I hate to admit it, but I’ve started to think about shots in terms of how they’ll appear on Facebook. Above, my favorite shot in recent memory, as displayed by Facebook. It looks great, and takes up 58% of the real estate available to Facebook in the browser (yes, I measured and did the calculation). It looks big and glorious on the screen. Although the comment area takes up a fair bit of space, I don’t mind that too much because it tends to be pertinent to the image.
Contrast that with a portrait orientation image, and you might start to see where I’m going here–it consumes only 33% of the Facebook space. On a wide screen device, there isn’t much Facebook could do about that if they think their users want to view the image scaled to match their screen (which I think is a safe assumption). So I’ve noticed that my portrait oriented images seem to feel small on Facebook.
On the other hand, the situation is completely reversed in the way most people tend to used their mobile devices.
Above is an actual screen shot directly from my iPhone, displaying a photo in the Facebook mobile app. Pretty sure I don’t need to do any measurements on this one. That’s 100% coverage. The situation isn’t quite so awesome for a landscape image.
The image only consumes 54% of the real estate. Again, I don’t fault Facebook for this–I think they’ve correctly assumed that users want to see the image scaled to fit their device, rather than having to scroll or zoom out to see it all.
Its just that its all so confusing. If I see a shot that could go either way, do I compose landscape or portrait? And what if I want it to be landscape on the web version of Facebook but portrait on the mobile version? What if nobody but me cares about this stuff?
And what if Facebook actually discards pixels from the recent acquisition, Instagr.am?
The Instagr.am native image format is 612×612. The image above, displayed on my 1280×766 monitor is only 550×550–that’s 19% smaller than the already crappy resolution that Instagr.am posts (and yes, I’m measuring to the outside of the instagr.am border). Clearly my monitor and browser have room to show the full resolution, but Facebook has downsized it for some reason. I even tested by going to a much higher resolution (1680×1050) and the Instagr.am images were still 550×550. I know Facebook is capable of displaying images of taller than 550 pixels–my two leading images are 630 pixels tall, so I’m not sure why Facebook is making the Instagr.am images smaller.
Anyway, back to my original conundrum–I want my images to appear as large and glorious as possible, but if I shoot for web, the images will need to be landscape, and if I shoot for mobile, the images will need to be portrait.
Or, I could just shoot the composition that feels right at the time and not worry about it at all.