Retaining quality of social media pictures

Ontario coronation celebrations

A woman takes a photo with her cellphone during a flag-raising ceremony for the Ontario coronation celebrations on May 6, 2023 at Queen's Park in Toronto, Canada. 

Photo credit: Katherine KY Cheng | AFP

Sharing pictures is a big part of how we communicate these days. We take photos of special moments, beautiful places and cool artwork and want to share them with our friends, family and the world. But sometimes, when we try to share them quickly, we forget that it can affect their quality.

You probably use WhatsApp to share pictures, oblivious that it alters their quality. When you send a picture through WhatsApp, it automatically makes the file smaller for faster transmission, which can degrade its quality.

When the pictures get reduced, some things can get lost. WhatsApp typically converts images to a specific file format, such as JPEG or HEIC (on iOS devices).

JPEG is a commonly used photo format that employs lossy compression, meaning some image data is removed to reduce file size, distorting the image’s clarity.

Google Drive

One way to fix this is to email the pictures as attachments. Most email services let you send attachments without changing the picture’s size and quality, so the pictures can still have the appeal you want. Note that you have to consider how big the picture files are because some email services are limited. If the files are too big, the email may bounce back.

Another option is to use cloud storage. There are services like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive where you can upload your pictures. When you do that, the pictures keep their original quality. Then you can share a link with the people you want to see the pictures, and they can download them without any changes. This way, the pictures stay just as good as originally taken.

If you want to keep things more personal, you can save the pictures on a USB drive or another device. That way, the pictures don’t change at all. This works well when the people you want to share with are nearby so you can give them the device directly.

iPhone’s Airdrop

There are also websites like Flickr and 500px, which are made just for sharing pictures. They are designed to keep the pictures looking their best. Sharing photo albums or individual pictures on these websites does not affect quality. You can also share pictures between devices using Bluetooth or the iPhone’s Airdrop feature.

Some social media and messaging apps also have options to keep the picture quality high. For example, Instagram has a feature where you can send pictures directly to someone, and if you choose the ‘Original’ quality, the pictures won't lose their sheen. Other apps like Telegram and Signal retain the original quality of a picture, hence are suitable for sharing compared to WhatsApp.

As we use technology to share our visual stories, we need to be mindful that the quality of pictures doesn’t wear away as we pass them around.

Mr Wambugu is an accredited expert in cloud and cyber security. [email protected] Twitter: @Samwambugu2