Why Facebook Photos Look so Bad, and the DIY Solution to Fix It

Why does Facebook make images lose quality?

To assist fast webpage loading times for its users, Facebook compresses all images uploaded to it. As this is done automatically, your images are subjected to a default compression, which more than likely does not suit them.

Facebook supports photos that are either 720px, 960px, or 2048px on their longest edge. Any other sizes will have their dimensions reduced automatically, and this inevitably results in visually poorer images. Reducing the dimensions of an image decreases its sharpness, especially if it is a drastic resize.

We’ve got a free PDF for you!:  The Photographer’s Guide to Facebook


The Benefits of Using PNG Files

What Facebook won’t tell you, is that you can upload a PNG file at any size you wish and achieve a similar effect. Don’t forget to convert it to sRGB as well, but you aren’t restricted on your dimensions this way.

To do this, just save your photo as a PNG file using your editing software. You can also use the “Save for Web” function in Photoshop for this by selecting PNG-24 from the drop down list.

If you want to export PNG files straight from Lightroom, we have written a tutorial that shows you how to enable that function.

Some photographers argue that PNG produces even better results than JPEG. So, try it out! Facebook doesn’t mention this, strangely enough, but it is another great way to get your images looking good online.

Further Reading: “How to Use Facebook to Promote Your Photography

How to optimize Facebook post images

Your first step is to make sure you’re using the best size for Facebook photos.

There are probably 100 different Facebook photo sizes! This section will go into detail on the Facebook post size. More photo types and sizes farther down in the article.

For optimal display, Facebook recommends that you resize your images before uploading to one of these widths they support:

  • 720 px
  • 960 px
  • 2048 px

If you upload 2048 px photos, be sure to choose the High Quality option.

For higher quality, check the High Quality box when you create an album.

If you’re using the the Facebook app for iPhone or Android, you can choose to always upload photos in HD from your account settings. source

For best quality, I recommend uploading from a computer. I’ve found that uploading from a mobile device results in more compression applied and worse image quality.

The Facebook recommended image size for posts is 720, 960, or 2048 pixels. Facebook says:

We automatically resize and format your photos when you upload them to Facebook. To help make sure your photos appear in the highest possible quality, try these tips:

Resize your photo to one of the following supported sizes: 720px, 960px or 2048px wide source

Note that Photos you’ve uploaded will appear in the Photo Viewer, or lightbox, at the maximum resolution possible, depending on the size you uploaded them and the viewer’s display device.

The maximum Facebook photo size for upload and download is 2048 px square. If you upload a larger image, Facebook will reduce it so the longest side is 2048 px.

Now, I never take anything Facebook says about images at face value, so let’s dig a little deeper.

What if you don’t upload an image at Facebook recommended size?

Say you use another highly recommended image size of 1200 pixels wide.

According to Facebook, they will resize your image from 1200 pixels down to 960 to fit their standard settings, adding to your compression woes.

However, this is actually NOT TRUE!

Any image uploaded at less than 2048 pixels on the longest size will NOT be reduced in size.

So don’t drive yourself crazy resizing images. Reduce large ones to 2048 max and you’re good to go.

Facebook high resolution photo warning

Remember that photos can be downloaded at the full size you’ve uploaded, up to 2048 px.

Facebook photos can be downloaded by anyone you’ve allowed to view them in your permissions (and Fan Page posts are always public).

Any images might be downloaded and reused, even though that would be copyright infringement (unless you give permission). How to Report Claims of Intellectual Property Infringement.

You’ve also allowed Facebook to distribute your images according to their Terms of Service:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

I recommend you NOT upload your professional images at high resolution unless you have a specific reason to do so (for example, you want fans to download printable images of an event).

Also note that, even though Facebook won’t resize images at the 2048 size, they will be resized in the user’s browser. Very few people have a monitor or device that can display an image that large.

So 960 may be a better size for photographers to use.

I also suggest you watermark your images.

Facebook file formats

Facebook accepts uploads of .jpg, .gif, and .png file types.

JPG is generally used for images with blended tones, like photos, and GIF and PNG are better for images of flat tones, like logos, text, and graphics.

Facebook recommends: Save your image as a JPEG with an sRGB color profile.

If you choose to go with JPG, save photos for Facebook as sRGB JPGs at the least compression, or maximum file size.

Facebook will apply another round of compression to your photos, so saving them as large files assures best results. Facebook’s compression will be more than adequate to assure fast-loading photos on the web.

In Photoshop, choose 12 – Maximum Quality.

Check Baseline Optimized.

Other than Facebook’s full photo custom tabs (which are limited to 400kb), I haven’t run into any file size restrictions. I uploaded a profile picture as a 2200px square, 3.1 MB file, and it worked fine.

Below is a brilliant tutorial on how to avoid ugly artifacts when saving JPG files for Facebook.

How to Get Sharp Text on Facebook Images

But what about those tough images with text or logos – should you save them as JPGs?

It used to be that Facebook compressed ALL images you upload to JPGs. Now there’s a workaround for those fuzzy text graphics, like quote pictures or tips graphics. 

Save them as PNG files!

It appears that Facebook maintains the PNG format when you upload one. PNG images I’ve uploaded look virtually the same on Facebook as on my computer monitor, with the same, or even larger, file size.

If you use advanced photo editing software like Photoshop, you know there are different kinds of PNG files.

PNG8 is perfect for flat expanses of color with text, like the image shown below. PNG8 only supports a maximum of 256 colors, so it’s not suitable for photos, or graphics with gradient tones or glow effects.

PNG24: If you have a photo with text or a logo that’s coming out fuzzy or with artifacts, try saving it as a PNG24. This format can have up to 16 million colors.

Use PNG24 only as needed, as the file sizes can be large, causing slower load times on slow internet connections.

Color note: Red tones are notorious for looking horrible on Facebook. Bright red, magenta, or red-purple are not good choices for Facebook images.

GIF: There’s no reason to save as a GIF file for Facebook, but if you have one you want to use, Facebook will accept GIFs. PNG is a better choice when saving new images, as PNGs have better color and compression than GIFs.

Unfortunately, you can’t upload animated GIFs from your computer or device to Facebook.

LEARN MORE: Image File Types: How to Win at JPG, GIF & PNG

Should you sharpen photos for Facebook?

I’m not a photographer, I only play one on Instagram ? So I’ll leave this for you to test and decide.

Below is a great tutorial about sharpening photos for Facebook, from a pro photographer.

How to optimize Facebook photos: Conclusion

We’ve covered the top Facebook photo types here:

  • Facebook wall posts
  • Facebook Cover Photos
  • Facebook link previews
  • Facebook profile pictures

And I’ve linked to in-depth info for many!

There are so many more kinds of Facebook photos! Need more? I cover allll the Facebook sizes!

LEARN MORE: The Latest Facebook Image Dimensions 2019

Review the info above, and in the linked articles.

Still have questions? Ask in a comment!

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