How to Make Instagram Reels in 5 Steps

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Photo Source: Courtesy Instagram

Little grabs the attention of social media users quite like the pithy yet powerful Instagram Reel. Knowing how to make a killer Instagram Reel is a matter of understanding Instagram and its features, perfecting your content, and knowing how and when to post.


What is a Reel on Instagram?

Instagram ReelsAscannio/Shutterstock

Reels are short-form, 15- to 90-second vertical videos posted on Instagram that can incorporate audio, visual filters and effects, and text. Instagram Reels allow users to show off their talent, engage a wider audience, and maybe even go viral.

How to make an Instagram Reel

IG Reels on a phonesdx15/Shutterstock

Making a Reel on Instagram is a matter of coming up with a great idea, shooting the video, editing and adding effects, previewing your work, and sharing your Reel with your followers and the Instagram masses. 

1. Choose with a concept

Reels should be educational, entertaining, inspiring, or some mix of the engaging social media content trifecta. Posts that do well on TikTok also often translate nicely into Reels. There is also overlap with our advice on how to come up with short film ideas. The bottom line: Think about what you’re most genuinely interested in, then see how you can condense that passion into its most succinct form. 

Once you have an idea, investigate what other content creators are posting in that realm. For example, if you want to enter the fitness space, you might choose to record timelapse Reels to portray your swole progress. 

2. Shoot the video

You can shoot your Reel using the Stories camera, the home screen, or directly from the Reels function. 

  • Stories: Go to your Stories camera and click on the Reels function next to “Story” on the bottom scrolling menu. 

Reel button on Instagram Home screen

  • Home screen: Click the plus symbol on the top right of your home screen, and then click on the Reels function from the pop-up menu. 

Add Reel button on Instagram profile page

  • Reels function: Navigate to the Reels tab on your home feed navigation bar of the Instagram app. Then, click on the camera icon, which you can find at the top right of your screen. Press the recording function in the middle of the screen and shoot away.

Camera icon on Instagram Reels screen

If you don’t want to hold down the recording button while you film your Reel, use Instagram’s built-in timer found in the left sidebar. Choose how long you want your recording to be and enjoy that hands-free lifestyle. 

No matter which way you choose to shoot your Reel, you can shoot it as a single recording or a series of connected clips. Or, if you shoot your video externally, you can upload and add it to your Reel using the plus sign function in the bottom left corner of the app home page. 

3. Edit and add effects

Now it’s time to revise and polish your Reel to your heart’s content.

  • Add audio: You can record a post with original audio or add music to your Instagram Reel by clicking on the music function in the left sidebar. If you use original audio and have a public account, your audio will be added to the Instagram audio library. This means that other Instagrammers can add your audio to their own Reels. The Reels tab indicates trending audio with the trending arrow; if you’re trying to go viral, it can help to join the bandwagon bop.
  • Choose a speed: The left sidebar also includes speed options. Choose a speed of .3x or .5x if you want to slow down your video, 1x (the default) for a real-time pace, or 2x, 3x, or 4x for faster Reels.
  • Align: For smooth transitions between clips, use the align function in the left sidebar. 
  • Add effects: If you’re wondering how to add text and other effects to Instagram Reels, check out the effects icon just above the record button. Search through the app’s extensive effects gallery to find the best one for your Reel. You can also add text, use the draw tool to create your own line art, overlay stickers, add in exciting AR effects, and choose from a variety of filters.
  • Edit: Clip, organize, and add in new clips with the “Edit clips” button.

4. Preview your Reel

Hit the preview button to witness the glory of your Reel creation. If it’s not yet perfect, keep tweaking it until it is. 

5. Share your Reel

Hit the “Next” button, choose a cover image, add your descriptive caption and hashtags, tap the preview cover image (more on that soon), and then choose your audience. You can also tag other Instagram account handles and invite a collaborator, which will share the Reel with your collaborator’s followers and name them as a co-creator. If you’re looking for a wide reach, share your Reel to the Instagram Feed and hit the “Recommend on Facebook” button. Once you’re confident everything is correct and ready to go, hit “Share” and begin reveling in reactions and views.

Instagram Reel dimensions

Woman dancing in front of a phone mounted on a tripodNattakorn_Maneerat/Shutterstock

Reel dimensions

Instagram Reels are 1080 pixels x 1920 pixels, with an aspect ratio of 9:16 in full-screen mode and 4:5 in the Instagram feed. To make your Reel look its best, you should upload it as 1080 pixels x 1920 pixels so it doesn’t need to be resized for publication. 

Keep the main subject of the Reel smack dab in the middle of the frame so that viewers can still see the important stuff even if they’re watching it on the feed and not in full-screen. However, you want to ensure the video itself maintains that 9:16 aspect ratio, as Instagram favors reels that are full-screen, vertical videos. 

Preview dimensions

Crop your preview image in the Share page to the 1080 x 1920 standard size for best results.

Thumbnail dimensions

However, the thumbnail size should be 1080 pixels x 1080 pixels with a 1:1 aspect ratio due to its grid appearance.

How long can Instagram Reels be?

Instagram Reels can be up to 90 seconds long. Most Reels are between 15 and 60 seconds.

Best times to post Reels on Instagram

Woman posting an IG Reelsdx15/Shutterstock

The best times to post Instagram Reels for user engagement, according to Influencer Marketing Hub, are (in EST): 

  • Monday: 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 10 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 9 a.m.
  • Wednesday: 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 11 p.m.
  • Thursday: 9 a.m., 12 a.m., 7 p.m.
  • Friday: 5 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
  • Saturday: 11 a.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m.
  • Sunday: 7 a.m., 8 a.m., 4 p.m.

Of course, the best times to post your Reels may vary depending on your audience’s geographic location and the type of content. For example, Reels about nightclubs might fare better closer to the witching hour, while Reels about breakfast recipes may have a larger morning-time audience. Play around with the time you post your Reels to find what works best for you.

Best video editors for Instagram Reels

YouCam video editing appSharaf Maksumov/Shutterstock

With its vast array of editing effects and other native features, Instagram itself may be the best video editor for Reels. The Templates library even allows you to perfect a Reel without laboring over the project for too long. Other top video editing apps that work great for Reels include:

Play around with different video editors to find what works best for you and your Reels.