If you’re reading this, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re active on Facebook’s Instagram platform. For years, you may have taken photos in portrait or landscape orientation, only to realize that they wouldn’t be ideal to share on Instagram, which has been all about square images. Over the last few days, that all changed. Instagram dimensions have changed forever, as the platform will now let you share photos that are either in portrait or landscape mode.
“Square format has been and always will be part of who we are,” wrote Instagram in a post from its @instagram account. “That said, the visual story you’re trying to tell should always come first, and we want to make it simple and fun for you to share moments just the way you want to.”
The way the new functionality works, like most Instagram functionality, is pretty seamless. When selecting a photo (or video), users will start out by default in square mode. A simple tap on the formatting icon, however, will adjust the orientation to portrait or landscape. The full-sized version of photos will then show up in user feeds the way the original user intended.
Of course, in some ways Instagram is still reliant on squares. With respect to each user’s profile grid, individual posts will appear as squares, center-cropped. This begs the question of how brands who have created larger pieces of art as part of their profile grids will react.
With the move away from squares, there’s a good chance Instagram has done enough to make the app appealing to laggards who are interested in sharing photos but can’t be bothered with editing to fit the square format.
Response from the digital community has been mixed. “The square of Instagram has always been part of its charm. Functionally, it’s dimensions are ideal for an images scrolling on a mobile screen,” says Andrea Cook, Innovation Director, 26FIVE. “As a designer, I’ve watched the square become a true disruptor in the traditional standard layouts of media and printing. Changing to fit into the traditional landscape or portrait format is disappointing for a game changer like Instagrammer.”
“This sort of story is like a new hammer for the tool box and instead of providing features and inspiration that could build rockets, they’re chiseling rocks for caves.”
“I think they’re evolving and moving away from the original brand but out of necessity,” says Kevin Davis, who heads up visual media initiatives and partnerships at PhotoShelter, a company that makes websites for professional photographers. “It’s a visual product ultimately so it needs to be clean. This will help. I just feel bad for Instasize,” he says, referring to one of many photo editing apps who had made a living resizing photos so that they would fit Instagram by adding white space around portrait and landscape photos. “They’re a casualty of feature set change.”
Others, such as Baked by Melissa’s Brand Director Mallorie Rosenbluth, look at the positives of the move. Rosenbluth considers the move a game-changer for the social platform, and for brand marketers as well. “We can now tell our stories in more creative – and complete – ways. It’s no longer a race to what we can fit in a 1050 x 1050 square. It’s a race to how beautifully we can use photo and video to capture our and share our messages. Now I can fit all 8 original Baked by Melissa flavors in one shot!”
To some experts, Instagram’s move away from the square is a natural evolution. “Platforms evolve and we adjust and evolve our usage along with them,” says Ted Rubin, noted social marketing strategist and keynote speaker. To Rubin, platforms are where conversations happen – but the emphasis still needs to be on the “social” more than the “media.”
“Let’s stop worrying and prognosticating about what is better or worse, and focus on what makes social, social. It’s about the people, the connection, engagement… and relationships. The platforms are only facilitators.”
As with most updates to the app, Instagram released a few other tweaks alongside its massive one. “All filters will now work on both photos and videos,” wrote Instagram, “and you can now adjust the intensity of filters on videos, too.”
To learn more about Instagram’s new updates and features, be sure to reference its blog post. Version 7.5 of its app is available now on Apple’s App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android).