Facebook’s photo upload compression

I haven’t been able to find the exact specs for Facebook’s photo compression but when Peter Bower asked me about it I got a little curious.   So I exported a photo at 300dpi and 100dpi.  I also typed the dpi of each on the photos itself.  The text is set to Sharp so even when compressed it should stay that way.


@scottwyden I’d be keen to see you follow up that last article with advice on how to upload images and have them maintain their quality.less than a minute ago via web

Below you can see screen shots of the original photos with the basic EXIF data.  Click on them to enlarge.  I didn’t want to upload the actual original images because they are too large.

100 DPI

100 DPI

300 DPI

300 DPI

So the first thing I noticed after uploading the photos was the EXIF data was stripped completely.  My copyright and website was removed.  The camera and lens was removed.  Below you can see a screen shot of the EXIF before and after Facebook.

EXIF before Facebook

EXIF before Facebook

EXIF after Facebook

EXIF after Facebook

Looking at the after Facebook EXIF data you can see that it compressed the photos down to 479 x 720 at 72dpi.  The text, while still sharp, is not as crisp as the original.  With 92% compression I can see why.  Facebook totally destroys your photos.  But with that said and Facebook not being my main source of image storage I really don’t mind the compression.  I’m more concerned about Facebook stripping away my EXIF data.  I put a copyright and website in my EXIF for a reason.  Removing it is not right.

New EXIF in Photoshop

New EXIF in Photoshop

Now that you’ve seen my tests all I can say about Peter Bower‘s question is it’s out of our control. Facebook doesn’t give any flexibility with their compression. Nowhere on their website (that I can find) does it show the compression stats. There is nothing we can do about it. Just as Facebook changes their privacy control almost weekly (yea.. please stop) all us users can do is complain and hope they make positive changes.

Please share your thoughts on Facebook’s photo compression by commenting below. I’d love to hear what you think about it.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,
Scott

Updated: 2/22/210

Removing bits and bytes

I was told that this post is wrong, and that Facebook does not compress photos.  Well, here is the proof.  I uploaded a photo using Facebook’s new hi-resolution upload option.  Even with that, Facebook compressed the photo.

facebook bits removedYou can see that the original photo was 106kb and the Facebook version was compressed to 78kb and the colorspace was changed.  So whether it is called downsampling or compression, either way, Facebook reduces the quality of your image.  Fine for web, but it changes color and is not good for print.

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This entry was posted in Photography.

28 Comments

  1. Nate Lawson June 3, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    Like you, I don't use Facebook as an image storage service. That's not what's for and there are plenty of other sites for that.What I'm most discouraged and annoyed by is the fact that they strip the EXIF data. I also put a copyright and my website information on all my photos. I just wonder why they do it. It just adds to the already controversial privacy policy of Facebook.

  2. scottwyden June 3, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    That is my biggest problem with it as well. I want my copyright in there!

  3. Andy June 3, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    Interesting piece scott, Whilst doing your tests did you also do comparisons on the colourspace that facebook uses? As with my digital workflow i always use Abode RGB as a colourspace and have found when uploading images to facebook, they tend to look washed out which would indicate the smaller colour gamut as used in sRGB or similar (or it could simply down to facebooks shoddy compression)

  4. scottwyden June 3, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    They do use sRGB. I think most websites will use it so colors saturate more. I'm not a fan of it myself but we have no choice. Thanks for commenting Andy!

    • Bealse November 26, 2010 at 2:22 am #

      so is there any way to view friend’s photos on facebook without compression?

      • scottwyden November 26, 2010 at 2:23 am #

        Facebook now offers hi-resolution uploading which I haven’t put through a compression test. However, photos that were compressed from Facebook can not be viewed uncompressed.

  5. Mikimoro Photography June 4, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Like many, I'm more pissed about the removal of EXIF data. This means that at any time, they can say they own your photo and without that EXIF data, there's no disputing it. This certainly makes the case for watermarks.

  6. scottwyden June 4, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    As long as you have the original file you would win a lawsuit if needed but watermarking is a must even though it makes photos ugly. That is why I keep my watermark simple enough that it makes a point yet doesn't ruin the photo.Thanks for commenting!

  7. scottwyden June 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    As long as you have the original file you would win a lawsuit if needed but watermarking is a must even though it makes photos ugly. That is why I keep my watermark simple enough that it makes a point yet doesn't ruin the photo.Thanks for commenting!

  8. Mikimoro Photography June 4, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Like many, I'm more pissed about the removal of EXIF data. This means that at any time, they can say they own your photo and without that EXIF data, there's no disputing it. This certainly makes the case for watermarks.

  9. David Schwartz September 26, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    "you can see that it compressed the photos down to 479 x 720…"

    This not "compression," this is downsampling. Compression doesn't reduce the number of pixels displayed, compression reduces the total size it takes to store the pixels within a file.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_compression http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downsample

    "I exported a photo at 300dpi and 100dpi"

    I'm new to this site, having followed a Google search to wind up here, but "dpi" (which I assume you are using to express ppi) has no meaning in the digital realm. The photo is 4256 pixels by 2832 pixels, and it maintains those dimensions no matter what the "resolution" setting is given by your pixel editing software, or what amount of data compression is used to store it.

    Perhaps I'm missing something, not being a pro shooter, but other then when scanning (more pixels scanned per inch of physical media gives greater pixel dimensions of digital image) or printing (more dots or drops printed per inch to the physical media gives higher resolution of printed image), or perhaps the pixel density of a camera's image sensor, resolution has no meaning other then how software might choose to display the data.

    Happy to be corrected or enlightened.

    • scottwyden September 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

      David,

      I appreciate your comment to the post. Whether you call it downsampling or compression, the fact is that they are degrading the quality of an uploaded image. The point of the post is to share that detail so people don't consider Facebook their main place for storing photos.

  10. Alanscherer December 6, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    a social media site is supposed to be a place to share with each other things that we maynot be able to on a daily basis normally across the contry and the world we are being infested by the all mighty dollar maybe facebook will be extinct soon because of it… twitter is more controlable

    • scottwyden December 6, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

      I understand your comment but what does that have to do with photo compression?

  11. Alan Corcoran February 5, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    “”you can see that it compressed the photos down to 479 x 720…”

    This not “compression,” this is downsampling. Compression doesn’t reduce the number of pixels displayed, compression reduces the total size it takes to store the pixels within a file.”

    Facebook compresses the image if it is greater than 720 pixels on the long side. As such, you can resize yourself with no compression before uploading to Facebook and the photo doesn’t get altered apart from the EXIF info.

  12. Ken December 20, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    This blog entry might be over a year old now, but I figured I’d chip in my findings about this for anyone who stumbles here wondering how to beat the compression.

    I’ve had the best results from resizing to 1000px wide, using the bicubic setting in Photoshop first and saving at maximum quality before uploading my photos (using the high resolution setting). Uploading a larger image seems to make it much more aggressive with compression, and for some bizarre reason, it does the same with smaller images as well.

    1000px on the long side with smooth resizing seems to be the ticket.

  13. Tinjo Thomas January 20, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Hi, I too hate this compression algorithm of Facebook while uploading photos. As a graphic designer I cant appreciate this. I found a good article from
    http://www.sardegnafoto.com/fotografie-della-sardegna/how-to-post-high-quality-photos-on-facebook-guide
    I think this will help you to maintain the maximum quality of photo.

  14. George Soules January 26, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Last summer Facebook changed the displayed image size to 960px. So to avoid having FB resize my images (in addition to compressing them) I have been uploading images that are 960px. I use the Lightroom export feature to do this and have it apply high screen sharpening during export. The extra sharpening seems to compensate for FB compression, but without looking over sharpened. Now with a portrait or headshot I can even see stray hairs in the FB image.

  15. Martin Silvertant February 17, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I know this article is old, but I think it’s ridiculous that almost 2 years later nothing has changed. Their “high resolution” feature is just ridiculous because it’s anything BUT high res. It ruins my images to an even larger extent than when I would export it as a jpg with 70% quality.

    “Fine for web, but it changes color and is not good for print.”
    Who would use FB for print images anyway? And how is this “fine” for web? It’s subpar even for the web…

  16. john April 16, 2012 at 2:39 am #

    its really irritating they compress so much…..but on the other side if we think its because they want to make the pictures load fast when people are browsing , if they didn’t reduce the size and quality… in some slow internet connection places it would take around 30 seconds to view one high quality pic on facebook

    • Scott Wyden Kivowitz April 16, 2012 at 8:43 am #

      There are ways to compress without losing speed. I compress every image I include in my posts – my website still loads fast and the images don’t lose their quality.

  17. maria September 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    Has anyone found a solution to improve the quality of the pictures on Facebook? i am trying to upload some banners that I have created on Fireworks but the font looks horrible. Is that anyone that can help me find a solution?

  18. Krystal Gibson October 6, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    Hi there, I just found you guys

    I took photos with my iphone and they are super crisp, they look professional. I post them on Facebook and they are washed out and blurry. They look nothing like the phone version!!!

    • Adam Toews March 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      The compression algorithms are not working well in Facebook or Twitter.

      For the record, Twitter is better at compression. I suspect that Facebook has started this practice because they can’t handle the volume of traffic on their servers. Who knows, Facebook might be targeting specific users with compression.

      During the US Presidential Race neither the Obama nor Romney campaign seemed to suffer any image quality loss on their accounts.

      Adam

  19. JD Pruitt June 30, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    Wouldn’t it be great if Facebook stored photos at full resolution like you can with Flickr? It would be the perfect repository for images through time. I’d pay extra for the option.

  20. Gez January 30, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Yes, Facebook destroys images. With photos it can be unadverted, because the image texture and detail somewhat mask the compression artifacts, but when it comes to images with solid colors, the destructive effects are pretty obvious.
    I’ve found that keeping the cover images below 100 Kb avoids recompression, but the rest of the photos seem to be compressed no matter what.

    Regarding the sRGB bit, I’d like to point a little mistake in the post/comments: The sRGB color profile shouldn’t change the saturation of the in-gamut colors at all.
    AdobeRGB has more color latitude, and a proper conversion to sRGB only will loose that latitude for colors outside both gamuts, which means that the appearance of most of the colors should be the same in both images, and only the colors outside the sRGB gamut would be mapped to sRGB colors (i.e.: extreme green/cyan shades will look a bit duller after the conversion).
    If your AdobeRGB > sRGB conversion ends up as more saturated colors, you’re doing it wrong. It’s likely that you’re assigning the sRGB profile to an image that have all its colors mapped to the AdobeRGB gamut using Photoshop’s “Assign Profile” command.
    A proper conversion has to be done with the “Convert to Profile” command, which remaps the colors to the target profile using a rendering intent (for matrix profiles a colorimetric intent).

    The reason for mapping RGB images to sRGB is solid: First, most of the monitor won’t go further than sRGB gamut an awful lot of them don’t even reach that gamut). So for general use (the web) it doesn’t make much sense to use a color gamut that can’t be viewed in most of the screens out there.
    Also, it allows to strip the profile from the image. Most of the browsers/programs assume sRGB when no profile is embedded to the image. So you don’t have to include the sRGB profile in your image.
    AdobeRGB images have to carry the profile embedded. If it’s not, a browser will assume it’s sRGB, and guess what: it will assign sRGB, ending up in over saturated images ;-)

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