Size Matters! Small is Beautiful

Create Small Images for Online Auctions

First Published:
Date Published: 1999
Copyright © 1999 by Kevin Savetz

Q: How can I make my images load faster? The pictures that accompany my listings seem to take forever to be displayed.

A: The bigger a file is, the longer it will take to download. So there are two ways to make your images download faster:

  1. make the picture files smaller
  2. buy everyone in the world a faster Internet connection

Since #2 is probably not the best option, let's look at ways you can reduce the size of your image files. Three things to look at are resolution, file format, and image size.


The resolution you use to capture your image can make a huge difference in the file's size. Image resolution is measured in dots per inch, or DPI. Images with a lot of dots per inch show more detail, but produce bigger files. Laser printers, for instance, can show detailed pictures with resolutions of 300, 600, or more dots per inch. Your monitor, however, is limited to significantly fewer: pictures that are meant to be seen on-screen, such as your auction images, should be at a mere 72 DPI.

If you're using a scanner to capture images, set the scanning software to grab pictures at 72 DPI. If you've got a digital camera, it probably uses a higher resolution -- so use your graphics editing software to limit the resolution to 72 DPI before you upload the image. With a higher DPI setting, the image will take longer to download and may appear grotesquely huge in bidders' browser windows.

File Format

The file format that you use also affects the size of the picture file. The JPG format is almost always the best one to use. It produces nice looking, small picture files, and is supported by every Web browser on the planet.

JPG allows you to select the amount of compression to use when saving your image. You can shave a lot of bytes off of your image (and decrease download time) by using the high compression setting. As you increase the amount of compression, the quality of the image will decrease (it usually becomes blocky or somewhat fuzzy.) Medium compression usually produces wonderful images. High compression will yield blockier, although usually acceptable, images that load faster. Low compression produces the best, but fattest, images: there's usually no reason to use this setting for auction pictures.

Image Size

The size of the image -- the amount of screen real estate that it uses -- is another factor that affects file size. Big images can mean big files. A full-screen image isn't necessary to show the cover of a used textbook, for example. If the image is larger than necessary, scale it down with your graphics software.

Also, remember that not everyone uses the same size monitor. An image that is the perfect size on a mammoth 21-inch monitor will appear way, way too big on the tiny 12" monitor my mom uses.

If you've carefully tweaked all of these elements and your image still takes too long to download, maybe the Web site that is serves the image is to blame. A Web server that's overloaded or doesn't have enough bandwidth will dole out files slowly. Try moving your image files somewhere else to see if a new server speeds things along.

Articles by Kevin Savetz