When Facebook was launched in 2004 (as “The Facebook”), it’s intention was to replicate the yearbook presented to college alumni to help them get to know and identify their new associates. Like the yearbooks used in some schools on both sides of the Atlantic, it was all about the faces… and the term ‘profile picture’ has now replaced the term ‘passport photo’ as a generic term for a head-and-shoulders style mugshot in pretty much any context, on or offline.
Facebook as it has evolved today is even more visually oriented now. The timeline layout introduced in 2011 places great emphasis on the sharing and displaying of images, and many of the mobile and tablet apps have been built very clearly with optimal enjoyment of images in mind. Very much on trend with the growing visual nature of social media generally, such as the emergence of Pinterest, ongoing tweaks to the Facebook design and layout serve only to emphasise the sharing and display of visual content.
A new layout rolling out across the network now puts photos in full screen size, with captions and comments superimposed upon them – making it more rewarding than ever to upload full sized, rich image files. And the largest picture of all on your profile, your cover photo, will not be accepted by Facebook if it is less than about 800 pixels wide across (remember it doesn’t have to be very high, the cover picture is very wide and shallow). Facebook really does not want photos that are going to be stretched or distorted due to low resolution, diminishing the visual impact of the site (remember, your cover pic is set to ‘public’ audience by default, so you really are sharing it completely in the public domain, as opposed to photos you choose to share with your friends only). For those of us living in Spain with such wonderful landscapes, finding a great cover photo that represents you but does not compromise your privacy or your identity is relatively easy!
Facebook makes it very easy to upload and share photos. In any status post you have the option to upload a photo or video on the fly, otherwise when you are on your timeline you can simply click ‘photo’ then ‘add photo’. This opens up an application in which you can simply browse to wherever the required image is on your local drive, and click to upload it. With the main photo uploader you can send up several photos at once, but this can occasionally be buggy and may be very slow depending on your connection speed, so the basic one-at-a-time uploader often works best.
Facebook is always tweaking the mechanism to try and make it easier and faster for people to upload, and on many browsers now clicking the ‘add photo’ button will immediately start exploring your hard drive for images (personally I find this slightly pushy to be honest!) Either way I would definitely consider uploading your photos individually, because you have a lot more flexibility for organising your photos into albums afterwards. If you upload as a batch, Facebook creates a multi-upload default album as you go along, and it is much more difficult to do anything interesting with it later on.
Also a great many apps for mobile devices as well as with the Mac operating system have built-in Facebook integration, making it very easy to upload a picture to Facebook from whatever application you are using – in effect you send the photo in to Facebook rather than using Facebook to go and get it from somewhere else. Depending on the application in use this can be more or less of a blunt instrument, but it’s improving all the time, for instance in iOS 6 you can send a photo directly from the photos app (or any of dozens of proprietary image manipulation apps), and choose which album you want to insert it in, which is a nice touch.
Facebook can cope with a variety of image formats, including all the standard jpeg, bmp and png files your camera or phone may generate. It can’t deal with RAW image files though. You can upload images at any filesize and resolution, Facebook will resize them for display around the site and on various devices. As mentioned you will get a warning if you attempt to upload very small/low resolution pictures for use in your profile or cover pic, but generally anything goes. You have the option to upload at a higher quality, and why not? Yes it will take a bit longer, but for your friends to really enjoy looking at the photos you share it’s good to have rich full images in your albums, and Facebook does not charge you for storage, nor does it have an upper limit.
Next week we will look in more detail at how to organize your photos into albums, and control your sharing in more detail.
Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, May 31st 2013