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  • Writer's pictureRachel Z

Video Editing Tips for Instagram

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

I will admit I love myself some social media time. That can be especially said with Instagram, which is one of my favorite platforms. Even though where I work in is mainly photography, there are still some tips that I’ve learned from practicing by creating video content on the platform. Hey everyone! I’m Rachel with Rachel Z. Photography, your San Francisco, California photography guide, and today I wanted to share some top video editing tips for Instagram.

Close up of man taking iphone photo of graffiti that says Empathy
Photo by Rachel Z Photography in Oakland, Ca

Use the Full Screen

The inflexible 1:1 ratio on Instagram is long gone, and bigger is almost always better for visuals. Keep in mind that over 75% of videos are viewed using a mobile phone. And when scrolling through platforms like Instagram, people naturally hold their phones upright.

Taking advantage of a full screen on Instagram would mean choosing vertically shot videos over horizontal ones. After all, according to a study, most millennials don’t bother tilting their phones to view horizontal videos on full screen.

When posting a video to your feed, the ideal aspect ratio is 4:5 and the ideal length is between 3 seconds to a minute. On Instagram Stories, IGTV, and Reels, it’s ideal to post in 9:16. When resizing your video for Instagram Stories, follow the correct pixel size (1080px by 1920px) to ensure that it’s optimized. Most photo and video editing apps will have pre-set resizing options ready.

Amazon Prime Videos (@amazonprimevideo) IGTV videos are mostly shot and optimized for vertical viewing. Social media videos that don’t take up the full screen have branded borders to maximize screen real estate.

By shooting and optimizing your videos for vertical viewing, you are creating a more immersive experience for your followers.

Use Instagram’s Features and Effects

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of video editing apps that allow you to spice up your content. They might even offer a better selection of editing tools than Instagram. But even if you decide to use a different app for editing your content, it’s still important to use some of Instagram’s built-in features or shoot and edit straight from the app.

If you’re a content creator or brand, Instagram Stories are a great way to show your more “human” and candid side. Don’t be afraid to whip out your phone, go to Instagram stories, and hold down that button to shoot right away.

Posting professionally edited videos on Instagram Stories will not only seem out of place, but you also won’t be able to use trending filters and effects, which could help you get discovered. Don’t forget to use GIFs, interactive poll stickers, and the paint feature to add a creative flair to your videos.

Leave filtered and edited content for your feed. While it’s still important to post aesthetically pleasing videos, your followers expect you to be more spontaneous on Instagram Stories. Add personal touches to your content to boost your engagement.

Bon appétit’s (@bonappetitmag) Instagram Stories always make use of Instagram’s built-in fonts and features. Though the videos seem professionally edited, making use of the app’s paint features makes the content feel more authentic and unscripted.

Layer Up!

On a platform like Instagram or any other social media platform, it’s easy for brands and content creators to look like a copy of one another. After all, it’s only natural to follow what’s trending. But in order to succeed on Instagram, stand out.

Layering videos on top of other videos and combining stills with moving elements are great ways to differentiate your content on Instagram. The layering effect gives your video added depth, and it’s also a great way to repurpose extra footage or past content.

Add Captions When You Can

Videos with captions perform better than those without. This is because adding them makes your content available to more people, including people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or prefer watching on mute.

Don’t forget to select fonts and colors that are eye-catching, and make sure they don’t disappear in the video.

Remember: most social media users scroll through their feed with audio switched off, so you have to capture your audience’s attention in the first few seconds with visuals alone.

There are hundreds of apps available that can help you transcribe and easily add captions to your videos.

All videos posted by Netflix (@netflix) include voice-overs with subtitles. This is extremely helpful when videos are in a foreign language.

Aside from play-by-play subtitles, you can also add text overlay to your videos. This way, you can highlight specific words or add branding to your video.

The All-Important Thumbnail

Think of thumbnails as your video’s first impression. It’s the very first thing your audience sees when they land on your profile. A bad thumbnail or one that doesn’t represent what your video is all about could cause a loss of views — choose wisely.

Unlike Facebook or YouTube, once you’ve uploaded your video to Instagram, there’s no way to change it. When posting directly to your feed, Instagram will give you several cover options, which are stills from your video. Simply select the one you like best.

On IGTV, you can upload a customized thumbnail.

Tasty’s (@buzzfeedtasty) IGTV library thumbnails are a combination of customized title cards or strategically chosen stills from videos. Looking at the thumbnail alone, users know what to expect from the video.

Here are some of the best practices when choosing your IGTV thumbnail:

  • Use a clean and uncluttered banner image

  • Choose a high-resolution photo

  • Make sure it’s focused on the video

  • Include branding

About Rachel Z Photography

I’m a 29-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, activist, tattoo enthusiast, and guardian of 2 lovely rescued birds. I adore doing portrait photography for others, whether that’s indoors or outdoors, covered in flowers and nature or covered in fake blood. My goal with my photography is to empower you by taking the essence of who you are and turning it into works of art. I want to hear what YOUR ideas are and help make them into a reality. I want you to feel powerful. I want you to feel beautiful. I want you to feel confident, because we all deserve that.

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