Author Archive: astephan

Selecting and Sizing Photos: Essential Graphic Design for Social Media Managers

Images are vital to a strong social presence for any brand, making understanding basic graphic design essential for all social media managers. But, how do you get started? How do you source and select images for use on your social channels? How do you make sure the photos are perfectly tailored to fit each network’s specific audience?

Finding Photos for Social Media

In a perfect world, you’d use original photos from your brand’s internal design team. Not only will you have the rights to use the photos, but you can be assured these images are high-quality, unique, and on-message. However, with the fast-paced nature of social media, you can’t always get your hands on an image internally. What’s a social media manager to do?

Definitely avoid the temptation to grab any image you can find on the web—or you could be in hot water. Whoever took that photo and will most definitely take issue with a brand using said image without permission. Not to mention it’s poor etiquette.

The savvy social media manager knows better, and uses these resources to source images for use on social networks:

  1. Stock Photos: The most straightforward way to get images is to pay for them. iStockphoto is widely reliable, but you can find an excellent breakdown of different stock photo offerings online. The key here is making sure you choose photos that don’t look like stock photos—meaning highly-posed, cliché, or just bad.
  2. Creative Commons: Many photographers will let you use images if you attribute them as the source. Creative Commons is an excellent way to find photos you can use, even commercially, as long as you credit the photographer. Keep in mind, attributions can be lengthy, especially if a copyright notice is included. This makes it less than ideal for use on some social channels (namely Twitter, due to character count limits).
  3. Google Image Advanced Search: Searching for photos on the Internet? Use Google! (Ever heard of it?) Kidding aside, Google’s advanced image search is a great way to find photos that you are “free to use, share, or modify, even commercially.”

Google Advanced Image Search

Make sure you click through to see if the images that turn up require attribution. Occasionally, your search will turn up images that are public domain, which means you are free to use them without attribution!

Posting Photos to Social Media

Now that you’ve got your hands on a photo, you can just upload it and post it, right? Well…not quite.

Each social network has distinct optimal image size specifications, and of course, what is perfect for Facebook’s feed isn’t the right size for Twitter, Pinterest, or Google+. If your photo doesn’t fit those specifications, it might be cropped or automatically scaled to fit.

Hangry Kitty Screenshot

Take the screenshot above, two photos in the Facebook Newsfeed. The photo on the left is too large for Facebook’s feed. The text is cut off and fans would have to click on the photo to view the whole image, which is not an ideal experience. The image on the right is perfectly sized for Facebook, and the whole photo is visible. This makes for a clean newsfeed and provides a more pleasing experience for fans.

Social Media Image Sizes

It’s a basic technique that makes such a big difference. Crop and resize images yourself with any photo-editing tool, or this free online resizing tool.

We’ve provided a handy cheat-sheet detailing the optimal image sizes for each social network’s feed so you can custom-create images for each network:

403×403 pixels
843×403 pixels (Highlighted Image)

375×375 pixels

600 x 800* pixels
*The height of images on Pinterest is flexible, but if an image is too tall it can become almost impossible to see. This height/width ratio seems to be the most flattering when scaled down to thumbnail size, too!

497 x 373 pixels

Do you think your social media feeds could benefit from perfectly sized photos?

Essential Graphic Design for Social Media Managers: An Introduction

Images can be a great way to emotionally connect to your audience. As you tell your brand’s story, the right image can evoke nostalgia, excitement, desire, and reflection. Coca Cola, for example, knows this, and has mastered the craft of storytelling with powerful imagery, whether it’s in the milestones of their rich history or a personal one between two people sharing a Coke.

Coca Cola Milestone Coca Cola Milestone 2









Compelling images, now more than ever, are an integral part of successful social media engagement, and the presence of images in social media has become more and more prevalent in recent years.

Photos and images are the foundation of popular social platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, and especially Pinterest, which, at over 10 million unique visitors, is the fastest growing social network in history.Tweets Get 88% More RTs

And, on Facebook and Twitter, images have become a reliable way to garner engagement. Tweets featuring images see 88% more retweets than tweets with links and 19% more retweets than those that are text only. Furthermore, Facebook posts with a photo typically see nearly 3 times more engagement than status updates. Facebook’s Timeline redesign and acquisition of Instagram also reflect Mark Zuckerberg’s affinity for the power of photos on the social network:

“You see the organic News Feed posts moving toward bigger pictures and rich media. The success of products like Instagram is because they’re so immersive on a small screen.” (Source)


Catering to the short attention spans of the social audience, images are quickly and effortlessly consumed on smartphone screens, making content easier to digest and share. With 57% of Facebook users now accessing the site via mobile device social media will likely become more and more mobile, making captivating images more crucial than ever.

With this emphasis on well-designed images, social media managers would be well-served to have a basic understanding of graphic design, especially design that works where your social audience spends most of their time: online and on mobile devices.

Facebook Photos 3x More Engagement

Designing for Social Media

Ideally, you will have access to an in-house design team that can create images for use on social media. In that instance, as social media manager, use the information presented in this series to provide your designers guidance, especially if they typically work in print or web media and aren’t as familiar with the needs of social media sites.

And, as social media often works quickly and reactively, you might not always be able to turn to your graphic design team to create the images you want. In these cases it can help to know the basics so you can make the images yourself.

In this series, we’ll cover the fundamentals, listed below, as well as provide instructional tutorials (with, and in some cases without, Photoshop).

  1. Photo Selection & Sizing: What to look for in a good photo & how to size and save your images so they display well on various social sites.
  2. Playing with Color: How to determine what colors to use to stand out, while staying on brand.
  3. Font Type & Lettering: The magic of combining text and photos, and how to select the right font.
  4. Composition: Putting it all together: how to compose an image that stands out, and how to create a collage.
  5. Examples & Inspiration: What are other brands are doing with images, and ideas you can implement immediately.

We hope you join us next week when we discuss how to choose a good photo and make sure it looks good on whichever social site you decide to share it to!