Best Export Settings for Instagram (2020)

If you have uploaded images to Instagram only to see low-res pixelated versions of your sharp images and scratched your head as to why, this is the right article for you.

I have tried all the articles claiming to have the best export settings for Instagram after getting frustrated uploading images to Insta that displayed lower image quality than the one I uploaded. 

I used to think, did I do something wrong? Why does it look great on my phone but worse on Instagram. That’s when I learnt about the dreaded Instagram image compression algorithm.

So I’ve taken what I know are the best bits of advice everything I have read about combating image compression algorithm. I’ve tinkered with the process to finally settle on what I’ve found to be the best step-by-step solution, which I’ll share with you here!

I’ll also share the best export settings for instagram stories and video using Premiere Pro. Everything you would upload to Instagram I’ll explain below!

Why You Should Optimize Your Images

95 million images are uploaded to instagram every day. That’s a lot. To optimize their storage and upload speeds, Instagram will heavily compress uploads to streamline their service.

Twitter on the other, which is mainly a text based social media platform, has comparatively fewer uploads (but still a fair few I imagine). But if you look at the quality of the images you can really see how little compression is used.

Ironic that text based social media platform displays better quality images, but they don’t have to handle as many million image uploads.

That’s why their images look better. But Twitter can afford to do this, their users are not uploading by the truckload.

However there are still a few options available to combat Instagram’s heavy compression algorithm, and you can employ the methods I will explain to get your Instagram images looking their best!

What Image Sizes Should You Upload to Instagram?

Before we get onto export settings for Instagram you need to understand that Instagram image size plays a major role in your Instagram export settings.

Image Width

When you share images to Instagram, regardless of which device you use to upload with, the images uploaded should be a maximum width of 1080px.

Recommended export settings for Instagram in the guidelines advise uploading images with a width between 320 to 1080px. Anything wider than 1080px will be resized by Instagram’s compression. 

Also, anything uploaded smaller than 320 pixels will be upscaled. Which I can tell you will not look good at all!

The image will be uploaded at that resolution, provided that the aspect ratio is 1:1, 1.91:1 (you can actually stretch to 16:9) and 4:5 (or a height of 566 and width of 1080 pixels for portrait orientation).

If the photo uploaded does not match the aspect ratio, Instagram will crop the image to match the supported aspect ratio. 

Image Height

If your image is taller than 4:5, for example 4:10, half your image will be cropped out and discarded!

However when it comes to height size, I generally upload at a maximum height of 1350px. At a 4:5 ratio that is 1080px by 1350px.

instagram white borders
Click to Read more!

So if you want to have your images displayed correctly, follow these guidelines.

For those that want to go the extra mile and add some Instagram white borders, check out this article.

And also check out my photography techniques article on How to create an Instagram grid mosaic using an app or manually with Adobe Photoshop.

Best Lightroom Export Settings for Instagram

Now that we know the best size and aspect ratio for our export settings for Instagram to set our image for, we can move on to exporting images with the best Lightroom settings for Instagram.

Color Space

Lightroom offers many options for color spaces to utilise extra colors depending on the output, for example print uses CMYK and Adobe RGB.

Color space is the entire spectrum of colors able to to be displayed in an image. So ProPhoto RGB can display even more colors than Adobe RGB which can in turn display even more than sRGB.

The internet uses the much smaller alternative, the sRGB color space. This is the color space most devices like mobile will use. It’s the default color space so stick to this one and you won’t have your reds tinted oddly.

Ok here is the best lightroom export settings for Instagram photos with my Lightroom to Instagram workflow:

Export settings for Instagram Step 2
Step 2
  1. So once you have the first step from earlier, color space, adhering to the supported aspect ratios, the next step in a checklist you need to follow is cropping:
Lightroom Image Format and Color Space
Step 2-3
  1. Select the dropdown menu for Image Format and Color Space. These should be ok at the default settings, change if otherwise.
Lightroom Step 3
Step 4-5-6
  1. I’ve read a few similar articles that Google recommend at the top of the search results, they differ to the above settings. Stick with mine, I’ve tested quality settings on my images and the sweet spot is 76.

    Also unbelievably those same articles tell you to change the PPI (pixels per inch) image resolution?! The only time you ever need to change this setting is if you are printing your images. Changing it to 300DPI will make no difference to your image.

    This is common knowledge for experienced photographers.

Tip: These can be saved as one of your Lightroom export settings for instagram presets for future use!

Best Photoshop Export Settings for Instagram

I don’t usually use Lightroom export settings for social media exclusively, but in conjunction with Photoshop as I start off with RAW images, so if you have the plan for both I would do my image edits in Lightroom and then move it to Photoshop as a .jpeg for any further edits and export from there.

If not, then import your image to Photoshop and follow these Photoshop export settings for Instagram steps:

Step 1
Step 1
  1. As before select sRGB color space. If you are shooting in .jpeg you are limited to a bit depth of 8-bit. So select 8-bit as selecting higher will only make a difference if you are shooting in RAW format.

    8-bit gives you 256 levels of color and tone in the sRGB color space, however 16-bit allows for 65,536 colors possible. This is why I always advocate shooting first in RAW.
Step 2-3-4
  1. (3/4)Select the crop tool and then enter the supported aspect ratio.
Photoshop Export Window
Step 5-6-7-8
  1. (6/7/8)These should be set to default settings which will be correct for exporting. However if not, select the above settings. Again quality setting of 76% is the sweet spot for optimal Instagram quality.

Click and export all and you can now export Instagram photos for upload.

Best Export Settings for Instagram Video

Best video settings for Instagram, for those not uploading straight out of camera, follow a similar strategy for optimizing, albeit slightly altered as it’s video, of course.

Instagram Video Aspect Ratio

Because Instagram now let you upload stories as well as video, and in different sizes depending on what you have filmed we need to list them to be clear:

  • Instagram Stories – 1080x1920px, this is a vertical 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Instagram Landscape – 1920x1080px which is a horizontal 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Instagram Portrait – 1080x1350px which is a 4:5 aspect ratio
  • Instagram Original – 1080x1080px which is the classic 1:1 aspect ratio.

Instagram Video Length

There are a variety of type of videos you can upload to Instagram; the length depends on the type, so I’ll list according to longest:

  • IGTV – Max length 60 minutes, varying from 15 seconds to 10 minutes.
  • Instagram Live – Maximum length 60 minutes
  • IG Stories – Max length 15 seconds.
  • Instagram Feed – Max 60 seconds.

Instagram Video Format and Size

MP4 H264 Codec is considered the best format to use. With Audio being AAC. Regardless of what framerate you shoot in, Instagram will format it to 30fps. So Ideally shoot in 30fps to begin with.

The maximum file size is no bigger than 15mb.

Best Export Settings for Instagram Premiere Pro

So now we have one of the native aspect ratios and format sorted out lets go thought the steps to export an Instagram video:

Step 1
Step 1
  1. First let’s create new sequence from the top down bar.
Step 2
Step 2
  1. Select a preset, 1080p @30fps
Step 3
  1. In the second tab, settings, select Frame Size and enter the aspect ratio depening on which Instagram video you are creating. You can select ‘Create Preset’ at the bottom left if you’ll be making a few of these.
Step 4
Step 4
  1. Import your clip and Premiere Pro will throw you a mismatch error. Select keep existing settings. So your imported clip adheres to the new sequence settings.
Step 5
Step 5
  1. Select the clip in the timeline and then go up to Effect Controls which opens the video effect controls. Use the position, scale and rotate to display the video to your liking.

    Maybe you want it to punch in, so use ‘scale’, or be viewed in landscape, so the user turns the phone sideways, so you would use ‘rotate’ etc.

    Now you can Export!
Step 6
Step 6
  1. Select File/Export and once you’re in the export settings box from above.
Step 7
Step 7
  1. Select the Video tab, and select he settings above.
Step 8
Step 8
  1. As mentioned before select AAC in the Audio Format.

Click export and you’re done!

FAQ

What resolution should I export for Instagram?
Images should be uploaded at a minimum width of 320px to a maximum width of 1080px, and also a maximum height of 1350px

Is PNG or JPEG better for Instagram?
.jpeg is the correct format

What video format is best for Instagram?
.mp4 or H.264

What size should I export for Instagram?
1080px by 1080px/1350px depending on aspect ratio

How do I save photos from Instagram to Lightroom?
Select Export to Photoshop in the Edit menu

How do you not lose quality on Instagram?
Upload at native aspect ratios and dimensions

Final Thoughts

I hope the best export settings for lightroom and Insta and exporting video for Instagram helps you out. As always, if I’ve missed anything or you need something else explained drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you poste haste!

Links

Don’t forget to check out my Instagram too! And check out more Techniques here.

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