The Ideal Instagram Photo Size

Posted by Marcus on April 4, 2019

Instagram sizes can be tricky – Instagram resizes your images to save storage space on their servers and this affects the quality of your image, which is why you have to adjust your image accordingly and optimize it for maximum quality POST COMPRESSION. There is no way to avoid Instagrams default compression algorithm, but you can optimize your images in a way that will make them shine after the fact. This article focuses on the ideal dimensions, ways to upload and “trick” Instagram into showcasing your images at full quality.

In this article we’re going to cover some tricks to make your Instagram photos shine:

  • How Instagram resizes your pictures
  • What the ideal upload dimensions are
  • Why portrait is superior for Instagram
  • How to resize your pictures to take up more space on the timeline

FACT #1: How Instagram Resizes ALL Photos

Instagram resizes most images to 2048px x 2048px (for pics larger than 2K), and the smaller ones are usually stretched up to 1080×1080 in order to fit the minimum standard. If you upload photos smaller than 1000 pixels, the algorithm will stretch them out to 1K. Previously Instagram used to resize images to 640x640x, but since basic mobile resolutions increased, so did the demand for higher-resolution pictures. Now the standard in which Instagram uploads most pictures is 2K (2048x2048x). This is why taking your pictures in 4K (3,840 × 2,160) is a must, in order to preserve quality/detail in compression.

Fortunately, most resolutions for smartphone cameras are 4K or 3,840 × 2,160. This is why editing for Instagram starts at the very act of taking the picture: You have to adjust your phone to take high quality pictures PRIOR!

FACT #2: Sizing Down Photos > Sizing Them Up

If you take a low-res photo you can still publish it on Instagram, but the problem is that you’ll compromise your image quality. You’ll have to settle for lesser quality if upload the exact dimensions Instagram compresses in (2048px x 2048px). The right way is to take pictures in 4K (3,840 × 2,160) and then let Instagram size the images down to 2K.

There is a lot of wrong information floating on the internet that the ideal way to get quality images up is to make them equal to the compression default which is either 1080×1080 or 2048px x 2048px. This is wrong on many accounts: First, it’s better to let Instagram size DOWN your images than to make it size them up. If you upload low resolution images, the app is going to be forced to “stretch them out” which will enlarge the pixels and expose them as bad quality. Most smartphones have cameras that shoot in 18-20MP which is more than enough to output 4K pictures for Instagram.

FACT #3: The Ideal Instagram Photo Size Is 3,840 × 2,160

The ideal size to upload on Instagram is 3,840×2,160 because 4K resolution is downgraded to 2K and your images retain the high quality of the original. When you publish images in 4K (3,840 × 2,160), Instagram downgrades them to the highest compression size availalbe (2K – 2048px x 2048px). This also prepares your images for the future in case Instagram decides to make the default compression setting 4K.

Tip #1: Take Photos In 4K Portrait Mode!

Instagram is a “vertical” scrolling app where users consume content from the top down, hence it gives priority to portrait photos that are showcased vertically. This means that your picture can take up more space & be seen by more people in the timeline. While the average user is scrolling they can swipe through a landscape picture very fast, but a portrait image is hard to miss because it takes up as much size as 2 landscape photos!

For this demo we took a picture of a shower kit in portrait mode. We’re going to show you a publishing trick that allows you to get more space with a basic 4K picture of 3,840 × 2,160 portrait mode. This is the image we took:

Load up your image in Instagram gallery. You’ll notice Instagram ZOOMS IN on the image in a square and won’t display the full portrait mode:

Now PINCH OUT with your fingers and Instagram will pull up the entire portrait image with white borders on the side:

Note: Those borders WILL NOT show up when you publish the image, but the full image will be displayed within the timeline:

As you see, Instagram uploaded the FULL resolution image vertically and this image takes up the entire screen. Meanwhile, landscape images would barely take up half the screen. This is why portrait pictures are superior when it comes to getting attention on social media and you should make sure you to take pictures in portrait mode to save yourself the trouble of having to edit landscape pictures later to make them portrait.

Tip #2: Upload At Full PNG Quality

When you save images to upload for Instagram, make sure they’re saved in .PNG format. This format increase the file size and it’s not practical for Instagrammers that have to upload hundreds of pictures, but it’s perfect for people who want to obtain the highest quality.

PNG preserves the 100% of the original quality while JPG can be downscaled and might come out lower-quality than you expect. If you edit your photos in Photoshop, you should save them as .PNG’s because this format preserves the quality best.


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