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Social media is the biggest source of infotainment nowadays. Since human beings are visual creatures, some of the leading social media platforms are based on images and videos.
Back in the days when these social media platforms were just launched, they had only one way of posting an image or video with a strict aspect ratio. Now, as the world of social media is advancing, they have made their image and video sizes a bit vaster to suit different types of devices and purposes.
If you are wondering why the size and aspect ratio are important, the answer is that it affects the picture quality and how your content is displayed on different devices. Therefore, it is essential to follow these numbers, especially if you are a business or an influencer who doesn’t want to compromise their reach.
So, here is a complete guide to the ideal aspect ratio for every image and video that goes on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.
Aspect ratio is the proportion between the height and width of an image or a video. It is represented in X:Y numbers, in which X denotes the width and Y denotes the height.
Two of the most common aspect ratios are 16:9 and 9:16, ideal for landscape media on TV and desktop or portrait media on mobile phones, respectively. However, there are other ways to signify aspect ratio as well. For example, 16:9 can also be written as 16/9 or 1.78.
TikTok is a Chinese social networking app that is based on video content. It is usually common among teenagers and young adults, featuring background music and unique filters. This lightweight and easy-to-use app has gained massive popularity worldwide.
Users are allowed to post 15–60-second video clips with different captions. As a result, it has quickly become one of the most widely used platforms for different categories of video content.
TikTok was explicitly designed to be used on mobile phones all around the world. Therefore, the aspect ratio of the app’s media matches the dimension of an average mobile screen.
Since TikTok is growing rapidly, becoming a significant platform for making money, people are now taking its video and image specifications a lot more seriously. So here are the aspect ratios for everything that goes on TikTok:
TikTok profile picture is a non-clickable image that works as the account’s logo. Even though people use different sizes of images as their profile pictures, it will only select a certain area of the picture according to its aspect ratio.
An organic video is content that you post on your feed for your followers. It can show up in the newsfeed of people who actively follow you. To make sure the aspect ratio of the videos is suitable for TikTok, the app has a built-in camera option with different effects and filters.
TikTok launched its ads in 2019 to allow different brands to promote their products on the app. Their newsfeed or in-feed ads are the most common types of ads that appear in your news feed after every few videos. These ads are cheaper to run and reach your target audience amidst scrolling the app.
The top View ads are shown in the top part of the “Your Feed” section. These slots are a bit pricier but guarantee a vast reach and increase engagement on the video. These ads are usually 60 seconds long, displaying content that genuinely explains your brand or personality; therefore, they get more attention.
Instagram is an image and video-sharing social platform with over 1.393 billion active users. It is the most common app among business owners, influencers, and photographers to share and market their products.
Instagram is also one of the top social media platforms with the greatest number of celebrity accounts. It is also slowly turning into a marketplace with the new shopping option. Nonetheless, the only way to get noticed on this app is by posting premium quality images consistently.
Instagram was initially designed to share pictures only. However, it has turned into a social media platform with different ways to share media. As a result, it has become one of the biggest platforms for influencers to earn and promote their content.
Since Instagram has introduced ads, it is important to stick to the aspect ratio determined for each type of image or video. This way, your content will look more put together and high quality at the time of promotion. Here are the aspect ratios for Instagram posts and ads:
An Instagram profile picture is a non-clickable or zoomable image that defines you or your brand. Instagram recommends using a square picture for this purpose as it is later cropped into a circle shape. Since a rectangular image will be mostly cropped, it is best to stick to the recommended aspect ratio for the picture.
The standard post on Instagram is a square image with a caption. It can be a picture, infographic, test post, or illustration in a square format.
A portrait image is vertically longer than the standard Instagram post. Most selfies and photographs taken from mobile phone cameras are in portrait mode. Therefore, Instagram introduced an option for posting vertically longer images to allow users to share all kinds of images without having to crop them.
Landscape photos are horizontally longer as this format is commonly used to capture outdoor shots. Initially, Instagram did not support landscape images, and you had to crop the image to fit the Instagram aspect ratio. Now you can post your landscape photography on Instagram without a hassle.
Instagram stories were introduced in 2017 to share short snippets of your daily life. These are the pictures and videos that you don’t want to post on your main feed but still want to share with your followers.
IGTV videos are a quick way to share high-quality videos with your viewers on your Instagram feed. There is no time limit for IGTV videos. Like other video-sharing platforms have a thumbnail for their videos, IGTV videos have a cover to attract viewers.
Since people are inclined toward quick videos, Instagram introduced Reels for this year to meet the demand. Unfortunately, this option is not available worldwide but has still garnered quite a lot of popularity among influencers, young adults, and new brands.
YouTube is one of the largest video sharing and streaming social media platforms. This app is all about high-quality media from all around the world. It is one of the leading video-sharing platforms globally that shows live broadcasts of top news and entertainment channels.
YouTube became one of the most significant sources of earnings among millennials and Gen Z, thanks to its creator reward program. Sticking to the correct dimensions and resolution of the video is the best option to gain more views on this social platform.
YouTube has had strict rules about image and video dimensions since the beginning. However, since people mostly consumed YouTube content on desktop computers initially, they chose the landscape aspect ratio for the best results.
However, things are taking a modern turn, and every app is becoming more mobile-friendly. Not only does it support image posts now, but you can also use hashtags to promote your posts. There are a few different media dimensions that you can use on YouTube as well.
Your YouTube profile picture is the logo of your channel. It is the first visual representation of the brand or the YouTube channel owner. YouTube recommends using a square picture frame for your profile icon.
The YouTube banner is also known as the channel art or header. It is based on attractive images, illustrations, and text depicting the essence of your channel that goes on the top part of your channel. Uploading a high-quality banner adds more personality to your YouTube channel.
YouTube is known for its unlimited video content. Posting videos on YouTube requires the creator to follow some guidelines, including a recommended resolution and aspect ratio, to not compromise quality. These videos are available for global viewership if you have a public channel.
YouTube shorts were introduced in September 2020 to keep up with the demand for quick video content that you can scroll through. Most influencers, teenagers, and young adults use shorts to share quick clips of their daily lives. These videos are usually filmed and watched on mobile phones; therefore, they are in a vertical format.
Currently, YouTube has introduced an option for sharing high-quality images with subscribers. Creators can upload a single or carousel image of the same size with catchy captions. However, it is only available for creators with more than 1000 subscribers.
YouTube Display Ads are shown on the top right of the window, right above the suggested videos for you. It helps brands catch viewers’ attention when going through their suggestion videos section.
These types of YouTube ads appear either at the beginning, middle, or end of a video. They are skippable or non-skippable video ads. They help promote the brand to the masses in a specific world area. Creators get a set amount of monetary compensation for every view or click on the ad.
Vertical video ads are longer vertically. They may appear before, in between, or after a video on YouTube. Basically, it covers 75% of the screen, unlike a landscape video.
Since most YouTube users now watch videos on their mobile phones, this format makes ad viewership on mobile a lot effortless. In addition, vertical YouTube ads also appear in between reels.
Now that you know which aspect ratio is ideal for your preferred social media platform, how do you get your image to be in the exact size? Since most DSLR cameras have a default aspect ratio of 3:2, you need to adjust the dimensions according to your requirements.
Here are two ways to get the ideal aspect ratio for your social media posts:
If your picture or video isn’t already taken into the required size, you can always crop its edges to achieve the ideal aspect ratio for your social media post. However, getting the aspect ratio right is essential, especially if you must promote your image or video through an ad.
You can use beginner-friendly photo editing apps with aspect ratios for common social media apps. Advanced options like Adobe Photoshop or lightroom are ideal for experts to adjust the size of the media.
The standard aspect ratio for a DSLR camera is 3:2, and 16:9 for mobile phone cameras. However, you can always tweak the settings according to your preference. Nowadays, most modern cameras come with various aspect ratio options to choose from.
If not, you can always set the ratio and dimensions manually according to your preference and requirements. Then, all you have to do is open your camera settings and change the numbers in the aspect ratio selector.
Keeping these numbers in mind can help your social media look more cohesive. Furthermore, it will also help maintain the quality of the media you post online. Whether you choose TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram, you need to consider the aspect ratio to reach the maximum audience with your promotional strategies.
As a rule of thumb, 9:16 is the ideal aspect ratio for media consumed on a mobile phone vertically and 16:9 for media consumed on desktop, laptop, and mobile phones horizontally. Additionally, 1:1 is for square images and videos.
The key to growing your TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube is consistency and good-quality content. Following the correct aspect ratio is an essential part of preserving the quality of your media to take your account to new heights.
Featured Image Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds, Shutterstock
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Jeff is a tech professional by day, writer, and amateur photographer by night. He's had the privilege of leading software teams for startups to the Fortune 100 over the past two decades. He currently works in the data privacy space. Jeff's amateur photography interests started in 2008 when he got his first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel. Since then, he's taken tens of thousands of photos. His favorite handheld camera these days is his Google Pixel 6 XL. He loves taking photos of nature and his kids. In 2016, he bought his first drone, the Mavic Pro. Taking photos from the air is an amazing perspective, and he loves to take his drone while traveling.
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