Even though Instagram stopped requiring that you use square images some time ago, posting panoramas on the service hasn’t been optimal. So long as the image dimensions were up to 1.91:1, you could post them as standard rectangular images. But that aspect ratio is taller than most panoramas, and posting them that way makes them awfully small and loses all the impact that panoramas can have.
Now there’s a neat new way to do it. It hacks Instagram’s new feature that lets you include multiple photos as part of a single post.
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Basically, you can split up a panorama into multiple square tiles, post those tiles to Instagram as part of a single post, and users can simply swipe left to move across the panorama. It’s a neat effect, and it’s much more impressive than the itty bitty rectangles of a single image.
Here’s an example of how it comes out:
It works best when viewing the images through the mobile app, where the transition between the images is smooth. It still works when viewing through a web browser, but you lose that smooth transition, and it isn’t as slick.
You can also get creative with this and do a wide layout of several images rather than just one single image. Photographer Phil Penman uses some good examples of this approach to make photo essays, such as this one.
How to Split a Panorama into Square Tiles
There are multiple ways you can split up a panorama into square tiles.
Splitting a Panorama into Square Tiles with Photoshop
There are always a bunch of ways to accomplish the same end in Photoshop. This is no different. If you want to split a panorama image into three (or any other number) pieces, you can do it with a combination of the marquee tool and cutting and pasting, or the cropping tool and the undo function.
But here’s the way I prefer to do it. It’s quick and neat.
This particular method relies on your master image divided evenly into squares. You want it to divide neatly into two squares or three squares or four squares, or whatever number you’re aiming for. What you don’t want is for it to divide into three and a bit squares.
So first crop the image to a whole number ratio like 1:3 or 1:4. In this case, I’m going to break it into three square tiles. Click on the crop tool, and then set the parameters at the top to Ratio. Then the first number is the number of horizontal tiles—in this case, 3. And the second is number 1. Like this:
Then apply the crop by either double-clicking inside it or clicking on the checkmark in the top toolbar.
Next, choose the Slice tool from the main toolbar at the left. The slice tool is under the same button as the crop tool, so click and hold on the crop tool to get the drop-down menu.
With the Slice tool active, click outside the image and drop around the outside of the entire image so that it creates one large slice that includes the whole image.
Then right-click on the small icons at the very top left of the slice. You’ll get a pop-up menu.
Choose Divide Slice.
From the Divide Slice options, uncheck the default “Divide Horizontally Into” box and check the “Divide Vertically Into” box. Then enter the number of slices you want.
You’ll notice that there’s no way to specify square slices. That’s why we made sure we started with a master image that divided neatly into whole squares.
You’ll notice that the slices are marked on the image now.
Click OK to close the Divide Slice options panel.
Now it’s time to export those slices as individual image files. Adobe touts the benefits of the newer Quick Export feature, but for this (and most of the time, for that matter), I prefer the old-fashioned Save for Web function. So choose that (File > Export > Save for Web).
Chances are, your master file is still a very large image. The Save for Web function isn’t really designed for very large images, and if only part of it is showing up in the preview panel, you might need to adjust the magnification in the bottom left. “Fit to View” is a good option for panoramas like this because it ensures that you can see the whole image.
In the right panel, change the image format to JPG and choose your compression amount. Something around 85 percent is a good working level, but you can choose higher or lower if you want. Do be aware, though, if you choose lower, that Instagram will be applying another round of compression when you upload the photo. So unless there’s some unusual reason not to, it’s better to err on the side of higher quality rather than lower quality.
The next thing to do is adjust the output size. The ideal size for photos for Instagram right now is 1080 pixels. So I change the height to 1080.
Then click Save.
You’ll then get the filename and location browser. Adjust the filename and folder if you want.
Before you hit Save, there’s a bit of a trick. You’ll notice at the bottom left that there are a few options. It’s important that the Slices one is set to All Slices.
Then hit Save. The images will output to an “images” subfolder, and sequence numbering will be applied automatically.
Splitting a Panorama into Square Tiles with ImageSplitter
ImageSplitter is a free online service that can quickly and easily split your panorama into tiles.
Again, it will work much better if you start with an image that will divide evenly into square tiles. If you have Photoshop, you can use the crop by the Ratio method outlined above. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can use any other cropping tool and manually calculate it (e.g., 3000 pixels by 1000 pixels). You can also do that in ImageSplitter after you upload the image and before you use the Split Image feature.
I’m not going to do the step-by-step guide for using ImageSplitter because it’s pretty self-explanatory. Just upload your image, choose the Split Image tab, and then specify the rows and columns (rows will be 1; columns will be however many tiles you want).
Once the splitting is down, it automatically downloads the resulting JPGs to your computers in a zip file.
Posting to Instagram
You now finally have the square tiles that you can upload to Instagram. Most of the options for posting to Instagram from a computer don’t yet support the new multi-image posts, so you’ll likely need to send the images to your phone and post from the mobile app.
The only thing to watch is that you choose them in the correct order, from left to right. That is, the first image should be the far left tile and be numbered 1 in your sequence.
Things Worth Knowing
- You can use up to 10 tiles across. That’s the limit of the multiple-image posts.
- This only works for horizontal (landscape) panoramas and ones that have a single row. So you can’t use vertical panoramas or multi-row panoramas.