If you are trying to find the best Lightroom export settings for Instagram, you are in the right place.
In this article, I will share everything you need to know about how to post the highest quality photos to Instagram.
How to Post High-Quality Photos on Instagram
When we post photos to Instagram, we always want to preserve them at the highest possible quality.
The only way to achieve the desired quality is to process and prepare the images before sharing them.
The goal is to avoid unnecessary tampering from Instagram in the form of resizing, cropping, and the negative effects of recompressing.
To achieve this goal, we must address the following:
- Image Size (dimensions)
- Image Aspect Ratio (the ratio between width and height)
- Image Quality (compression)
Instagram Crop Size (Dimensions)
The first step is to prepare an image for sharing at an optimal size so that Instagram does not need to resize it. When you let online social platforms like Instagram resize your photos based on predefined algorithms, you can always expect quality degradation.
Please note that Instagram’s approach to resizing, optimizing, and compressing uploaded photos continuously changes. The best way to understand and achieve optimal settings for your photos is to check the most current Instagram recommendations.
According to Instagram’s recommendations to maximize image quality, you should publish photos up to 1080 pixels in width.
Please note that 1080 pixels does not reflect the longest size of the image but refers to the image’s width. If you post a photo in portrait orientation, the height of the image will be longer than 1080 pixels.
Your shared photo should have a width between 320 pixels and 1080 pixels.
This means that if you share a photo with a width shorter than 320 pixels, the Instagram algorithm will rescale its size to increase its width. If you share a photo with a width larger than 1080 pixels, Instagram will scale it down. In either case, you can expect a negative impact on the quality of the image.
If your shared photo has a width between 320 pixels and 1080 pixels, Instagram will leave it alone and keep its original dimensions.
Instagram Crop Size Summary
To achieve the best image quality for your shared images and to simplify the Lightroom export process, set the width for all your Instagram images to 1080 pixels.
Aspect Ratio for Instagram Images
Once again, Instagram’s aspect ratio recommendations regularly change. But at this point, we have well-defined and easy-to-follow guidelines.
For Instagram to preserve the original aspect ratio, the shared photo needs to have an aspect ratio between 1.91 x 1 and 4 x 5.
If the aspect ratio of the published photo is outside the supported values, the image will be cropped to meet the supported ratios. This is highly undesirable for any photographer.
Please note that the supported aspect ratios do not mean that you must only use the 1.91 x 1 or the 4 x 5 ratios. Instead, you can use any aspect ratio that lies between the two extremes of 1.91 x 1 and 4 x 5.
For example, I do not recommend using the 1.91 x 1 ratio because sharing panoramic images on Instagram does not make much sense. You lose too much real estate and the photo will be too small for anyone to appreciate.
Here are my aspect ratio recommendations:
1 x 1 square ratio is still the king of Instagram
4 x 5 is the best ratio for images in portrait orientation
4 x 3 is the optimal ratio for images in landscape orientation
These are the three aspect ratios that I use exclusively on Instagram.
We always address image dimensions and compression settings in Lightroom during the export process. The aspect ratio must be resolved during the editing process in the Develop Module of Lightroom.
Changing the Aspect Ratio in Lightroom
Regardless of if you are in the Library Module or the Develop Module, you can hit the “R” keyboard shortcut to activate the Crop Overlay Panel.
Inside the Crop Overlay Panel, click the double arrow next to the lock icon to activate the Aspect Ratio dropdown menu.
As you can see, the Aspect Ratio menu has eight built-in aspect ratios.
You can use the 1 x 1, 4 x 5, 2 x 3, and 3 x 4 aspect ratios immediately.
If you need an aspect ratio that is not listed in the menu, you can use the Enter Custom… function to create your own ratio.
Please note that the Custom Aspect Ratio is somewhat of an underdeveloped function and can only store five custom values. When you add a sixth value, one of the first five entries is replaced. Plus, you cannot delete an existing custom ratio; it can only be replaced.
Tip: When you select the aspect ratio from the dropdown menu, it is in horizontal orientation by default. To change it to portrait orientation, use the “X” keyboard shortcut.
Tip 2: To reset any aspect ratio, select the “Original” option from the dropdown menu.
Image Compression Settings for Instagram
This is the easiest setting to understand. There is no way to prevent Instagram from recompressing your shared image. But I believe that Instagram finally understands the need to let creators share their photos at the highest quality possible. Although Instagram recompresses every uploaded image, it is far gentler now than before.
I find it difficult to distinguish the original image from the recompressed, published image.
When you export photos for Instagram from Lightroom or Photoshop, use the JPEG format with 80% compression.
Summary of Lightroom Export Settings for Instagram
Here are the screenshots of the Lightroom Export menu with all the settings indicated.
My advice is to create an Export Preset with the following settings, which will save you a lot of time as you prepare your images for Instagram.