The problem with portrait format on Instagram

Instagram announced Support for Landscape and Portrait Formats on 27 August 2015. In essence, this means we are no longer constrained to posting square format images to our feeds. For those of us who like to show a little more context than the square format allows, rejoiced.

But, theres a problem. Especially for those of us who like to post in portrait orientation.The issue for me is that portrait-formatted posts are still subject to cropping height-wise. I still can’t post my full portait format image, because Instagram forces me to crop it in a 4:5 ratio when posting in portrait orientation. This means that critical information (to me, anyway) is cropped out, and context is still lost.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Here is the image I want to post:

Original Image with dimensions 1280 × 2048. Note the critical detals: reflection on ceiling and light-spill on the step.

Thrilled with the prospect of no longer having to load my image into Squaready in order to convert it into a a square by adding white space to the sides, before posting to Instagram, I fire up Instagram, load my image and hit the post format button. Problem: the top and bottom of my portrait is cropped:

The default crop action on import is to center the image. I lose the step-light completely, and the ceiling reflection is incomplete.

Moving the crop to put the ceiling reflection into context completely loses the step-light.

Moving the crop down to place the step-light into context causes the ceiling reflection to be lost.

Here’s what the output on Instagram would look like:

Default centre-cropped
Default centre-cropped

Ceiling emphasis. No step-light.
Ceiling emphasis. No step-light.

Step-light emphasis. Ceiling context is lost.
Step-light emphasis. Ceiling context is lost.

The 4:5 ratio in Portait Format equates to a maximum image upload resolution of 1080px (width) by 1350px (height), which is scaled down to suit the viewport on your device. In the case of the fifth iteration of a telephony product from a company in Cupertino, this scales to a display image of 640px wide by 800px high within Instagram.

This is done, I assume, so that the viewports on mobile devices are filled horizontally, edge to edge. There is no white space allowed on either side of the image.

I wish that Instagram had allowed portrait formatters to post the whole image with this update, rather than cutting us off at the knees with the 4:5 ratio. I appreciate the constraints of the available screen real estate on viewports of mobile devices, but I don’t understand the aversion to a little white space either side of the portrait format, that will allow me to fit my whole image into the vertically allocated space.

There is clearly a bias towards landscape orientation on Instagram, and it must be addressed. Portrait formatters of the world, unite! We must revolt against the opression of the portrait format!

In the meantime, I’ll continue posting my portait formats using Squaready.

TL;DR – Tim only blogs to complain about Instagram. Squaready is not dead.

See also: PetaPixel’s analysis on why the change happened