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I am designing a website for a Photographer. Obviously I compressed the images so that they would load faster and not use all the visitors cap. (There is quite a few gbs of pictures so that would just about take all of my bandwidth for a month if I were to browse all the albums.)

The photographer was worried that having "pixelated" or bad resolution images on her website would create an unproffesional image for herself.

How much quality can I sacrifice against professionality? Does it indeed reflect on the photographer if the pictures are in low resolution or will people simply understand the nature of the web?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

In my experience, this is more a balance between load speed and photo quality. Given i'm a professional photographer myself, I understand this difficult challenge.

I feel that the internet has gone a long way and there are now some great techniques and tools that you can utilize to avoid this issues. None of these techniques are germane or specific to a photography website.

Regarding your first question: How much quality can I sacrifice against professionality?

In my experience, generally you can find a balance by playing with the settings of a jpeg image. Settings of 70-85 quality will be sufficient. Additionally, utilizing 72 DPI is sufficient to minimize file size.

Your second question: Does it indeed reflect on the photographer if the pictures are in low resolution or will people simply understand the nature of the web?

Yes, any pixelation and/or poor quality of an image will reflect poorly if the photos aren't very high quality. A photographer's work is solely dependent on visual quality and attention to visual detail.

Techniques to consider

I would avoid extreme compression if you must. The internet provides lots of great techniques to improve load:

  • Provide excellent user experience: Providing your visitors rich feedback will reduce frustration and will keep them at your website longer. Consider the following UI related techniques:
    • Utilizing a loader
    • Interactive image zoom makes a lot of sense.
  • Dynamic Image Caching - Utilize website software that generates different sizes of images for the user ahead of time. If you're using a LAMP stack PHP offers two great code libraries (GD & Imagemagick and lots of great scripts that can do this for you.

  • Utilize a CDN: Consider architectural (server) setups. Like loading static images from a CDN or a different network altogether will provide you a quicker load time.

  • Consider javascript lazy loading: There are lots of javascript plugins that provide "lazyloading" images; that wait to load the image until it's absolutely necessary.

  • Utilize a image resizing Service: There's a great thread right below this one about this very topic! Smush.It or similar lossless image shrinking with API

  • Finally, Review YUI Performance guide: Yahoo offers an awesome guide on performance. Some of these tips are mentioned above already but this guide is pretty comprehensive.

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Free great CDN cloudflare.com –  m4tt1mus Aug 15 '11 at 19:00
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