Exporting for Instagram with Lightroom (Cloud) in 2023

Ahhhh, exporting. Nothing gets people quite as confused as the export settings in Adobe Lightroom. There are so many dropdowns, checkmarks, text boxes, and options. Most people just skip over the entire thing and just click the nice big “Export” button down at the bottom without putting much thought into it. 

Click here for the TLDR, if you want to understand why, keep reading!

Unfortunately, that can make a photographer’s images look quite different on Instagram than what they saw in Lightroom.

In this article I want to teach you not just how, but why we set our Lightroom settings the way we do when exporting for Instagram. Let’s dive in! 

**Note: this article is going to focus on Lightroom (cloud version), if you are looking for the instructions for Lightroom Classic, click here. **

First, we need to decide where on Instagram we are trying to post content. Feed posts have very different export requirements than stories / reels. The main difference between the two is something called an Aspect Ratio. 

Aspect Ratios

An aspect ratio is simply the comparison between a photo’s width and height. For example, a square image would have an aspect ratio of 1:1, a vertical image from most DSLR or Mirrorless cameras would have an aspect of 2:3 (width of 2, height of 3) and horizontal would have an aspect of 3:2 (width of 3, height of 2).

Instagram Feed posts need to have an aspect between 1.91:1 (the most “panoramic” option) and 4:5 (the most vertical option). 

Instagram Stories need to have an aspect ratio of 9:19 (vertical).

Many of our common photographic aspects fall into this range, such as:

1:1 (square)

2:3 (horizontal)

4:3 (horizontal)

4:5 (horizontal)

4:5 (vertical)

If the aspect ratio of the image you want to upload to the Instagram isn’t in the range of 1.91:1 – 4:5 (for feed posts), or 9:16 (for story posts), Instagram will just crop your image how it sees fit. Because of this, our first step is to use the crop tool in Lightroom to ensure that our image aspect ratio will be accepted and uncropped by Instagram upon upload. 

In Lightroom, we can set our aspect ratio by locking the small padlock in the Crop tool options and choosing an aspect ratio in the dropdown menu. You can also set up your own custom aspect like 1.91:1 if you want to see just how panoramic of a horizontal image Instagram will allow for. I also like to use 4:5 to see just how vertical I can make an image without any extra forced cropping from Instagram. 

**Important: Instagram will let you upload an image of any aspect ratio, it will just automatically crop those images that don’t fit between 1.91:1 and 4:5 (for feed) or 9:16 (for stories)**

You might also find it useful to make a duplicate of the image you are cropping for Instagram to allow you to keep the uncropped version as a separate file in Lightroom. You can do this by right clicking on the image in the Grid video (“G” on the keyboard) and choosing “Duplicate Photo.” That second file can now be edited and cropped without affecting the other file.

Now that we have our image properly cropped, let’s click the Export button in the upper-right and choose “Custom Settings…,” (Shift-E is the shortcut) and have a look at our options. 

Image Type and Dimensions

Let’s start with “Image Type.” Set this to JPG for Instagram export (stories or feed posts). JPEG files are the most widely used file type are built perfectly for use on Instagram, Facebook, email, or almost any other use case.  

When it comes to Dimensions, let’s choose “Custom,” with the dimension below (based on a vertical or horizontal photo). 

Vertical Images (feed or stories): Short Side = 1080 pixels

Horizontal Images: Long Side = 1080 pixels

The quality dropdown should also be set to 100. Quality is the level of compression you want to apply to the image. One thing I need to say right away is that quality does not affect the image size (image dimensions in pixels); it does however affect the file size (amount of space the image takes up on your hard drive). More compression (lower quality) is going to give you a smaller file size – but at the cost of image quality. Over-compression is not very fun to look at! It will look like “banding”, i.e., smoothness or even jagged edges where there should be smooth gradations of tones.

Lastly, let’s uncheck the “Include Watermark” box to complete this section. 

In summary, use JPG, 1080 pixels on long edge for horizontals, and short edge for verticals, a quality of 100, and “Include Watermark” unchecked. 


This setting is only important if you want to limit the information that goes with the image. Metadata is the information about your images that is not the actual colored pixel information. Examples of metadata info include shutter speed, aperture, capture date, creator, and a lot more! 

I usually choose “Copyright Only,” to ensure that Lightroom will only include the minimum copyright information metadata on export. 

File Naming

When exporting for Instagram I prefer to not rename on export. Simply set the “File Naming” dropdown to “Original.” The other options can be a useful feature when exporting images for a client, but in the case of Instagram I think it adds unnecessary complexity. 

Output Sharpening

This one is easy. Sharpening will help make your images look a bit crisper. This won’t help you if you took a blurry image, but it will help make a sharp image look a bit sharper.

I recommend turning it on and setting it to “Sharpen For: Screen” with an amount of “Low.”

This will allow Lightroom to apply a bit of extra sharpening on Export giving your images a bit more pop and help make up for any blurriness from viewing it on a low pixel density phone screen. 

Color Space

This one is simple but has a huge effect on the colors of your exported images. The correct choice here is sRGB which is the standard color space for screen display. If you choose one of the other options, you run the risk of your colors looking vastly different on Instagram than then do in Lightroom.

Once you click export, it will ask you where you would like the exported images to be saved. If you are on your phone, simply choose “Camera Roll” or “Photo Library.” If you are on your computer, simply choose the Desktop (I recommend making an “images for Instagram” folder on the Desktop) and export the files. Do remember that exported images are always copies of the originals in Lightroom so you are always safe to delete the exports off of the desktop/camera roll after you’ve posted them on Instagram. If you ever need them again, just re-export from Lightroom. 

TLDR Export Settings
Cropped Aspect Ratio
Instagram Stories:9:16 Aspect Ratio
Instagram Feed:Between 1.91:1 and 4:5 Aspect Ratio
Export Settings
Image Type:JPG
Long Side:1080 pixels (for horizontal images)
Short Side:1080 pixels (for vertical images or stories)
Include Watermark:Unchecked
MetadataCopyright Only
File Naming:Original
Output Sharpening:Screen – Low
Color Space:sRGB
Export Location:Desktop in a subfolder called “Images for Instagram”


  • Forest Chaput de Saintonge

    Forest Chaput de Saintonge directs Rocky Mountain School of Photography with his wife, Sarah. He has been immersed in photography since he was born. He grew up in Missoula and began taking photos with an SLR when he was seven years old. He started working for Rocky Mountain School of Photography at age 13. During his free time, he likes to become a master at new things, build stuff, run, hike, bike, photograph, and be an amateur astronomer. Forest has a BA in Astrophysics, just because. He really enjoys teaching and loves to help students understand concepts thoroughly. Forest has vast experience working with and teaching Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and has worked many hours in the black and white darkroom.

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