How to Use Instagram Video

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
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Get Started Using Video for Instagram

Controls for activating Instagram video

Les Walker

Video is a feature of Instagram that enables users of the app to record short video clips – three to 15 seconds long – simply by touching and holding down the recording button on their mobile phones.

Facebook owns Instagram, a popular photo-sharing app, and added the video recording feature in June 2013 to the mobile Instagram apps for both iOS and Android devices. This tutorial shows screen captures from the iPhone version, but the instructions apply equally to the Android interface since there is little difference.

How to Sign up for Instagram for Video?

To use it on your cell phone, first you have to download the free Instagram app and sign up for a free account. Video is simple a feature built into the app.

After you download the app, create an account and set up your Instagram profile, you'll simply sign in with your username and password.

Turning on Your Video Camera

To shoot your first Instagram video, open the app and click on the small camera icon at the bottom of your app's screen. That will activate your phone's camera, and you'll see an Instagram menu around whatever your camera is viewing.

By default, the camera launches in still-camera shooting mode. To switch to video mode, click the small video camera icon that will appear to the right of the regular camera icon at the bottom of your screen. (See image No. 1 on the left above.)

Next, you'll see the video icon move to the center, where it will replace the blue still camera icon and turn red (as shown in image No. 2 on the right above.) Once that icon is red, you're ready to shoot.

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How to Record Instagram Video

Instagram video editing timeline

Les Walker

You activate the video camera in Instagram by clicking the icon on the right bottom side of the app's interface. As soon as you click the video camera icon, it will grow bigger, move to the center at the bottom of your screen and turn red. (See the large red camera button in the image above.) When that big red button appears, you're ready to shoot video. That is the button you will touch to start recording.

Position Yourself, Frame Your Shot

First, position your phone camera so the action you want to record is directly in front of the camera.

Try to hold your hands AS STILL AS POSSIBLE; camera motion can spoil the quality of a video even more than it can with still photos. It's always good to rest the bottom of the camera on a table or to stabilize your hands by holding them against your chest or leaning the camera up against a tree or wall.

To start recording, just press the red camera button and hold your finger down for as long as you want to record that scene. When you're done, lift your finger off the screen to stop recording. The camera will go into "pause" mode. Remember, you must shoot a total of at least three seconds and no more than 15 seconds.

Sequences and Camera Angles

Whenever you lift your finger off the record button, the camera is paused. This touch-and-hold feature allows you to shoot different views and automatically splice them together, without you having to do tedious manual editing in order to stitch them into a continuous video or mini-movie. All you have to do is lift your finger, reposition, then press it again to record your next scene. Instagram will merge those different shots into a single mini-movie. 

In between shots, you can (and most of the time, probably should) reposition your camera in order to shoot your subject from a different camera angle.

It's good to stand up close for one shot and farther away for another; that way you'll get at least one super close-up and at least one very wide shot of the entire scene. Together with a medium distance shot, a closeup and wide shot will help your viewer get a visual sense of the scene you're filming.

It's also good to hold each shot for three seconds or more. holding each shot for three seconds would mean you can shoot only five scenes. Three or four different shots is probably the most you'll want to shoot in a typical short video.

The Blue Timeline Interface

Regardless of how many clips you choose to shoot for your Instagram movie, the recording interface shows a thin blue line moving across the bottom of the screen, right below the viewfinder. The blue line extends further to the right as ​you record; its length shows how far along in the 15 allowable seconds you are. When the blue line extends all the way to the right, it means you've used up your maximum 15 seconds.

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How to Edit Video with Instagram

Instagram video editing tools

Les Walker

Editing video on Instagram is easy and takes place mostly after you're done recording. Editing as you go along consists of composing your shot and deleting particular shots you don't like. When you're finished shooting all your scenes (remember, it won't allow you to shoot more than 15 seconds) click the green "NEXT" button at the top right side of the screen controls.

There are three things you can do that amount to "editing," though it's not really editing in the traditional sense. First you can delete your most recent video clip in the sequence you shot. Second, you'll be able to smooth out any shakiness using Instagram's built-in image stabilization feature. And finally, you can select the precise frame you want to use as your "cover" image or still shot for the finished video you'll upload to the web and share on social networks.

Here's how they all work:

1. Deleting Video Frames

First, you can always delete the most recent segment you shot; do this as you go along. Your visual guide to each clip is the thin blue horizontal line that appears beneath your video image. A break occurs between each shot, and a black "X" appears on the left.

If you don't like what you just shot, click the big "X" button right away, before shooting your next scene. Part of the thin blue line will turn red to denote the length of the clip you are about to delete. Then confirm the deletion by clicking the red trash can icon. Remember, you can always delete the last thing you shot, but you can't go back and delete earlier scenes as easily, so you have to delete unwanted scenes as you go along.

2. Choose and Apply a Filter

After clicking "next" when you're done recording your video, you'll see a horizontal row of filters at the bottom of your screen, allowing you to choose one to alter the exposure and coloring of the footage you shot.

Instagram added 13 all-new filters for video during the June 2013 rollout of the new recording feature. To see how any particular filter looks, just click the filter name and the video will play with that one applied.

After you've selected your filter (or opted not to use one) click "next" to move on to image stabilization.

3. Image Stabilization in Instagram

You have an "on" and "off" switch for the stabilization feature in the form of a camera icon, and it's your choice whether to use it. Instagram dubbed this feature "Cinema" but it's not labeled as such in the interface.

By default, image stabilization is turned on and applied to your video. If you do nothing, it will be used.

To change that, or at least see how the video looks with stabilization turned off, just click the small camera icon that appears above the filters and below your video. That's the on/off switch.

You'll see an "X" appear over the camera icon after you click it; that means image stabilization has been turned off. You can watch the video and see if it looks better on or off and then decide.

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How to Share Instagram Video on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Other Networks

Instagram share video


After recording and editing your video, Instagram will ask where you'd like to share it. Your choices include Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr — or by sending an email with a link to the Web version to your pals. (Another option listed is Foursquare, but it was grayed out at launch time, so it must be coming soon.)

As with still photos shot with the same app, Instagram invites you to write a caption for your video clip. After typing your message, you can choose the social network where you want to share it using a clickable list as shown in the image above. Just click the network where you want to share it. Then click the green "share" button at the top of the interface.

You may get various messages as your video is uploading, but basically, you're done after clicking "share."

Similar Mobile Video Apps

There are plenty of other mobile video apps to consider along with Instagram. Here are two other popular ones:

More about Shooting Video

If you want to use Instagram video a lot, it would be a good idea to learn the basic video editing rules.

After shooting the 15-second Instagrams for a while, you might want to graduate to longer clips. Learn how to make a basic YouTube video, where videos can be much longer. You can also download videos on Instagram for use on other platforms.

To get really fancy, you might want to explore using professional video editing software.

Good luck and happy shooting!

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