How to best optimize and compress images

To have a fast loading website we need to optimize and compress images. 

And you do need to embrace that a fast loading website (and great content) is necessary to succeed. 

Our options when we optimize and compress images

As you may already know I do not like WordPress plugins when they are not necessary.

WordPress plugins are great but as we want a fast website we should only use the plugins we feel are really necessary. 

Sometimes a bit of work or 10 lines of code can replace the need for a plugin that only accomplishes one single task. An example would be “Author box bios” where we can use Element hooks to build our own boxes.

To put my money where my month is I will do a little test. I call it Old School taking on the glitz and glamour of WordPress plugins.

WordPress plugins vs Image editing software

On the WordPress plugin side I will use two of the more popular services for image optimization and compression – Shortpixel and Imagify. Both have free options and both services offer WordPress plugins.

For Old School I would have preferred to use Photoshop as I have worked with the program for more than 10 years. But, I have to face it, Photoshop has become a bit pricey. Instead I am opting for the powerful program Affinity Photo. And yes, Affinity Photo does also offer a free trial option.

This article will present the results of the test. You can find the step-by-step tutorial on how to install and use the plugins or Affinity Photo to compress images here. 

The rules of the test are simple:

  1. Optimize 1 JPEG and 1 PNG file
  2. Publish before and after images for you to view as well as before and after image weights in kB
  3. My conclusion and summary

But first a quick presentation of Shortpixel, Imagify and Affinity Photo

Compress and optimize images with Shortpixel

Convenient tool that supports compressing and optimizing most popular formats.

Supported formats include: JPG, PNG, GIF, PDF, WebP, Avif

If you use WordPress, there is a ShortPixel Image Optimizer plugin that gets you up and running in a matter of minutes. 

You can choose to activate optimization on upload to have all images you upload to the Media library to be compressed and optimized automatically.

The plugin also offers a bulk compress feature that will allow you to optimize all your existing images with the push of a button.

The free account covers 100 images per month. That should be enough for most of us. 

We will look at results later on but I must say that the plugin is fast and very intuitive to install, configure and use. 

Speed up your website with Imagify

Imagify compress and optimize the most common image formats including PDF, JPG, PNG, PDF and GIF. 

All Imagify plans are free from the beginning and include compressing and optimizing 20 MB worth of images per month on an unlimited number of websites. websites. If you need more data paid plans start from $4.99 per month.

Imagify also offers a WordPress plugin that is easy to install and configure. To install you enter your email address and then wait for the API key to reach you by email. In less than a minute you will receive the API key and enter it to be able to move on to configure the plugin.

The configuration is easy and straightforward but you need to read carefully to avoid silly mistakes.

An example is the handing of EXIF data where I wanted to tick the box but that would mean keeping the EXIF data. I found the wording a bit confusing. 

Also, there is the option to create copies of the image in several different sizes. Make sure you only get the sizes you need as everything counts against your free monthly quota.

There is a max upload size of 2MB per image for free accounts but no max upload size limit for paid accounts.

Imagify also offers to compress and optimize all images on upload to your WordPress Media Library. It is easy to compress and optimize existing images in bulk.

We will look at results later but I must say that the plugin is very intuitive to install and configure but it is surprisingly sloooow when compressing and optimizing images.

Affinity Photo all purpose Image Editing Software

Affinity Photo is an extremely powerful Professional Image Editing Software. Having used Photoshop since forever I am yet to find any weaknesses. But do keep in mind that I am not a professional designer. 

When you start a website you need to have an image editing program. Whether it is images for your website, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest you will need to produce images to fit a specific dimension. And the bonus is that the program can also compress and optimize images.

Affinity Photo offers a free 90 day trial. Affinity Photo is available as a download (Mac App Store, Microsoft Store in Windows 10) for a one-time price of $49.99 (discounted to $24.99 at the time of writing).

It is easy to install Affinity Photo and you own it once you buy it. To compress and scale an image takes less than one minute and it is an easy and straightforward process.

This article will present the results of the test. You can find the step-by-step tutorial on how to install and use the plugins or Affinity Photo to compress images here. 

Results how to optimize and compress images

Original files per below.


Result optimize and compress images with Smush

When compressing with Smush I did choose to remove EXIF data. EXIF or meta data includes information like shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO, etc. and is not used but does take up space.

Result after compressing JPG with Smush: 377kB (was 379 kB)
Result after compressing PNG with Smush: 479kB (was 479 kB) Got message saying “Image already compressed”

Optimize and compress images with Imagify

With Imagify I chose to compress according to Aggressive profile. There are 3 available profiles: Normal, Aggressive and Ultra.

Same as with Smush I desided to remove EXIF data stored in the pictures.

Result after compressing JPG with Imagify: 100 kB (was 379 kB)
Result after compressing PNG with Imagify: 194kB (was 479 kB)

Optimize and compress images with Affinity Photo

Result after compressing JPG with Affinity Photo Image Editor: 36 kB (was 379 kB)
Result after compressing PNG with Affinity Photo Image Editor: 190kB (was 479 kB)

Summary optimize and compress images

JPG (orig 379 kB)Saving (%)PNG (orig 479 kB)Saving (%)
Smush377 kB0,5479 kB0
Imagify100 kB74194 kB59
Affinity Photo36 kB90190 kB60
Summary showing resuults per image type and method.

From the results in the table above it is quite easy to see that Affinity Photo Image Editor is the clear winner.

Affinity Photo achieved a superior level of compression for JPG and also had the best result for PNG (though a close race with Imagify).

But I will go as far as to say that you will mainly be using JPG images as they optimize and compress better than PNG images. And no, you do not want to use GIFs. Not even for animations.

The only downside with Affinity Photo is that you will have to spend a bit of money to buy the program after the 90 day trial expires. However, this is a one-time price and with Affinity Photo you then have a professional strength image editor at your disposal.

And, if you ask me, buying Affinity Photo is a good thing. You will need an Image editor going forward. After all, you will most likely be planning to use images for Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or at least your website.

Meet the author: Mattias (Matt) is a serial entrepreneur and travel industry expert with more than 20 years of experience in business and web development. Mattias identifies with self-starters and entrepreneurs, loves to garden, and believes everyone needs a game plan for financial independence.