“Again, VK ate the qual­i­ty of the pho­tos,” you def­i­nite­ly heard this phrase at least once. Or maybe even spo­ken. And you have prob­a­bly been in a sit­u­a­tion where the pic­tures after print­ing are not sim­i­lar to those that you processed on a com­put­er. Can VK cut the qual­i­ty, how not to let it do it, what to do so that the pho­to after print­ing looks the way it should — we under­stand the intri­ca­cies and debunk the myths in this arti­cle.

Evening col­ors are mag­nif­i­cent, you can admire the sun­set gra­di­ents / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Photosklad.Expert

So, you shot a beau­ti­ful sun­set, came home, devel­oped RAW, assem­bled a panora­ma, final­ized it in Pho­to­shop, and your pho­to looks like what you saw with your own eyes. And you want this pic­ture to look exact­ly the same on social net­works and on a print­ed post­card.

Pho­to size for pub­li­ca­tion in social net­works and on sites on the Inter­net
Adjust­ing the col­or for post­ing pho­tos on social net­works and on sites on the Inter­net
What to print pho­tos on, how to choose a print­ing house
Sharp­en­ing for pho­to print­ing

First and fore­most, don’t post full size images online. There is a myth that if you reduce the pic­ture, it will dete­ri­o­rate great­ly, and the audi­ence will not be able to appre­ci­ate it.

But the prob­lem is that even if you shoot with a good high-res­o­lu­tion cam­era and get 40–50 megapix­el frames, they will be viewed on a mon­i­tor or on a phone with a much low­er res­o­lu­tion. Most mod­ern mon­i­tors and smart­phone screens have a res­o­lu­tion of 2K. This means that a pic­ture of about 2000 pix­els on the long side will look good on this screen (the res­o­lu­tion of such a screen is about 2 megapix­els). More expen­sive and advanced mod­els have a res­o­lu­tion of 4K, but this is only 6–8 megapix­els and, accord­ing­ly, can show pic­tures in all details up to 4000 pix­els along the long side.

And it’s not always pos­si­ble to see a pho­to in full screen — for exam­ple, this is how the VKon­tak­te feed looks like on a 24-inch mon­i­tor:

The VK tape occu­pies only a small cen­tral part of the screen, and even an open pho­to takes up a lit­tle more than half / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

You can view the size of a snap­shot before adding it to social net­works using a stan­dard Win­dows brows­er.

For the right pan­el to appear, you need to click on the Details pane icon / Details pan­el / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Photostore.Expert

There­fore, the pho­to for pub­li­ca­tion in social net­works should be reduced. As a rule, all social net­works and port­fo­lio sites pub­lish pho­to require­ments. Here is a list of the most pop­u­lar:

  • VK — 2560 x 2160
  • Odnok­lass­ni­ki — 1680 x 1680
  • Tum­blr — 500 x 750
  • Youtube chan­nel cov­er — 2560 x 1440
  • Pin­ter­est — 800 x 1200
  • MyWed — 1200 x 800

You should not treat these fig­ures as require­ments for the min­i­mum image size. As a rule, we are talk­ing about the max­i­mum size of accept­ed pho­tos. More­over, some sites (the same VK, for exam­ple) inde­pen­dent­ly reduce pic­tures to the required size.

If you don’t want to waste time on reduc­ing and trust auto­mat­ics, just attach pho­tos of any size to the post, and VK will reduce them to 2560 pix­els on the long side. True, this does not always work — if your pic­ture is very large and its width + height exceeds 14000 pix­els, the social net­work will sim­ply refuse to load it and give an error.

VK and oth­er social net­works that are able to reduce pho­tos them­selves do not always do it well. Sharp­ness may drop, or, on the con­trary, exces­sive sharp­ness may appear, noise may increase. Most of the time it’s not notice­able, but if you like to be in con­trol and notice details, you can down­size your shots using Adobe Pho­to­shop.

Let’s use the com­mand ImageImage size. We set the size for social net­works to 2000 pix­els, the way to reduce it is either Auto­mat­icor Bicu­bic Sharp­er with a decrease.

In the square pre­view win­dow, you can see how the pho­to will look after reduc­tion. Drag an impor­tant part of the image into this area to see how sharp it will be after reduc­tion / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Photostore.Expert

After reduc­ing, it is worth fur­ther sharp­en­ing. To do this, make a copy of the lay­er (Ctrl+J), and apply a fil­ter to it Smart Sharp­en / Smart sharp­ness (Fil­ter / Fil­ter ‑Sharp­en / Sharp­en­ing — Smart Sharp­en / “Smart” sharp­ness) with these set­tings:

Smart Sharp­en set­tings for thumb­nails / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

If the pho­to after the fil­ter seems too sharp, you can reduce the opac­i­ty of the top lay­er to 40–70%.

VKon­tak­te also allows you to attach a pho­to to a post as a file. In this case, it is attached in its orig­i­nal qual­i­ty and size. But look­ing at such pic­tures is incon­ve­nient — they open one at a time, there is no usu­al abil­i­ty to flip through pho­tos. If the pho­to is large and the inter­net is slow, it may take a cou­ple of min­utes.

Upload­ing images as doc­u­ments is only worth it if you want peo­ple to down­load and print them. For exam­ple, in this form, you can post a poster with use­ful infor­ma­tion or a beau­ti­ful pho­to that peo­ple can print and hang on their wall /Illustration: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

The most impor­tant thing to know about col­or when pub­lish­ing pic­tures on the Inter­net is that browsers use the sRGB col­or space. It was spe­cial­ly designed to make images look more or less the same on an expen­sive mon­i­tor of a pho­tog­ra­ph­er or design­er, and on an old lap­top, and on a mobile phone.

And your pho­tos may exist in a dif­fer­ent col­or space. It depends on the save set­tings in graph­ic edi­tors, but most often this is the Adobe RGB space.

The sRGB col­or space has a small­er col­or range than oth­ers, mak­ing images look good on almost any device / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

If you upload a pho­to in Adobe RGB to the Inter­net, the brows­er will not rec­og­nize it, and will decide that this is its usu­al sRGB, and the col­ors may be dis­tort­ed. We uploaded the same pho­to in AdobeRGB to VK and to a pop­u­lar web­site builder and looked at the result.

On the left is an sRGB pho­to show­ing details in the shad­ows and smooth tran­si­tions of gra­di­ents in the sky. Pho­tos post­ed in a “incom­pre­hen­si­ble” col­or space for the brows­er (mid­dle and right) have changed: shad­ows have become too dark, details have dis­ap­peared in them, tran­si­tions between col­ors in the sky have become rougher, many shades have dis­ap­peared / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

So, before post­ing a pho­to on a social net­work, send­ing it to a friend in a mes­sen­ger or post­ing it on a web­site, it must be con­vert­ed to sRGB. The eas­i­est way to do this is to use Adobe Pho­to­shop.

Upload a pho­to there and use the com­mand File / File — Save for Web / Save for Web / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

We make sure that the check­box “Con­vert to sRGB / Con­vert to sRGB” is checked, select the file for­mat and click Save.

It is best to choose the file for­mat as JPEG, the qual­i­ty is from 70 to 85. With a low­er val­ue, com­pres­sion arti­facts may occur, with a high­er val­ue, it is unlike­ly that any­thing will visu­al­ly improve, but the file size will unrea­son­ably increase / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

If you pre­fer to shoot direct­ly in JPEG and use the pic­tures direct­ly from the cam­era, with­out addi­tion­al pro­cess­ing, make sure that it shoots in sRGB (if your cam­era does not have such a set­ting, don’t wor­ry, it means that it can only shoot in sRGB and noth­ing else to con­fig­ure no need).

This is what the col­or space set­tings menus look like in Canon (left) and Nikon (right) DSLRs / Illus­tra­tion: Alisa Smirno­va, Fotosklad.Expert

Now let’s talk about print­ing. For most tasks, a pho­to saved in the same sRGB col­or space is enough for us. It can be print­ed on a home print­er or tak­en to a pho­to cen­ter that prints pho­tos — mod­ern print­ing devices will make the pho­to look good.

For home print­ing, you should choose an inkjet print­er that can print on spe­cial pho­to paper — such prints allow you to con­vey all the shades and details of your pho­to with the high­est qual­i­ty.

But print­ing at home is not always prof­itable. If you rarely print, then it makes no sense to buy a print­er for your­self — after 2–3 weeks of inac­tiv­i­ty, the ink in the print head will dry out, and the print­er will need an expen­sive clean­ing or even replace­ment of the head. And inex­pen­sive home print­ers are lim­it­ed in paper size, they can not print pho­tos larg­er than A4. If you want to dec­o­rate the wall with a pho­to mea­sur­ing one and a half meters, you have to go to the print­ing house.

Large for­mat pho­to print­er / Pho­to: Epson.ru

The main dis­ad­van­tage of a print­ing house is that it can end up as not very com­pe­tent peo­ple who are poor­ly versed in print­ing, and equip­ment that is not the most suit­able for print­ing pho­tographs (espe­cial­ly if it is a small copy cen­ter with bud­get equip­ment and employ­ees change every month).

How to under­stand that the employ­ee does not under­stand what it is about, and it is bet­ter to choose anoth­er print­ing house:

  • You are imme­di­ate­ly told that the res­o­lu­tion of the pho­to must be strict­ly at least 300 DPI (dots per inch). There is a myth about res­o­lu­tion: many peo­ple have heard that a pho­to for print­ing must have a res­o­lu­tion of 300 dots (pix­els) per inch. The fact is that this norm was devel­oped for print­ed mate­ri­als viewed from a short dis­tance — mag­a­zines, post­cards, books.

If our pho­to hangs on the wall, and it will be viewed from sev­er­al meters, it can be safe­ly made twice as large and print­ed 100x60 cm in size — no one will notice the loss of qual­i­ty if they don’t bury their nose in the print. In short, 300 DPI is more of a rec­om­men­da­tion to make it more beau­ti­ful, but not a strict require­ment.

  • You are told that print files must be con­vert­ed to the CMYK col­or space. If you are offered this, then this is not the print­ing house you should con­tact. CMYK prints large books, mag­a­zines and oth­er large print runs. If you are offered to work with CMYK, most like­ly the print shop sim­ply does not have a pho­to print­er and your pho­to will be sent to a laser dig­i­tal print­ing machine — in fact, a large and expen­sive laser print­er. It is capa­ble of quick­ly print­ing dozens and hun­dreds of prints, but is not well suit­ed for high-qual­i­ty pho­to print­ing.
On the right is a post­card print­ed on an inkjet pho­to print­er. On the left is the result of dig­i­tal laser print­ing. The col­ors have fad­ed, the shade of blue has notice­ably changed / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Photosklad.Expert

The print­ed image may not look as sharp as the orig­i­nal image on the screen. There­fore, before send­ing a pho­to to print, you can add sharp­ness to it.

The eas­i­est way to do this is with the Smart Sharp­en fil­ter. For a pho­to with a res­o­lu­tion of 16–30 megapix­els, the val­ue of Amount / Effect can be set to 100, and the radius can be select­ed with­in 0.8–1.5 pix­els. The pho­to should visu­al­ly become sharp­er, but with­out arti­facts and halos.

Left — the radius is cor­rect, the image looks sharp­er. On the right, the radius is too large, the image looks unnat­ur­al, the tex­ture of eye­lash­es and skin stands out too much / Pho­to: Alisa Smirno­va, Photosklad.Expert

Ready. We save the pho­to and send it to be print­ed.