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From Photoshop to Instagram using Dropbox - Publishing Quality Photography

The image sharing platform Instagram has always been a compelling form of social network, but it’s a pain for professional photographers to use. Screen-shotting and cropping your website produces blurry and awkward shaped images so I thought I would write a quick tutorial on how to upload professional work using a laptop and your phone. 

With over 300million users, the potential to share imagery to an almost limitless fan base has always been compelling, but news broke this morning that things were about to change - The app plans to switch to "algorithmic timelines" - sorting posts according to users' interests - rather than continuing to list them chronologically – great. I have always hated FB for messing up a perfectly working structure and crippling it for financial gain, which affected its business pages more than any other. Over the last few years, photographers moved over to Instagram, the only place left to get work out to a fan base without some in-house filter restricting users from seeing posts. Facebook wants you cross its palm with gold or you’ll reach just 1% of your followers. There’s been an uproar this morning about these filtered changes on Instagram – let’s see what happens – but remember it’s a Facebook owned company so don’t hold out too much hope.


Setting Up Dropbox / Google Drive

The best way of transferring images to your phone is simply through Dropbox. If you don’t have an account you can register for one and get it up and running in a few minutes. Once you have a username and login, then simply download the Dropbox App onto your mobile and log in using the same account details. You can manage a folder structure in Dropbox really easily in Explorer (PC) or Finder (Mac). I created a folder specifically for Instagram Uploads, which you can see at the bottom of the list.

Should you be familiar with Google Drive, another free hosting platform, then use this as an alternative. I will continue the tutorial with Dropbox.


Preparing Your Image

Instagram allows you to include images that are square, landscape and portrait. After the mobile only square-only restriction was lifted, photographers flocked to get their work online. Here’s a sheet explaining the size restrictions and ratios and what to resize your images to -

Square –         2048 x 2048px or 1:1 ratio

Landscape -   2048 x 1536px or 4:3 ratio

Portrait -        1638 x  2048px or 4:5 ratio


It’s easy to make a set of custom crop settings in Photoshop so you wont have to think about this again –

Press C – crop tool

Now on the toolbar above change the drop down menu to ‘W x H x Resolution’

Change the values to 2048 in the first box, then 2048 in the second box, then 72dpi in the third so it looks like this –

Now go down to the ‘New Crop Preset’ menu and add a new preset – call it ‘Instagram – Square - 2048 x 2048px 72 DPI’ or something similar.

Now make a second and third preset, changing the values to 2048 x 1536 for landscape, and then 1638 x 2048 for portrait.

You can use these presets to crop into your hi-res files. The outcome will always be the right size for Instagram. Don’t forget, you can heavily crop landscape orientations to square or portrait, don’t hold back. Here you can see the same image works well in any orientation


Adding a Watermark Once you have cropped your image, add a watermark. I would suggest this as essential for all online media. I use a PNG of my website logo, as this has a transparent background.  I then vary the opacity accordingly - this night time image contains mainly darks and requires a drop to 50% or the logo overpowers the image.


Now Flatten the image – Layer > Flatten Image



Save for Web

Now Save for Web – CMD + ALT + SHIFT + S (or CRTL + ALT + SHIFT + S for PC)
Make sure the ‘Convert to sRGB’ box is ticked.
Set the Quality to 100%, who cares about the overall file size - remember Instagram uploading algorithms will strip down the picture so hit it with the biggest file you can.
Now save it to your Dropbox folder > Instagram Uploads.
If you are connected to the internet (which I am certain you are), the image will now automatically upload to your Dropbox space and you can access it from your phone, tablet or another computer should you need to.


Over to the Phone…
Open your Dropbox app.
Go to ‘Recent’ in the bottom left corner – you will see the image appear in the list – press on it.

Open the image and now press the icon in the top right corner.

Save Image – this will save it to your Photo app

Open Instagram - Press the Camera icon in the middle.

Now, at last, you can get your wonderful hi-res imagery onto Instagram.

Pinch the image inwards as it will always default to a square....

Thats it - the text is up to you....Go blind typing in miniscule font, get infuriated adding ridiculous hashtags that seem to do very little and then voila - you get 9 likes.

Is it worth it? I have no idea.