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Instagram: the ideal format for images

04 February 2022Reading time: 4 min.

What are the recommended image formats for Instagram posts? The app supports different types of images for posts, profiles, covers and carousels. Below, we analyze the most suitable standards for each.

Instagram is a platform that owes its success to the fact that it was created for images. Launched when social media such as Facebook and Twitter were mainly focused on text contents, it succeeded by allowing users to create a profile to share photos taken with their smartphone quickly and easily.

Over the years, Instagram has not changed its basic philosophy but has extended its features by also providing video support for and an increasing number of filters and tools for image editing. 

For some, such as social media managers, influencers and brands, posting on this social media has turned into a real job with its own rules. Images must be loaded in the right format so that no quality is lost during cutting, resizing and compression procedures. The size of social media images is a very important aspect to achieve satisfactory results, as well as a fundamental best practice for any social media manager.

What is the format for Instagram images? It’s really more accurate to talk about a variety of formats. Let’s take a look.

Instagram and image resolution

The moment an image is uploaded, Instagram works to ensure that it is posted with the highest possible resolution, taking into account a maximum width that, according to current recommendations, must not exceed 1080 pixels (or simply px).

The recommended minimum width is 320 px, so the chosen image maintains the original resolution when its width is between 320 and 1080 px. For this to be possible, however, it is necessary that the ratio between width and height (image ratio) is between 1.91:1 and 4:5. In absolute values that means a minimum height of 566 px and 1350 px for a width of 1080 px.

In the event that this ratio isn’t optimal, Instagram crops the image to ensure they are adapted properly. In addition, a resolution lower than that recommended means an increase of 320 px in width. If the service detects an image with a higher resolution than that recommended, its width is reduced to 1080 px.

Enlarging or resizing can lead to a significant drop in graphics. So, it is always good to take into account formats and ideal size Instagram suggests.

If you don’t follow the standards, important details of your images are cut, or graphics not displayed as you would like. That means that your posts are rendered very differently than you imagined.

Pictures in vertical format

In the vertical format, the vertical side of an image is longer than its horizontal side. Professional Instagram users prefer this format. It lets the photographs occupy a larger space and are displayed for longer in the feed.

At any rate, Instagram does not allow larger images, and requires a ratio of 4:5. This means that if the width is 100, the height must be equal to 125. For example, an image 1080 px wide must be 1350 px high, i.e., 1080 plus 1/4 of its value (1080 + 270 = 1350).

1080 x 1350 px is also the maximum recommended size for vertical format, while the minimum should not be below 480 x 600 px.

Images in landscape format

In landscape format images, the width exceeds the height. They take up less space in the Instagram feed than vertical format, are less visible and for this reason tend to be less common.

If you want to publish a landscape image, please note that Instagram recommends using images with sizes in the range between 600 x 355 px and 1080 x 566 px.

While 1080 x 566 px are the recommended values, remember too that the ratio between width and height must be equal to 1.9:1. The long side must be slightly less than twice the length of the short.

Images in square format

With regard to square photos, the reference ratio between width and height is 1:1. 

The minimum size for this type of photo is 600 x 600 px while the maximum 1080 x 1080 is recommended

One particular use of the square format are profile images. Once loaded they are automatically cut by Instagram into a circle. The choice of the most suitable image for this purpose must therefore take into account details that may no longer be visible once cropped.

It is possible to upload images with a minimum size of 110 x 110 px. However, in this case optimal graphic rendering isn’t always guaranteed, even with the magnification that Instagram applies to generate circular output. Instead, use images equal to 160 x 160 px, also recommended by the platform.

Stories

Instagram Stories are short compositions of texts, images and movies that disappear 24 hours after posting. Once they disappear, they are no longer visible.

Another feature of Stories is that they are optimized for consultation in full-screen mode. This approach is directly reflected in the recommended size: 1080 x 1920 px with a ratio of 9:16.

Instagram overlaps some elements to the Stories both at the top (references to the author) and at the bottom (comments). This means that before images are posted you need to take into account a space from the upper margin, measured as 211 px, and one from the lower, 265 px, where there should be no details relevant to the display.

Carousels

Instagram’s Emoji Sliders allow you to post multiple images (or slides) up to a maximum of 10. A very effective feature that helps you attract attention, you don’t need to upload a large number of files, and most of the published carousels are no larger than two or three images.

The recommended size indicated depends on whether your image is square, vertical or landscape format. Please note that subsequent images are cropped according to the format of the first image, so a carousel will be made up of square images if the first slide is square.

Highlight Covers

Stories, the contents of IGTV (Instagram’s video service) and shares through Reels (Instagram’s response to TikTok), can be presented with Highlight Covers.

Highlight Covers features are very different from the cover images of other social media, such as a Facebook. It is no accident that Facebook and Instagram are two social channels with very different intentions, goals and methods of use. Especially in recent years, they are used by very different targets.

In the case of Stories, 161 x 161 px square covers are supported, while for IGTV advice isn’t to go below 492 x 762 px by taking the Highlight Covers from one of the video frames.

The same thing is true for Reels, but here too the cover can be selected using movie frames, but the recommended minimum size is higher than those for IGTV: 1080 x 1920 px.

Conclusions

There is no one single format that works for all Instagram images: each feature of the social media platform has different features and sizes. Knowing the recommended formats for each type of image lets you to boost your shares’ quality and impact. That benefits your social media profile as well as your website. Social media posts let you attract users and redirect them with bio links and links in stories on your site and that means more traffic and visitors. That’s why editing your image on social media is important: it is a best practice that improves your reputation on social media and on the web in general.

This article was written by

Claudio Garau

Claudio Garau

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