Rejoice: the iron-fisted reign of the square is dead. Instagram just announced it’s letting you upload landscape and portrait-oriented photos and videos to the platform, which means you no longer have to rely on janky screenshot hacks or third-party apps to get that sunset gram of the lake looking just right.
Since launch, Instagram has required all images on the platform to be crammed into a perfectly proportioned square. It has, arguably, changed the way a generation of amateur photographers see and capture the world. It even inspired Apple to update its camera app to include a square-shooting option with iOS 7.
And fair enough. There are logistical reasons for shoehorning photos into the shape: Squares look great in a grid and feed format. They provide a consistent visual experience for both photos and the little interface details like username, likes and comments. It relieves us of having to make yet another decision on yet another app, and that lightening of the cognitive load is not insignificant.
But enforcing a standardized aspect ratio is also a huge (and endlessly frustrating) creative constraint. Instagram knows this. The company says one out of every five photos is posted with some form of black or white padding on the side. This update (for iOS and Android) is an effort, as Instagram product manager Ashley Yuki explains, to make those horizontal and vertical photos feel more native to the platform. “We call it the full bleed treatment,” she says, explaining that photos will now extend to the edge of your phone’s screen.
As you scroll through your feed, landscape and horizontal photos will now be seamlessly integrated. They’ll still live as center-cropped squares on your profile page, and the upload default for photos and videos is still square, but it’s a concession to the fact that despite Instagram’s best efforts, we don’t always see the world in squares—we see it in landscapes and portraits and panoramas. Now with this update, the rest of your followers will, too.
By Liz Stinson