How to Make Twitter In-Stream Images Stand Out

social media how to Are you sharing pictures in your Twitter updates?

Do you want to know how to make your pictures stand out on Twitter?

Twitter’s in-stream preview images highlight your shared visual content, so make the most of them.

In this article I’ll show you four ways to get your Twitter followers to pay attention to your pictures.

#1: Prep Photos for Automatic Resizing

Twitter’s in-stream preview lets users share and view photos right in their feeds, without having to click a link. It’s handy.

What’s not handy, though, is that Twitter automatically chooses a section of your image to display in the in-stream preview, forcing anyone who wants to see the whole thing to actually click on the tweet. That kind of defeats the purpose of in-stream preview.

For example, if I want to tweet this image of me working with my team, I could just upload the image to Twitter, send the update and call it a day. But I have no idea what part of that image is going to make it into the in-stream preview.

image for twitter

How do I know which part of my picture will show up in preview?

Instead of gambling, you can easily figure out what will and won’t show in the in-stream preview.

Twitter’s in-stream preview is always 440 pixels wide and 220 pixels tall (a 2:1 ratio). What that means is that any horizontal image will be cut off at the top and bottom but not at the sides.

With some easy calculations you can figure out exactly where those cutoff points are and ensure that the in-stream preview doesn’t leave out the best parts of your picture.

Before you start, find out the dimensions of the image you’re working with, then find the center of the image.

image for twitter divided into quarters

The full image, divided horizontally and vertically.

Divide the width of your image in half to find the 2:1 ratio and the number of vertical pixels you have to work with.

For example, if the original dimensions of the above image were 2048×1536, the dimensions of the in-stream preview would be 2048×1024. That gives you the number of vertical pixels (1024) and the 2:1 ratio that Twitter will shrink down to 440×220.

Now divide the in-stream preview height in half. Using the same example as above, you would divide 1024 in half to get 612.

From the horizontal line in the center of your image (the Y axis), move up that number of pixels (e.g., 612) on the Y-axis and draw another horizontal line. Do the same thing again, but moving down the Y-axis from the center of the image.

You’ll end up with something like this:

image for twitter divided into quarters overlayed with twitter's template

Help Twitter show the important part of your picture.

Boom! Everything inside that blue box is the in-stream preview. The blue box aligns with Twitter’s 2:1 template and is centered vertically to keep the best part of your picture visible.

With your image ready for in-stream preview you can add a little oomph to it. Think of the in-stream preview as a little banner ad. It’s a good opportunity to connect with your followers.

cropped image with text overlay

Add text to your picture to make it more interesting.

For example, I could add text to the in-stream preview portion of my image to create a mini-postcard for my followers. Cool, right? Anybody scrolling through his or her feed would see that tweet.

If I hadn’t taken the time to make sure my photo would fit in the preview, I may have put the text too far above or below the main image and it wouldn’t have shown up.

#2: Tweet Multiple Pictures at the Same Time

If you’re only tweeting one picture at a time, you’re missing out on one of Twitter’s most useful new features. You can now tweet up to four images in one fell swoop.

Adding multiple images to a tweet makes it even more eye-catching and tells a detailed story. Below I tweeted about what happens when my team descends on a renowned doughnut shop.

I could have just posted any one of those pictures to let people know we were having a nighttime snack, but posting all three pictures in order shows our whole adventure (and its remnants).

multiple image tweet

You can add up to four images in a single tweet.

When you upload pictures using the Twitter app, take a minute to use its photo-editing feature. You can crop, rotate and add vintage-y filters like the ones available in Instagram.

image filter options

Twitter offers a variety of filters similar to those found in Instagram.

Twitter’s editor isn’t quite as robust as Instagram’s, but it’s a quick and easy alternative—especially since Instagram photos don’t appear as in-stream preview images (more on that in #4).

Just like tweeting multiple pictures at once, creating a collage is a simple way to make your images work harder.

Since you’re probably using your phone to snap and share pictures, take a look at Pic Stitch, a free, easy-to-use photo collage app. (It works great for both Twitter and Instagram.)

I used it to splice together two pictures showing members of my team hard at work.

image collage

A collage helps you tell a story with a single image.

With a collage, you can easily highlight the most important part of each picture.

#3: Tag People in Pictures for More Reach

Tagging people in pictures is a good way to show appreciation to others, give a shout-out to people who are with you or otherwise draw attention to an event or person. Many times when you tag someone, they’ll retweet your photo, reaching an even larger audience.

In Twitter days gone by, if you wanted to tag someone in a photo, you had to use a typical @mention in the body of your tweet. Now with the Twitter app, you can tag people in an image without giving up any of your precious 140 characters, and it couldn’t be easier.

When you upload an image to Twitter, you’ll see a Who’s in this Photo prompt—tap it.

image with tag option

Twitter makes it easy to tag people in your photos.

This brings up a list of people you follow. Start typing a name and Twitter refines the list so you can quickly choose the people in the picture.

image tagged with names

You can tag up to 10 people in shared images on Twitter.

When you tweet your picture, Twitter adds the tags to the tweet right next to the timestamp. Anyone who sees the photo can click on the tagged names and see that profile. (If you don’t want to be tagged, you can adjust your Twitter settings.)

Tagging people gives you all of the same benefits as an @mention without wasting characters, so make sure you’re doing it any time you upload a pic of another user.

#4: Install a Fix to Show Instagram Images

In 2012, Facebook bought Instagram and it created a bit of a rift. The result? If you use the Instagram app to share a photo to Twitter, Twitter only links out to the photo. It doesn’t show in the in-stream preview.

This affects Twitter users in a few ways. First, if your photos don’t show up via in-stream preview, people are less likely to click through to see them, let alone share them. Of course, if people do click through, they may also start following you on Instagram.

Second, Twitter doesn’t catalog Instagram photos as media. If someone is browsing through your Twitter account’s photo and video posts, they’re not going to see anything you shared via Instagram.

ifttt recipe

Use If This Then That to make Instagram photos show up as in-stream previews.

But don’t despair. There’s a workaround for this particular issue: You can create an IFTTT recipe that automatically posts your new Instagram photos as a tweet that also shows your photo.

Over to You

Sharing great images helps you score more retweets, more shares and more followers.

Make the most of the Twitter in-stream images preview feature. You’ll be able to do more than just take and create better images for your social media, you’ll be able to share them with style!

What do you think? Have you optimized your images for Twitter’s in-stream preview? Have you used the in-app editing feature? Share your advice for creating visuals that stand out.

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About the Author, Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is the founder of LKR Social Media and teaches small business owners how to create their own fame and claim their brand online. For LKR's free weekly newsletter, check out GetTheDash. Other posts by »




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  • http://neilsanderson.com neilsanderson

    Hi Laura: I don’t understand your statement that “Twitter’s in-stream preview is always 440 pixels wide and 220 pixels tall”. Are you referring to the photos that appear on the twitter.com homepage? All the photos I see on that page are 506px wide and the height varies. Pictures on my profile page are all 526px wide and the height varies. Can you clarify please? Thanks.

  • http://phylliskhare.com/ Phyllis Khare

    Fabulous post Laura! I really appreciate the how-to details. Bookmarking. Sharing.

  • http://www.mostpixels.com/marketing Steve Faber

    Wait! I was told there would be no math!
    “….dimensions of the above image were 2048×1536, the dimensions of the in-stream preview would be 2048×1024. That gives you the number of vertical pixels (1024) and the 2:1 ratio that Twitter….”

    Laura, great post and big help to those wanting to boost Twitter engagement. Nice pointer on image tagging.

    People have come to expect images in Tweets, and it’s important to sprinkle them in regularly. It also makes your tweets jump out of the stream and grab the user’s attention. When so many are following thousands, that’s vital if you want to get noticed. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how great your Tweets are.

  • http://www.ExpandTheBrand.net Tia Dobi

    This statement has me puzzled:

    Twitter’s in-stream preview is always 440 pixels wide and 220 pixels
    tall (a 2:1 ratio). What that means is that any horizontal image will be
    cut off at the top and bottom but not at the sides.

    1) Why does this measurement mean that any horizontal image–regardless of its size– will not be cut off at the sides?

    Does Twitter only lop vertically?

    2) What if the image is less than 440 pixels wide? (e.g. 100X100) Does Twitter stretch the image? (It seems so with ‘automatic resizing’.)

    Are there certain sizes to avoid? (e.g. 100X100)

    3) For the image with added text: Did you first edit the image to the preview (440X220) size prior to adding the text? Or did you leave it at the original size (thus placing text in the middle of a larger pic)?

    4) What’s the disadvantage to simply posting our Twitter pics at 440X220 pixels and avoiding the time/brain hassles of configuring beyond that?

    What are the stats on viewers actually clicking on pics (by size)?

    Thanks.
    Tia Dobi
    Bank every cent from your content

  • Eva Gantz

    Fabulous post! I didn’t know about the tagging feature, so thanks for the heads up.

  • ashley0954

    I’ve noticed the same thing as Neils. I was working off the 440 x 220 ratio and noticed it had changed to the 506. I’ve also had problems estimating what portion of the picture twitter is going to show. Some of my posts haven’t taken the exact center.

  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Nice one Laura ! The biggest winners from this new update will definitely be brands.It’s a great opportunity for brands to take advantage of, almost forcing them to use new, mediums such as Vine.

  • http://www.LauraRoeder.com Laura Roeder

    Hey guys,

    Some really good questions and comments here! A couple of things worth pointing out:

    For several months (since the in-stream preview became *a thing* so to speak), 440×220 px has been THE standard resolution for in-stream pics. Since Twitter started rolling out big changes to its appearance, though, that’s gotten thrown a little out of whack, and it’s gone from being completely universal to a “your mileage may vary” sort of thing. (As some of you have noted, it’s not unusual to see sizes like 506×253, etc.)

    Making things even *more* complicated is the way that Twitter displays undersized or vertical images (ie., images that are smaller than a typical in-stream preview window). Generally, Twitter zooms in on images like these to make them fit the preview window – if they’re not a particularly high resolution, then, they can look fuzzier in the in-stream preview than they would when viewed normally.

    For these reasons, you should always upload pics at as high a resolution as possible, especially if they’re vertically oriented (Twitter recommends that whatever the dimensions, the longest side of your image should be 1024 pixels). The only limit is that it can’t be larger than 3MB. Just use the preview window pixel count as a method of predicting how small the details may appear IN the preview window – the teeny tiny details of a high-res picture can get lost when it shrinks down.

    Leaving pixels aside for a minute, there’s still the issue of the aspect ratio and the part of the image that is used for the in-stream preview, right? According to Twitter (https://media.twitter.com/best-practice/how-to-add-photos-videos-and-links), that preview window *should* always be 2:1. So Tia, you had asked what disadvantage there is to simply posting a 2:1 image – well, in theory, there is none! This can actually make your life a lot easier, because while the in-stream preview is vertically centered in *most* cases, Twitter has demonstrated that it may not remain a 100% universal rule (as Ashley pointed out above). The only caveat is that you might actually try uploading at a larger resolution than 440×220, because pixel-wise, Twitter is becoming less and less predictable – as long as your aspect ratio works out to 2:1, just upload at a high resolution and let Twitter sort out the rest.

    *Phew!* I think that covers pretty much everything! Thanks again for the comments and questions and whatnot, too!

  • http://productivitypad.blogspot.com/ Ben Nielsen

    Thanks, this is a big help!

  • https://twitter.com/ean_nae e@n

    Hi! Great article thanks! First time I’m reading about twitter’s inbuilt photo editing feature? Is this available for PC users and where do I find this on my twitter page?

  • Mark MacKay

    Okay, so I’m going to edit my images in Photoshop before Tweeting so that the content area takes up the full dimension of the photo – no sky, no feet. A 440×220 image would include all of the photo in the Twitter preview stream – but maybe at not such a great resolution.

    An image at 880×440 would be better resolution and would fit into the preview stream. Yes?

    I’m looking for a dimension I can share with colleagues that are worse at math than I am.

    Thanks for a great article.







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