You’ve just taken the perfect picture – an epic sunset, a cute puppy, or maybe a great shot of your business’ products. Naturally, you want to share this awesome picture with your friends, family, or customers, so you post it to Facebook. But when it’s finished uploading, you notice your once beautiful picture is now ugly and pixely. You’ve just been a victim of Facebook compression. All is not lost though, let’s take a look at how Facebook handles images, and see what you can do to make your picture look its best.
Image compression is inevitable
Millions of photos are uploaded to Facebook each day – that’s billions and billions of pixels! If Facebook hosted each photo completely unaltered, it would load at a snails pace and it would cost them tenfold in server space. To keep the site efficient, crunching down images is a necessity, and unfortunately your beautiful picture might suffer as a result.
But while some compression is unavoidable, there are steps you can take to minimize the destruction your photo has to incur. Facebook supports three widths for Timeline photos: 720 px, 960 px, and 2048 px – and will resize your photo to fit on of those sizes. For example, if you upload an image that’s 5000 pixels wide, it’ll shrink it down to 2048. If you upload an image that’s 950 pixels, it’ll shrink down to 720. If it’s smaller than 720, it won’t be resized. But not all sizes are equal when it comes to compression, so let’s see how each will be affected. We’ll work with this lovely stock photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.
When starting with a hi-res image at 2048 pixels wide, the evidence of compression is minimal. Everything is a little bit noisier, and the lines are a little jagged, but there aren’t too many ugly artifacts that pop up. The original image was 2.3 MB, and was squished down to 626 KB – a substantial size compression, but fortunately not much changed visually.
For images 960 pixels wide, the compression becomes much more apparent. Artifacts start popping up along edges and areas of sharp color contrast. If you look around the outside of the bridge, you’ll notice an aura of noise and pixels. You can also tell that the darkest colors and shadows become super noisy, and take on a bit of green.
At 720 pixels, your image will look pretty junky. Our bridge picture was compressed from 461 KB to 50 KB, a ninth of the size, and is pretty much littered with noise and distortion. At this point, even a professionally shot photo starts to look like something taken with a cellphone camera in the early 2000’s.
How to get the best results with your images
For standard Timelines photos:
- Upload your photo as large as 2048 pixels wide if possible.
- Save the photo at the maximum quality possible before uploading.
- If your image has text, logos, or vector illustration, upload it as a PNG. PNG works with the sharp divisions in color that come with these better than JPEG, and you’ll see less artifacts around your text this way.
For cover photos, Facebook is even pickier and will give you a bunch of compression unless you stick to these rules:
- Make sure your cover image is exactly 851 by 315 pixels. Anything larger will be shrunk down and compressed.
- Make sure the file size is less than 100 KB. With the timeline photos, having a larger original file is beneficial, but cover photos will always be compressed to smaller than 100 KB.
If you follow these tips, your Facebook photos should look the best they can be!