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How to edit video for Instagram: quick tips for Stories, Reels and Posts

Instagram video screenshots on gradient background
(Image credit: Meta/Future)

If you want to edit video for Instagram, you have a number of options for doing so. However, the first thing to establish is what kind of video you’re planning to post. Instagram has taken a while to figure out its video offering, and you currently have a few options for where and how you can post videos.

Currently on Instagram, you have three main methods of posting videos – Stories, main feed posts and Reels. Until recently there was also the long-form IGTV app, however Instagram’s parent company Meta announced that it would be shutting down IGTV as of March 2022, due to lack of interest and a desire to simplify the platform’s video offering. You can also go Live, but since we’re talking editing here we’ll leave that alone for now.

UPDATE July 2022: video posts are (almost no more) – an Instagram Reels update means that all videos less than 15 minutes in length will now automatically be shared as Reels.

In this guide, we’ll take you through each type of video you can post on Instagram, explain the requirements and how best to edit and optimise your videos for each one. For more powerful video editing options, check out our guide to the best video editing software, as well as the best free video editing software if you’re on an extremely tight budget. Also, bearing in mind that Instagram works best on mobile, our guide to the best video editing apps might also be helpful. 

Posting video on Instagram

Instagram post options screenshot on gradient background

(Image credit: Jon Stapley/Future)

The easiest way to get started posting your video on Instagram is to hit the + symbol at the top right of the screen. This will take you to the menu where you can select what type of content you want to post. The top three options will be Post, Reel and Story. Select which one you want to post, and you'll be taken directly to the editing and uploading interface.

So, let's look at each one in turn.

How to edit video for Instagram feed posts

Screenshot of Instagram video posting interface on gradient background

(Image credit: Jon Stapley/Future)

An Instagram feed post is the simplest way to share a video. The in-app editing functionality here is quite limited, meaning that if you simply want to share a video on your feed, you may want to edit it beforehand in a separate app or program. Here are the key things to remember.

Set the dimensions: You can post a video in Instagram’s traditional square format, or in the dimensions it was originally shot. When selecting your clip from your gallery, click the two-arrows icon on the bottom left to toggle between these options.

Remember the time limit: You’ve got a maximum of 60 seconds when posting video clips to your Instagram feed.

Screenshots of Instagram video posting interface on gradient background

(Image credit: Jon Stapley/Future)

Trim and add filters: In-app, you can use the uploader to trim your video clip, or to add one of Instagram’s famous filters (though they are a bit passé these days). If you want to add music, text or effects, you’re best off either doing it beforehand or using either Reels or Stories, as the post editor doesn't offer this functionality.

How to edit video for Instagram Stories

Screenshot of Instagram Stories interface on gradien background

(Image credit: Future)

Instagram Stories are short, ephemeral photos and videos that show up at the top of a user’s feed, and disappear after 24 hours. Originally introduced to compete with Snapchat, Stories have since become a key part of the Instagram experience. Here are some tips for editing Instagram Stories.

Think in 15 seconds: An individual Instagram Story is 15 seconds long. If you upload a longer video, it’ll automatically be split into multiple stories, but this can make for a disjointed experience for the viewer. You can individually select parts and remove them to isolate a 15-second section, but the breaks may not be where you want them. It’s best to plan in advance and trim your clips to 15 seconds or less before upload – your phone’s native video app will likely be able to handle this.

Stay vertical: Instagram Stories are almost exclusively viewed full-screen on a phone display, so portrait format dimensions (1080 by 1920 px) are what you need to be thinking in. If you do have video that’s a different orientation, you can always zoom in manually in the interface like you would with a photo, but remember that this will have an impact on the quality. 

Screenshot of Instagram Stories interface on gradient background

(Image credit: Jon Stapley/Future)

Remember what you can do in the app…: The Instagram app makes it easy to add simple things to your Stories. You can overlay text, add music (the app links up with Spotify), rotate video, zoom in, move the video around the canvas, add a background, overlay photos from your gallery, and more. If you have simple tasks like these in mind, the easiest thing to do is probably handling it in-app.

… and what you can’t: The Stories interface isn’t much for colour correction. There are Instagram’s well-known filters named after cities, which you can access by swiping left or right in the Stories interface, but honestly these are pretty lame. For simple colour correction or stylish presets, you’re best off looking into an app like Adobe Premiere Rush.

For more on Stories, see our Instagram Story tips guide.

How to edit video for Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels interface screenshot on gradient background

(Image credit: Jon Stapley/Future)

What Stories were to Snapchat, Instagram Reels are to TikTok. These are short clips that can be posted to the main feed, or continually scrolled through just like TikToks. 

Create in-app if possible: You can add pre-recorded clips to a Reel by tapping the camera roll icon at the bottom left, but unlike TikToks, Reels don’t let you add many effects to these clips. You can add text, stickers and music in a similar interface to Stories, but the more advanced stuff is fenced off unless you’re shooting in-app. Simply tap the centre button to start recording, or use the clock icon to start a recording timer.

Set the length: Reels can be set to 15, 30 or 60 seconds – they don’t have to be exactly these prescribed lengths, but they cannot exceed them. 

Use transitions: In the Effects panel (accessed by tapping the stars icon), you can find some useful Transitions to get you from one clip to another. These include effects like Warp (whip between clips when you turn your head left or right), Spin (trigger a spinning transition by tilting your head), Zoom (tap a section of the frame to transition by zooming in on that area) and more. They can be really handy for stitching clips together smoothly. 

Save effects: The effects interface on Reels is a big sprawling mess. If you find an editing effect you like, save it using the bookmark icon so that you can easily access it again.

Screnshot of Instagram Reels interface showing saved effects and transitions

(Image credit: Jon Stapley/Future)

Align your clips: Once you’ve added your first clip, you’ll notice a new icon on the left-hand menu bar. This is the Align tool – selecting it will bring up a ghost overlay of the end of your previous clip, which you can then align the next shot to. This is useful for smoothly transitioning between clips.

Want to know more about Reels? Check out our full beginner's guide to Instagram Reels for more tips. 

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Jon Stapley
Jon Stapley

Jon is a freelance writer and journalist who covers photography, art, technology, and the intersection of all three. When he's not scouting out news on the latest gadgets, he likes to play around with film cameras that were manufactured before he was born. To that end, he never goes anywhere without his Olympus XA2, loaded with a fresh roll of Kodak (Gold 200 is the best, since you asked). Jon is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq, and has also written for in Digital Camera World, Black + White Photography Magazine, Photomonitor, Outdoor Photography, Shortlist and probably a few others he's forgetting.