Polishing Your Photos For Pinterest Prominence

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Pinterest has exploded onto the social scene with hundreds of thousands of users signing up and sharing inspiring images: things they have, things they want, things they admire, and more. Pinterest has become a popular place for visual inspiration — you can pin images from any site with their pinning bookmark, making it easy to share any image on a whim. Everything is broken down into categories, so if you are looking for products or images that fit into particular categories such as fashion, design, etc., you can find images easily. Other users can repin your pins, which link back to the original source. Many companies, large and small, have started using Pinterest as a valuable marketing tool, leveraging the social aspect to go viral and increase their exposure and visibility.

With all of this being said, is there a way to help your images to be more likely to get pinned? There isn’t a magic way to guarantee that your image will get pinned and repinned, but there are a few tips to give your images the best possible chance of gaining Pinterest popularity. You can do a few things to make your image more visually appealing, and optimally formatted.

Choosing a Portrait or Vertical Image

The way that Pinterest is laid out, each item has a portrait section that stacks with other images in order to stack on top of each other. This is called a “masonry layout” in web design. You can use this to your advantage when choosing the orientation of your image. The width of your image is limited to 554px, but there is no height limit, so viewers will see more of your image if it is in a vertical format. However, for optimal viewing, it would make sense for you not to make the height larger than the average vertical height of a browser. You want viewers to see as much of your image as possible without having to scroll.

The shot above is a side-by-side comparison of a portrait and landscape image pinned in Pinterest. The vertical silhouette has the same width, but more than twice the vertical height of the landscape image, making it hard to miss. The landscape image seems small overall and less prominent than the vertical image. If you can’t choose a vertical image, or you can’t make it work, you will get more screen real estate if you crop the image into a square.

Optimal Cropping for Pinterest

You can actually crop your images to ensure that they have more visual impact. It is a simple concept, but it works. Use the rule of thirds to ensure that there is at least one focal point in your image. Open your image in Photoshop and select the crop tool.

Notice the horizontal and vertical lines shown when you use the crop tool. These actually have a use, and that is to help you to determine a focal point in your image. The focal points are the four points where the horizontal lines intersect. If you place something important in at least one of these areas — such as the eye  in the example above — the image will be much more likely to get someone’s attention. If you can’t place something perfectly in one of these spots, the closer you can get it, the better.

Retouching your Images to Look Their Best

Just like you would with a print or professional web advertisement, you have to make sure that the images themselves look their best. If you are pinning an image of person, make sure they have bright eyes, smooth skin, and no harsh blemishes. Anything that can detract from the appeal of your image should be corrected. Let’s conduct a quick Pinterest polishing exercise — download the sample image here. Using the crop tool, crop your image so that it is in a portrait format.

Brighten Eyes

The eyes in this image aren’t terrible, but they are a little dull and dark. A quick way to brighten the eyes is to select the sponge tool and choose “Saturate” in the “Options” menu at the top. Check the “Vibrance” option and lower the size of the sponge to fit inside the eye itself. Single-click repeatedly until you have saturated and brightened the eyes, making them stand out.

Remove Blemishes

A quick way to remove blemishes is to use the spot healing brush, single-clicking over things such as scratches and pimples to blend them away. You will want to perform this step before smoothing the skin; otherwise you will end up smoothing the blemishes into the skin, which can cause problems in some cases.

Smooth the Skin

Making smooth the skin is a quick and easy step as well. Right-click your image and choose “Convert to Smart Object.” Then, Choose “Filter” > “Blur” > “Surface Blur.” Depending on the resolution, I bumped the radius up close to 70 and set the threshold to around 17 for this image. You might have to adjust these values, depending on your image.

We converted the image to a Smart Object before running the filter, so that it would create a Smart Filter. We did this so that we can easily go back and make adjustments if we need to. Also, Photoshop automatically creates a mask where you can paint out the areas in which you don’t want the blur to take place, such as the hair.


It is important to look at the overall exposure of your image as well. If your image is blown out in places, which means the highlights are too bright (and lack color information) or your shadows are too dark (and also lack color information), you may need to adjust the Exposure and the Levels within your image. Unless you have deep shadows and bright highlights for creative purposes, make sure your image is well balanced.


If you are pinning a colorful image, you can make it stands out with bright or unexpected colors. Getting creative with color can really make a difference when your image is competing for visual attention among thousands of others on Pinterest. In the layers panel, click on the new adjustment layer icon and choose Photofilter. I chose Sepia and bumped the density up to 100%. For an unexpected twist, I clicked on the mask and masked out the eyes to reveal the beautiful blue, which contrasts with the rest of the sepia image. Other great options are to replicate a lomography or an Instagram-style effect, with vintage flair.

Black and White

Instead of building bold colors, you could also distinguish your Pinterest post by going the opposite direction and removing all color. This is a great choice, because your images will stand out against the cast array of color images on Pinterest. One method that gives you a lot of control over the tonal range of your black and white image is to create a Black and White Adjustment Layer. In the Properties Panel, you can adjust the sliders for different colors to control how dark or light those areas are. For example, in this image, I wanted more contrast in the hair, so I focused on increasing the red values to make the midtones brighter, increased the yellows to make the highlights brighter, and lowered the magenta values to darken some areas and increase contrast in the hair. I brightened the blue value, so that the eyes would be much brighter.


One final method to help promote your images is to name them with relevant, thoughtful keywords that you or your business is associated with. When you save your image, keep this in mind so that your images can be easily found when you place them on specific boards. You might even name your image using multiple keywords, separated by an underscore or dash.


There is no way to guarantee that your image will be pinned and repinned in Pinterest, but there are many things that you can do in Photoshop to give your images a much better chance of being shared. With a little work in Photoshop, you can polish your images and make them top-notch, eye-catching photos that inspire Pinterest users. Creating vibrant images that are formatted properly will make your Pinterest pictures much more likely to be pinned and repinned by others, promoting your business.

Have you had success pinning your images to Pinterest? If so, do you have any tips on how to make your images more successful on Pinterest? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

James GeorgeJames George
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James George is a professional web developer and graphic designer. James is an expert in design, and a professional web developer, with a special interest in WordPress. Founder of Design Crawl, James has been a professional designer since 2005.

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