Why Do Your Instagram Photos Suddenly Look Terrible on Facebook?

Why Do Your Instagram Photos Suddenly Look Terrible on Facebook?

There has been a disturbance. Have you felt it? Some astute photophiles (not a word I just made up) have noticed a change in quality in their posts when Instagram pushed a photo to Facebook after the most recent update, 7.5. So I decided to run a few comparison tests of my own to see if the quality really was different, and why my photos suddenly started to look so gritty.

I push images to Facebook from Instagram in a few different ways, including directly from Instagram, as well as IFTTT, If This Than That, an internet service that uses connected apps to automate repeated tasks. For example, IF I post a photo to Instagram ... UPLOAD it to Facebook. It does it automatically so I don't have to deal with multiple postings for one photo.

For my test, I used IFTTT to push Instagram posts to Facebook. I also tested directly pushing to Facebook from Instagram to see if that made a difference and you can see those results below. (Spoiler, it didn't).

Here is the original photo after being processed in VSCOcam for iPhone. For the test, I will be using this image.

VSCOcam Processing - 1000x1000 px at 121 KB

From there, I published to Instagram and pushed to Facebook using IFTTT on July 21st. Below is a comparison of uploading the same image on July 21st (before) and today, August 31st (after) using the same method.

Both created a 640x640 pixel image. But the after photo looks much noisier and grittier... and terrible. Notice the grain in the sky and in the large rocks in the foreground. The after image is even larger in file size than the before image at 82kb vs 65kb respectively. So it is not a matter of compressing the file more. Why all the sudden change then? The image is now sharper and not in a good way.

My next test was to see if this was simply IFTTT doing something new and funky to the images. So I tried pushing to Facebook via the "Post to Facebook" option within the Instagram app. IFTTT seems to not be the culprit as the comparison below shows. Pushing through Facebook did result in a larger file, (750x750 at 124kb) but the sharpness and grain are still there. The before image is the IFTTT image and the after image is the "Post to Facebook" image.

My final test was to see if Instagram was simply handing the files differently and to see if an image I posted on July 21st would look different on Instagram verses an image I posted on August 31st. While there is a slight difference in sharpness and grain, it's hard to notice and is no where near the jump caused on Facebook. The before image is from July 21st and the after image is from August 31st.

Here are some more images where the quality difference is not always so obvious. 

Look at the compression around the fingers and the artifacts around the out-of-focus lake in the background.

Notice the additional artifacts around the clouds and noise in the rocks.

This can be frustrating because Facebook owns Instagram and the two should work really nice together. But they still don't. With Instagram's new acceptance of non-square images, Facebook still posts white boarders around Instagram images when posting non-square photos. The photo I post to Instagram should look exactly the same as the one on Facebook.

Still the best way to post photographs on Facebook is to upload them separately of Instagram if you want to avoid all this nonsense. Instagram is designed for viewing on much smaller screens on your smart phones where Facebook is a much larger playing field.

For me, Facebook is an added bonus to Instagram. I do not do much marketing of my images through Facebook. Sticking with the "Push to Facebook" option or IFTTT is probably what I will do going forward. The quality issues are not large enough for me to add additional steps and to loose the one-button convenience built into the Instagram app.

Have you noticed a quality difference in your Instagram posts on Facebook? How do you upload your images to different social media sites?

Casey Berner's picture

Casey Berner is a photographer and videographer based in Seattle. After living in the Midwest, he followed his passion for the outdoors and took up residence in the Pacific Northwest shooting timelapse and landscapes. He spends weekdays in the office as a video and photo producer and weekends in the mountains exploring with his camera.

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what happens if you upload it to instagram at its native resolution 1080x1080 (or 1080 on the long side now that youre not limited to square format)?

Holy smokes, I did notice a big difference, I got a fright and immediately deleted the FB image (posted via IG in app option). Posting separately from now.

Seems like FB has always been touchy when it comes to image quality

This is good timing! I was just about to start posting from Instagram to Facebook to try and save me some time and also get more stuff up to Facebook since I spend more time on Instagram. Guess ill have to find a better way...

Right now HootSuite is a decent option if you post to Instagram separately. Use a higher res image to push to Facebook/Twitter/Pintrest/etc. and then post to Instagram on its own. The reason for that is HootSuite still crops images to a square for Instagram.

I cant get myself to use the new Instagram crop tools. I don't like that the image shows up as a square inside my gallery and a user has to click the image to see the entire thing or to even know its not supposed to be a square.

It's almost like they ran it through a really crappy HDR/sharpening filter... Conspiracy theory: Facebook bought A-HDR by Kentaro Yama

I dont know if the problem is with Instagram or if its that Facebook now has editing features built in when you upload (complete with everyones favourite ig filters) and when you post things through another app instead of posting directly to facebook then a kind of "auto" edit is performed for your convenience... including a little saturation, contrast and a ton of sharpening...

I save my social images as per a previous article here on f-stoppers and save as png. I then use those saved imaged to post on IG.
While I find there's a slight reduction in image quality posting direct to FB from IG I don't think it's that noticeable on a mobile device, which I'm sure most of my followers use. For the ease of a single post, I will stick with posting directly from IG. Besides, I have far more engagement on IG with fewer followers. FB is a waste of time.

So there's no solution for instagram?
This is horrible :( I have beautiful images that I can' upload onto instagram because it adds copious amounts of noise and sharpening :'(

I tried with zapier, to push new photo from dropbox to facebook and i have same result than instagram to facebook. Before i test to push instagram to facebook, twitter, pinterest, google pages, and every photo are crap. new photo on dropbox to pinterest is ok... So i think facebook and instagram use same thing for compress photo...

Is this still the case in 2018?