Instagram is great for a lot of things — but storing high-quality photographs isn’t one of them.
No matter how gorgeous a filtered image looks in your feed, you’ll notice a lot of flaws if you zoom in. That’s because the popular social network heavily compresses posts to make everything load faster in your app.
What’s the difference, really?
Let’s quickly look at a photograph I took wth my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 during a trip to Milan, Italy. To see how much Instagram compressed my shot, I visited the web version of my post.
Note that I edited the shot before I uploaded using Instagram’s built-in tools, though I didn’t apply a filter. You can probably already tell that something’s up with the image quality: The wooden slats on the side of the building look wobbly or pixelated. It looked fine on my smartphone screen, though.
Digging in a bit deeper, I viewed the page source of the Instagram page, tracked down the relevant, compressed JPG image and saved it to my local hard drive — a fussy way of saying I downloaded the Insta to my computer.
I zoomed in just a bit on it, and things weren’t pretty:
As you might expect, the file size of this image was also much smaller than the original photograph — suggesting lower quality.
Meanwhile, the detail is a lot crisper in the full-resolution photograph:
You might say: “Jeez dude, is it really worth stressing over something you really only notice when you zoom in?” I’d say don’t stress — life is short! — but definitely think about it. We don’t know what kind of awesome screens we’ll be working with in a few years, and tiny differences in photo quality could stand out.
Even now, you might appreciate having access to the highest quality version of your photos — for projecting your vacation albums, setting a ridiculously beautiful desktop background, wallpapering your baby’s room with printouts of your safari, or whatever.
The lesson: Share your photos on Instagram. Just don’t back them up there.