This is something that comes up again and again in my workshops and in emails with readers and students. Yes, photo resizing is important! So in this article, I’ll give you some tips on how and why you need to resize your photos for Facebook, or sharing by email and other social media sites.
Why you need to resize your images for email and social media
There are several reasons, including:
- Not filling or clogging up your friends’ (or mine) inboxes with overly large camera files.
- Making sure the images you share online are neither too large nor too small.
- So that the images fit the right proportions and don’t get cut-off when displayed on social media sites.
- Preventing image theft (to some degree only though, it’s not 100% preventable).
- So they load faster online.
- It may need to be converted to the proper image format (to JPG if you shoot RAW).
Here’s an example
If you take a JPG directly from your camera and send that to a friend by email that’s a large file. It will take longer for them to receive it and load it and if they are opening and reading emails on their phone it may not come through at all.
Even if it does arrive and they download it, it will fill up the storage on their phone very quickly, especially if you try and send multiple images. So they won’t be very happy with you or will ask you to stop sending them images.
Has that ever happened to you? Or how about this scenario?
You try emailing some images to a friend and they just aren’t getting through. You try and try but are just not having any luck. The email isn’t in your friend’s inbox, spam folder, or anywhere.
When that occurs, what is likely happening is that your friend’s email service provider has a cap on maximum file size for email attachments. You’ve likely exceeded that limit, so the email with your images is being stopped at the server level.
Appropriate file size and specs
So what is an appropriate size to send, and what file format and specs should you use? The answer to that depends on where you’re posting the image or if it’s for email but some of the specs are standard.
- File format – use JPG most of the time for your image (only use a PNG if you have a transparent background or GIF if you have created an animated file).
- Color space – save in sRGB color for ALL online and email sharing.
- Pixel size – this will vary depending on where you are sharing the images, see below for some common social media sizes. For email use 800 pixels on the long side.
- File size (this is the amount of actual storage space taken up by the file) – again this will vary but for email keep it under 100 KB (kilobytes) and for online in general, shoot for less than 500 KB. Camera files, by comparison, can range from 10 MB (megabytes) to over 50 MB.
- NOTE: 1 MB is equal to 1000 KB. So a camera file that is 10 MB (10,000 KB) is 100x larger than a 100 KB file.
- Image resolution – 72 dpi is what you want for most online sharing, but this part isn’t actually very important because it’s only the actual pixel size that is relevant online. DPI (dots per inch) only comes into play when printing your images.
Have a look at this example. The original camera RAW image is 33.4 MB. A full-sized JPG exported from Lightroom (or Luminar) is about 4.1 MB (see screenshot below showing it on my hard drive)
The Facebook file (resized to 2048px on the long side) is 1.2MB, and the email version resized to 800px wide is only 77 KB.
How to resize your images
Please watch the video below that matches the software you use for editing your photos.
If you do not use either Lightroom Classic or Luminar 4 to edit your photos, just scroll down past the videos to the next section. I’ve provided links to some handy free online tools to help you out with this task.
Resizing and saving images with Luminar 4
Watch the video below if you use Luminar 4 as your primary photo editor. See how I use the crop tool to change the aspect ratio and the export settings you need to be aware of and adjust accordingly.
If you haven’t picked up Luminar 4 yet (or you want to upgrade from an older version), now is a great time to do it (#aff).
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Exporting and sizing images with Lightroom Classic
Watch the video below if you use Lightroom as your main photo editing software. I will demonstrate the export dialog box and which settings you need to change according to where you will be sharing your images.
FREE Lightroom Export Presets for Email and Social Media
I have created three Lightroom export presets that will help you quickly format images for email, Facebook sharing, and full-size files for printing.
Click here to DOWNLOAD these Lightroom export presets for free, just by becoming a subscriber. You’ll be sent the presets by email and begin to receive notice of our photography articles published weekly on this website.
Free online resizing tools – single image
As I mentioned above, if you don’t use Lightroom or Luminar or any other photo editing software, there are other tools you can use to resize your images.
Several are available for you to use online for free. I tested out a few for you, here is a list of a few that I found to be pretty good. These all work with one image at a time.
Free tools – resize bulk or multiple images at one time
If you want to batch resize several images or an entire folder of them at once, the tools above would be tedious. In that case, try one of the following that allows for multiple images or batch resizing.
- B.I.R.M.E. – Batch Image Resizing Made Easy.
- I Love Img – resize, compress, crop, convert, edit, add text or a watermark.
- Bulk Resize – super simple bulk resize and compress tool.
Optimal sizes for social media
Every social media platform has different sizes and aspect ratios required for images depending on where you put them.
For example, the following have different sizes for your profile photo, a shared image, and a cover or banner image:
- Facebook – profile photo is 180 x 180px, cover image 820 x 312px, shared image 1200 x 630px (although I recommend 2048px on the long side to combat Facebook’s heavy-handed compression algorithm).
- IG – prefers 1:1 square images or 4:5 ratio.
- Twitter – profile 400 x 400px, header 1500 x 500px, shared image 440×220 a 2:1 aspect ratio or larger at 16:9 ratio)
What is the aspect ratio?
The numbers you see above like 1:1 and 16:9 refer to the proportions of the image or the ratio of its width to its height. It’s expressed by two numbers separated by a colon.
For example an x:y ratio means the image is x units wide and y units high.
So, what does that mean for your images?
Most cameras shoot with an aspect ratio of 3:2. As you may notice that doesn’t match most of the numbers above.
So that means that to share your image on social media you may need to crop it. If you want to use a square image on IG, change your Facebook cover image, or upload a new Twitter header image – you will have to crop your original camera image to fit those proportions.
Here is an example using the same image, cropped and resized to fit the different aspect ratios.
The following have various different image size requirements as well:
- Pinterest (vertical images are best for Pins)
In order to keep all the sizes straight, I found a great resource for you. Just visit this site to see all the current social media sizes you might need. The author also has a handy Google spreadsheet which she keeps updated so if any change you can find them quickly.
Or you can use one of the free online resizing tools mentioned below. Some of them have the most current social media sizes built-in for your convenience.
You can also download a 6000-pixel wide, high-res version of the common aspect ratios overlay that I used above. Just click to open in a new browser tab, then right-click and save to your computer.
Ready, set, resize!
I hope that gives you a little bit more insight and understanding of how and why you need to be resizing your images for email and social media. If you have any questions about resizing, please add them to the comment area below and I will answer.