Instagram is probably our favorite social network 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 fit their guidelines. Although the algorithms seem less aggressive than with Facebook (which makes sense since Instagram is primarily a photo-sharing network), it’s still best to scale and crop as much as possible yourself – blunt algorithms tend to be a bit heavy.

Instagram supports images with a maximum width of 1080 pixels and a height between 566 pixels and 1350 pixels. That is, crop ratios between 1.91:1 (a wide landscape crop) and 4:5 (a square portrait crop).

Instagram Scenery ImageInstagram Portrait Image

Anything between these two ratios is good too – these are just the maximum values. If your image is wider, it will be scaled to fit a width of 1080px. Likewise, if the crop does not meet accepted ratios, such as 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 in JPEG format between 150kb and 190kb. Again, this makes sense: less than 200kb is a pretty standard file size for web use.

File size

With that in mind, let’s talk about enhancing your Instagram images.

Edit your photos

Before you even think about file sizes and crop rates, you need to edit any image you plan to post on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be heavy image manipulation, but, at least, you should consider:

  • Clean up dust spots, blemishes or other issues.
  • Brightness and contrast adjustment.
  • Increase saturation and colors.
  • Fixed all white balance issues.
  • Do something creative like color toning, convert it to black and white, or use a filter app.

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Instagram’s editing tools are now quite solid, so if you want, you can use them. There is 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 have your photo ready to go, it’s time to get it ready for Instagram. As we mentioned before, you should crop and resize your photo to 1080px wide and between 566px and 1350px high. You also want to try to get a file size below 200KB.

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

Resize in Photoshop

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

Resize on iOS

One last thing to note is that Instagram will convert your images to JPEG format – if you upload a screenshot, logo file, or anything else in PNG format, you may notice artifacts. This is a problem with JPEGs in general.

Publish your photos

With your images edited and properly sized, feel free to post them to your Instagram account. If you’ve followed the guidelines above, Instagram’s algorithms shouldn’t overdo them, so what you upload is what everyone will see.

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