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Does Instagram Compress Photos and Video Quality?

Posted by Arch on February 19, 2019

Instagram is one of the biggest social platforms, boasting around a billion users. Needless to say, the number of daily posts is staggering, as is the amount of data Instagram processes. Many users have recently voiced their concerns about Instagram compressing their photos and videos. In this article, we will look into these claims and see whether Instagram compresses photos and videos or not.

Does Instagram Compress Photos and Videos?

With millions of posts each day, huge amounts of new data are uploaded to Instagram’s servers on a regular basis. With terabytes of data uploaded every day, the situation could quickly get out of hands. To reduce server load and keep things flowing smoothly, Instagram uses compression for both video and photo posts.

Another reason for the compression is the user experience. If there was no compression, some big videos and photos would take a long time to upload. With long waiting times, users might get discouraged from further uploads. That, in turn, would spell lower traffic and user engagement for Instagram. Whether intentionally or not, with strict rules and guidelines on photo (and later video) sizes, Instagram has managed to avoid this issue successfully.

Photo Guidelines

Back in the early days, all Instagram photos, irrespective of their size (both in pixels and in megabytes), were compressed to the standard 640 x 640 pixel format. The square shape of the photos became one of the hallmarks of Instagram. Photos which didn’t have the 1:1 aspect ratio were cropped to fit the prescribed ratio.

Nowadays, Instagram allows its users a wide range of photo sizes and aspect ratios. So, what’s the current deal? According to the Instagram Help Center, photos are still being cropped, but instead of mandatory 640 pixels, the width can now range between 320 and 1080 pixels. Photos narrower than 320 pixels will be stretched, while the ones wider than 1080 pixels will be shrunk.

One more thing to consider here is the aspect ratio. The original rule set allowed only 1:1 ratio, while the current rules allow anything between 1.91:1 and 4:5. Photos outside of the allowed range of aspect ratios will be cropped to fit a supported ratio. That means that if your photo is 1080 pixels wide, the height should be between 566 (landscape mode minimum) and 1350 (portrait mode maximum) pixels.

Video Guidelines

In the beginning, Instagram allowed users to make photo posts exclusively. However, in order to better compete against other big social platforms, Instagram introduced video posts in June 2013. The videos were originally posted in the same 640px x 640px format as the photos and the duration was limited to only 15 seconds. In 2015, Instagram introduced support for widescreen videos and in March 2016 extended the maximum duration to 60 seconds.

The video duration limit is still 60 seconds. However, with the adoption of the new rules for photos, new rules for videos were adopted as well. Some of the recommended video formats include:

  1. 1080 x 1080 pixels. The classic square shape is still welcome and is frequently used by both casual and business users. If you are not sure and don’t like to experiment, stick to the classic format.
  2. 1200 x 673 and 1920 x 1080 pixels. These are the recommendations for videos shot in the landscape mode. If your camera can’t support HD video, shoot in the 1200 x 673 resolution. Otherwise, feel free to use the full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution.
  3. 1080 x1350 and 1080 x 1920 pixels for portrait videos. If you are shooting a standard video in portrait mode, you should use the 1080 x 1350 pixels resolution, but if you are making a Stories video, aim for the 1080 x 1920 resolution. If the size of your Stories video is bigger than 2MB, Instagram will reject it.

 

There are some other things to consider for video uploads. The video needs to be at least 3 seconds long or Instagram will not allow you to upload it. On the flipside, if it is longer, it will be cropped to fit within the 60-second timeframe. Be careful not to overstep here, as you might lose an important segment of the video if it gets cropped.

Stories need to be between 3 and 15 seconds long. You should keep the frame rate under 30fps. If possible, the frame rate should be fixed. There is no fixed rule about the video file size, but given the duration, frame rate, and resolution limitations, it is clear that Instagram still aims to keep the videos as light as possible.

Final Thoughts

Instagram still uses compression to regulate photo and video uploads. However, the good news is that the guidelines are becoming more relaxed as the technology advances. Hopefully, Instagram will continue to relax the guidelines to include larger and higher quality posts.

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