Instagram workflow

Background

I have a couple of Instagram accounts and have been active on neither for months. I’m now beginning to re-engage in a considered way. The few people I talked to on the canal sometimes asked if I had an IG account where they could see the work – I replied ‘no’ as I haven’t been using the accounts.

One account I use for experimenting with iPhone photos and apps (@snappedpixel) and the other is intended for more ‘serious’ photographs (@thephotofitz). For the former, I’ll just continue to upload direct from the iPhone without being too considered about formatting etc – as the name suggests, these are instant photos. For the latter, I need a more considered approach to resizing and formatting for the images to display well on IG. I don’t want IG auto-compressing and cropping images that I’ve spent some time working on.

Technical

Here’s what IG says about photo file formatting:

When you share a photo that has a width between 320 and 1080 pixels, we keep that photo at its original resolution as long as the photo’s aspect ratio is between 1.91:1 and 4:5 (a height between 566 and 1350 pixels with a width of 1080 pixels). If the aspect ratio of your photo isn’t supported, it will be cropped to fit a supported ratio. If you share a photo at a lower resolution, we enlarge it to a width of 320 pixels. If you share a photo at a higher resolution, we size it down to a width of 1080 pixels.

help.instagram.com

Considering what might an aspect ration between 1.91:1 and 4:5 mean in practice. The former is the optimum for landscape photos. My photos are 4:3 native, but the maximum IG ratio against 4, would be approximately 4:2. So the options are to either loose 1/3 of the image’s height (a lot!) or place the image in a 4:2 (3.82:2 to be exact) frame so a border is created. The choice needs to be a creative decision that will also affect the look of the IG grid. The later doesn’t optimise visible image space but perhaps gives a more considered look – the image not the frame takes priority. For portrait images the equivalent situation (for my native 3:4) is an IG maximum of 3:3.75, so much less of a crop and more likely to be manageable through cropping on many images. Once ratios are taken care of then the photo needs to be resized to a max of 1080 pixels wide, and maximum of 1350 tall. Or in ratios: landscape – 1080:565, and portrait: 1080:1350.

It is clear that IG favours the square or portrait image over the landscape. So, if making images specifically for IG (which I don’t) landscape might be better avoided.

In practice

I’ve set myself up a private IG account as a test site – perhaps a good idea to use one anyway to test ‘serious’ photos before putting a public space. I experimenting using a single portrait image that had already been processed in PS.

  • Cropped in LR, resized and converted to sRGB on export. Weakest result, cropping didn’t suit image content and colours were dull on IG. The LR automatic output sharpening also didn’t seem as effective as manual sharpening in PS.
  • Image reworked in PS by creating a duplicate of layers (presharpening), resizing image, turning PS background white (as IG), processing image by viewing at a similar size to iPhone. Sharpening applied to resized image. Then finishing / exporting in different ways:
    • Without cropping – IG cropped and form of image wrecked on upload, though full space on IG grid used.
    • Canvas size changed to IG 4:5 and margins left around 4:3 image. Full image retained on upload but looks squashed to top / bottom margins of IG frame.
    • Canvas size changed to IG 4:5 and image transformed to fit with border all around. This was my preferred result by a long margin but also the one that took more work.

Conclusion

This exercise was useful to me. In terms of my workflow:

  • If an image doesn’t look right cropped to IG ratios, then put it on an IG sized background and leave a border. Unfortunately this is going to be the case for most of my landscape work.
  • For screen try to recreate the end display environment when working on the image (eg IG is on white and image about the size of an iPhone).
  • Manual output sharpening in PS after resizing is much more effective than automatic LR export sharpening. This has implications for other outputs too, where I have tended to rely on LR for resizing and sharpening image on export. I’ll revisit the images in my BoW ebook, website, and slide show.
  • There are no shortcuts for optimum results.

2 thoughts on “Instagram workflow”

  1. Mmm. I’ve suddenly become interested in the format of IG posts. Just looking at Bruce Gilden’s brutalist numbers. Though I doubt he posts himself!

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