Sunday, December 22, 2013

High quality Facebook photos are not really high quality

Friends, colleagues, and the rest of the Internet seem to believe that by uploading "high quality" images to Facebook means that it is truly saved in high quality. This is not the case. In Facebook terms, "high quality" is Facebook's way of telling us that "it's just higher quality than what we had before".

There are 3 things you should be aware of to understand the impact of uploading high quality photos to Facebook.

Facebook has a maximum resolution of 2048x2048.

Facebook "high quality" images are maxed out at 2048x2048. For example, if you upload an image or photo that is 4340x3568 in size, Facebook will reduce it to 2048x1684 even if the "high quality" checkbox is checked.

Facebook compression reduces image size.

For example, if you upload an image which is 310,773 bytes in size in compressed format, Facebook further compresses it to 88,717 bytes, even with the "high quality" checkbox checked. This is advantageous in that it reduces the amount of disk space required by Facebook as well as the bandwidth needed to download such images, but it has a direct effect on the quality of the image.

Facebook compression reduces image quality.

Take a look at this photo. The one on the left is the original and the one on the right is the uploaded Facebook version. Note that both the color quality and detail have been reduced on the Facebook version, leading to a photo that is generally poorer in quality.

Here is the same image, zoomed in onto the shirt collar. The one on the left is the original photo while the one on the right is the uploaded Facebook version (recall that this photo is uploaded with the "high quality" setting). The reduction in detail and the effects of compression are obvious.


Facebook is great for sharing photos with your mom or uploading selfies that you won't care much about a year from now. Currently, Facebook reports that 350 million photos are uploaded every day. Thus, the limit on image size imposed by Facebook as well as its high compression routines are understandable.

But under no circumstance should you use Facebook to backup your photos. And under no circumstance should you share photos on Facebook for the purpose of professional collaboration.

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