Instagram is probably our favorite social network here at How-To Geek. We always want our photos to look their best, so I did the research. Here’s how to make your images look as good as possible on Instagram.

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Instagram, like Facebook, resizes and compresses your images to match their guidelines. While the algorithms seem less aggressive than with Facebook (which makes sense because Instagram is primarily a photo sharing network), it’s still better to do as much resizing and cropping as possible yourself—blunt algorithms tend to be a bit heavy handed.

Instagram supports images that are up to 1080px wide and between 566px and 1350px tall. That is, crop ratios between 1.91:1 (a wide landscape crop) and 4:5 (a square-ish portrait crop).

Instagram landscape image Instagram portrait image

Anything between these two ratios is good too—they’re just the maximum values. If your image is wider, it will be resized to fit 1080px wide. Similarly, if the crop falls outside the accepted ratios, like say, a 2:3 portrait image, you are forced to crop it to 4:5.

Instagram doesn’t publish any file size guidelines but, after playing around, I found that most of my photos were compressed to JPEGs between 150 kb and 190 kb. Again, this kind of makes sense: under 200 kb is a pretty standard file size for web use.

File size

With that in mind, let’s talk about making your Instagram images look their best.

Edit Your Photos

Before even thinking about file sizes and crop ratios, you should edit any image you’re planning to post on Instagram. This doesn’t have to be some heavy-handed image manipulation but, at the least, you should consider:

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Instagram’s editing tools are now pretty solid so, if you want to, you can use them. There are also lots of great photography apps out there and, of course, if you’re using your computer, there’s always Lightroom and Photoshop—really, the best options.

Crop and Resize Your Images

Once you’ve got your photo ready to go, it’s time to make it Instagram ready. As we talked about earlier, you need to crop and resize your photo to 1080px wide and between 566px and 1350px tall. You also want to try and get the file size to less than 200kb.

With Photoshop, Lightroom, or any other computer editor, it’s simple. Just set the save or export settings to the right dimensions. You can use the quality setting to control the file size.

Resizing in Photoshop

On smartphones, things are a little more awkward since you need to use a separate app. I like Image Size for iOS and Photo & Picture Resizer for Android. Open the photo in whichever app you’re using then crop and resize it to the correct dimensions. You can also use the quality settings to control the file size as you would with a desktop app.

Resizing on iOS Resizing on iOS

One final thing to note is that Instagram will convert your images to JPEG—if you’re uploading a screenshot, logo file, or anything else that’s a PNG, you might notice some artifacting. That’s an issue with JPEGs in general.

Post Your Pics

With your images edited and correctly sized, go ahead and post them on your Instagram account. If you’ve followed the guidelines above, Instagram’s algorithms shouldn’t do too much to them, so what you upload is what everyone else will see.

If you leave things in Instagram’s hands, your photos will probably look okay, but it’s nice to know that you’ve done everything you can to maximize image quality. Why go to the effort of taking great photos just to leave a social media company to decide how they look?

Harry Guinness Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness is a photography expert and writer with nearly a decade of experience. His work has been published in newspapers like The New York Times and on a variety of other websites, from Lifehacker to Popular Science and Medium's OneZero.
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