Tips – Instagram Tips – Getting the Best Quality

Snapshot of my cromano_musicphotos for instagram tips

Alongside Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is one of the biggest social media applications available today.  As a photographer, its a great way to quickly gain exposure, whether you want to take photos with your smart phone, or show off your shots from your fancy DSLR.  However, if you’re planning on importing the shots from a SLR, its important to do a few things to help retain that quality, even if the picture is only 612px big.  Here, I’ll go over some basic Instagram Tips  to help you along your way…

Tip #1 – Export Quality

When you import something in to Instagram, its important to note that since there are millions of photos being uploaded a day, primarily from iPhones and other smart phones, that to make it quick and speedy, the image quality has to be low, without looking low.

The compression techniques used for Instagram are tuned for the quality and size of photos taken with a phone, not with a high resolution DSLR.

For instance, if you were to shoot an image with your 36mp D800, and then take that and straight put it on to Instagram, it is not going to look spectacular, its going to compress it to hell.

An example of compression for instagram tips

This image of Asking Alexandria became pixelated when I uploaded it at too high of a resolution.

Through trial and error, I’ve found, thanks to looking at the code on the Instagram website, that everything is uploaded to a very particular max range:

Max width & height: 640px x 640px
Max file size: 120k
Resolution: 72dpi

Because of this, when exporting from Lightroom I use the following settings:

An example of Lightroom export settings for instagram tips

Keep in mind, if you were to export from Photoshop or any other program, you should try tweak your settings to be around this similar range.  Exporting your images this way will help prevent any further compression from Instagram, and keep them looking bright, sharp, and beautiful, as you intended.

Once you’ve exported a shot, you can either e-mail the image to yourself, copy it to your phone via USB, or hundreds of other ways.  Use whatever method works best for you to transfer the exported photo to your phone!

Tip #2: Fill the 4×4 frame

This particular tip is a bit opinion based, I’ll be honest.  Not everyone will agree with it, but from what I’ve seen, it really does get the best results.

When I’m shooting, I’m filling the frame of my camera, and not thinking about what a shot will look like on Instagram.  If I have a shot that can work well in a 4×4 (or 1×1) frame, than I will use it.  Not every shot that I take does.

I’ve noticed a lot of photographers have the tendency to add borders, whether they be black or white,  in order to maintain the original frame.  My suggestion is: don’t do it!  It makes your subject more difficult to see.  Not everyone is viewing Instagram photos on 4 inch and larger screens.   There are plenty of smart phone users out there that have 3.5 inch and smaller screens!

Here is a sample of what I do to crop an image afterwards for use on Instagram:

Before, with the crop overlay:

An example of 1x1 crop area for instagram tips

You can see here, when I took the shot, I was not shooting for 1×1 (or 4×4, same thing), but found a good framing to fill 1×1.

And now what it looks like after:

Alkaline Trio at Best Buy Theater

Just like when you’re shooting normally, its best to fill the frame.  A filled frame is a happy frame!

Extra Instagram Tips – Tags

#tag #your #photos #for #more #people #to #see #them.  I cannot stress this enough.  Even though hashtags will likely get your photo likes from a few bots here and there, it will also help legit users see your images, even if they are not following you.  The two tags I most typically use are #concertphotography and #metal (or #rock, if the band the photo is of is a rock band).  These two seem to get the most eyes on my images from those who are most interested.  If its a concert photo of a band, it goes without saying that you should use the band’s name in a tag.  Just don’t overdo it,  15 seems to be a good number of total tags.

Too many tags.  Is there even a picture here?

Too many tags. Is there even a picture here?

Keep in mind, certain tags may get more eyes for a short time (say for instance, #metal is a popular tag I use often) but the more popular a tag is, the faster your photo will fade to the bottom of the feed.  A more specific tag (such as a person’s full name), will last longer at the top, but may take longer for someone to look under that tag.

Another note: don’t use spaces or symbols in tags.  Only letters and numbers.  If you try to use “#steve harris” instead of “#steveharris”, Instagram will interpret the tag only as “#steve”.  In the same way, “#b&w” will only be interpreted as “#b”.

Follow Me!

Be sure to follow me for daily photos of musicians doing that awesome thing they do; playing live music.  All taken by myself, unless noted otherwise. @cromano_musicphotos (make sure you get the underscore in there).  You should also see a display of my recent uploaded shots on the widget bar on the right!  Or, you can visit my page at the Instagram website by clicking here!

A majority of the photos I take are from my DSLRs.  Sometimes I do use my phone to take a shot if I’m roaming and just see something cool.  Hopefully these Instagram tips help you post some great images on Instagram as well!

Comment Below!

Any questions?  Did these Instagram tips help you at all? Leave a comment or a suggestion in the box below!  Or you can also leave your Instagram address, and I’ll follow you!

68 Responses to “Tips – Instagram Tips – Getting the Best Quality”

  1. Hey, just wanted to send a sincere thank you for these tips. I wondered about Instagram’s compression for quite some time and ended up not posting as many DSLR images because of the compression. These tips will get me back to posting images on IG that show my work as opposed to just my personal images from the phone. Thanx again.

  2. Kat says:

    Thank you so much! Such a big help! 😉

  3. @3zazi_qa says:

    Thanks chris , i just got an answere for all of the Q i had

  4. Matt says:

    Hello Chris thanks for the tutorial. However when I apply these settings to my export settings it saves them as you have laid out but the image instead exports as 612×406 and therefore is still to large for the square cropping of Instagram. No matter what I do it reverts to this?? please help

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Matt, are you sure that both the length/height AND the width are set to 612px? Make sure that you crop the photo to a square FIRST, and then export. Check out Tip #2.

      Also, even if the file is too big, it should still import to Instagram, just it will be compressed afterwards, and look a bit distorted. Hope that helps!

  5. Jeff says:

    THANK YOU! I’m new to Instagram and have been trying to figure out why photos that look great on my computer and even on my phone get butchered when posted to Instagram. I’ll try these settings. Thanks!

    • Kris says:

      Same here! I was on the verge of losing hope that I wouldn’t be able to share the power of the Lumia 1020 I just got because they looked great on both phone and desktop but once uploaded to IG something just went bleh. Speaking of bleh, that’s one epic run-on sentence. Sorry about that!

  6. fatidi says:

    Is there any other program or application that is free if i want to change the resolution of my instagram picture and make it niceee? Thank you

  7. Fatidi says:

    Hello again. Im trying to change the image sizing and the resolution is 72 and the picture become blurry… Im using an application on my ipad named image size because i want a free app and i didnt find anything else…im looking at ur picture on instagram and they r perfectttttt….i tried to save it png or jpeg and its still blurry 🙁

    • Chris Romano says:

      I’m not too familiar with the app Image Size, or anything on the Ipad unfortunately (I’m more of a Android and Windows user myself.) My guess however would be that the filesize it is outputting the file at is bigger than the 640×640 resolution and 120k max file size, which then Instagram automatically will downsize and make it blurry.

      • Tima says:

        hi chris.
        im thinking about buying a professional camera and i like the canon rebel. what do you think about this camera and aldo What kind of photo editing program would be best for me to purchase? considering the fact that i am a beginner and i want something easy for me.

        thanks alot.

        • Chris Romano says:

          Hi Tima,

          The Canon Rebel is a great starter DSLR. I highly suggest picking up a 50 f/ 1.8 lens as well, as it is a great starter lens (I still use 50mm lenses on occasion myself.) I use Lightroom to edit, but you can maybe get started using Picasa, which is totally free to download and use.

  8. Hello I was wondering where can I get the Instagram export plug in for lightroom?

  9. Nathan @nathanschultz6317 says:

    Thanks Chris for the help with Instagram. I’m new to Insta and I wanted to still show my work. I’m a retired wounded soldier so I have gone to photography as my new outlet. This will help ALOT. Thanks again

  10. Chris says:

    Thanks for the tips but one thing that no one seems to explain is how you actually get photos from a proper camera (DSLR etc) on to Instagram in the first place… Do I really have to upload the photos from my PC to somewhere online and then download them on my phone and then upload them to Instagram? Seems pretty stupid. I know there is a program called Gramblr that lets you upload from your PC but I don’t think it is an official program from Instagram and it wouldn’t even install on my PC at all (plus other people have mentioned hash tags stop working once you’ve used it).

    Thanks
    Chris

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Chris – what I typically do now is just copy the exported jpg from Lightroom/Photoshop in to a folder on my phone’s memory card (which is connected via usb), and then choose it from there. I haven’t looked for a program that could possibly upload a file straight to Instagram, so I’m not sure if one exists. I know the Instagram website only allows for viewing and not uploading, and you need to use the App in order to upload. It’s probably that way to prevent image spamming/flooding.

  11. Hunter says:

    I tried these settings from lightroom and the quality looks horiible. Help?

  12. Jennifer says:

    I was looking for good quality advice and found this article. The funny thing is that I’m a huge Steel Panther fan. Hello Satchel! 😀

  13. Ginny says:

    Great tips and easy to understand. Thank you very much!

  14. Megan says:

    I was looking for the ideal settings to export from Lightroom for Instagram and that is exactly what I got here. Thank you so much!

  15. Shafiq says:

    Are you using photoshop editor to change the size, resolution and all. If not what medium are you using?

    • Chris Romano says:

      Shafiq, this is done using Adobe Lightroom. However, you can use the “Save For Web” option in the File Menu of Photoshop, and you’ll receive the same results.

  16. Kat says:

    So helpful. Thanks a lot!

  17. Paddy says:

    Thankyou so much! my images are forever being destroyed because i’ve been leaving it at huge resolutions, but never again! 🙂

  18. Abi Abiola says:

    Awesome mate!just when i thought this help is not online i’ve been looking for a straight forward tip about instagramm ,thanks so much

  19. fifi says:

    Hi! Just wanna asking your opinion. What resolution should I choose when I crop the picture by using Photo Grid app? So that my pictures will not be blurry anymore. Help!

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Fifi,

      I think your best bet would be to save it in 1080p, and change the Save Format to PNG. I’m not 100% sure on how Photo Grid compresses things, but that would likely be the best bet to keep quality.

  20. Thank you for the very helpful information. I googled the question and found the answer quickly on your website.

  21. Id love to know how to quickly place watermark on my photos in lightroom.

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Cynthia,

      Lightroom has a built in Watermarking option in the “Export” dialogue that will allow you to quickly add a watermark to all your photos.

  22. Yerzhan Kurmanbay says:

    Chris, hi,

    first of, great job on this post, saved me so much time, just thanks, man!

    One little question, you say 640px in the article but then 612px in one of the comments, I also saw 612px coming up at other places, can clear it up a bit, please?

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Yerzhan –

      About 4 months ago, Instagram upgraded their image quality a bit. It used to be 612×612, but since the upgrade, has gone to 640×640, which is what it currently is. Hope that helps.

  23. Hi Chris,
    It’s quite helpful. Though I don’t know how to solve this in Photoshop if I go for batch processing. The problem is some of the images are exporting more than 120k via photoshop action. Is there a way to handle this or should I go for the manual process. My 2nd question is should we check/uncheck the option for “Optimize” while exporting. I guess if we keep the desired file size under 120k then technically we should keep it checked, right!

    Thanks!

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Abinash,

      Typically when I export from Photoshop for Instagram, I use the Save for Web & Devices option, which allows me to see how big the file will be, and get as much quality as possible out of the particular photo. I’m pretty sure you can set an action that will auto open SFW&D, and allow you to batch save that way. It’s not automated, but it will work and be 100% accurate, and help to keep as much quality as possible while still staying under 120k.

  24. Mike Haynes says:

    Thank you for the tip’s and I now follow you

  25. REBELIMGS says:

    I have followed your info and still, no matter what I do, my images will still appear compressed. This is really annoying. I appreciate the info you helped but having tried it over and over hasn’t helped yet.

    My images are 640×640, less than 120k and still they are destroyed by instagram.

    • Chris Romano says:

      One thing I can suggest is make sure your Instagram app is upgraded to the latest version. If it is, try making the images 612×612 instead of 640×640. That’s the old size for it, but may work for you.

  26. ronnie says:

    Hi Chris,
    Do you know of any apps that could help compress a dslr photo to these numbers?. Or close to them?
    Thanks

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Ronnie,

      I’ve used the default gallery app (I use Android) on an high resolution image when I didn’t have access to Photoshop/Lightroom. I just copied to photo to my phone, cropped it in the Android Gallery App, saved it, and then uploaded the saved image to Instagram. It didn’t have any artifacts so I’m pretty sure it saved it under 120k. Hope that helps.

  27. Thank you for taking the time to write this post. It has been very helpful. I have a question about the file size and ppi. When I extract images from Instagram’s site, they all seem to be at 96ppi. The file size seems to vary, but in my random sampling, I’ve seen some as high as 140KB.

    I know PPI shouldn’t matter at all for the web, but any idea why Instagram is changing them to 96 over 72? Has the file size limit possibly changed when they upgraded from 612×612 to 640×640?

    Normally I wouldn’t care about this so much, but I recently uploaded an image at 640×640, 96ppi, and 120K max size. The image that I then extracted back out of Instagram was slightly different. If anything, it appeared to actually be sharper than what I uploaded and the file size was smaller. Do you know if Instagram is applying additional sharpening to uploaded images? Should I not be choosing the “Sharpen for screen” option in Lightroom?

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Emmanuel,

      They likely are. I know they’ve been doing things to try and improve how images look on tablets (iPad, Kindle, etc.) so whatever they do after the image is uploaded, it to try and make it look better for them. Typically now, I set the sharpen for screen to low when I’m exporting something from Lightroom, and feel like it looks fine. Really, its up to you what you think looks best for your images. Hope that helps.

  28. Gabriel says:

    Hey !

    Great article, thanks for the tips ! Is it possible to resize photos made on DSLRs via a phone app ?

    Thank you 🙂

  29. Richard Land says:

    Hi
    i found the article very interesting!
    i jumped onto your instagram site and have noticed a lot of your more recent photos are know with borders.
    One of your tips was to not use borders.
    I myself am a fan of the borders and was wondering how your setting change when using borders. thanks

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Richard,

      I wrote this article over a year ago, and my opinion have simply changed slightly since then. I still think its best to fill the frame if possible, but some photos simply won’t look right as a 1×1 square. In those cases, its best to use a a border. I do have a few recent ones that are 1×1, but it really depends on the photo.

  30. Laurin says:

    Hello Chris,

    I was wondering if you could further explain what I need to change in photoshop. I understand I have to change the image size to 640 pixels but there are many other options. It asks for quality and I believe that is the 72 pixels per inch? Also, the size says 128 kbps… is that the 120k for file size? It asks if I want the photo to be progressive, optimized and/or embed color profile. My photos still seem blurry when I upload them on my phone and I am not happy with the result.

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Laurin,

      When using the Save for Web option in Photoshop, you should look at the bottom left to see the file size. Lower the quality (top right) until the file size is below 120k. The reason Photoshop shows something like “3 sec @ 56.6Kbps” is to show the load time based on internet speed, which is irrelevant to posting an image on Instagram.

  31. Folafayo says:

    Thanks for the tips Chris.

    I’ve compressed even to 540, yet its not showing all that is in the picture…I’ll see how how more compressing would help.

    Thanks again

  32. […] credit goes to Chris Romano who did the research and experimentation – Chris Romano Photography. Good […]

  33. Leandro says:

    Thanks, that worked for me 🙂
    I shot with my Lumia 1020, extract the 41 mpix .DNG from it, edit in Adobe LR, export to my phone, edit in VSCOcam, re-import to Adobe LR just to fit the size (exactly like you did). Voilà. Images now are crisp. Thank you very much for your help.

  34. […] website: Images taken with, or uploaded to Instagram are compressed to 612 by 612-pixel size with a 72ppi (pixel per inch) count. The problem lies in the server space saving decision to compress images down to 72ppi, which […]

  35. Thomas Boldsen says:

    Hi Chris

    Just a quick question about compression. I’m not a professional photographer and tend to shoot most of my photos on iPhone. Often times I like to edit and grade my pictures without actually publishing them – I do that by setting the iPhone to Airplane mode when sharing, thus preventing the actual posting. I then delete the picture from the posting list, but it’ll still be in the image folder named “Instagram”. My question is this: If I then later decide to post the picture on Instagram, will it be compressed again, thereby further reducing the image quality?

    Thanks a lot
    /Thomas

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Thomas,

      As far as I can tell, it does give an image a very slight amount of compression. However, if you took the image originally using Instagram, the compression will be barely noticeable.

  36. Joe Stracci says:

    Chris, thanks for this helpful post. I tried following Step #1 for the images I’ve been posting about my new podcast, and I’m still having what I assume are compression issues with images that I created in Pixelmator. If you check out this image (http://instagram.com/p/ymjkoRM8LJ) you’ll see what I’m talking about. I designed those to be 2048×2048, and in some spots, they look great. But anywhere that I’ve had to upload the images (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram) even when I follow the guidelines, I’m still getting terrible blockiness and pixelation. Any advice you could offer would be really helpful. Also—dig the picture of Matt Skiba. I have an Alkaline Trio tattoo. Thanks again.

    • Chris Romano says:

      Hi Joe,

      I’ve never used Pixelmator before (I’m more of an Android/PC user) but my best guess would be it has some sort of conflict with that. The post you linked looks fine to me. As long as you export it from 2048×2048 down to the size needed (for instagram its 640×640, for facebook banner is 851×315, etc) you normally shouldn’t have any issues.

  37. Hey Chris,

    Thanks so much for posting! I did my first one but noticed that the colours all went wrong once I sent the picture from Photo shop to Dropbox to Instagram. Any clues what I may be doing wrong?

    Thank you in advance!

    Andrew

  38. james says:

    hi chris,

    im having a lot of issues with saving images to my phone where the image has colour “sucked” out of it. im making sure im using SRGB and even the images on my laptop show to be their true colour, but for some reason when i put the photo in my drop box and view it on my 4s, the colour is very different. ive checked that im working in the sRGB workspace but this still seems to happen every time. any help would be much appreciated.

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