Controlling Facebook Profile Picture and Facebook Photo Strip
by Jeffrey Sward
 
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Generally in life, all control is an illusion. In particular, because the objective of Facebook is world domination by Mark Zuckerberg, user control over anything in Facebook is a conspicuous illusion. Megalomaniacs do not relinquish control over anything. Historical Facebook behavior as well as their terms of service demonstrate that all of your content, pictures included, belongs to Facebook. More specifically, Facebook grabs a "non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license" for all user content. The waters are further muddied by very sparse Facebook help.

Within these general characteristics, it is possible to control to some degree the way in which the Facebook profile picture and the Facebook photo strip appear.

 
Facebook Profile Picture (Timeline)
 
As of May 2013, the recommended profile image is 180x180 pixels. However, facebook now overlays a border of 12 pixels, making the visible portion 166x166 pixels. Through experiments, the best results were achieved by:
  • Crop picture to 170x170 pixels
  • Smart sharpen
  • Expand canvas to 180x180, use dark gray or black border
 
Facebook Profile Picture (Non-Timeline)
 

As of early 2011, the maximum size of the profile picture is 180x540 pixels vertical. This is a skyscraper-shaped aspect ratio of 1:3 vertical. It is unlikely that a profile picture will have a 1:3 aspect ratio. Facebook will not crop the profile picture, rather Facebook will resize the profile picture so that both the height is less than or equal to 540 pixels and the width is less than or equal to 180 pixels, with the original aspect ratio preserved. When a picture is resized, any sharpening present is the original will be lost and the resulting resized image will look fuzzy. Therefore, it is a good practice to make your uploaded Facebook profile picture sharpened and the exact display size, which will avoid resizing and preserve sharpening.

As an example, my Facebook profile picture has an aspect ratio of 1:1.44 vertical. Sizing to width will create an image of 180x259 pixels and sizing to height will create an image of 375x540 pixels. But, in all cases of this example, the resulting Facebook image display will occupy 180x259 pixels (because of the 1:1.44 aspect ratio), regardless of the size of the original. In some cosmic irony, the smaller of these two options will look better because it will not be resized and sharpness will be preserved.

Guidelines for best profile file picture appearance:

  1. Create an original where both the width is less than or equal to 180 pixels and the height is less than or equal to 540 pixels.
  2. Since most profile pictures have an aspect ratio of far less than 1:3, in practice this means setting the width to 180 pixels and letting the height be determined by the aspect ratio.
  3. Sharpen the resulting image. Using Photoshop, smart sharpen 0.5 pixels, 75%, lens blur is a good starting point.
  4. Upload the image to the profile pictures album and select as active profile picture.
 
Facebook Photo Strip (As of May 2013, this feature has been removed)
 

As of early 2011, a new mandatory photo strip will appear at the top of each user profile. The photo strip consists of five images each of which will be exactly 68x97 pixels horizontal, an aspect ratio of 1:1.43 horizontal. Facebook will resize images to exactly 68x97 pixels, but in a different manner than the profile picture. Facebook will select a region of the original image at random which has an aspect ratio of 1:1.43 horizontal, and resize the resulting image section to 68x97 pixels. Once again, assuming the original selected image subset has more pixels than the resized version, the the resulting resized image will look fuzzy. The strategy for preparing photo strip images is different than for the profile picture because Facebook will crop at random. Therefore, the best strategy for photo strip images is to make images exactly 68x97 pixels, and sharpen accordingly.

Which particular images will appear in the photo strip is something of a mystery until the secret code is cracked. Images which appear in the photo strip have the following characteristics:

  1. The image is contained somewhere in one of the user's albums
  2. The image has been tagged with the name of the user who owns the profile or the image is in the profile pictures album.
  3. The most recently tagged five images will appear in the photo strip. The date-time used for selection is the moment at which the image was tagged.
  4. Images appear left to right in the order of the date-time of the tagging event, with the most recent tag on the left.
  5. Images can be manually removed using the "x" in the upper right corner of the image in photo strip, which has the alternate text of "hide this photo."
  6. There must be at least three images which qualify for the photo strip for the photo strip to appear at all to other users. Photo strips with two or one images will not appear to other users.
  7. Your entire profile and the photo strip can be viewed yourself as it would appear to other users by the sequence => profile => account => privacy settings => connecting on Facebook click view settings => preview my profile.

There are a handful of applications which will control the photo strip. However, it is relatively easy for the user to directly control the photo strip, using an orderly approach, such as the following:

  1. Create an album for the purpose of photo strip only, and label the album something easy to associate such as "photo strip album."
  2. Select the original images for the photo strip.
  3. For each original photo strip image, make a copy for the photo strip.
  4. Crop and resize each photo strip copy image to a selection of your liking with a resulting exact size of 68x97 pixels horizontal.
  5. Sharpen the resulting image. Using Photoshop, smart sharpen 0.5 pixels, 75%, lens blur is a good starting point.
  6. Upload the finished photo strip copy images into the photo strip album. Always select "skip" during each upload in order to avoid a broadcast wall posting.
  7. Tag with yourself first the image which will appear on the far right.
  8. Tag with yourself second the image which will appear second to the right
  9. etc.
  10. Tag with yourself last the image which will appear on the far left.
  11. There must be at least three images in the photo strip for it to appear to other users.
  12. Depending on your security settings, other users may initiate a tag operation which would result in the tagged image appearing in your photo strip.
  13. Alternatively, any time you tag any image with yourself, the image will appear in your photo strip.
  14. Unwanted images which appear in the photo strip can be manually removed using the "x" in the upper right corner of the image in photo strip, which has the alternate text of "hide this photo."
  15. How your profile looks to other users can be checked using => profile => account => privacy settings => connecting on Facebook click view settings => preview my profile.
  16. If images appear in the wrong sequence, each image which is in the wrong place will need to be retagged in order to reset the tag date-time, working from right to left with the first slot to be repopulated.
  17. If the images in your photo strip change infrequently, it may be useful to caption the right image with "tag me first," caption the second to the right image with "tag me second," etc. The right-to-left tagging sequence is counterintuitive.
 
Danger Danger Warning Warning
 
All of this will change when Facebook unilaterally changes the business rules for either the profile picture or the photo strip, likely without telling anyone.
 

All written content of this web site is solely the editorial opinion of Jeffrey Sward. All images, graphics, and written content of this web site, including the html files, are creative products covered by copyright law. All content copyright Jeffrey Sward 1975-2016. All rights reserved. No portion of this web site or its constituent elements may be reproduced in any form, by any means, without prior written permission. So there.