Facebook has become a very important platform for a lot of photographers within the last decade. Networking was never easier and everyone is literally one click away. Sadly, Facebook isn’t perfect (DUH!). One of its biggest drawbacks is the crappy image quality. I mean, you can work on an image for hours, only to upload it to Facebook and realize it looks like a kid doodle.
There are plenty of little tips and tricks to improve Facebook’s image quality, and I’ve spent quite a while to test them all and think about all the different approaches – with very mixed results.
So I had to make the conclusion by myself and just published a free 30 minutes tutorial that will help you solve most issues – albeit it’s a lot of information in there, so be prepared for some serious headache.
Just remember if you think this video can help your buddies who always have blurred photos on Facebook, you are more than encouraged to share it.
The tutorial covers 5 main Facebook image issues:
Facebook creates multiple versions of your image, each with a different size. These are the sizes you have to worry about. The smallest one is 480px wide, and it’s the most important one. This small version is the one other people see in your timeline – and this is the image that creates the initial interaction. When uploading to Facebook, you should always go for 960px or 1920px wide images. Both are multiplications of 480, which helps Facebook scale your image “correctly”.
When an image is resized, high frequencies are cut off. It’s basically the same as applying a gaussian-blur filter over the whole image. The result is losing fine details (like facial hairs, eyelashes and really small skin details). What’s left are the middle frequencies (like wrinkles and some shadows) and low frequencies (which is basically subtle changes over a larger area). Some editing techniques are more likely to mess up middle frequencies than others – and the result will be a blurred image. (Remember, the high frequencies are gone). This is why editing affects the sharpness of the rescaled versions.
When you’ve finished your retouching, you want to export your image. My first step here is to duplicate the image. This prevents overwriting the original retouch with a version that’s prepared for social media upload! (You learn this lesson after down-scaling an image for the first time).
The next step is done on that duplicate: flattening the image. This should be done before rescaling because it takes way longer to resize a multi-layer document with masks and channels. But more importantly, it creates a more precise resize! If you export at those values, there will be no interpolation on Facebook’s side, only “trivial” scaling. For export size, I recommend 960px wide for portrait and 1920px wide for landscape images, as it will rescale by the factor of two for the other versions – which has advantages and will keep straight lines intact.
#4 JPG vs PNG
I know – there is the PNG-theory – which is correct for the most part. Correct however doesn’t mean that it makes sense. As long as your png is smaller than 1MB, it will not be recalculated. Everything above that size will be shown as a jpg with all the disadvantages of that lossy compressed format. Does a png make sense for images? I tend to say no, as the file size is way too big for the small advantage in quality it delivers.
That’s a common one – banding. Instead of a having nice gradients, uploaded images will show steps. That will pretty much kill an image, and it’s very likely to hit the black and white guys. You can prevent this by uploading in 1920/960px, if you still get banding you can add noise. This breaks the jpeg algorithm even when it’s very subtle and not visible to the human eye.