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The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Features 2021 and FREE Size Guide

business instagalactic jake davey social media the workroom May 14, 2021

By Jake Davey 

Instagram is no longer the one trick pony of 10 years ago.

Since 2010, Instagram has been adding features (most recently adding Stories - an idea modelled from Snapchat) to compete with all the other social media platforms out there; Lives from Facebook, IGTV from YouTube and now Reels from TikTok.

This is perfect for us as business owners and entrepreneurs who use Instagram to grow our audience and build authority, as it increases the worldwide Instagram audience and demographic, and gives us many different ways to share content.

But it can also be pretty confusing.

So, today I’m going to give you a break down of the different features of Instagram and how best to use them. I’ll even give you a handy little download which will help to ensure that your Instagram content is always optimised for the feature you are using.

From feed posts to IGTV and Reels, knowing the best Instagram image size is no mean feat.


Understanding Instagram Aspect Ratio and Image Size

When creating visual content for Instagram, there are 2 main things to keep in mind: aspect ratio and image size.

Aspect ratio refers to the width of a picture in relation to its height. It’s expressed as a ratio, like 4:5 or 9:16, where the first digit represents the width, and the second digit represents height.

Instagram has guidelines for this and if you break the rules, your images will be cropped so part of your image may be lost.

Image size (or resolution) refers to the number of pixels that make up the width and height of your photo or video. Like aspect ratio, image size is expressed by 2 numbers - the first representing width and the second representing height.

For example, an image size of 1080px by 1080px is much larger than one sized 50px by 50px.

Does size really matter?

Even though Instagram compresses your photos and videos, it’s always better to share at an optimal resolution. That way, when Instagram compresses your photo, it won’t really affect the image quality.


In your free guide, you’ll find all the dimensions you need to create perfectly-sized images and videos for Instagram >> DOWNLOAD NOW <<


The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Features in 2021


  1. The Feed

Your Instagram news feed is like your very own Instagram homepage. When people land on your page, they can find out through images exactly what your brand is about. It gives people a glimpse of what you do, your content, your product, or your services. It’s a place people will go back to again and again.

The idea is that one of your posts may appear on the explore page of your ideal audience, or maybe they’ll find you through the hashtags you’ve shared; either way you’ve got them curious, and they want to know more about you. The images in your news feed are what will turn them from a scroller into a follower. Images stop the scroll, but captions make them stick around.

So, is your feed important? ABSOLUTELY!

TOP TIP: You can also share videos (and now Reels) to the feed.

Instagram allows up to 60 seconds of video in your feed. Make sure you have a hook in the opening few seconds and edit to show the most important or scroll stopping image at the beginning.


Instagram Sizing Guide Feed Posts

Once upon a time, Instagram feed posts were limited to the simple square, but now (almost) anything goes, so here’s a quick summary for you:

Although you can share pretty much any sized post in 2021, Square Posts continue to be the most popular choice - probably because the Instagram profile grid crops content to a 1:1 ratio (think of your top 9 images).


So, how do you optimise for square posts?

We recommend making your square photos 1080px by 1080px in size, so even when Instagram compresses the file, the image will still be high quality.


Should I stretch my posts?

Right now, many people are increasing the length of their posts (portrait style), so that when people scroll your feed (or their own home feed), your post fills more of their phone screen.

Generally speaking, your vertical photos should have an aspect ratio of 4:5. Anything longer (like 4:6 or 4:7), and Instagram will crop your content.

Vertical posts take up more ‘real estate’ so they’re more optimised than horizontal posts. But don’t forget that they will still be cropped to square in the Instagram profile grid, therefore keep all the good stuff in the square!


Optimise for horizontal posts

We recommend going with 1080px by 1350px. That way, when Instagram compresses the photo, it should be displayed at around 480px by 600px.


Optimise for video posts

Instagram supports up to 60 seconds of in-feed videos with aspect ratios spanning from 16:9 to 4:5. Videos should have a frame rate of 30 frames per second, and a maximum file size of 4GB.


Whilst we’re talking about the news feed, we can’t not mention another feature of Instagram - Carousel Posts.

Instagram carousel posts can be square, horizontal, or vertical in format - and can include both photos and videos. However, once you’ve chosen your first photo or video, all of the following photos or videos you select will be cropped to the same aspect ratio.


  1. Instagram Stories

FACT: Half a billion Instagram users view Stories every day.

Stories tempt users to check regularly because they disappear after 24 hours.

If you think of your Instagram feed as your shop window, Stories are the behind the scenes ‘at home with’ and allow you to humanise your brand. You don’t have to always be on point with your branding; your stories can be just for fun, engaging your audience.

Stories are also a great way to nurture relationships with potential customers. You don’t need to go crazy, 5-7 stories a day seems to be the sweet spot; and don’t be afraid to share other people’s content on your Stories.

You can also use live video for a fast-track way to connect with your audience. Stories - with their uncoated, unpolished, genuine feel - allows real connection, which your news feed may not have.

You can also create highlights from Stories to keep relevant content high in the minds of your current audience and available for new followers. Whilst a story disappears in 24 hours, a highlight remains available until you remove it.

You can share pretty much anything on Instagram Stories, as long as it has a minimum aspect ratio of 1.91:1 and a maximum aspect ratio of 9:16.

The best image size for Instagram Stories

Because most people prefer their Stories to take up the whole screen (no borders), we recommend using an aspect ratio of 9:16 with a size of 1080px by 1920px.


  1. IGTV

IGTV allows users to create video clips for up to 10 minutes. Verified accounts and accounts with at least 10,000 followers, can add videos up to 60 minutes long.

If you already create content for YouTube, then IGTV could be a great next step, but it is pretty overwhelming for new content creators. We recommend that our clients really think about their audience and business goals before spending too much time and energy in this area.

Some ideas for IGTV content include how-to videos and tutorials, Q&As, behind the scenes, and even events.

You can even use Instagram’s preview feature to create a teaser video lasting up to 1 minute and post this to your feed as well as sharing it to your Stories.

Remember, unlike the YouTube landscape format, IGTV optimises a vertical format, but you can upload vertical IGTV videos with an aspect ratio of 9:16, or horizontal videos with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

The best video size for IGTV

For vertical video (9:16), the ideal size is 1080px by 1920px. For horizontal video (16:9), the ideal size is 1920px by 1080px.

TOP TIP: Don’t forget the aspect ratio of your IGTV cover photo.

The cover photo is what will show up on your channel page and in the IGTV categories, so it’s worth making sure it is the right size.

When you share a preview of your IGTV to your Instagram feed (to get more views), consider how your cover photo will look both in the Instagram feed and in the Instagram profile grid.

The best image size for IGTV cover photo

Instagram recommends an aspect ratio of 1:1.55 and a size of 420px by 654px.

To stay safe, it’s also best to keep any title graphics in the middle of the cover image so it doesn’t get cropped!


  1. Instagram Reels

Instagram’s newest feature, and currently most popular, is Instagram Reels. If you have not started using Reels yet, you reely reely must!

Much like Stories, Instagram Reels are designed to be viewed vertically, covering the full screen, and on a mobile. They are short fun videos with either music or spoken word, and often with text overlays. They will seriously boost your engagement and are another opportunity to share valuable but fun content to your audience.

>> Check out the podcast episode I recorded all about Reels here <<

Size wise, we recommend using an aspect ratio of 9:16; recording and editing directly on to your phone is an easy way to stick to the optimal dimensions.

Remember if you’re going to share videos on your main Reels feed, ensure all important words and images are within the ‘square’.


  1. Instagram Size Guide #6: Instagram Live Videos

Last, but not least, is Instagram Lives.

Much like Stories, Lives allows you to share your authentic self. Live videos help to build relationships and allow your followers to get to know you and your brand.

Lives are meant to be shot vertically, as they are designed to be broadcast directly from your smart phone to others mobile devices - just like FaceTime! This means the aspect ratio will always be the full width and height of your screen (usually 9:16).

You can’t manually change the size or aspect ratio of your Instagram Live videos; you don’t have to worry too much about it.


That’s it!


You now know all the different types of content you can share on this amazing platform, how to optimise the size of your feed posts, Stories, IGTV videos, Reels, and Lives.


And don’t forget to download and print our free infographic as a quick and easy reference.


Jake Davey is the UK’s leading Instagram expert. Former high school French and Spanish teacher turned online entrepreneur, Jake shows business owners and entrepreneurs how to build an authentic audience on Instagram and be seen as the go-to authority in their industry.
His Flagship program, InstaGalactic follows the proven, 6-Step ROCKET system and shows people how to explode their brand on Instagram so they can impact on a global scale. 
He is passionate about helping business owners to scale by leveraging the power of Instagram via his online course, 1:1 and group coaching, hosting the INfluence podcast, and international speaking engagements.
Jake currently has an audience of over 65K followers on Instagram, and has helped hundreds of large and small businesses to influence more people, and build authentic, engaged audiences that convert. 




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