This is the Highest Performing Image Size on Instagram

If you think photo sizes on Instagram have no impact on your performance, you may be wrong. Images for social media can be formatted for optimal engagement, and below you'll find out which one makes 'grammers interact the most.

pay attention to me pls & thx (@mytherapistsays)

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What your Instagram images need to telegraph.

The beauty of Instagram is that it accommodates every single type of aesthetic. Pretty sure that was actually the premise for the app's inception: sharing images one finds attractive with communities of like-minded people (also why community is a vital part of any social media marketing strategy). So if your goal with Instagram is to be a beacon of creativity and to let your imaginative flag fly, you should post whatever your heart desires.

But if you're a business with commerce and growth-driven objectives, then you can't just do you. Building a brand strategy from which to derive an image and a narrative is secretly about marketing, not your personal taste. Candid brand talk: while both are critical components of branding, the truth is you can't be in business without a strategy, even if it can sometimes curb creative decisions that you wish you could make.

As an incorporated entity, you are both the authority and at the mercy of your market—sorry to break it to you. It means that you inevitably will have to make certain calls based on corporate objectives backed by data, much to the chagrin of those who are less analytically inclined. A cause for much debate over what your best Instagram photos potentially are; it isn't lost on us.

If your goal with Instagram is to support your business objectives through social marketing, to grow an audience and increase your engagement, then you should be optimizing all of your resources. Staying on-brand is vital, but so is strategic planning informed by statistics and following best practices. Don't compromise your storytelling, but don't miss growth opportunities either.

When creative and goal-driven decisions aren't in cahoots, you've got to ask yourself:

  • Can this action either benefit or hurt my brand?
  • Is it worth going to bat for an issue if the other side has a valid argument?
  • Will this action contribute to business growth?


The @leejeanseurope account has a high engagement rate of 2.08%, but can more than double it when it posts vertical shots like this one, which garnered a rate of 4.75%. Woot.

What's this About Instagram Photo Size Though?

The topic of Instagram picture sizes has recently sprung some cogitation here at DH. Social media images are the heart of your operations because they are what your followers see every day and associate with your brand. A business' visual identity is fundamental, and the three main Instagram resolution formats go as follows:

  1. The standard square.
  2. The landscape, or horizontal.
  3. The portrait, or vertical (maximum Instagram portrait dimensions are 4:5).

That's not to say that there aren't other creative ways to get around those standards. Case in point: image borders. Different brands have different aesthetics, which is great in keeping Instagram a less homogenous place.

But to really go deep on cracking the code to reaching peak engagement levels, we thought we'd analyze each Instagram image size to understand once and for all which one yields the best results. For this, we took out the big guns, aka our AI-powered tool Vision.

In Vision, we keep all kinds of data because the machine is a smart ass. Like the sizing of Instagram pictures. We extracted the engagement numbers of 1000 brands from each of Instagram's three photo formats, starting in June 2017 until present day.

Here's what we found:

  • The average engagement rate for a square photo is 1.39%.
  • The average engagement rate for a landscape photo is 1.26%.
  • The average engagement rate for a portrait photo is 1.43%.

Now, while this tells you that vertical frames garner more engagement than their counterparts, average engagement rate norms still vary from one account to the next. For example, the luxury industry typically sits under 1%, while the standard in travel is more around 2.5%. We normalized the results to account for these discrepancies, and here's what we found.

If we assume that the square is standard and gets 100% of engagements:

  • The landscape format receives 91%.
  • The portrait format receives 113%.

The conclusion of this experiment is that horizontal images receive on average 9% less engagements than squares, while shots respecting the Instagram vertical dimensions of 4:5 outperform them by 13%. 😱

Mind blown? Here's a little card to keep in your back pocket for referencing when you need a reminder:
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But Can You Explain Why?

The reason why portrait photos do better than the other two is actually not as scientific as one might think. It's simple logic: vertical posts take up more real estate on the screen, which makes them more eye-catching. It's literally more physical space for your brand to take up.

A bigger surface gives your content a better chance of being noticed by followers, increasing the opportunities for interactions. From a business standpoint, it makes complete sense to utilize the maximum space you're allotted to connect with your consumers. And now there's data to prove that it's more beneficial. If you're still not clear about why increasing your engagement is a good thing, you can read about it here and here.

You new motto: go big or go home.

What about borders?

Based on this data, it goes without saying that a full-bleed shot will always outperform one that isn't at full capacity. Instagram is a visual place for your brand to make an impact—users want to be wowed. Don't whisper at them, shout from the rooftops.

If your brand's visual statement is to have a gallery with borders around its images, then you're choosing to override the data with a creative decision. Which is one hundred percent your prerogative. Don't shoot the messenger.

Portraits FTW with Eastpak.

Aesthetic choices are super important, they're what sets accounts apart from one another. Without them, the world would be a bland, uniform place. But to sustain a business, rational marketing decisions are equally critical.

The key to social success is to strike that elusive balance between the two. And with the information we just dropped on you, you're one step closer to achieving it.

To learn more about visual intelligence, get in touch today (right after you sign up for our newsletter 👇).