How Large Should the Photographs On a Photographer's Website Be?

How Large Should the Photographs On a Photographer's Website Be?

If your images are too large, you worry they will be stolen. If your images are too small, they lose their impact. Here is what I believe to be the best balance for this problem.

Points of View

There are several points of view on that matter. All of them have their valid arguments and yet each opinion contradicts the others to a certain extent.

The Pessimist

This group consists mainly of photographers who are afraid of giving away extra pixels, because of people who do web search for "free large images." In the best case those seekers may credit it with "Source: Google."

The Optimist

Those are the people who are not always photographers, but think images sizes have to be big enough, so they fit on all kinds of screens and resolutions even in the next four years. That group thinks free-image seekers are just a conspiracy theory.

The Pixel Peeper

Most probably, these are fellow photographers. They usually complain they can't determine if you used frequency separation or the good ol' dodge and burn on a full-length-twenty-person group shot. To please those people you should either upload high-resolution images or probably have a loupe tool in your portfolio just as retail product websites have.

The Multiple-Big-Screen Geek

That's the typical geek with several huge monitors, each 5K, and the text is bearably readable, because they don't care about words. They only care about visuals. Big visuals. Your website will probably look like a post card on their screens and they will complain about it.

The Mobile Device Junkie

That group is fine with any website as long as there are good-looking images. They are more than 50% of the traffic on the internet, have sub-2K screens, and are not really impressed about the fact your video is published in 4K.

Finding the Balance

We've got different displays that are expected to render images that are large enough to enjoy them. If we talk only from that perspective we should agree with those with the biggest screens that images have to be uploaded in larger sizes in order to fill up those monitors.

What Displays Do the Viewers Use?

As I said, most of the traffic on the internet is from mobile devices. Those that have more than 4K displays are less than 1%, according to a recent statistics report.


The issue with big images is not just the size that can be enjoyed. It has to be balanced with the traffic they generate and with the load time, because today people want everything here, now, and at that very moment.

Text Size Consideration

Big screens are not made for reading text from side to side. Big screens are made for having more area for your applications and screens. Have you ever wondered why most news websites' content is about 1000 pixels in width? If you try to read lines that are long without breaking you won't be able to follow the next line easily.

Big screens are not made for reading from side to side

When you browse a website, it's usually text and images. Do you remember those times when websites with a font size of 12 pixels looked normal? Today 14 pixels is considered a bit small. If you see old websites from 10-15 years ago, their text will look quite small to you. I am saying that with the growth of screen resolution there is a certain limitation because of the text on the screen. Too small the number of pixels will make the text almost unreadable, but you will be able to see images in their full glory.

Text size consideration on big screens

The Verdict

If the monitor was only a device for images, I would agree that all photographers have to adapt to that and display images as big as they can and dare. But knowing the screens are used for both text and graphics I think there has to be a fair line that an image doesn't have to be more than 1600 pixels to be evaluated, to generate a moderate traffic, and to allow having a quick and responsive website. I'd not upload images more than 1200 pixels, to be honest. On my website I'm still in the sub-1000 range. After all I think it's you and the clients who need to have access to the high-resolution images, not the average viewer on the internet. The potential client can evaluate your work even on small thumbnails. The rest is just a caprice.

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Andrew Eaton's picture

There are a good few website provides that provide device adaptive formatting and scaling so if you are looking at images on your phone it will give you a smaller image than a desktop browser etc. I tend to put quite high rez files up, long edge of 2560. There will always be people out there who will rip your images off, but I want to give the best impression to visitors and my images have a strong digital watermark with tracking for anyone really taking the piss... :-)

Guy Incognito's picture

I don't think it really matters if you make an image smaller to deter thieves, most don't care about quality so they just resize the image and post it anyway. If you watermark, they just crop it out.

Sad, but true.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Most of the time people judge the image by the thumbnail and old paintings may not be of the highest resolution, but when the nuances and the contrast feel right, people like it.

The same is true for photographs.

misha marinsky's picture

I've settled on 800x500. Your thoughts?

Andrew Eaton's picture

odd cropping ratio? 8:5? also on a 4k screen that will be very small at 100% it would be about 20% of the screen

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I would not mind the size much. I would judge a photographer by the images and the ideas behind them, not by the size of the image file.

Chris Sale's picture

I post all of my images at 1,920 x 1,080. I figure that as most of them will be seen in the videos that I put on YouTube there is little point using a lower resolution.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

It's a good approach, although in 99% of the time the images will be seen resized, because that size is mostly to be seen on big monitors (< 1%) or in full-screen mode. The majority of screens people use today are less than 1,920x1,080 or exactly that one which means the images won't be seen in their full glory unless they are in full-screen mode.

Jakisa Labura's picture

Great overview! Your articles are always based on the facts and that is good point for people to start thinking what do they need, in this case, which kind of web they want.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Thanks. I appreciate that.

David Penner's picture

The most important part is the traffic section. If it's just a portfolio website you want fast loading. Obviously you want to balance that with quality but the main thing is to get your work shown as quickly as possible. If someone wants to pay you for your work you can give them access to higher res stuff but that won't matter if they are leaving your website before they get to see anything.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Well said, David

Rhonald Rose's picture

I think copyright is not something we should be worried about, rather putting best resolution without slowing down the rendering speed. The one who steal your images are not going to buy the image anyways.

Good ol 1024x768 is good and it could scale to a respectable size. I am one of them developer/photography guy using 2x4k monitors on Linux. Most of the images render small or not the best quality (resize). I'd prefer nicely rendered 1024x768 which renders instant than bigger one which still gives the same quality of 1024x768.

Justin Punio's picture

On my website I upload at no more than 1200px wide. Large sizes don't help with load times and therefore Google rankings.

Michael Kormos's picture
Adam T's picture

Just use a media query in css

@media only screen and (min-width: xxxxpx) : display scaled image

It's not rocket science, display the appropriate image for the appropriate screen

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The methods are different. The question is what is the maximum that you would display, because a user with a 5K display and a slow connection will not wait enough to see the portfolio.

Adam T's picture

If a user has a 5k display and a slow connection I would think are 90% out my client base. My feelings are if someone whats a 5k monitor I'll give them a 5k image. It also depends on what the image is, maybe I don't want them pixel peeping on some

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Do you think clients are going to stay away from you if you have great photographs, but you display 1 megapixel images on your website?

I think those that would not hire you because of that are also not your target.

Adam T's picture

No for 2 reasons:

1) If a client makes an image full screen and has a 5k monitor but doesn't pay for half decent internet chances are they are not going to afford me.

2) The vast majority of clients are not using edit bays to view work and they are using office machines, that's why you should do media querys. It allows the browser to open the appropriate image to the browser size.

It would be worse for a client to see a 1920 image dithered to a 5k screen than to wait the 2 seconds for the full screen.

Also, mind you that most people aren't viewing their browsers on production monitors at full size so chances are the MQ will load fast until they make it full screen to pixel peep.

Deleted Account's picture

800 pixels on the long dimension. Anything larger could be stolen and used by the thief. It happens every day.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

It's "small" by today's standards, but the people can get an idea if the photographer is good or not. The photographer's skills are not measured by the size of the images on the screen :)

Daniel Medley's picture

Generally I upload 2048 on the long side if in landscape and 960 on the short edge if in portrait mode. That's for my main portfolio page, Facebook, and Instagram. Yes, it's a bit large for IG, but it works and looks just fine. Plus it cuts down on flow load.

For my blog I upload so the top/bottom is 724.

I regularly review them on various platforms and screen sizes. It all seems to load and display just fine.

Personally, I don't worry about people stealing my images. In fact I think it's kind of an overblown concern.

Sergio Miranda's picture

I only care about my type of client: creatives.

All of them will see my work on a retina screen, the least.

Big images, no watermarks, solid branding all accross the line.