Okay, enough time has passed and it’s officially here to stay. It’s time we learn how to use Instagram Reels.
In almost equal popularity to TikTok, Instagram Reels now allows you to shoot, edit, and post videos entirely on Instagram—sixty-second videos, that is. This new feature is essentially their answer to TikTok (and the timing is pretty perfect).
With music, AR-based effects, and overlays, as well as a way to cut and compile your clips within the app, it’s an all-in-one tool for scroll-able video. This is pretty much how people use the platform now, with the normal feed posts taking a backseat. At least, that’s how it seems.
This is the age of individual creators and small businesses producing and publishing content without complicated third-party apps and software. Amazing video just keeps getting easier with readily available assets and camera technology breakthroughs.
Let’s break down all the features and look at how to use Instagram Reels in the most effective way possible.
What Instagram Reels Looks Like
On Reels, you have four tools to help you start working on your video. Here’s what each one does:
- Audio: Search and choose any song you’d like to play over your video from the Instagram music library. Once you’ve chosen the right song, you can scroll through the lyrics to find the perfect sixty seconds you want featured in your video. This is key to the reaction and music meme videos made popular on TikTok. If you’re a music-maker, you can also play your own original audio, which will make that music available to use for anyone watching your Reel.
- Speed: This is exactly what it sounds like. You have the ability to record in slow motion or fast motion.
- Effects: Like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram Stories, the effects available are overlays and AR-minded effects that manipulate the subjects and environments around you.
- Timer: This feature is perfect for solo recorders who need to film themselves dancing, performing, or simply talking in front of the camera. You’re able to select how long you want to record, so hit the record button and get in position (you’ve got three seconds).
- Align: This is possibly the most important tool offered on the home screen, right behind “Audio.” This feature lets you see where to position yourself from the previous cut so you can be in the same position. Confusing? Let’s talk about it.
Using the Align Effect
Perhaps one of the coolest tools, the Align Effect takes the last frame from your previous clip and applies it as an overlay over your video. What’s the point of that?
If you’re trying to do a trick—changing clothes, locations, people—this effect will allow you to position the camera in the right spot, making it seem like there was never a cut. This the tool people use to make those shoe and outfit change videos you see everywhere!
Using the Instagram Video Editor
Once you’ve recorded your clip, you can trim it down to be a specific length. You’ll be able to see how long the original clip was and how long the new “cut” clip will be.
If you’re trying to hit specific timing marks, this will help you have an idea of how close you’re getting.
After you record, you have the option to “Preview,” then you’ll see the individual clips you recorded broken up at the bottom of your screen.
From here, choose which clips you want to edit down. Once you’ve set it to play for the right amount of time, hit the arrow button to apply the edit to your video.
Using Titles and Stickers
Just like TikTok and Instagram Stories, you’re able to use titles and stickers, as well as draw on top of your footage. You can also add multiple titles and have them come on and off screen.
You’ve seen this style dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. Usually, people will point to titles they place later on. This is a way for people and brands to communicate a message without having to speak to the camera. This is usually done with a popular song playing behind the visuals.
So, add your title, then at the bottom, you’ll see an editing frame show up that will allow you to choose where and how long the title will pop up on screen.
I made this video a year ago and still can’t believe I used the sticker “Lit” in the video—I’m sorry. That being said, the stickers you can use are in fact, lit. See, I did it again.
For stickers, GIFs, and hand-drawn art, you’ll be locked to the whole video. Just know that if you add one of these elements, it’ll stay on screen throughout the recording.
How Long Can Reels Be?
When Reels was first released, the max time you could upload was fifteen seconds. However, shortly afterwards Instagram increased that to thirty seconds. Now, the official time for how long Reels can be is . . . sixty seconds!
So, while that might not seem like a lot of time, you have to consider how users are consuming these videos. Just like TikTok (and Vine before that) people are wanting short form content, otherwise they’d watch YouTube.
So, your videos must be concise and to the point. I’d say you have about three to four seconds to capture your viewers attention, so be sure to include an immediate hook, whether that’s enticing text or visuals.
There are a couple of new features that have been added to Instagram Reels in the last year, like green screen, auto-portrait orientation, and speech to text.
These features are meant for reacting to or showing your audience some type of image in the background, or providing some subtitles or close captioning.
In the video above, you can see exactly how to do these (they’re incredibly simple).
Where to Post Your Video
Instagram now has a “Reels” feed. The content in your Reels feeds is based on similar accounts that you follow, as well as actual accounts you follow. When you post your video, it’ll fall into this same type of publication algorithm.
For example, if your video is about skateboarding, it’ll probably show up in a skateboarder’s feed at some point. Here are the options you have for posting your new video:
- Reels Feed: Posting to Reels will plug your reel into the general “Reels” feed. This is your best shot at being noticed as this is how content gets seen by people who aren’t your followers. The standard checklist applies for any type of video upload—make sure you tag it sufficiently and title it with SEO in mind.
- Your Feed: You can also publish the video to your feed, allowing your followers to see the video as they scroll through their feed like normal. What’s important to keep in mind is that only your followers will see this. Any chance of getting that random algorithm love from Reels won’t apply.
- Your Stories: Posting to your Story is also a good idea to get it out there. There’s an opportunity for people to see it and share it. Users watching Instagram Stories are looking for this type of video content compared to the users scrolling through their feed looking at memes and photographs.
- DM the Video: You can also send the video directly to your friends. This is a good way to create personalized content meant for specific people. This is also a way to reach out to people you hope to connect with. Or, if the video is featuring someone, they can see it this way.
How to Save Reels to Instagram
If you want to save a Reel to Instagram, simply hit the ellipses icon down in the bottom right of the screen. Then, you’ll be prompted with a “Save” option and you’ll just hit that. Super simple right?
This will automatically save the Reel alongside anything else you’ve saved from your feed over time, regardless of whether it’s a photo or video.
Uploading Images and Video to Your Feed from Desktop
While this doesn’t apply to Reels yet, Instagram has recently included desktop uploading capabilities. This will allow you to keep whatever assets you need posted right on the desktop. The reason I included it on this breakdown is because I don’t think we’re far off from being able to post pre-made reels, or videos to be posted on the Reels feed straight from your desktop.
Instagram Reels is an amazing tool for creators, small business owners, and marketers as it eliminates a good chunk of video production hassle. Reels’ popularity has exploded as of late and there’s honestly no stopping this short-form content wave that seems to be overtaking almost everything.
Cover image via adriaticfoto.