Instagram Photos Don't Have to Be Squares Anymore — And That's a Huge Deal

Source: AP
Source: AP

It's hard to roll when you're a square, man.

As of today, Instagram is immediately lifting the prison-like confines of the square frame and allowing you to post images outside of the 1:1 aspect ratio, according to a press release. Before editing a video or photo, you'll be asked to choose your crop and framing. 

Source: Instagram

Then, those photos will appear in your followers' feeds in exactly the shape you choose. Profile pages will remain mostly untouched, and the tiled feeds of cropped square paneling will still remain the same.

Square cropping was Instagram's hallmark, and it briefly defined a generation in digital images. Many phone-based art apps and editors default to square-sized images so that they can seamlessly export to Instagram, and there are a plethora of options for apps whose only function is to resize and reframe. They've shaped popular culture, with pop luminaries like Rihanna, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar dropped square-framed music videos:

Source: YouTube

But it also didn't make any sense. Pleasing rectangular ratios have been the preferred format for human art and expression since the painting and the printed page, whether they've been portrait or landscape. Yes, cellphones have caused us to shoot more vertical video, but there is no device, material or medium for which a perfect square is the optimal display.

The constraints have been lifted. Creative limitations can enhance our experience of an app or service. Tumblr struggles with gaining traction because the platform is so amorphous, and Twitter was so revolutionary because of that wonderful 140 character constraint. The square frames were ugly, yes, but they caused us to rethink the classical photographic and filmic aspect ratios.

There is no device, material or medium for which a perfect square is the optimal display.

Now Instagram, which started off as a tool to allow you to take and edit gorgeous photos, is expanding what that tool can do without just giving us more filters. Instagram stars will revise the way they build galleries, new memes and forms of humor will emerge, and new apps will come and go to help edit and amplify those photos.

Break free of your square-shaped cells, people of Instagram. A new age is dawning.

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Jack Smith IV

Jack Smith IV is a senior writer covering technology and inequality. Send tips, comments and feedback to jack@mic.com.

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