Cropping Correctly: Instagram's Vertical Aspect Ratio


When Instagram allowed for more posting options beyond the standard square, photographers rejoiced. If a photographer knows the environment in which their photograph will live, proper planning can be taken to ensure the picture fits well within that boundary; but, forcing photos to fit into certain areas for which they were not intended, can completely ruin the integrity of a photo. Yet, despite this new vertical aspect ratio, there are still some interesting limitations to Instagram’s non-square format. 

When posting a horizontal photo, Instagram will take the photo, and force the width to match that of Instagram’s dimension, which means that all of the photo is present. The exceptions are panoramas, or exceptionally wide photos. The same isn’t true of vertical photos. For vertical photos, rather than showing all of the photo, the photo is instead cropped. This is for an aesthetic reason on Instagram’s end. Instagram wants all photos to fully fill the space between the two sides of the screen for consistency without taking up an enormous amount of scrolling space. What does that mean for the photo?

The most common aspect ratio for cameras is 3:2, and the ratio for a vertical photo on Instagram is 4:5, which means that most photos will be cropped. Luckily to a certain extent, you can choose where the cropping occurs - all on top, all on bottom, or a little on both.

As mentioned before, if the photographer, or designer knows that there will be cropping, then this can be accounted for, but sometimes important details can be lost in a post if it was created without the proper planning. This is especially true of portraiture. Many photographers like to experiment with how a person fits into a photo to make it more interesting. Take for example, many companies wanting to put a human element into their social media by featuring stories of their employees or sometimes customers. This is a great way to showcase the people involved, and is usually shown with a portrait of some kind.

Here is a quick example from my personal account of a time when the photo wasn’t planned out as well as it could’ve been in regard to Instagram’s aspect ratio.

I wanted to celebrate the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them on my personal fashion account. I created an outfit to wear and photographed it. I also included various fan paraphernalia to accentuate it, and help re-enforce the relationship that the outfit wasn’t just an outfit, but related to my Harry Potter fandom. However, when posting it, I had to choose between cropping part of the outfit out, or making the novel I was holding barely noticeable at the bottom. If I had been more aware of the 4:5 aspect ratio, I would’ve known to frame it all slightly differently and lift the book slightly higher.

What’s the moral here? Vertical photos are a great way to take up more space and show more to your followers, so be sure to utilize them. But, when creating the post, be sure to be aware of how you will crop the photo.