I captured a low key RAW photo with my Nikon D5100. I processed it using Lightroom, exported it as a JPG and then set it as my Facebook profile picture. Despite the initial JPG looking good, the result in Facebook was horrendous to say the least. I figured it might have been due to Facebook's image compression, so I decided to upload it to Flickr to compare. Again, the image quality when uploaded to Flickr is terrible.

I started thinking that maybe I had overprocessed the image, so I tried exporting the RAW to JPG without applying any changes (except for cropping). The issue persists.

Below are the RAW, JPG and a link to the JPG as it appears in Flickr. Can anyone explain to me what is happening here? And how I could possibly avoid the undesirable results if I intend to share my photo on Flickr?

  • Raw File (I wanted to post this file, but apparently, I need at least 10 reputation to post more than two links)
  • JPG File
  • JPG on Flickr (notice the pixelation on the left side of the photo)
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that your two JPG files (Google Drive and Flickr) are byte-for-byte identical, \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 17:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain how you made this picture ? It seems that you have used a high quality setting to export your picture in JPG, something about 93% so it shouldn't be an issue. What exactly do you find "terrible" about the quality of this picture ? Can you post the Facebook Image ? It looks to me like any underexposed image. I need to push hard to get posterization artifact. By the Way, you have some artifact in the background on the left size and on your right shoulder, you should probably delete those regions to get a "pure" black. \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm I initially wanted to post a link to the RAW file, but Stack Exchange would only allow me to post two links maximum. Despite they being the same JPG, do you see how the image quality in Flickr is considerably poorer? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Olivier I imported the RAW in Lightroom, cropped it and exported it to JPG at full resolution and 100 quality. What I don't like about the picture is probably what you refer to as the artifacts. They only appear in "JPG on Flickr". The "JPG File" (which points to Google Drive) looks good to me. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 18:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems like this is a case of a compression artifact. So I guess my question is, how can I avoid or minimize the effect of compression on my photo? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 18:33

3 Answers 3


The mystery is simply that the low-resolution versions of photos on Flickr are downscaled and recompressed with whatever arbitrary settings Flickr chooses. If you download the original version, it's byte-for-byte identical to the one you provide via Google Drive — if that looks different, it's a problem with your viewing software.

How can you avoid this? Well, "don't use a service which applies arbitrary compression to images" is probably the best. Failing that, you can link people just to the original size. And failing that, you can adjust your post-processing so it's not so close to the edge that it can't handle the treatment.


I'm going to agree with mattdm here. Facebook in particular is notorious for its brutal image compression. If you want it to look nicer on Facebook, or Flickr, you need to have lightroom scale down the image to whatever setting Facebook is trying to get it to. My suggestion is to use one of the export plugins, and then play with the settings to find one that looks good on each service. They are just trying to minimize bandwidth usage, if you compress the image to or below their threshold, they will probably just ignore it (rather than waste CPU cycles in their server farms). This also means more than just image resolution too - number of colors used matters a lot too.

If you want to post a higher quality image online, look into alternatives to Flickr and Facebook. Flickr and Facebook are "share with the grandparents" services. There are others - 500px being a major one - that are meant for sharing with other photographers.


Yes, the issue is in compression - which affects darker tones more if it is JPEG.

However, you may be lucky if the compression is quality based. In this case you may apply dithering or noise to compensate for compression - it will be unnoticeable after compression but the appearance of image will be improved.

If the site compresses down to the fixed target size, you are out of luck.


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