How to Optimize Images For Social Media


Have you ever uploaded a picture on Facebook and afterwards realized that Facebook ruined it? Or maybe you uploaded the photo as a cover and it turned out just plain weird? You’re not the only one. This has happened to the best and most experienced of photographers.

Social media is an important marketing tool for photographers everywhere. Using social media is one of the best ways to promote your work. Even if you don’t deliberately choose to use social media platforms, some of your photos will inadvertently wind up out there sooner or later.

It doesn't matter whether you are a professional photographer, or simply someone who likes the photos they share on social media to look as good as they do on your computer – you want your photos to look the best they possibly can.

For starters, you need to understand how the social media platform you are using compresses and converts your images. Obviously, I'm not able to cover all of the social media sites in one article, but I’ll discuss the most popular ones.


Photo by Franco Bouly

I've had a love-hate relationship with Facebook when it comes to uploading photos. Dimensions and layout changes occur often, and in order to compensate for all the scripts that are running on the site images are compressed a good deal. This leads to a reduced quality, so the images tend to look mushy.

There is a workaround here, however. Since PNG can't be compressed, this guarantees that the pictures stay intact. The good news here is that Facebook accepts PNG images, at present. This won't work any longer if Facebook starts converting PNG to JPEG.

Additionally, keeping in mind the sizes and ratios can help in preventing the image from being cropped by the layout, or being forcefully cropped by Facebook.

Your profile picture size (as displayed in the layout, not when you click to enlarge it) is 180 x 180 pixels, but any square photo will do. If you are worried about down-scaling ruining your photo, then upload a 180 x 180 pixel photo.
A cover photo should be 851 x 315 pixels. Not much more to say about that except that you should keep it in PNG format because most of the compression I've seen happens there.
For the links, if you would like to include images, it is best to use images that are 1200 x 627 pixels in dimension.

If you prefer using JPG instead of PNG, then convert the images into sRGB and make sure the size is less than 100 KB in order to avoid compression by Facebook.

Regarding timeline photos and your albums, 2,048 pixels wide is the highest you can go before your image gets scaled-down and compressed. If your pictures are large (2,048 pixels wide), then make sure you check the high-quality box when uploading them.


Photo by keiyac

Twitter seems to do a slightly better job in caring for your pictures. I say this because I haven’t noticed any major compression when uploading images there. However, there are some limitations during uploading which prevent a smooth and easy transition of the files.

The aspect ratio of the header photo is 1:3. This means an image 1,500 x 500 pixels in dimension. A rather odd size, but with some proper trickery you can make a composition work in that ratio.

The profile photo, as with most social networks, is a square, 400 x 400 pixels in dimension. Since it appears in much smaller sizes, make sure that it is clear and fills the frame. This way, it will be clearly visible even when scaled down to 50 x 50 pixels.

When you share photos on Twitter, optimal image size is 1024 x 512 pixels, a 1:2 ratio, which is easier to work with when compared to the header. For the in-stream photo preview multiple dimension work it is best to use 440 x 220 because it usually just turns out better.

Google +

Google+ is the weirdest of the bunch, twisting and turning their layout all over the place. However, there are only a few dimensions you need to worry about. And from what I've seen so far, there is no nasty compression going on.

As usual, a profile photo is a square, 250 x 250 pixels in size. The immense cover photo, on the other hand, is much larger than you might expect with dimensions of 2,120 x 1,192 pixels in size.

As for the images you share, it can be any size larger than your profile photo. This means that the minimum limit is 250 x 250 pixels.

There you have it. I hope this article will reduce the pain of uploading your beautiful photographs to social networks and help you preserve the quality of your photos as much as possible. Remember that most social networks make frequent changes to their layout (especially Facebook) and to the way they treat photos, so it's a good idea to check the way it is done by reviewing each site's help section. Usually, the social networks provide the information you need in the help sections or in the Q&A section, but it might need some digging to get the right info.

About Author

Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

You know, I just posted to Facebook following the 180×180 and it actually was not working two days ago at that ratio (even though it says to). Facebook was stating that the images was too small even though it was as it prescribed and the result was fuzzy. I read another source to do it at 687×687 and it came out beautiful. FB always frustrates me with how much it changes. I didn’t see LinkedIn on this, which is a big part of my work, but that is minimum 200×200 but really comes out awesome at 500×500

Thanks for writing this!

Hey Alec,
the bad thing about facebook is that it works differently for different people. Whenever they roll out updates, not everybody gets them. The updates roll out selectively, some people get them earlier than others, and the difference between first and last updates is something around a year. Therefore with facebook you can’t be sure. Especially with the mobile applications which are a total mess.


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