Instagram has continued to improve the options for brands to promote themselves via video. Considering the platform has managed to stay relatively scandal-free (which is is amazing considering it is owned by Facebook) and Tik Tok's looming banning in the U.S., its marketing attractiveness is very high. With one billion monthly active users and some 500 million on the app per day, it’s wise for any influencer, creative, or business to learn how to most effectively use the video options, including how to upload video to Instagram in the best quality. From the news feed to live video, IGTV, and stories, you’ll need to know the right file type and format, dimensions, and export specifications.
Best Instagram video & audio format
Top video professionals agree -- the best Instagram video format is MP4. Your video file should be exported from your editing software of choice (likely Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere) to specific technical specifications (covered later).
MP4 is short for MPEG-4 Video and is linked to the H.264 compression standard. The highest quality audio format is AAC, rather than mp3. This goes for audio files used in your editing software as well. If you’re using an audio platform like Artlist, download AAC files rather than mp3.
Best Instagram aspect ratios
Video aspect ratio refers to the dimensions of the video and should not be confused with file size. Television and film are formatted at an aspect ratio of 16:9, horizontal, however, Instagram has mostly favored vertical video at 9:16.
Ideally, your video takes up the most real estate on the screen, so we recommend an aspect ratio of 4:5, which is still vertical. Video dimensions should be at minimum 864 pixels (width) by 1080 pixels (height). Horizontal (landscape) videos might look stellar on Facebook or YouTube but the majority of Instagram users are on mobile devices and viewing the app vertically in portrait mode.
Keep in mind your aspect ratio depends on how you post to Instagram. For example, IGTV now allows for vertical video so go ahead and format at 1080x1920. However, when posting to Stories, you’ll want to rotate your phone to record vertically and capture the inverse aspect ratio -- 1920x1080. If you’re filming with a DSLR or pro camera, 4K footage can be cropped down to 9:16 aspect ratio without quality loss, but regular 1080 HD footage may suffer.
If you’re creating a post (rather than a Story or IGTV), Instagram supports a range of aspect ratios anywhere from 1.91:1 (landscape horizontal) to 1:1 (square) and 4:5 (portrait).
Use the following specs for each aspect ratio:
- Landscape - 1.91:1 - 1080x608px
- Square - 1:1 - 1080x1080px
- Portrait - 4:5 - 1080x1350px
Keep in mind, the Instagram app doesn’t rotate on mobile devices and 87 percent of people say they prefer to hold their phone vertically when using Instagram.
Also note that when IGTV or Instagram Live videos are displayed in the news feed, they’re cropped to an aspect ratio of 4:5.
Instagram video lengths
Video length minimums and limits vary based on where you upload -- Feed, Stories, IGTV, and Live. These are the specs for each type:
- Feed: From 3 seconds to 1 minute long
- Stories: Up to 15 seconds per Story
- IGTV: Between 15 seconds and 10 minutes long
- Live: Up to 60 minutes long for verified accounts; 10 minutes for all others
IGTV videos can be up to 60 minutes long at a file size of 3.6GB. What if your video is shorter than one minute? Simply loop it in your editing software, which is how it will play automatically anyway. If you upload a video to Instagram Stories and it’s longer than 15 seconds, the app will split it into 15-second clips. However, it will only create four 15-second pieces, so this trick only works for videos up to 60 seconds long.
Keep in mind that Instagram and Facebook have sometimes made new features available to larger accounts and influencers before rolling them out to everyone.
How to export your Instagram videos
You’ll likely be editing video in either Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro X. Follow these instructions for the best quality output.
Exporting from Adobe Premiere:
If you want to upload video to Instagram from a PC and you're using Premiere, send the composition to Adobe Media Encoder for output.
- Select the composition for output.
- Choose Composition > Add to Adobe Media Encoder Queue. (Allow Media Encoder time to launch if it is closed.)
Set the Media Encoder settings.
- Set the Format drop-down menu in the Queue panel to H.264.
- Then, set the Preset drop-down menu to Match Source – High bitrate.
- Click Match Source – High bitrate (blue text) to open the Export Settings panel.
- In the Video tab, scroll down to Bitrate Settings, and change Target Bitrate (Mbps) to 3.5. Click OK.
- Click the blue text in the Output File column to name and specify where to save the file.
- Save the file to cloud storage so that you can access the file for uploading through Instagram on your portable device.
Exporting from Final Cut Pro X:
- Click on File, Share and then click Master File.
- Go to Export settings and make sure the video codec is H.284 Faster Encode.
- Choose Computer as the format. Also, aim that your maximum file size is 20 megabytes or lower, if possible.
- Hit Next and save your project to your desktop.
How to upload the best quality Instagram videos
Now that you’ve formatted and exported your video, it’s time to upload it with the least amount of compression.
Instagram compresses even 4K video down to standard compression at 640x360 resolution and 3mbps. This is not the best quality. So here’s what you need to do to combat it. First of all, connect to WIFI when posting. Secondly, upload through the Instagram website on your desktop rather than using the app on a mobile device. And third, consider that when you upload IGTV videos, they are played back in much higher resolution and bitrate than a traditional post. They appear at almost 720p, which is almost double the standard post size. IGTV also now supports horizontal uploads, so your beautiful cinematic landscape footage now has a more friendly home.
How to upload IGTV videos
When uploading to IGTV, check the “Post a Preview” checkbox so your videos are also uploaded to your feed. Keep in mind that the cover image will be cropped in your grid, so format accordingly. You can choose a still frame from your video or upload a specifically designed JPEG. You cannot change the cover after it’s posted, so make sure no text or faces are cropped awkwardly by uploading a 4:5 formatted cover. This will help to introduce your current audience to your IGTV videos.
To recap, here’s how to upload videos to Instagram and get the best quality:
- Record your video in the appropriate aspect ratio and resolution depending on your desired IG output (Feed, Stories, Live, or IGTV).
- Export file type MP4 or H.264 codec.
- Format to AAC audio.
- Export at 3500 kbps bitrate.
- Use a frame rate of 30 fps (frames per second).
- In your export, pay attention to aspect ratio for each format -- Feed, Stories, Live, or IGTV.
- Use an Instagram video aspect ratio of 9:16 for Stories and IGTV videos.
- Format videos to at least 1080 pixels wide.
- Note the video length differences for each format, from 3 seconds to 60 minutes.
- Upload from the Instagram browser rather than the app.
- Use a strong WIFI connection.
Tech giant Cisco predicts that 82 percent of consumer internet traffic will be video by 2022 so follow these specs and make use of Instagram video!
Jessica Peterson is a travel and documentary filmmaker with a background in journalism and marketing. She has 20 years of experience producing content in 114 cities and 25 countries. In 2016, she directed and produced her own documentary about her then-home of Guam. Working under the name Global Girl Travels, her clients include CNN, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Matador Network, and Tastemade.