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Instagram Kills The Square Restriction | Is This Wish Granting Or Machiavellian?

By Kishore Sawh on August 27th 2015


Doing it was autotelic, and yet until now, Instagram has never done it. If you wanted, you post an image on Instagram in its infancy, you were restricted to its 1×1 square format. It was the one common denominator between all users, in an almost communist fashion. Many users if not most, sort of loathed the square conformity required for Instagram, but proving again that functionality comes second to popularity, we continued to use it anyway, becoming more and more invested.

Then there came about apps like Squaready that allowed you to take an image of any aspect ratio, and it would adjust it within the borders of a 1×1 square so when you letterboxed it to Instagram it would ‘appear’ as you might like it. It wasn’t perfect given unsightly borders that were often branded with a hideous logo, but it did the job and even for video. But apparently 1 in 5 of all images and video on Instagram had these unsightly borders, taking away from the native feel of the app, which, according to Ashley Yuki, was a big reason for this change.


Now there’s no need for a third party app because with Instagram 7.5, users, which is pretty much all of us, can upload photos and video in the orientation you like. When you’re opening to upload an image, Instagram will automatically adjust, and center square the image, but with just the tap of a format button, you’ll be able to upload your landscape or portrait oriented shots in their natural and full states – sans ugly framing.

It should be noted that whilst your image will appear full size and oriented as you like to other users and in the feed, but within your own user profile page, it will still show up as center-weighted square cropped. No doubt this is to try to retain some of the visual harmony that comes from having square conformity.

[REWIND: Instagram and The Future of Editorials ]



First off, you may not have the update yet. Actually, you may have the 7.5 update, but you may not have the functionality as that’s the case with numerous reports as of right now, including me. Also, there is evidence from those I know who have the functionality to suggest that having this new feature work only applies to image shot with your Instagram app, and not with imported images – this would be a deal breaker for many photographers. Even if it is the case I don’t think it’ll last, and the Y behind that Q neatly brings me to my next point.

It’s probably the biggest change Instagram has ever made and all due to user requests. It is certainly being touted as it when that’s exactly how TIME magazine has described the change. I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s quite significantly more Machiavellian than that.


You see, Instagram not long ago rather quietly updated and heightened the resolution from 640×640 to 1080×1080 for posts, no doubt to allow for better images and mostly video, and now this major change in format. All of this ties tidily into Instagram’s plans to be the next massive advertising platform. Better quality images, more seamless integration and better formatting of video? Perfect for advertising that new movie trailer or ad campaign. This is, I believe, the real reason for the update – it’s all dollars and sense.

A video posted by Star Wars (@starwars) on


You can see Instagram’s official press release here, and get the app from the iOS App Store here and Android Google Play Store here

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Terms: #Aspect Ratio

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Christopher Snyder

    Just tried this out and I can’t seem to get landscape or portrait photos. The built in camera will only shoot square, and if I try to use an existing landscape or portrait photo, it automatically crops square and can’t fix it. Am I missing something? It was last updated on my phone 8/27

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  2. Hagos Rush

    Sadly, it took so long that I barely use it anymore

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  3. robert raymer

    I may be an anomaly, but I have always liked the square format, ever since shooting 6×6 film years ago.

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    • Hagos Rush

      You sir! Are indeed an anomaly.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I gotta admit, the square format did give me a renewed interest in the art of basic composition and subject framing. I see way too many outdoor photography images shared online that are a considerable waste of either a vertical or horizontal frame. Sometimes a 2:3 aspect ratio “window” on the world isn’t the right choice. I think very few folks even still remember that 4:5 was once a far more common aspect ratio for landscapes, and 1:1 even. Personally I love creating images in those two ratios, especially compared to vertical 2:3 aspect images. In fact between panoramic scenes, 4:5 and 1:1, I might be using 2:3 50% less than when I bought my first DSLR…

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  4. Kim Farrelly


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  5. Lauchlan Toal

    Seeing as Facebook owns Instagram, and Facebook has become more and more advertisements based over the years, it definitely wouldn’t be surprising to see Instagram follow suit. Additionally, allowing for different crops will reduce the load on the servers and database. As 1080p will be the long edge rather than both edges, it will reduce the overall resolution significantly for many photos.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      I just started using Instagram because my FB Page doesn’t organically reach anyone unless I give Facebook a few dollars.. I hate Facebook with a passion.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      Does this mean the long edge is longer than 1080px? Because if I post a portrait, and the long edge is still 1080px .. it’s really no different than my current method of using a 1080×1080 template in PS and importing the image portrait there, then exporting to instagram .. right? Or am I missing something here..

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