How to Start an Instagram Live Video

Instagram live on air

Instagramming live on air

Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

No obvious option sticks out on the Instagram app to start your own live stream. Rather, it's hidden in the camera tab of the Stories feature.

Instagram Stories changed the way people used Instagram in August 2016. By the end of 2016, Stories was expanded to include a live video streaming feature that allowed users to connect with their followers in real time.

The screenshots here were taken on an Android phone, but the outlined procedures should apply to most other current phones as well.

Starting a live video stream is a bit like preparing to post a story. Here's how:

  1. Tap your own bubble in the far left of your Stories feed, above Your Story. Or, swipe right anywhere within the app to pull up the Stories camera tab.

  2. By default, the camera tab is on the Normal setting, which you can see at the bottom of the screen beneath the capture button. To switch to a live video stream, swipe right or tap LIVE.

    Don't worry: You're not live yet.

  3. Before you continue, you might want to choose a few options for sharing your live feed. To see them, tap the gear icon in the upper left corner on the Live screen. You'll see various settings, which are fairly self-explanatory.

    Instagram with the Live settings highlighted
  4. You can hide your live video from certain people and allow certain users to reply to your live video via direct message. When you're satisfied with your settings, tap the back arrow next to Story to return to the Live screen.

    Instagram Live settings
  5. When you're ready to go live, tap Go Live. This will trigger the live broadcast of your video, and your followers will be able to see that you're live.

  6. When you're ready to stop broadcasting, tap End in the top right corner of the screen. From there, you can tap Save in the top right to save your session to your camera roll, or share it to your story.

Once you've ended your video, you'll see a total viewer count to let you know how many people tuned in over the course of your live video.

Engaging With Your Viewers

When you start an Instagram live video, your followers can receive notifications to encourage them to tune in. When they do, you'll notice a few things appear on the screen.

  • Viewer count: This appears in the top right corner of the screen next to the eye icon.
  • Comments: Viewers can publish live comments on your video using the comment field, which appears at the bottom of the screen. 
  • Likes: A heart button appears in the bottom right corner of the screen, which viewers can tap to express their approval of your live video. You'll see a heart animation play in real time as viewers like it.

Pin a Comment or Turn Off Comments

Besides talking to your viewers directly through the video, you can leave comments on your own video and pin them to the screen so that they stay there for all viewers to see. This is a useful feature if your live video is centered on a certain topic or question.

To pin a comment, simply type your comment into the comment field, post it, and tap your published comment. A menu will pop up from the bottom of the screen with a Pin Comment option.

Alternatively, you can turn comments off so nobody has the ability to comment. Just tap the three dots in the bottom right corner of the screen and tap Turn Off Commenting.

End Your Video When You're Done

You can broadcast live for up to an hour. The amount of data used while broadcasting a live video varies depending on your show's length and your signal's strength. If you're concerned about saving data, connect to Wi-Fi before you start recording.

How to Tell When Other Users Are Broadcasting Live

You can tell someone is using Instagram Live by looking at the little bubbles in your stories feed. The bubbles of friends who are using Instagram Live have pink Live badges displayed directly beneath them. Tap the appropriate bubble to start watching a live feed.