How to Optimize Photos for Facebook

Facebook Photo Settings

Have you ever uploaded an image to Facebook and noticed that somewhere between editing and the final uploaded image on Facebook, something was lost in translation?

Maybe your image looked too sharp once it was uploaded to Facebook, or maybe it became extra grainy. Either way, your image probably didn't look so great simply due to the fact that it was not optimized for Facebook.

Just a few quick steps will help you optimize your images for Facebook, guaranteeing they will look their very best!

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Understanding Facebook Image Compression

Like any website, Facebook has a standard set of image sizes, and will resize your uploaded image to fit its standard size dimensions. With the amount of images that are uploaded to Facebook every second, they absolutely have to compress uploaded images! I am definitely not a tech head, but I can only imagine that if Facebook had everyone's full size images on their servers, somewhere in the world, a server (or 100) might break.
 
Facebook recommends that you upload your images at either 2048 pixels on the long edge** for large images, or 960 pixels on the long edge as a smaller alternative. Anything larger than these sizes will be compressed, or sized down - Facebook does not size up.

** "On the long edge" simply means the largest number in the dimensions of the image. An image that is 2048 X 1365 pixels is 2048 pixels on the long edge.
 
Here's an example of image compression:
 
I uploaded an image to Facebook at 1200 pixels (which is more than 960 pixels, but less than 2048, obviously). So, when the file left my computer and was being uploaded to Facebook, it was 1200 pixels...

After uploading the image, I then downloaded the image, from Facebook to my desktop, and looked at the change in image size. Facebook resized my image from 1200 pixels down to 960 to fit their standard settings:

How to Resize an Image for Facebook

This is one of the reasons why you might be unhappy with the way your images look on Facebook - they are being compressed during the upload process because you have not sized them to fit Facebook's standard dimensions.

Recap:

  • To upload a large image that will fill the entire image window, upload at 2048 pixels on the long edge.
  • To upload an image that is smaller, but still optimized for Facebook to prevent compression, upload at 960 pixels on the long edge.

This information was gathered from the Facebook help section

Optimizing for Facebook Profile & Cover Photos

In the same way that image posts on Facebook look best at 960 or 2048 pixels, there are optimal sizes for Facebook profile and cover photos, as well.

Resize for Facebook

The dimensions for the cover photo are 820 X 312 pixels. The dimensions for the profile photo are 360 X 360 pixels. Keep in mind these dimensions can change every once in a while.

How to Resize in Photoshop for Facebook

To save your image for Facebook in Photoshop, select Automate, Fit to Size, and enter 2048 pixels (or 960, whichever you prefer):

Resizing Images in Photoshop

You may also notice that your images are appearing less sharp on Facebook than they are in Photoshop. When saving your image for Facebook, you may find that adding an Unsharp Mask will give your images the sharpness they need. To do this, select Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask:

Sharpen Images for Facebook

Photoshop's default settings for the Unsharp Mask filter should add enough sharpening for Facebook optimization. If not, increase the amount little by little, taking care not to over-sharpen - a little bit goes a long way!

Sharpen Image in Photoshop for Facebook

Should You Upload JPEG or PNG Images to Facebook?

I have come across a handful of photographers who feel as though uploading to Facebook as a PNG file instead of a JPEG file gives their images the best display quality. While I can understand where they are coming from, the fact of the matter is that if you upload a JPEG to Facebook with the correct dimensions (especially larger, at 2048) the human eye cannot distinguish the difference between a JPEG and a PNG.
 
If you feel as though uploading as PNG makes a difference on Facebook, then by all means, go for it. If you are on the fence, though, stick with JPEG - it is a smaller file extension, so it takes up less room on your computer, and in the context of Facebook's image window, it will not make any difference whether it is JPEG or PNG - all that matters is that you upload at the correct dimensions for Facebook.
 
As a general rule of thumb, JPEGs are generally used for photo files, while PNG is typically used for graphic design files, such as logos. PNG files use less compression than JPEG, and tend to handle solid colors better, making them very useful in graphic design.

Do you have any questions or comments about optimizing photos for Facebook? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And please share our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!

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