Instagram’s Square Photo Tyranny Has Been Abolished

Instagram’s support for tall and wide pics means the days of worrying about cropping are over.

Good news photographers, Instagram’s UI now supports landscape- and portrait-oriented images–and video!–making it easier and less cumbersome to compose that perfect shot.


Before this, users had to edit the photo with another app’s cropping tool so that every inch of that gorgeous selfie, every morsel of that meal, and every last pal in a group shot could make it into the frame.

According to Instagram, the main impetus for this update was the result of watching how users have been circumventing the square format limitations:

It turns out that nearly one in five photos or videos people post aren’t in the square format, and we know that it hasn’t been easy to share this type of content on Instagram: friends get cut out of group shots, the subject of your video feels cramped and you can’t capture the Golden Gate Bridge from end to end.

When Instagram came out, it undoubtedly changed the world of photography, giving amateur shutterbugs access to editing tools that were normally in the realm of professionals. Anyone with a smartphone could tweak color balance, contrast, warmth, and more—and of course filter an image to your heart’s desire. What it also did was peg world into a square hole. The square format caused people to compose images knowing that sections would be lost as soon as it posted or use the square lens tool on the phone itself. The interface affected behavior, and now it’s come full circle with behavior affecting the UI.

While the landscapes and portraits will show up in the feed, they’ll appear as a center-cropped square on users’ profile pages. Some detail-oriented photographers have used the crop workaround to create borders around their images that look pretty sharp when viewed on their profile pages, and I suspect that to continue with that, the need for a second app is still very much there and people will continue to do the multi-app shuffle.

How about giving us the option for custom white borders next, Instagram?


About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.