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4 things you need to know to avoid the pitfalls of repurposing images across social media platforms

Coffee on and brewing:

So, anyone who runs a business or manages multiple social platforms will know the need to repurpose a picture, particualy when it is one you really like, for all the platforms - Fb, Instagram, Pinterest etc.

But this oftens fails or you are forced to change the size of the images as you shift between platforms. Then you realise the image doesn't look good anymore - it appears grainy, flat and the colours are off. If you have ever had this problem then this blog is for you. I will cover ratios and sizes and more importantly the 4 things you need to keep in mind to avoid these issues as you repurpose images across multiple platforms.

Coffee brewed and poured, let us dive in:

So when uploading a picture to any of the platforms you often have to set your image to either the size or ratio or both.

The size is WxL in terms of pixels. For example you will see a recommended size of 1080X1920. This means there are 1080 pixels along the side and 1920 pixels along the height.

Size refers to the pixel size which is two numbers referring the number of pixels along the bottom and up the side. (W x H / 1080 X 1920).

The ratio is the fixed relative relationship between the width to heigth. So the width will always be twice the height of the width if the ratio is 2:1. The classic ratios sizes are 1:1, 16:9, 4:5 and 2:3. These do change as our technology evolves, 1:1 ratio became popular during the polaroid period, fell out of favour and then came back with the insurgence of Instagram who used to only allow 1:1 images. Now, 9x16 is becoming the ratio of choice as it uses the most screen space on modern phones.

The ratio is the fixed relative relationship between the width to length. So the side will always be twice the length of the width if the ratio is 2:1.

Then (bar the 1:1) it can be inverted so a 16:9 is a landscape where a 9:16 is a portrait orientation.

The size is usually a recommendation that the platform suggests to optimize the quality of the image but the ratio is a requirement that you have to crop your image in order to post to the platform.

For a quick reference guide to the current recommended sizes and ratios for the major platforms check out my instagram post here!

But is it enough to just crop the same image across the different platforms to conform to each platform's requirements. I wish I could say yes but it is not for a few reasons. Yet we do want to repurpose images so what do we need to know to do just that!

The 4 things to consider every time you repurpose an image across social media platforms.

1st: Compression

Every time you post an image to a platform, it gets compressed. For example, you will upload an image 1080x1920 to facebook, but the image that is actually published will contain less pixels due to compression. This happens no matter what which is why you always want to maximise the pixels going in so end up with the highest possible quality at the end.

However, if I take an image from facebook then upload to instagram I am not maximising the pixel amount and then the quality will suffer. So always try to go from the original image each time. Also upload the maximise pixel count that you can. If you are uploading half or less of the recommended pixel size by the platform, then the image will not look good and you should try to find an alternative image.

Golden rule of thumb: Always upload from the origninal file source to avoid excessive compression compromise in the quality!

2nd: Composition

If you have shot an image for a 16:9 ratio aka landscape or portrait and then you crop it to a 1:1 so sqaure so you can upload it to a different platform, you will alter the composition, potentially cut off part of your subject and so forth. This is not something to avoid neccessarily, but something you should always do consciously. Always double check if the image still works if you have altered the ratio or orientation of the image.

Think: Does the image still work and look good in the different crop shapes?

3rd: Composition again

What can I say composition is important. Depending on the size and orientation how you compose a shot should be adjusted. If you are creating an image for a cover picture on your facebook page, or for an facebook event - these are quite large images for social media, so you need to fill the space up, however if you take that image and use it for your profile picture then it is going to be too busy since your profile picture is much smaller in size. You need to remember, the smaller the image the simpler the composition you need to be to maintain impact.

Golden rule of thumb: The smaller the image being displayed, the simplier the composition you need to be to maintain impact.

4th: Target audience expectations

It is important to keep in mind who your target audience is for each platform and what they expect on each platform. Even if the person is the same, how they interact with images will vary. Images of people and specifically yourself will perform well on instagram, but not on pinterest or twitter where the information is more important. So think about the image and each of your audiences will make sure you don’t repurpose an image that is well suited to the respective audiences.

Think: Who is viewing this image and what is their expectation of this platform?

Final sips of coffee:

It is not a case of you can never use an image across platforms and sizes but you just need to keep in mind as you share images across platforms how pixel size and ratio will affect the image and its impact on each platform's audience. As well as keep in mind the purpose of the image and the viewers expectations. That way you will avoid the common pitfalls of re using images across platforms and coming across unprofessional.

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