The Complete Guide To The Evolution of Instagram Visuals

The Complete Guide To The Evolution of Instagram Visuals

Published on 15th of March 2024

Instagram got off to an understated start in 2010. Created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched as a free mobile app for iOS, Instagram was a simple photo-sharing app with filter options. Not everyone was impressed then, with most users viewing Instagram as a low-quality, filtered-photo waste of time.

However, Instagram’s easy-to-use interface worked in its favor. The app gained popularity over the next two years. By 2012, Instagram had over 30 million users, which made it highly attractive to Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg forked out a record $1 billion in what turned out to be one of the best acquisitions ever.

From its initial focus on square-sized photos to the introduction of Stories, IGTV, and Reels, Instagram’s visual landscape evolved before everyone’s eyes. The company continues to make work of reflecting changing trends and online user preferences by regularly adding new features. Let’s take a moment to delve into Instagram's visual journey as we explore the innovations that shaped this much-loved social media platform.

The Early Years

Influencer posting on social media

At the start of the Instagram revolution, the powers behind the app focused on simplicity and authenticity. To that end, Instagram turned the traditional landscape and portrait shapes on their heads by embracing its signature square format. This encouraged users to use their smartphones to capture raw, unfiltered images. People loved this approach to social media and proceeded to fill their feeds with genuine, unpolished visuals.

Expanding the Instagram Horizon

In 2013, Instagram introduced video capabilities to its platform. Initially limited to 15 seconds, Instagram videos allowed users to share content to engage with their followers. The introduction of landscape orientation in 2015 further enhanced Instagram’s visual versatility. Content creators could unleash their unique creativity to build impressive followings.

Ephemeral Content That Packs a Punch

Influencer riding a horse

Instagram further expanded its already impressive lineup of features by adding Stories in 2016. Instagram Stories is well known today for creating a foundation for ephemeral content. Stories allow users to share a series of photos or videos that disappear after 24 hours. Single video stories are up to 60 seconds long, while longer stories are split into different segments.

The fleeting nature of Stories immediately diversified Instagram’s visual options even further. Content creators who want to keep stories on their feed longer than 24 hours can save them as a highlight.

Introducing Reels and IGTV

While Instagram worked on introducing Stories and other features, TikTok made a massive splash on the social media scene. Released in 2016, it was the most downloaded app in the US by 2018. In response, Instagram introduced Reels in 2020. This short-form video form (directly inspired by TikTok) offered users a fun way to share bite-sized content.

Determined to outshine TikTok, Instagram first launched another feature called IGTV in 2018, a dedicated platform for long-form videos. This feature catered to users who wanted to tell more in-depth stories. In 2021, IGTV was combined with in-feed videos to form the still-popular Instagram Video feature.

Since 2018, Instagram has continued to tailor its visual features based on user preferences, trends, and technology.

The Year of the Influencer

Influencers relaxing and posting on social media

2019 saw the rise of influencer marketing, a concept that still powers marketing strategies worldwide. Influencers have a major foothold on Instagram, as they continue collaborating with diverse brands to promote products and services using captivating visuals. Influencer marketing is stronger than ever in 2023. Social media experts predict that it will dominate even more in 2024.

Instagram also introduced an entire suite of editing tools in 2019, including new and improved filters, special effects, background blur, and timelapse options. This allowed users to expand their content creation strategies and create relatable content. The emphasis on authentic storytelling remained strong, and the new features encouraged all Instagram users to share content that reflected real life.

AR and Shopping

In 2020, AR filters finally landed on Instagram. They were an instant hit with users, as they could add virtual elements to photos and videos. Content creators used AR filters to create interactive experiences with products and services. Instagram integrated shopping features on its platform so people could discover and buy products directly.

At the same time, video content continued to thrive, with the number of videos created and consumed growing by the day.

Added Reels features and Live Rooms

By 2021, Instagram accommodated longer reels (up to 60 seconds) and introduced the Remix and Duet features. In December of that year, the platform shifted towards video content, away from photo content. The Remix and Duet features complemented the change well. Additionally, Instagram launched Live Rooms, allowing users to host live audio and video conversations with up to four participants. And the social media giant placed renewed emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion. It led by example by highlighting content from creators of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

Building Communities

Friends hugging by the sea shore

In 2022, Instagram focused on encouraging its users to build communities and connect based on interests and niches. It introduced several creative tools to help users create even more engaging and appealing content. These tools included guides, templates, and music. Even though Instagram discontinued the guides feature in June 2023, users can still use templates and music to beautify and improve their content.

Video Content Still Rules But…

After facing criticism in 2022, Instagram acknowledged that it focused too much on video content and confirmed it would again focus on photos in 2023. So, while video content still ruled, photos made a comeback. This does not mean that videos are on the backburner but that both formats will enjoy equal priority on the platform.

In 2023, AI is changing everything we thought we knew about social media, including Instagram. The app now explores AI and machine learning to enhance user experiences and produce visual storytelling tools.

Another trend that popped up in 2023 is a zeroed-in focus on user well-being. Instagram continues to promote positive social media habits and address mental health concerns related to digital behavior.

Instagram’s visual evolution shows just how adaptable the platform is. The app’s journey has been shaped by trends, technology, and a commitment to authenticity. This is a potent strategy that will keep Instagram successful in the years to come. It is also what will keep the app at the forefront of compelling visual content.

Article by Blastup

Thank you for reading our blog. Our team specializes in viral Instagram marketing and our products include real likes, top-shelf followers and instant views. Take a look around our website or read more of our great content.

Back to blog