Photographer Tigz Rice shows you how best to crop images for maximum impact on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ – with tips for composition, size and positioning.

Powerful and compelling use of images on your social media pages and posts is often the best way to find success on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. Alongside the power of print, according to research, the use of images within your social media posts can result in up to an 87% interaction rate on Facebook as well as increasing retweets by 35%. Add that to further research showing an increase of 176 million social media users in 2015 and you’ve got an incredibly powerful tool to help promote your latest work.

When it comes to getting your work out there, you’ll find that each social media channel has its own requirements for image formatting, so photographer Tigz Rice has gone through every social media channel and listed the best aspect ratios for each, including developing a handy cheat sheet of three image sizes that will work across all of your social media channels.

We’ll be talking a lot about aspect ratios, which are numerical values that define the shape of the image you need to crop into. Lets take a look at a 3:2 image ratio for example. The means that for every 3 pixels there are in an image’s width, there are only 2 pixels in an image’s height. A 300pixel wide image, therefore, would only be 200 pixels tall. It could also relate to a 900 x 600 pixel image too.

Social Media Images Cheat Sheet

If you’re looking for a cheat sheet of social media image sizes, here are the three most common aspect ratios and recommended image sizes to work across the main social media channels.

Square – 1200 x 1200 – (Facebook, Instagram)

1.91:1 Ratio – 1200 x 628 – (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)

2:3 Ratio – 800 x 1200 – (Pinterest, Google+)

Images should all be exported at 72dpi in the sRGB colour space suitable for web images. The easiest method for cropping and exporting images is via Lightroom’s Export window, using the settings shown below. By setting the resize to only affect the longest edge, it will receive the photos to a uniform size regardless of the aspect ratio you have cropped to. I also recommend using a Lightroom plugin like JPEGmini, which optimises and compresses the file size automatically for you on Export.

How to prepare images for Facebook – technical info on aspect ratio, resolution, what to do in Photoshop/Lightroom

Lets start by looking at Facebook wall posts.

Currently, Facebook walls have a total image preview area of 476 x 476 pixels, so to maximise your image’s potential viewing space, a 1:1 (share) aspect ratio will work perfectly. Remember that your image can also be clicked on to view full screen at a higher resolution, so you will want your image size to be significantly bigger than the posting area. A good resolution for this would be 1200 x 1200 pixels, as it will be a good balance between filling the majority of the screen, whilst still maintaining a reasonable file size for the web.

Using the crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop, choose the 1:1 aspect ratio from the dropdown menu or set your own using the custom function by typing in the numbers as shown. You can see here I am also using the Rule Of Thirds grid to compose my crop, making sure Didi falls on the grid line to make her a focal point.

For all non-square wall images, the maximum image posting area actually reduces to 476x394 pixels (roughly 6:5). Portrait images will result in negative white space on the right side of the image, so with this in mind it is best to stick to landscape images on Facebook. Maintaining a constant 1200 pixels on the longest edge (width, in this case) will fill the majority of the screen when entering the clickable preview window, whilst still maintaining a reasonable file size for the web and providing continuity in the display of your Facebook images. Again, using the crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop, create a custom 476:394 aspect ratio you need and crop as necessary. Use the Rule Of Thirds grid to recompose the cropped image and make sure your main focal point site on one of those gridlines.

Moving on to shared links and image previews, Facebook currently favours a 1.91:1 aspect ratio, with a minimum size of 476x249 pixels. This is actually a common aspect ratio also supported by Instagram and Twitter, so its handy to have some images in your campaign that fit this long and narrow image style. Facebook will automatically crop images into this style for you to apply to links, but as this is automatic you won’t have any control over how your images appear. Instead, once again use Lightroom or Photoshop to create a crop boundary with the 1.91:1 aspect ratio and place it over the image as required. Remember to zoom in or out as necessary for the most attractive crop. As this is a regularly used aspect ratio, I recommend exporting your images at 1200 pixels wide for universal use.

As for cover images, these are unique at 828 x 315 pixels and you will often find that portrait images don’t work as well in this scenario. For my boudoir photography page, I usually opt for a reclining pose from the same series of images to fill this banner shape, composing the shot with my model through the central third of the image so it sits well on the banner.

Again, you can use either the Lightroom or Photoshop Crop tool with the aspect ratio 828:315 to crop your image in preparation for your Facebook page.

How to prepare images for Twitter – technical info on aspect ratio, resolution, what to do in Photoshop/Lightroom

Twitter has a maximum image posting area of 504 x 504 pixels for web, although for mobile viewing all image content, including image links on shared content, is viewed automatically at a 2:1 ratio with a minimum pixel size of 506x253. With more than 80% of Twitter users accessing the site via mobile apps, it would be a good idea to focus your energy on formatting your images for the 2:1 ratio so that every viewer, both web and mobile, have an identical experience. 

A good resolution for this would be 1200 x 600 pixels, as it will be a good balance between filling the majority of the screen, whilst still maintaining a reasonable file size for the web. Alternatively, if you are preparing images for other social media sites as well, you could use the standardised 1.91:1 aspect ratio, which would result in only the slightest loss of pixels at the very top and bottom of your image in previews and save you a chunk of time in preparation work. Using the crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop, create a 1.91:1 aspect ratio using the custom function to crop your image.

How to prepare images for Instagram - technical info on aspect ratio, resolution,  what to do in Photoshop/Lightroom

While known for its original square format images, Instagram now supports landscape and portrait format images too. The absolute minimum width of any image you share on Instagram should be 320 pixels, and Instagram will keep your photo at it’s original resolution as long as the photo's aspect ratio is between 1.91:1 (landscape) and 4:5 (portrait) - so you’ve got plenty of room for customising images how you wish.

To make the most of Instagram’s high resolution support, square images with an aspect ratio of 1:1 should be 1080 x 1080 pixels in size, although if you’re also formatting your images for Facebook, I’d recommend going for a slightly larger resolution of 1200 x 1200 pixels to cover both uses. In this case, Instagram will resize down as necessary. Using the crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop, choose the 1:1 aspect ratio from the dropdown menu. You can see here I am also using the Rule Of Thirds grid to compose my crop.

A horizontal image with a 1.91:1 aspect ratio, should also have a minimum width of 1080 pixels. This is a common aspect ratio also supported by Facebook links and all images on Twitter mobile apps, so again a recommended universal width of 1200 pixels would be my recommendation. Use the Crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop to create a crop boundary with the 1.91:1 aspect ratio and place it over the image as required. Remember to zoom in or out as necessary for the most attractive crop.

Vertical images will give you the biggest viewing platform on Instagram, but are limited to following the 4:5 aspect ratio. Any images greater than this will be cropped off at the top and bottom, so it is import to make sure your image fits the right ratio. Use the Crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop to create a crop boundary with the 4:5 aspect ratio and place it over the image as required. On export, your images should be a minimum of 1080px in width. If you’re sticking with the 1200 pixels on the longest edge as per the cheat sheet above, this will be fine too.

How to prepare images for Pinterest - technical info on aspect ratio, resolution,  what to do in Photoshop/Lightroom 

Pinterest is a little different from the other social media channels as content is shown in columns, favouriting portrait images instead of landscape for maximum visibility. Although the previews are much smaller, Pinterest offers the option to zoom in on an image and view in Solo mode, so you’ll want to consider this when formatting your images. 

Pinterest suggests an ideal aspect ratio for images of 2:3 and a suggested resolution of 600 x 900 pixels for maximum viewing potential. This aspect ratio is also suitable for Google+, so I would recommend using 1200 pixels on the long edge (height) for uniformity across image sizes suitable for using on both social media channels. Use the Crop tool in Lightroom to create a crop boundary with the 2:3 aspect ratio and place it over the image as required. Remember to zoom in or out as necessary for the most attractive crop.

How to prepare images for Google+ - technical info on aspect ratio, resolution,  what to do in Photoshop/Lightroom 

Like Pinterest, Google+ differs from most other social media channels as if favours portrait images throughout it’s columnar layout. Although the previews display at 530 pixels wide, Google+ offers the option to zoom in on an image and view in full screen mode, so you’ll want to consider this when formatting your images. If you’re also pinning on Pinterest, it is worth following the 2:3 aspect ratio, with 1200 pixels on the long edge (height) for uniformity across social media image sizes. Use the Crop tool in Lightroom or Photoshop to create a crop boundary with the 2:3 aspect ratio and place it over the image as required. Remember to zoom in or out as necessary for the most attractive crop.