If you want to send high quality original photos to your friends and family, then there’s really only one good way to do it: with a cloud storage provider. Social networks like Facebook and Instagram don’t store the original files; they reduce the quality, so pages load faster. Even good, dedicated photo services like 500px do it.
This isn’t an issue if you’re just posting photos so people can view them on their smartphones or computers, but if you want them to be able to print the images, you need to give them high-quality files.
What Counts as “High-Quality” Files?
The photos your smartphone camera—or any proper camera—can take are far bigger and of higher quality than social media sites can handle. If every image on your Instagram feed were 2 MBs and 12 megapixels, you’d burn through your data cap in no time. The thing is, these, high-resolution, 2 MB files are exactly what you want if you’re going to print them, set them as your desktop background, or do anything except view them in the correct size box on social media.
Here’s a photo of mine I uploaded to Facebook—it was 2.7 MB and 5166×3444 pixels. When I downloaded it from my Timeline, it was 74 KB and 860×640 pixels. You could barely print that on a postage stamp!
In general, when we talk about high-quality files, what we mean are the original photos straight from your phone or camera or, if you’ve made any edits, a saved copy in full resolution. If you shoot RAW, you can send exported full-resolution JPEGs; full-size RAW files can be a bit unwieldy, especially if the other person doesn’t have the apps to deal with them. These are the kind of files from which they’ll be able to print nice prints.
Don’t just download the photos you want to share with people from your Facebook page. Get them from your computer or smartphone.
Cloud Sharing: The Best, Simplest, and Cheapest Solution
A few years ago, cloud storage was a competitive marketplace. Now it’s a commodity: there are heaps of services willing to offer you gigabytes of free storage space. The three we generally recommend are Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
Which of the three you use doesn’t matter. They’re all pretty similar, and they all have desktop and mobile apps.
- Dropbox has the worst free tier at 2 GB. Unless you already use Dropbox, it’s probably not the one to go with.
- You probably already have Google Drive; you get 15GB of free storage with a Gmail account. If you’re not sure which to use, it’s a safe choice.
- If you use a PC, you also have Microsoft OneDrive. Like Google Drive, you get 5 GB for free. The best thing about it is that for $100/year (the same price Dropbox and Google charge for 1 TB of storage) Office 365 gives you 1 TB of storage each for six Microsoft accounts and access to Microsoft Office. If you’re going to pay, it’s the best option.
Put all the high-quality files you want to send in a single folder in your cloud storage app of choice and let it upload. Unless you’re sharing thousands of DSLR photos, you won’t come anywhere close to hitting the limits of your free storage. Right click on the folder and choose the relevant share option. Check out our full guide to sharing files and folders with cloud storage apps for more.
Share the link and now anyone who has it will be able to go in and download the high quality images.
No more going around to your friends’ house and seeing a very blurry version of a photo you took on their fridge.
A Note for Professionals
If you’re a professional photographer looking to share photos with clients, the cloud storage method above will work but can be a bit awkward to manage. Instead, you should check out dedicated online client galleries and proofing services like PhotoProofPro and PixieSet. The extra features they offer, however, are far beyond the needs of regular people.