Ever since its inception, Instagram has always allowed clicking and uploading images (and later videos) in the 1:1 square aspect ratio. Like Twitter’s 140 character limit, it was a part of the platform’s appeal, or a drawback, depending upon how you chose to look at it.
Off late, a lot of people had begun uploading non-square images to Instagram using image editing tools to add whitespace to the sides. Clearly people don’t seem fond of Instagram’s aspect ratio limitation anymore and are willing to use odd hacks to upload a non-square image, even if it made their images look terrible. So Instagram finally caved in and decided to add support for landscape and portrait aspect ratios.
Once you update to the new version 7.5 build on iOS and Android, you will get a button while choosing the image to switch to the original aspect ratio of the image instead of cropping it to 1:1, after which you can then proceed to edit the image as usual. This also works for videos, so you can now have full width widescreen videos on Instagram as well. There doesn’t seem to be a limitation on the aspect ratio in landscape mode but in portrait mode you are limited to 4:3, so if you upload a 16:9 vertical image or video it gets its top and bottom cropped off to fit into 4:3. This is done to prevent images and videos from overflowing out of the viewing area within the app and that the image or video still remains entirely within the app’s UI. If you click on the profile, you still see square thumbnails of images and videos to preserve the square grid layout of profiles.
It’s a somewhat controversial decision for sure, as some might bemoan the lack of uniformity now on their timeline, with images in oddball aspect ratios already popping up everywhere. It will also make for lazier photographers, as earlier you’d have to work harder to make the shot look good in the 1:1 aspect ratio while now you can just upload your standard 4:3 or 16:9 images from your gallery and be done with it (note the Instagram camera app still allows shooting only in 1:1). Others, however, will appreciate the flexibility of uploading non-square images as sometimes it is hard to get everything within that aspect ratio. It does show that Instagram is willing to listen to its uses. The question is, whether they should have.