Why Instagram’s New Features Will Change the Way You Use It

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The way you use Instagram is about to change. Those updating to the latest version of the photo-sharing service will find that the service no longer limits photos to the traditional square photo sizes. The service now allows both portrait and landscape formats for both photos and videos. This was a necessary change: Instagram says that users already share nearly one out of every five photos in formats other than the traditional square format, typically by shrinking the pictures down to fit within the square space provided.

Instagram is all about photos at its core, so giving users more artistic freedom in how they create and share their images makes sense. While Instagram will still default to the square orientation, users are able to also select portrait or landscape orientation, and have the picture shared correctly within their own and their followers’ feeds in a way that doesn’t disrupt the flow.

So why should you be excited about these changes to Instagram, and upgrade as soon as possible?

Frame your photos better

Instagram’s square photo format is a throwback to the days of Polaroid Instant photos: In fact, it’s now instantly recognizable icon looks quite close to an old Polaroid Land Camera 1000, shown in this Camerapedia entry. This Polaroid camera — and others too — took square photos. But even Polaroid users then had problems framing their shots.  In its blog post describing the switch, Instagram says it best: “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.” In other words, the square was limiting creativity.

It makes better sense for video

Instagram was not thinking about video initially when it launched, so the addition of video was an afterthought. The square was just a holdback to its initial photo roots. Although Instagram claimed that it “needed to do what we did for video” according to Mashable, when video was launched two years ago, it ignored video’s roots: traditionally a widescreen experience. With so many phones now able to take full HD video, not allowing widescreen video on a media-sharing app doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Videos are now shown in a much more native and traditional format.

More control over filters

The filters are what really  pmakes Instagram. From Lo-Fi, to Hefe, to Lark and so forth, filters give your pictures and videos a distinct look. Instagram says it has redesigned the filters portion of the service to have a single set of filters regardless of whether it’s photo or a video (before, they were separate). Another nice feature is full control over filter intensity. You may have found some filters were too intense based on the lighting in particular photo. Now you can control the final product better.

It looks better

Think of your own Instagram feeds. How many times have you seen an image that looks like somebody forced it to fit in the Instagram square? It doesn’t look right because it’s either filled with white or black space or is cropped, says Fast Company’s Harry McCracken. In an interview with McCracken, Instagram product manager Ashley Yuki argeed and lamented people’s workarounds to these square limitation. “One in every five moments I’m seeing basically feels like it’s not natively supported by our platform, which is not great,” she says. We agree. While the built-in camera interface and the profile layouts still stick to the square, it’s certainly a start.

It’s certain that the purists will lament Instagram’s changes, but the changes were inevitable. Square photos worked in the days of Polaroid, and was a way for Instagram to separate itself from other photo-sharing services. But in this day of widescreen everything, it was only a matter of time before the photo-sharing service decided to let users break free of their square constrictions.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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