
I started wondering if the images I gave him were just too large for Facebook to handle, and that maybe as a result they were being horribly compressed. But after lots of experimenting, I couldn’t recreate the issue, using the same files I had sent him.
I tried uploading them directly to Facebook. I tried cropping them in Facebook after clicking “Make profile image” (since one of the images in question was his profile photo and was cropped by Facebook), but that still looked okay.
Knowing that this client was an Apple user, I even tried uploading to Facebook through iPhoto, wondering if going through that software was somehow compressing the images.
THEN… I had a thought.
“I wonder if he used his iPad or iPhone to upload them?”
So I pulled the image in question into iPhoto and dropped it into my photo stream so that I could get it on my iPhone. From there, I found the image and I shared it to Facebook. After sharing it from my iPhone, I turned to my computer and found the image… and it looked TERRIBLE.
Thinking that maybe this was just an issue with uploading photos through the photo stream, I e-mailed the original photo to myself, and then uploaded it from my iPhone, with the same results.
I don’t know what it is about having large photo files and then sending them to an iPhone that hurts the quality. Maybe it’s just that the device simply can’t handle a file that large. Or maybe it handles it fine, but somewhere between being stored on the device and getting uploaded to Facebook, the file gets compressed harder than it would if you were using a computer to make the upload. I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine. I'm just taking guesses and making speculations now, ha.
But what I DO know, is that the image was MUCH, much better, when I uploaded it from my *computer* than when it was uploaded by the phone.
Will you have the same results with *any* smartphone? I would imagine so, but I don’t know for sure, since all I have in my house are iPhones, ha. If I can find a friend with an Android who I can conduct this experiment with, I will certainly do so and let you know what I find, but as of right now, I think it’s safe to assume, that uploading photos that you want to display in the best possible way, is best done from a computer.
Now, uploading images you take with your iPhone… that’s fine. The iPhone isn’t going to take images bigger than it can handle. But anything you take with an external camera, I’d upload to Facebook through a computer.
Just my suggestion.
If you have any observations of your own, or thoughts to share, please leave a comment! If there's something you know, that I haven't figure out through my experimenting, I'd love to hear it! :)
Emily McGonigle Photography is a Franklin and Nashville Portrait Photographer, and can be contacted for booking inquiries here.