Making films for Instagram

You might think this is odd, you’re about to read a blogpost on how to create video content for Instagram from a brand who has no video content on their Instagram, BUT, hear me out. Before starting coffee and flowers I had a career in film for over a decade, so don’t worry! I do slightly know what I’m talking about.

There are literally thousands of articles available online with tips on what content to produce, how to keep your audience captivated, how to sell your story. This wont cover that, instead I’m going to look at the technical side of making film for Instagram.

There are three different locations you can upload videos to on Instagram · Instagram TV · Stories · The Grid Each location has its own time restrictions and aspect ratio requirements, take these into account when you are deciding where you want your content to live.



Phone Camera The easiest way to make films for Instagram is by using your phone, you can shoot, edit and upload all on one device. The downside is there may be limitations to the quality of the final piece. Don’t use the camera mode in Instagram, use your phones native camera app, this will give you better control on things like exposure and focus. It will also allow you to use tools Instagram does not have, like time-lapse or slow motion.

There is nothing wrong with filming selfie videos, but this is not always practical. Instead maybe get hold of a cheap tripod/stabilisation device for your phone.


If you have a DSLR, use that. It will add an extra step in to your workflow, but the positive is your videos will be of a much higher quality, if you’re already taking photos to upload to Instagram with a DSLR then why not your videos too? If you’re using a DSLR you will need to flip your camera 90 degrees so you’re filming in 16x9. You can buy a ball tripod head which will allow you to get that 90 degree angle while using your camera on tripod, monopod or other gimble. These can be pricy, but if you’re doing a lot of filming they might be worth the investment. Some cheaper photography tripods will have a function for you turn the camera 90 degrees, I use this one… My dad found it in a skip but it works perfectly for me.



Make sure your subject is well lit, this can be done with artificial or natural light. If you’re doing short one clip videos, natural light (i.e. the sun) can be a great source. But if you’re doing long takes and you know you’re going to cut the clips up, natural lighting may not be consistent. You’ll be racing against time due to the position of the sun and your light may be interrupted by ever moving clouds.

Get creative with your lighting source, we usually take photos at Darkroom espresso which has lovely natural light, for our last photoshoot we did it at my house and except for the back bedroom my house my house is naturally quite dark. The solution? We used a SAD lamp with a few layers of baking paper over the front of it to diffuse the light, worked a dream.

If you’re doing a lot of filming, it might be worth investing in some professional film or photography lights.



I specialised as a sound recordist for over 10 years, so bad sound is my biggest bugbear!

If your videos will include sound, try the following:

For the best quality sound, you want to use an external microphone. If you have a microphone, use that, most will come with an XLR input, but you can use an XLR to jack cable to plug it direct in to your phone. If you have a newer iPhone, then use Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter. You could also get hold of a cheap lapel microphone; you can attach this to yourself for really clear audio.

Ideally, try to avoid using the microphone built into your camera or phone to record sound, these microphones rarely sound good. If this can’t be avoided, then try to frame yourself where you can be as close to the microphone as possible, this will ensure your voice is being picked clearly and loudly.

Other things to think about:

  • If you have control over the sounds in your surroundings, do you best to eliminate as many of them as possible. Wait until all you footage is shot before you turn the washing machine on, close all your windows, get your other half to wear headphones while they watch TV and bribe the kids with cake.

  • Avoid playing music in the background, you can add this later.

  • If you’re filming outside, beware of the wind! Nothing is more frustrating than when you can hear the wind over dialogue.

  • If you’re filming in a public place (a little bit irrelevant right now with social distancing, but I was hoping to get a bit of longevity out of this blog!) try to find a quieter space.


Editing Instagram is not built to edit videos in the app. There are a lot of editing software packages out there. I use adobe premiere, but this can set you back at least £20 a month which may be over some peoples budget. If you have an iPhone or Mac then use iMovie, it’s free and very intuitive to use, it will allow you to:

  • Trim the end or beginning of clips

  • Turn one film clip into short clips

  • Duplicate a clip

  • Change the speed of a clip

  • Change audio levels

  • Add Transitions to you film

  • Add music or sound effects to your film

There are some great guides online on how to use iMovie, I recommend.

iMovie for iPhone iMovie for Mac

Think about where people are watching your videos; at work, on public transport, in bed next to a sleeping loved one… Often they won’t always be wearing headphones and sound will be off, so add text and captions to your video to allow them to still engage with the dialogue.

If you do add text, avoid placing it in the top and bottom 20% of the screen, or you will find the text covered by Instagram’s buttons.


Hopefully that might be of help! Maybe it is time for me to start uploading video content to Coffee and Flowers...