How to optimize my pictures for the presentation in the world wide web and in particular for sharing on Facebook?
In part one we tried to explain the basic principles of macro photography and how to get better results. But having a brilliant picture in an excellent quality isn’t enough when it comes to sharing pictures in the world wide web. Especially when you like to share your pictures on Facebook you’ll notice that some pictures look fabulous while others have a grainy blurred look. So what’s the trick and how do I optimize my pictures for Facebook and other photography sharing platforms on the internet?
First of all you need to know that Facebook compresses your pictures using a certain algorithm. If you compare the original picture (below, left) with the Facebook upload (below, on the right) of your picture you’ll observe a notable increase of saturation and contrast. Furthermore the details that are especially important to macro pictures get lost to a certain extent. For people who are not really into the art of photography this is useful and doesn’t make a big difference but for photography enthusiasts this Facebook ‘habit’ is just annoying. It changes the ‘real’ picture. So the first step towards an optimized picture for Facebook is to take this into consideration.
Size your pictures down before uploading to the internet. In December 2011 Facebook changed the size for pictures form 720 px to 960 px on the longer side. Since photographs are only displayed in that size there is no use uploading them in a higher resolution. Sharing pictures in a higher resolution is only an invitation for others to steal your pictures and use them for their purpose!
The worst thing you can do now is to downsize your picture in one step. This will eliminate fine details and give it a blurry look. Instead decrease its size only for 10% at a time. You need to repeat that step until you have the desired size. Since this whole process can be a very tiring when you have for example a 18 MP photo there are plug-ins available for purchase that are doing the work for you. Such a plug-in costs about 20 $ for Photoshop. If you don’t want to buy one you could use this script we wrote for the free picture editing programme GIMP (click here). It works with every format you wish to downsize and we offer it for free.
But you are not finished yet. After downsizing it properly you need to sharpen your photograph. You can choose between several methods now. One filter you can use on a duplicated layer is the unsharp mask . After you’ve performed that step you can play around with the opacity and give your picture just the right amount of sharpness. Over-sharpened pictures will show a very distinct grid pattern which is not desirable! So be careful with that filter. Sometimes this filter reveals fragments and even increases the noise in the background. If so try the filter high pass on a duplicated layer.
The high pass filter will only sharpen areas of high contrast and won’t lead to more noise and grain. Furthermore an over-sharpening is pretty unlikely with this method. The important thing is to set the layer mode to soft light which will also increase the luminance of the colours or to hard light which will give it an even stronger definition at the edges. Adjusting the opacity will again give you full control over the final result. But even with this method you need to be a little careful. Looking at the examples below you see that you get some blown out highlight. Decrease the opacity of the layer until it looks fine to you.
The third method is the most elaborate but also the one which will take some time to accomplish. Partial sharpening will give you the best results. For this method you choose the area with a lot of details and select it with any selection tool you are familiar with or which is most apt for your purpose (f. ex. the quick selection tool). In the next step you choose one filter for sharpening but apply it only to that area. The advantage is that you have even more control over the final result and you won’t have to compromise between a sharp point of interest and a soft bokeh in the background. Be sure you’ve duplicated your layer in order to save your original and to have still the possibility to adjust the opacity.
The difference is clearly visible in the full size picture: Link
Of course there are a lot of different methods for sharpening your pictures after sizing them down but if you know how to handle these three methods you are pretty well prepared for sharing your favourite photographs in the world wide web.
And don’t forget our new macro contest ‘Little Landscapes’ which starts on the 1st of Ferbuary 2012! We’re really looking forward to see your favourite shots!
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