There was a time when the correct Instagram size was square, and that was it. In fact, Instagram is probably responsible all on its own for the resurgence of interest in the square format (which I love, by the way). Now, though, you can also post rectangular images, though if these are too wide, Instagram will still crop off the edges. This means you still need to make sure your photos are cropped to fit within the correct Instagram image size range.
This means your image may be cropped in a way you didn’t intend and, worse, if you like to add frames to your photos before posting, these may be visible along two edges but cropped off on the others.
So you do you prepare and export photos so that they are not cropped on Instagram?
It’s not about the resolution
The standard image with in Instagram is 1080 pixels, and that’s regardless of whether the image is square, a horizontal rectangular shape (wider than it is tall) or a vertical rectangle (taller than it its wide).
If you post an image smaller than this it will stay at its actual size. If you post one that’s larger, Instagram will shrink it down to fit those dimensions.
In practice, all of us use cameras which shoot images at a much higher resolution (pixel width) than this, so it makes sense just to post them at whatever larger size they might be (unless you’ve got a 40+ megapixel camera!) and let Instagram resize them to fit.
Instagram image size and aspect ratio
What you need to worry about in fact is not the pixel size of your pictures but the aspect ratio, or the ratio of width to height. Although you can now post non-square photos on Instagram, you still can’t go too wide with the aspect ratio. The official Instagram online help document talks first about resolution before it gets to the key point about aspect ratios. You can post non-square photos now, but they do still have to fit within specific Instagram image size ratios.
Aspect ratios and cropping are often overlooked by photographers. Cropping is often seen as a creative choice, but very often cropping is a basic and essential process to make an image fit the space it’s going to be displayed in, whether that’s online or in print. See Why cropping is the last thing you should do!
Instagram quotes a maximum aspect ratio of 4:5, which is still pretty square. Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have a native aspect ratio of 3:2, which is much wider and will end up being cropped by Instagram. Micro Four Thirds, compact cameras and smartphones will typically shoot at a slightly less wide 4:3 ratio, but even this will be cropped.
So you have three choices, really:
- Shoot at your camera’s usual aspect ratio and hope Instagram doesn’t crop off the edges too badly
- Set your camera or phone to shoot square 1:1 images. Most will let you do this, though it does mean your images are fixed at that shape
- Use your photo-editing software to create and export an Instagram-cropped version, where you get to control how the picture is cropped