Instagram has come a long way from just posting square images onto the feed. There are now lots of different ways to post on Instagram from Stories to IGTV to Reels and more.
Each of these different types of Instagram posts requires a different sized image or video depending on whether they are fitting on to the feed or filling the full screen, such as a Live video, IGTV, Reels, etc.
Getting the wrong size, resolution, or aspect ratio for your post can make your Instagram start to look pretty messy & unprofessional. Especially if it’s happening on a regular basis.
To help you get the most from this platform and to make sure all of your posts are optimized for the best visibility and reach, I’ve come up with this handy guide so you can make sure whatever you post on Instagram looks as good as possible.
Firstly though, if you’re not used to photo or video editing, I may have already used some words you’re unfamiliar with, so let’s take it back to basics and make sure we all know what I’m talking about.
What is Image Size & Aspect Ratio?
When sharing images and video, whether on Instagram or anywhere else, there are two main attributes that you will need to understand; the image size (or resolution) and the aspect ratio.
- Aspect Ratio
This refers to the width and the height of the image in relation to each other.
As this is a ratio it isn’t measured in specific units. It is expressed literally as a ratio, such as 4:5 or 9:16.
The first digit always represents the width and the second digit represents the height of the image.
The ratio is important to remember when posting to Instagram because if you get this wrong your image will be cropped to fill Instagram’s ratio criteria and you may lose some of your image.
The size, or resolution, of your image, refers to the number of pixels (again usually measured in width vs. height) that make up your image or video.
Similar to the aspect ratio, the size is represented by two numbers. Again, with the first being the width and the second being the height. For example; 1080px x 1080px would mean the height and the width of the picture are both 1080 Pixels, resulting in a square image.
It is also worth noting that in this example the aspect ratio would be 1:1.
When you upload a photo or a video to Instagram, the resulting post will usually have been compressed by Instagram and will be much smaller than the original.
At this point you may be thinking, well is there even any point in uploading high-resolution content to Instagram if they’re just going to compress it?
The answer is yes! Instagram will always compress your content at least just a little bit, therefore it is always better to upload the highest quality and highest resolution possible so the resulting post will also be of the highest quality possible.
This way, when Instagram does inevitably compress your content, the effect of that compression on the resulting post will be minimal.
However, I do recommend avoiding uploading ultra high-resolution content, such as 5400px x 5400px, as Instagram will have to work very hard to compress such a high-quality image and you will end up losing a lot of fidelity in the process, and your post will end up looking nowhere near as sharp or clear as you want it to.
Now that we’re all up to date with the lingo, let’s dive into the different types of posts on Instagram and see what the optimal size and ratio for each one is:
Instagram Feed: Post Size & Ratio
If you’re as old as me you may remember the days when Instagram was limited to the humble but effective square post.
Now there are a few other size and shapes you can post on the IG feed, but since the square was where it all started, let’s begin there:
- Square Posts 1:1
So yes, Instagram does now support horizontal and vertical, rectangular photos. However, the square is still a popular and classic choice, especially since your profile grid crops everything to a 1:1 ratio square thumbnail.
Square posts are great for an album or single artwork, promotional posts, or just pictures of you and your friends and family (value-adding content, etc).
To optimize your square feed posts, we recommend making your photos 1080px x 1080px so Instagram’s compression engine doesn’t affect the image too much.
- Horizontal Posts 16:9
Horizontal posts are useful for pictures from your live shows, you on stage, crowd shots, maybe even just a nice landscape you’ve seen (again, value-adding content, etc).
For horizontal posts, Instagram recommends an aspect ratio of 1.91:1 however you can push it to 16:9.
Either way, we still recommend making the height of your horizontal photo 1080px, again to make sure the compression engine doesn’t affect the image too much.
- Vertical Posts 4:5
Vertical posts are great for tour and gig posters as they are usually designed for print on A3/A2 etc paper, they’re also great for promo shots and portraits.
For a vertical post, anything longer/taller than the 4:5 aspect ratio will result in Instagram cropping your content. For the size, we once again recommend keeping the height of your content to 1080px.
So, for example, with a 4:5 aspect ratio your optimum resolution would be 1080px x 1350px.
- Video Feed Posts 16:9–4:5
Feed videos have to be less than a minute long, any longer than that and they will be posted as an IGTV post.
Because of this shorter length, they are a great way of posting footage from live shows, maybe a clip from an upcoming music video, a clip of you in the studio working on the track.
Whatever kind of short video you want to post, there are a few options to choose from here.
Instagram supports in feed videos with aspect ratios ranging from 16:9 to 4:5, however, your videos should also have a framerate of 30fps, and maximum file size of 4gb.
Again, any larger than this and Instagram will compress or crop your video down and it will not look as crisp and nice on the feed.
What Size Are Instagram Carousel Posts?
Carousel posts are those where you can upload multiple images and videos and swipe through them. On a personal profile, you may just use this to upload some holiday snaps, but for a musician, or any business for that matter, they can be incredibly useful for creating more of a narrative or a story.
For example, the initial landing image could be promoting your upcoming single, then include a snippet of the music video, then a clip of a crowd reaction to the single being played live, then a promo shot or poster for your next tour date.
They’re great for rounding up and collecting information together and posting it all in a coherent way, this also includes recycling and repurposing old content.
Carousel posts can include square, horizontal, or vertical content and can contain a combination of images and videos.
However, once you have selected the first photo or video in the carousel, all of the following photos and videos thereafter will be cropped to the aspect ratio of the first one.
This is important to remember and therefore it may be beneficial to make sure your first post in a carousel post is a square, aspect ratio 1:1, to make sure all the subsequent images follow suit.
What Size Are Instagram Stories?
So as you probably know by now, pretty much anything can be shared on your Instagram story. This is a great place to try out new ideas and content, it’s also worth sharing any of your feed posts onto your story too to try and give them more reach.
The story is also important for adding value, so think clips of you practicing, or in the studio, little hints and glimpses into the inner workings of your music.
As you’ve probably seen, with stories you have pretty much the whole of your phone screen to play with, but sometimes it’s nice to shrink the image so you can annotate or place captions or gifs or emojis, etc. around it.
This is a very subjective area and trial and error is a key tool to be using with your stories, however, it’s worth noting that Instagram stories have a minimum aspect ratio of 1.91:1 and a maximum of 9:16.
If you want to make sure your story post fills the full screen without a border then I recommend using an aspect ratio of 9:16 with a resolution/size of 1080px x 1920px.
What Size Are IGTV Videos?
IGTV is where your videos longer than a minute will be posted. This is where your music videos will go, but also maybe longer live clips, promo videos/adverts for upcoming singles/albums. Anything longer than a minute basically.
You can also split your IGTV videos into categories, so you could have a music video category, a live performance category, a studio session category etc.
There are currently two options for IGTV videos, you can upload vertical videos with an aspect ratio of 9:16, or a horizontal video with an aspect ratio of 16:9.
For vertical videos the optimum size/resolution is 1080px x 1920px, and for horizontal videos the opposite is true, 1920px x 1080px is your optimum size/resolution.
However, it is also worth bearing in mind the cover photo to your IGTV post. The cover photo is what shows up on your profile grid and in your IGTV categories so it’s worth trying to get this the right size too.
Instagram recommends for your IGTV cover photos an aspect ratio of 1:1.55 and a size of 420px x 654px. However, you should aim to fit the ‘core’ content within the Feed sizing (as seen below) so when viewing your post from the feed, the main information/visuals aren’t cut off.
What Size Are Reels?
Reels are similar to Stories in that they are designed to be viewed vertically on your phone screen and also to take up the whole screen.
Therefore the optimum aspect ratio for a Reel is the same as for a Story; 9:16.
The best way to shoot and upload Reels is straight from your phone though as this is the way Instagram has designed them to be made and doing it this way seems to take care of the size and aspect ratio so you don’t have to worry about it.
However, when posting Instagram Reels on to your main feed, you need to use the same technique as IGTV’s cover photo in order to display it nicely without cropping off your content.
Also, when users are scrolling through the feed, your Reel will only play within the feed dimensions, so you need to keep all information/visuals within those boundaries.
What Size Are Live Videos?
Live videos are great for collaborating with other artists and brands, having a public one to one chat with someone who shares values and interests with you, growing both of your audiences simultaneously.
Alternatively, you could use the Live feature to actually perform live over, or just chat to your audience, maybe have a rant or tell them how you’re feeling.
Whatever you decide to use them for, Live videos are meant to be shot vertically straight from your phone and they take up the whole screen, therefore the aspect ratio is again 9:16.
You can’t manually change the size or aspect ratio of Live videos so there’s nothing really to worry about here, just point the camera from within the app and you’re good to go.
So that’s everything you need to know to optimize your Instagram posts going into 2021. It’s worth remembering that for features such as Live, Reels, and even Stories to an extent, Instagram expects you to create these straight from the app so don’t worry too much about the size and ratio for these.
However, Stories are also a great place to promote and make adverts for, so if you are making premade content to be posted on your stories make sure you know the best size and ratio to be posting.
For feed posts, however, such as images, videos, carousels, and IGTV, the resolution and aspect ratio are much more important and worth spending time optimizing to make sure your posts get enough reach and visibility.