This is the time of year when we post our holiday pictures to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest, only to be dismayed by what appears to be randomly assembled, cropped and ordered displays. I’ve been infuriated by this and decided to do a little research. Inevitably, a little research turned into a lot. There are many rules governing image sizes and they are not shared by all outlets. It’s a shame because nothing fails bigger than a randomly cropped photograph on Facebook. Because of this it’s probably more important to have the photograph displayed as it was intended than it is to post it in the first place.
The thing to understand is that the formats chosen by the various social media outlets are chosen to suit their purposes, not ours. To this end, it’s worth having a look at the feed so that you can see how the picture will be displayed – you’ll notice that Instagram favours square crops, Pinterest and Google+ favour portrait orientation and Facebook and Twitter landscape. They have their reasons and ours is not to reason why.
So these are the best sizes to post images to social media, in pixels favoured by the six most popular social networks…
Facebook – 1,200 x 628
Twitter – 1,024 x 512
LinkedIn – 800 x 800
Google+ – 800 x 1,200
Pinterest – 735 x 1,102
Instagram – 1,080 x 1,080
I’ve only dealt with the posting of images to the feed – things get more complicated when you want to post an image as an icon or as a background – I can recommend this post on the Buffer blog for detail on the complexities of that!
There are some useful caveats to know about Facebook feeds. Facebook is aware of the orientation of the photograph and uses this to determine which rule it applies to an image in the feed. For example a square image will always be displayed at 470 x 470 regardless of the size of the uploaded file – I upload larger sizes than this to ensure the resolution is good when the viewer clicks on the image and sees the larger display. Landscape images will be scaled to 470 pixels wide in the feed and portraits will be scaled to 470 high.
Multiple Images in Facebook
Posting multiple posts to Facebook is something we all do at one time or another and I’ve seen some great pictures horribly cropped because the owners of the page didn’t understand the rules governing multiple picture displays. The key to multiple picture displays and updated albums in Facebook is the concept of the lead image. This is the first one you upload by default, though you can drag another one to that position when the upload is finished. Whatever the combination, Facebook will try to fit them into that 470 x 470 square in the feed. So two landscape pictures will go on top of one another utilising the whole 470 pixel width, the lead image getting 236 pixel depth and the second, 232. If I post two images with the lead image a square crop, then the 470 width will be allocated 236 to the lead and 232 to the second. Both will be equally cropped at 235 height.
If you post three pictures, with the lead picture a landscape, then the lead will be allocated 470 wide and 236 height, the second 236 x 232 on the second row and the third, 232 x 232 on the second row. This arrangement is consistent across all orientations of the lead image – the only exception is when the lead image has greater depth and the secondary image less depth, but still remaining within the 470 x 470 grid – Facebook will then allow more height as required for the lead image.
Now this is probably too much detail if your primary purpose for publishing multiple images is to maintain a gallery – it only makes sense to pay attention to these rules if you absolutely need to upload multiple pictures at once and you need them to appear to be a planned diptych, triptych or whatever.