Do you know your bits from your bytes?

Viola riviniana

An on-line exchange following my recent blog about my bad habit of not editing and sorting my photographs produced a minor cri de coeur from Cathy who has a media storage crises on her WordPress site Rambling in the Garden.

WordPress has many virtues, and that fact that it requires very little technical expertise is probably why its basic platform is so popular.  It provides 3GB (gigabytes) of storage for image files which superficially may seem an enormous amount of space, but it fails to make one very important fact clear – that although it will optimise your images when it puts them on-line, it does not alter the size of the uploaded images in the media library.  If this piece of information leaves you with a blank expression please stick with me and I’ll explain, if you’re  technically savvy please go and have a cup of tea and plant a few seeds, or skim through just in case there is something that might be useful.

Back to basics:

  1. The size of a file, image or text, is measured in kilobytes, megabytes or gigabytes. There are 1024 kilobytes in a 1 megabyte and 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte – to make the sums easy work in 1000s.
  2. The larger the size, the more space it takes on your computer hard drive, or the server provided by website host (in this case WordPress) and the longer it takes to load on the internet i.e. an image of 300KB will appear on your webpage more quickly than an image of 3MB.
  3. When you download your photographs from your camera to your computer they are usually in a jpg or jpeg  format. The dimensions this image are given in pixels and it will have a resolution given in pixels per inch (or cm) and a file size in kilobytes or megabytes.
    e.g. the original image of the violets was 4288 x 2848 pixels, at 240 pixels/inch with a file size of  3MB (megabytes).
  4. This is far too large for my needs as the maximum width for images on my blog is 748 pixels, so if I reduce the size of my image to 748 pixels wide, the file size is reduced to 1MB.
    You can find the maximum image width for your blog by inserting a large image into a draft post and then looking at your post under the “Text” tab where you will see the dimensions of the image as inserted by WordPress. The size will vary depending on your theme. If you intend to use a smaller image you can change the size of your image accordingly.
  5. The maximum resolution for images on the internet and computer screen is 72 pixels/inch, therefore if I reduce the resolution of my images from 240 to 72 px/inch, the file size will decrease accordingly, in this case to 157KB (0.157MB). There will be no reduction in picture quality when viewed on the internet or your computer but it will load faster.
    Please note that for printing you need 300 pixels/inch; therefore you should make a copy of your original photograph to optimise for website use.
  6. If I upload a copy of the original photograph into my WordPress media folder the image information will show the dimensions as 4288 x 2848 pixels with a files size of 3MB. However when I publish the post WordPress will optimise the image and on-line it will show a size of 748 × 497 pixels with a file size of 133KB.
    To view this information, right-click on the image and select view image information from the pop-up menu.
  7. Although WordPress will optimise my image, it will not reduce the size of the image stored in the media library, it will continue to use 3MB of the 3GB of storage. However, if I upload an “optimised” file it will only use 0.157MB. Therefore if you can reduce the size (optimise) of your images before you upload , you will be able to maximise your storage allocation.

The are various ways of optimising images, the process is very simple but the choice of method is more complex and depends how much you want to get involved in the process.

Optimising images

  1. If you use image editing software such as Photoshop, you should be optimising your images as the final part of the process of preparing your photographs for publishing on your website.
    Photoshop is an expensive option and should only be chosen if you intend to edit your photographs. There are other good and less expensive options, including some free open source packages such as GIMP and Paint.NET.
  2. There are various on-line packages which will optimise your images for you. A quick search on Google will provide a list for you to browse
  3. There are a number of WordPress plug-ins for optimising images e.g. Imagify, ShortPixel, Imsanity.

I use Photoshop and I have not used any of the WordPress plug-ins or the on-line sites so I am not making recommendations just suggesting some of the options to consider. I would probably start with the WordPress plug-ins. Some of the on-line options offer very high levels of image compression, but if you reduce the file size too much you will risk reducing the quality of the image.
I hope this helps.

15 thoughts on “Do you know your bits from your bytes?

  1. I had added another comment before I saw this post Christine, which I am now going to savour and try and put into practice – with my next posts of course! From my initial tasting I can see that it is going to be most useful, especially because you have aimed it at precisely the right level of understanding (for me, at least). I am sure I will not be the only person who benefits from your knowledge and ability to communicate it. Thank you so much – with no doubt more thanks to come!

    • I do hope it helps and that it will help solve the problem.

  2. J > stores multiple copies of images at different sizes, in order have something suitable for most screen sizes: and this also is a factor in why 3Gb really is not very much at all. WordPress do after all, want users to upgrade to paid accounts!

    • If you upload your original image at the maximum size for your theme at a 72px/inch resolution it can still be used at various sizes and you can keep the image size to less than 500KB. This would still give you space for more than 6000 images and is more efficient than uploading images at more than 1MB. Obviously it depends in how active you are and how mant images you use per post.
      Clearly the limit of 3GB is a commercial ploy, but if you need more space you need to work out the cost effectiveness of paying WordPress or using another webhost. No such thing as a free lunch! 🙂

  3. Ali

    Brain just exploded. But no doubt I will come back to this post in 6 months after a frantic, tearful search to find it, when my capacity has been reached. Thank you for the heads-up.

    • If you get stuck, just ask and I’ll do my best to help.

      • Ali

        Thank you!

  4. Sorry I haven’t got back to you before now to confirm my success – which is mainly because I haven’t as yet uploaded an optimised image. When i first tried, soon after you posted this, using Picasa (having Googled how to optimise using it) when I reduced the image to 72 px it was tiny when I trialled importing it into the blog – it was if I had missed a step. I had another look today and again looking on Google for Picasa support tried again reducing the image to the default 480 but exporting it at the ‘minimum’ quality instead of ‘normal’, giving a file size of 32kb instead of the 529 of the original photo. The quality looks acceptable – so does this process sound about right?
    It was so helpful knowing that WordPress saved the full file size even when displaying only a small photo – and also that there was no point importing a file larger than the width the theme displayed, both things to be borne in mind. I wouldn’t actually mind paying for a plan but I have heard rumours of things people aren’t happy with on the paid plans, so I would rather avoid it if I could as the free version is fairly trouble free,
    Anyhow, thanks very much for the assistance and please let me know if you think I am on the right lines

    • Hi Cathy, sorry for the tardy response I’ve been on the big island. I’ve never used Picasa and when I tried to find it I was guide to Google Photos which was no help at all. However, I’ve looked at the photographs on your recent posts and you seem to have reduced the file size and maintained the quality. I also had a look at some of your posts from last year and the file size is definitely too large. So it seems that you have successfully managed to reduce your file size which hopefully will give your blog a little more shelf life!

      • Oh well, if you have cast your (semi) professional eye on them then I must be doing something right; shame I didn’t find this out earlier as I don’t suppose it’s worth going back and reducing photo size on previous posts, even for just part of the time I have been blogging 😉 Thank you SO much for taking the time to write that really useful post which I trust will help others as well as myself.

        • Always pleased to help if I can. It is the sharing of information and the generosity that makes the blogging worthwhile.
          If you have a serious space problem there are ways to reduce your file sizes without doing each photograph individually. I’ll look into it for you.

          • I did pay to add another 10MB but became compacent and was using it up very quickly. With your recent advice I should be able to regain control and hopefully allow enough space to blog for many more years if I so desire – I really am very grateful 🙂

          • There are various software programmes (free and on-line) which will reduce the file sizes of batches of photographs, but if you replace your photographs used in earlier blog posts with new slim-line versions you will have to re-attach each to the individual posts. So this would still be a labour intensive option. If you reach crisis point with your recent 10MB extension, let me know and I’ll have another think. Meanwhile you’ll just have to be frugal.

          • What you have suggested already will amke a huge difference, Christine – the photos I used for my EOMV took up less space than a single one of my previous sized photos.

          • Hurray!

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