When navigating your way through any website, social media app or interview process, one thing that is constantly requested is a photo. Sometimes it may be a new headshot for your employer or LinkedIn, or maybe you would like to optimize your photos to the perfect size for Instagram, or simply are just asked to provide a high resolution or low resolution file. Who makes the rules as to what is perfect in any given situation and when are they applicable? Below are some of the standard guidelines in regards to how to properly size your pictures for different uses and answers to a few other questions in between. The below list will not be the end all, be all of your photo sizing needs, but should be a good baseline to start with and will be updated in the future as standards evolve.

What is a High Resolution image?

When a publication is requesting your high res portrait, they often would like the uncropped, full size version of it. Day to day, photographers often slightly scale down the images they send out as the majority of time the images are used for web so sending something over that is slightly smaller is easier for the client to manage. When we send over a standard “headshot size” that we crop at 5in x 7in @ 300 DPI, or a 1500×2100 pixel image. The uncropped high res image on the other hand is 12.8in x 19.2in @ 300 DPI or 3840x 5760 pixels or even larger depending on the camera used. Though it doesn’t seem like a huge difference, due to the way images scale, the high res image is actually 7 times larger than the cropped version.

What is a Low Resolution Image?

A lot of people refer to any image that is sized at 72dpi as low res. This is not true, the DPI is just simply how many dots per inch an image is. From the above example, a 5in x 7in @ 300 DPI image is 1500×2100 pixels. In the same breath, a 1500×2100 pixel image at 72 DPI measures 20.8in x 29.2in. The only difference is the math being done by calculating the images at different DPI’s.
Normally publications want a high res image so that they can scale it to their needs, but when delivering things digitally the rules begin to blur. LinkedIn for example uses an image that is only 400×400 pixels, which is tiny and very easy on their infrastructure. This is much smaller than a photo used by Instagram or Facebook and likely the smallest photo you will use, this is the ultimate low res image. New iPhones and computers are constantly forcing us to rethink what “low res” really is. Most of our current devices are much more capable than even things from recent history, and with that we have seen a higher and higher resolution being used as “low res” to the point where the death of low res imagery is on the horizon.

What size are headshots?

The age old standard headshot dimensions was an 8×10 print that you could staple it to the back of your resume. As we evolved into digital, we have continued to conform to 8×10 as the standard ratio. It seems like every other day now a new website is for a bank or law firm that throws the standards out the window. We have squares, circles and all sorts of rectangles being requested. Lately we have evolved a bit more and more often then not send over the full resolution file to our clients to crop them as they need.

How do I crop a photo for LinkedIn?

The most common question is how should I size my portrait for LinkedIn? If Photoshop is available I would recommend a nice tight square crop, LinkedIn headshots are preferred to be a 400×400 pixel image. Though this may be a bit small as a photo for corporate directories might be needed for various uses.

Can I use my headshot for a passport photo?

The short answer to this is…. Maybe. A lot of the time you will easily be able to use an image from your session for a passport photo. If you were photographed on white, have a shot where you were looking directly at the camera, don’t have any harsh shadows and have both shoulders in the shot you are in the clear. If you were shot on gray, but it is a bright gray, that may work as well. If there is moody lighting, a dark(or environmental background) or the headshot is cropped to tightly, you will unfortunately need to go get a passport photo done as well.

What is the best way to crop a picture for Instagram?

Ever since Instagram began allowing photos to be used in shapes other than a square, the concept of maximizing screen real estate has taken off. No longer are we forced into a square box with an ideal picture size of 1080×1080 pixels. When preparing photos for Instagram I try to avoid the static square crop as it has grown a bit stale. If I am posting a nice landscape, or other wide photo, I will go with a horizontal image. To best prepare it, I edit it and get it to size. Instagram allows up to a 16:9 aspect ration for horizontal pictures which, the recommended size for that would be 1080×607 pixels, though there is a lot of leeway here and you can make the image any height between 607 and 1080 pixels tall. Sizing your image before posting it ensures that it will be compressed a little bit less and keep some of its natural quality.
When I want to maximize screen real estate on Instagram though I always go with a vertical image. The best size for a vertical picture on Instagram is 1080×1350 pixels. This give you the aspect ratio of 4:5 and allows it to use the most amount of screen possible to let the details shine a bit more.

What is the best way to resize a picture?

• Photoshop and Lightroom will always be at the top of the list for any professional. Not only will the be able to size their pictures for every use possible, but they will also be able to polish them a little bit so that they really shine. Trials are available for both, but I would recommend subscribing if you are a serious user.

Pic Resize
picresize is a very straight forward tool. You simply upload your picture using their helpful interface, drag the crop box over it and then select the size you’d like to safe it as. I like how they have suggested sizes, but also allow you to select a custom size to save your photo as well. This was you can get the exact image you need for Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook. They have even helped nearly 200 million images meet their final sizing!

Simple Image Resizer
Simple Image Resizer is another great tool, though it has it’s limitations. This is a great tool as long as your image is already at the correct aspect ratio and you just want to make it smaller. If it’s not at the correct aspect ratio, the image will distort and squeeze and look unnatural.


If instead of resizing you’re photo, it’s just time for a new one, please get in touch with us and lets make it happen!