Have you ever taken the perfect picture for your Instagram post, just to have it ruined by the automatic cropping feature? Or maybe you have realized that you can’t crop pictures differently when making carousel posts, but still want to use photos with varying orientations. If you find yourself in either of these dilemmas, you probably just need to understand the Instagram aspect ratios! All social platforms have their own way of formatting post to fit the way the site is set up. While it can seem annoying sometimes, all it takes is a better understanding of how to set up your photos to have a smoother experience posting on your platform. Follow our inclusive guide to learn all there is to know about the best Instagram aspect ratios for your posts!
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What Are Aspect Ratios on Instagram?
“Instagram aspect ratio” may not be a term all users of the platform have heard of. While aspect ratios are important for Instagram, they are not a social media specific term. The phrase aspect ratio simply refers to a picture’s width in comparison with its height. For example, all Instagram users know that the default shape of an in-feed post is a square. Because squares have the same dimensions on all sides, we can assume a normal post on Instagram has the same width and height. Put in terms of aspect ratio, a default photo on an Instagram feed would be 1:1 (width:height).
Important tip: Aspect ratios are always referred to in the order of width:height and never the other way around. This will be necessary to remember when we discuss specific ratios for different post types.
If all of the posts on Instagram were still squares, aspect ratios would be irrelevant. We would always know the relation between the dimensions to be 1:1, and therefore could take our pictures accordingly. However, unlike when the social site first started, Instagram posts now come in numerous sizes! When posting directly to your feed, you can now have square, vertical, and horizontal pictures. On top of these options, you can also post Stories, Reels, IGTV videos, carousel posts, and so on! However, with more options come more formatting rules, which is why knowing your aspect ratios is crucial. Some popular ratios that work on Instagram are 1:1, 9:16, 16:9, and 4:5. Don’t worry if this doesn’t make total sense, we’ll get more into what this means and how to use them later on.
Why Do Aspect Ratios Matter?
While there are more options now available for use, that doesn’t mean they are endless. In fact, these options are pretty specific, which is why optimizing to the recommendations is necessary for producing good content. Just like with any form of art or advertising, a professional Instagram post is well thought out, down to each detail. If one or more of these details doesn’t align in the execution of the post (like cropping), the whole piece could be at risk. Considering the correct aspect ratio for your post during the planning phase rather than after eliminates one more potential risk to your vision coming to fruition.
Convey Your Brand Correctly
Possibly even more important than creating a well-put-together post is your brand safety. The internet is all about accountability, and if you make a mistake while advertising your brand, you might not be able to recover easily. Making sure your message is conveyed exactly as you planned is necessary in preventing a blemish to your image. While it is unlikely to happen in most cases, the chance that an unexpected crop creates an offensive or misinterpreted post is still a possibility. Cropping your images correctly and preparing them for the site you are posting on will ensure this never happens.
Aspect Ratios Compatible with Instagram
Now that we have covered the importance of aspect ratios, we can move on to the specifics. Different types of Instagram posts have different ratios that work best for them, so covering them one by one is necessary. Read through the following types of Instagram posts to discover which aspect ratio is best for each!
Horizontal posts are one of the newer options for making an in-feed post. These kinds of posts are especially good for wide angle photography or video previews, as they are usually shot and viewable in a landscape orientation. The recommended aspect ratio for horizontal posts on Instagram is 1.91:1. Using this ratio will ensure your whole photo is displayed while also preventing a border from being displayed around your post. While 1.91:1 is the recommended ratio to use, you can scale this all the way up to 16:9. This adds the entire photo, but includes a border around it.
Vertical posts are another option for normal, in-feed posting. Making these posts will help you take up more of your viewer’s screen as they scroll up and down their feed. This helps influence more engagement and direct attention on your post. To optimize your vertical posts, we recommend an aspect ratio of 4:5. You may need to crop anything wider or taller to fit this size once you create your post. Because vertical posts are displayed more prominently in-feed, it is especially important to be aware of your image.
Still the format everyone knows Instagram best for, the old-fashioned option for cropping your post is the square image. As we mentioned before, since this post is simply a square, the aspect ratio will always remain as 1:1. While there is no aspect ratio optimization to do for square images, always make sure the contents of your image are compact enough to fit within the borders. Also, make sure your image resolution is large enough to appear clear on your page. Many times, you have to zoom in on square images to include the right content. If your image size isn’t large enough, this will effect the sharpness and overall display once posted.
Stories & Reels
Another option for posting on Instagram that is outside of your feed is the Stories & Reels section. Since these posts are not included while scrolling and instead display full-screen when you click on them, there is much more flexibility with sizing.
When making a post to your story, as long as your image falls on or between ratios of 1.91:1 and 9:16, you should be fine! While all of these sizes are supported, they are not all necessarily optimized. Stories and Reels are fullscreen. This means that they display vertically, in order to match your phone’s orientation. When making Instagram Story posts, it is a good rule of thumb to keep your height larger than your width. This means that any aspect ratios that have a larger second number (i.e. 9:16, 4:5) will suit this posting method well!
Above we covered most of the formatting options you should be familiar with on Instagram. Following these aspect ratio guides will ensure your Instagram posts display just as they should. However, there are some additional points to keep in mind when posting on this platform.
A popular feature on Instagram when posting in-feed is the carousel post style. This term refers to posts that include multiple photos, which you can swipe through like a carousel. Both convenient and easy to use, carousel posts have risen in popularity over time and are now all over the platform. The reason we bring this kind of post up is not because of its usability, however. Carousel posts have specific formatting rules to be aware of in relation to aspect ratios on Instagram. While it is possible to post multiple images at once outside of the original square format, they all must follow the leader.
What this means is that whatever aspect ratio you have your first selected photo set to, the rest will automatically assume the same format. So, if your first picture is in a landscape orientation with an aspect ratio of 16:9, even a photo with a portrait orientation automatically changes to these settings. The overall takeaway is that when optimizing your carousel posts, make sure all images you are planning to use have similar formatting.
Another popular feature outside of normal, in-feed posting is the IGTV video option. If you don’t know about IGTV, it is basically an option that supports longer videos. When it comes to formatting your IGTV videos, Instagram aspect ratios only allow for two options. Your video can either be horizontal, with a ratio of 16:9, or vertical, with a ratio of 9:16. While these are the only formatting options for the video itself, there is more opportunity for optimization elsewhere.
IGTV videos also have cover photos, which is the image you see when you first see the post on the app. The best aspect ratio to use for a cover photo on Instagram is 1:1.55. While this is the optimal size for this specific feature, you must also consider the cover photo. If you are making a preview post to your feed to highlight your IGTV video, consider the aspect ratio of both the in-feed post as well as your profile grid.
Aspect ratios are relatively simple to understand, but are not always easy to put into practice. If you are experiencing any difficulty using or understanding aspect ratios, reach out to our marketing professionals here at SEO Design Chicago today!
- What aspect ratios should I use on Instagram?
- How to format for IGTV?
- What is a carousel post on Instagram?
- Why do aspect ratios matter?
- Did Instagram’s aspect ratios change?