Uploading pictures to Facebook has always made me a bit uneasy. They just don’t seem to have the same color, sharpness or “pop” that they once had. I suspected this was due to the way Facebook, resized, re-compressed or otherwise altered the image upon upload. Hence, this little tutorial on saving your images in the best possible way BEFORE uploading to your Facebook album for optimal results.
I started with a recent head shot I thought had good sharpness and color.
The first thing to do is resize the image on our end to Facebook specs. This will ensure that what we see in terms of contrast and sharpness at 100% view will be pretty much what ends up on Facebook. No matter how awesome and “high res” your original picture is from your 2 million dollar 500 megapixel Hasselblad camera, Facebook will knock it down to 960 pixels by about 640 pixels, or about .6 megapixels. It will also end up in the sRGB color space at 72 PPI.
There is nothing wrong with this really. To a computer monitor, everything above 72 PPI is basically superfluous. 72 PPI is the standard for web images. See this article for a more detailed explanation of PPI vs DPI.
For 90% of computer monitors, anything beyond good ‘ol sRGB color space is also a waste. Most monitors just can’t display the full spectrum of ProPhoto RGB or Adobe 1998. I know some noted pros who shoot in JPG mode with the camera set to sRGB, and process their finals in 72 PPI. Keeping your “digital negatives” or RAW files in a larger color space might be a good idea for the future, but for the most part, on a computer monitor it is an unnoticeable difference. For print, go ahead and process your RAW files at 300 PPI in that big color space. You might just see a difference.
In Photoshop you can resize your image by going to image>image size. Make sure “constrain proportions” is checked and PPI is set to 72. Now set your long edge (width or height, whichever is greater) to 960 pixels. (this used to be 604 but they ramped it up twice since I wrote this). Let the other number change on its own to preserve the aspect ratio of your photo.
Next, double click the magnifier tool to view your image at 100%. I try to do most of my editing at 100% view since it is the most accurate portrayal of the image, not being “squished” to fit on your screen or magnified beyond its means to the point of pixelation.
At this point, the image can look a bit hazy from resizing. You can reintroduce some punch by using unsharp mask. Go to filter>sharpen>unsharp mask. Its a small image so I start with small numbers, an amount of about 60% and radius of 1/2 pixel. Tweak this to your own taste. There is no simple formula, it really depends on the subject matter in the frame, not just pixel and resolution numbers.
Voila! You’re now ready to save your image and throw it up on Facebook for your friends to see. One bonus of going through this is that, although it takes some time, it makes the upload go way faster since we are downsizing it preemptively.
Go to file>save for web. Since Facebook will add a bit more compression, I set my mode to JPG, quality to “100″ and make sure “progressive” is unchecked. “Save for web” automatically converts your file to sRGB color space by default. Web browsers can’t obey color profiles, so that’s the way to go for photographs bound for the web.
Here’s a Facebook example.
Thanks for looking!
Side note- Don’t start with a hazy, underexposed or out-of-focus picture and expect miracles to happen. This method is meant to simply preserve the color and sharpness of your original file, NOT enhance it.
If you are familiar with Photoshop and want to automate the process, try my Free Photoshop Actions here. For now, they are free, but if you use them, please help me out by following me on Twitter and/or posting a link to my blog or website. Thanks for reading!