On a free WordPress plan, or a cheap one for that matter, you don’t have a ton of storage space to work with. Here are a few tips to manage your images so you can make the most out of your media storage.
Find out what sizes your theme allows
Your theme will have a certain sizes for different parts of the page on your site. If you go to My Sites > Appearance > Themes, it’ll show the theme you’re using at the top of the screen, and there’s an “Info” button to the right side of that. Click that, and scroll down to the bottom, where it should give you “quick specs.”
For my theme, it says the main column width is 675 pixels, or 778 pixels when using the full-width page layout. So, if I’m using an image in a blog post, and I don’t intend for anyone to do things with it other than look at it in that blog post, I really don’t need to store it in a size any larger than 675 pixels.
My theme wants featured images to be at least 1180 pixels, so I really don’t need any of my images bigger than that if their only purpose is adding decoration to my posts.
Why does that matter? A small image size in pixels means fewer kB, which allows you to save storage room.
Insert images from URL
When you create an image block, one of the options to insert from URL. This doesn’t use up any space in your media library, and the image gets fetched from its URL each time someone views your page.
The URL you use has to be the actual image URL, not the page where it appears along with other stuff. So if you’re looking at an image in Pixabay, either right click the image or control-command-click on a Mac laptop, then copy image address, which you can then past into your new image block.
There are a couple of potential downsides to this. One is that if the image stops existing at that specific URL, it will stop showing on your page. Another is a WP glitch; if you start replacing images, sometimes the block editor will randomly replace other image blocks that are using a URL within the same post. I’m not sure why that glitch sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t.
You can access Pexels images to add from within WordPress, but when you choose an image, it gets added to your library. If you want to save yourself the space in your media library, you can head on over to the Pexels website, find an image you want, grab the URL, and add it to your blog post via the URL.
Use an embed block
One of the convenient things about the block editor is that you can easily embed content from different kinds of sites. If you want to use images from Flickr or Instagram, embedding them by pasting the URL into the block editor is a quick and easy way to include those images in your post.
Download smaller files from sites like Pixabay
I’ll use downloading an image from Pixabay as an example, but the same thing applies to similar sites. When you click the download button, it will give you different size images, and lists both the size in pixels and how much storage space it needs in kB (kilobytes) or MB (megabytes0.
It defaults to a 1980×1277 px image. Most likely, you don’t need an image that big for a blog post. Going with a smaller size can significantly cut down the amount of storage space it takes up.
Looking at a random photo on Pixabay, it offers me the following options:
|Width (pixels)||Height (pixels)||Storage size|
Use jpg rather than png
If you’re creating graphics in Canva, you can download as a png or jpg format file. It will typically default to png, which contains more detail but is a larger file size. Compared to png, a jpg version of the same image will take up less storage space. If you have image software on your computer, you can also convert png files you’ve already saved to jpg.
Resizing vs. compressing
By resizing an image, you’re changing its dimensions in pixels, i.e. how wide and tall it is. Resizing an image to a smaller size will decrease the file size in kB. Compressing keeps the same dimensions, but changes how it’s stored, so you keep the same height and width, but decrease the amount of kB you need to store that image.
Resizing is particularly useful if you’re using images you’ve uploaded from your phone/camera, as those will probably be 4000-ish pixels wide and a couple of MB. You have multiple options here.
You can resize within the browser version of WordPress, but first you have to get to the wp-admin list of your images (the regular WordPress.com view is craptastic and doesn’t give you access to the resizing option, nor does the app). There are two ways to do this:
- Go to the address yourURL/wp-admin/upload.php in your browser (and by yourURL, I mean your actual URL, not the word yourURL)
- Go to My Sites > Media, and then in the top right corner of the screen, click “Screen Options,” and then choose to switch to “Classic View.”
- Find and open the image you want to resize
- Beneath where the image is displayed, click the button that says “Edit Image”
- There will be a box that says “Scale Image”; you can enter the width you want, and it will auto-generate the height to keep the same width:height ratio
- Click the button that says “Scale”
- Over on the right, you’ll see where it tells you how many kB/MB your image is. Below that, click update. You’ll see that your file size is now smaller.
Unlike changing the size of your image in a post, which changes how it’s displayed, this changes the actual file size in your media library, freeing up more room for you. If you go into your media library and just resize the images you’ve uploaded from your phone, you can potentially make a huge dent in how much of your storage space that you’re using.
Let’s say you have a square image that’s 2000×2000 pixels. You only need it to be 500×500. By cutting your image from 2000×2000 (i.e. 4 million pixels total) to 500×500 (i.e. 250,000 pixels total), you can end up saving a shit ton of storage space.
There are other options if you don’t want to resize in WordPress. I don’t use Windows, so I don’t know what the options are there, but Mac OS’s Preview app is a great tool that allows you to resize images and convert from png to jpg format. Shutterstock also has a web-based resizing tool. I don’t use this, as the other options are more convenient.
If you want to compress your images to save even more storage space, you can compress an image once you’ve got it in the appropriate pixel dimensions. Resizing an image with way bigger dimensions than you need has a more significant impact than compression when it comes to saving storage space, so skip compression if you want fewer steps. Resizing an image from 4000 pixels to 1000 pixels, for example, can save you a couple megabytes. Compressing the 1000 pixel image may save you a couple hundred more kilobytes.
There are web tools that can do this, like TinyPNG (or Google image compression tool to find more).
Using less of your time
If you’re on a free plan and almost out of space, it’s probably not worth your time to fart around going through every image you’ve got. WordPress won’t list your images by size, so you’ll have to come up with another strategy.
To make the most use of your time, start with photos you’ve uploaded, as they’re likely in the 4000px wide and 3-4 MB of storage range size. Resize those puppies down to less than 1000px wide and suddenly those pictures are only taking up a few hundred KB.
Big pretty Unsplash/Pixabay/Pexels/etc. images could be next up to resize. Moving forward, download the 1280px width routinely rather than the default 1980px it will download for you, or insert by URL if you’re so inclined.
Do you need to do any of this?
There are two main instances when this kind of thing would be relevant:
- You’re on a WordPress plan that limits the amount of storage space you have, and you’re running out of room.
- You want to speed up your site, and not loading big images unnecessarily will help with that.
If neither of those is relevant to you, you absolutely don’t have to fuss around with any of this.
Is managing images and storage space something that’s been an issue for you?