Optimise images for Instagram how to guide


Instagram as everyone knows is an important tool for every business both in terms of brand recognition and reaching your audience. With over 500 million daily users, it is one of the most active social media platforms. 

Today we have asked our friends at Pure Photo N.I to share a few hints and tips on optimising images so that they look there very best once uploaded to Instagram. Tommy & Laurene at Pure Photo N.I are multi award winning Northern Ireland wedding photographers and also provide one-2-one coaching to photographers across the U.K on how to run a successful photography business. They are experts in their field and we have worked with them on many of our clients’ projects and they are Vindicta Digital’s go to resource for everything photography related.

Instagram is now the go to platform for photographers to promote their work and it is just as important for other types of businesses as well. Many people however do not understand that certain technical practices need to be followed to ensure that your photographs once uploaded to Instagram look their best. While Instagram was originally designed as a mobile photography platform, the majority of businesses use it to share images that best promote their brand, normally captured using high end camera equipment rather than mobile devices. Everyone wants the images they post to look as good on Instagram as it does on their computers but without optimising the images before they are posted this is often not the case. There are a few steps you need to make to optimise images for Instagram. They are not complicated, but they will make a huge difference to how your images look once they have been posted.

Choosing the correct image format

Instagram supports any image aspect ratios of between 1.91:1 and 4:5. The most common of these are:

  • Square – 1:1 or 1080 x 1080 pixels
  • Landscape – 1.91:1 or 1080 x 566 pixels
  • Portrait – 4:5 or 1080 x 1350 pixels
  • Stories: 9:16 or 1080 x 1920

A common trick used by professional wedding photographers on Instagram is to upload images using the 4:5 ratio. This is because it uses the most ‘screen real estate’. In other words, this ratio takes up more of the screen on Instagram which helps highlight your image more when users are scrolling through their feeds.

The prevailing format for social media image uploads is JPEG, with some opting for PNG files. While both are web-friendly, JPEG remains supreme, even amidst the emergence of newer formats. Particularly for photographs, JPEG continues to reign as the optimal choice. Its widespread compatibility and compression techniques make it ideal for efficient online sharing, ensuring that your images are seamlessly displayed across various platforms with minimal loss of quality.

ProPhoto RGB and AdobeRGB are the two most common colour profiles used for processing images in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. However, these are optimised for printing, not for use on the web. Web browsers use the sRGB colour profile for displaying images and this is even more important for social media apps like Instagram. That is why you need to save photos you want to upload to Instagram in the sRGB colour profile, so that colours are displayed correctly.

Instagram image compression

Every social media app uses aggressive image compression techniques to reduce the file size of the images you upload. When you upload a photograph to Instagram it is run through a series of image compression software packages before it goes live. The reason for this is simple, storing your images online requires server data storage and server data storage costs money. The more they can reduce the file size of your images, the less it costs Instagram to host them. This however can have a dramatic impact on what your images look like once uploaded. They can look less sharp and the compression process can introduce unwanted artefacts into your image like banding. No matter what aspect ratio you use it is very important that the longest edge of each image is no longer than 1080px. This ensures that less aggressive compression will be used by Instagram.

Sharpening photographs for use on Instagram

The final stride in readying an Instagram image involves sharpening. You might have your own preferred technique. Our preference lies in utilizing Adobe Photoshop for its greater flexibility and superior outcomes compared to Adobe Lightroom’s sharpening tools. Nevertheless, Lightroom remains a solid choice if Photoshop isn’t your forte. For Photoshop, implement these steps to effectively sharpen your image and enhance its visual impact.

  • Set the resample method to Bicubic.
  • Go to Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen.
  • Duplicate the layer and sharpen again. Rename that layer to Extra Sharp.
  • Resize to the final size.
  • If the image looks too sharp at this point reduce the opacity of the Extra Sharp layer.

You are now ready to export your image file and upload to Instagram. Go to File > Export for Web and use these standard settings:

  • JPEG.
  • Quality set this to 76%, this is the sweet spot for Instagram image quality.
  • Optimised.
  • Convert to sRGB.

Uploading your photographs to Instagram

There is no approved method to upload images from your computer to Instagram. While over the years there has been many apps introduced for this purpose, Instagram have always taken a dim view of this and in some cases, users have found that their accounts have been suspended or banned completely because of the use of this type of software. The easiest way we have found to upload images to Instagram from our computers is to simply add them to our drop box folder, then use the drop box app to download the images to our phones and upload direct to Instagram from there.

Many thanks to Tommy & Laurene at Pure Photo N.I for all of the information. Instagram is a very competitive environment, every little thing you can do to make the images you post stand out from others will help you reach and engage with your audience.

If you would like to follow Pure Photo N.I on Instagram you can find them by searching for @purephotoni

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