This article was last updated in April 2021.
It seems that everywhere I turn I see photographers complaining about the quality of their images when posted to Facebook.
Yes, we all know that Facebook compresses our images, and yes, it does damage their quality a bit. But please, let’s put things into perspective.
How many images do you think are being uploaded to Facebook, every minute of every day? Thousands? Millions? Can you imagine the storage space that must be needed for all of those? It’s mind-boggling. Who can possibly blame Facebook for compressing our files a bit?
C’mon folks, let’s cut Facebook some slack. Seriously.
Many people complain that Facebook changes the colour of their photos. No, it does NOT.
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The most common question floating around is "What is the correct size for Facebook images?"
There are three standard sizes – 720px, 960px and 2048px. (That number refers to the longest edge, whether wide, tall or square.) You can upload any size you like up to 2048, but Facebook seems to treat our files most kindly if we use one of those exact sizes. Something to do with their compression algorithms, I assume.
In this modern age, where all computers and even most phones have very high resolution screens, there’s really no alternative but to use the 2048 size. 720 and 960 are too small for most screens, and will (depending on the platform) either just sit there being small (looks silly!) or get artificially enlarged to fill the screen (looks blurry!).
The problem with 2048 size is that it’s printable! You can get a passable 5×7″ print out of it, and if you’re not fussy, even bigger. And we don’t necessarily want people to be printing our social media photos, do we?
While it’s impossible to stop this entirely, the best defence we have is our watermark. Make it tasteful, but make it noticeable and in a position that’s hard to crop out. You can read some information about watermarking here and here.
Of course we must always sharpen our web photos (after resizing!) to help them look their best. You should spend some time doing testing, to see what works best for your photos. I always use Unsharp Mask, and generally I begin with the values of 500/0.3/0, then play with the Amount slider for best results.
Facebook allow us to upload PNG files instead of jpegs, but this only applies to business pages, not personal pages or groups.
This is wonderful. PNG files aren’t compressed, so the quality of images is fantastic. Many people use this format for their biz page images.
However, there are some caveats:
- If you use Photoshop’s "Save for web & devices" feature, you’ll notice it allows you the choice of PNG-8 or PNG-24. Make sure you use PNG-24. 8bit PNGs are very dotty, like GIFs. Not nice.
- PNG-24 files are beautiful, but they’re much bigger than equivalent Jpegs. If you use PNG files (either on Facebook or your website) be aware that the load time will be longer. Make sure your potential clients aren’t getting annoyed by having to wait to view your photos. If you’re one of those folk who usually don’t bother resizing your photos down to web size before uploading, you’ll definitely need to change that habit if you switch to PNG format.
- From what I can tell, if you upload a PNG file bigger than 1MB, Facebook will convert it to a Jpeg, and compress it aggressively in the process. So watch your file size when saving. If in doubt, re-download your photo after uploading, to see if it's still in PNG format.
If you have a question about this article, please feel free to post it in Ask Damien.