Instagram and Image Size

My most recent series of photos were a set of black and white shots I took from my trip to Barcelona. Reviewing and selecting the photos I use my desktop computer which is a nice bright high resolution 27″ monitor. My typical process is to make several passes through the photos giving stars and filtering down as I go.

My current Twelves project is to post a series of 12 photos for the month, for Barcelona I shot 9 rolls of film, which was around 320 photos. After a few passes I had it edited down to 24 photos which I considered worth sharing. I pulled together my theme of life in Barcelona and selected the top 12 photos that worked with that theme, these ended up being my series.

The additional 12 photos that I had picked as worthy of publishing, I planned to post on Instagram as additional shots. However, when it came down to publishing on Instagram numerous photos that I thought looked great on my monitor where indiscernible when cropped and shrunk.

The lead image is one example, you can’t even see the people playing volleyball when small, and when viewed large, they fill in the scene nicely. Below is another example that looks good large but fails for me on Instagram:

In fact numerous photos from my top 12 didn’t look great when shrunk on Instagram either. I had to crop tighter, filter out more, and a lot of the nuance and detail is completely lost when viewed as a 2″ photo on your phone.

I’ve noticed it before but less so when posting color images. I think color has the ability to highlight and draw your eye in a way that makes it easier to see your primary subject. My black and white from Barcelona are a bit darker and more contrasty so scenes quickly look like mush or blobs.

Over the days I’ve been editing and posting the series on Instagram, I was getting caught up on my On Taking Pictures podcasts and they were talking about a similar issue with certain things working and not and if people change what they shoot to look good there.

It’s an interesting issue, Instagram is the popular platform for promoting work, yet it fails for photos that look good as large prints with lots of details. Also, I feel like the platform strongly encourages to crop to a square format which is another change to the aesthetic.

But it’s not just Instagram, they just are the biggest so easy to see there, the real issue is that most people view most photography on their phones from Instagram, blogs, or wherever. Likely wherever you post your photo it is being seen much smaller than how you viewed and edited it.

Though maybe I’m just old and using a desktop for viewing and editing is antiquated, most these days probably just do it all on their phone.