Since its inception in 2010, Instagram has since conquered the social media stratosphere. It now hosts over one billion monthly users, with 500+ million checking in every day. And the mobile application continues to evolve not only as a brand, but also with its functionality as numerous new features are added each year (most recently Reels) to keep the app relevant.
However, while other social media platforms often discard initial platform traits (Twitter dropping its 140-character count), Instagram has stuck their ground with the app conforming to be mobile first, desktop second.
While the (desktop) website has adapted many functions that were initially only available through the app, such as adjustable profile settings, stories, and recently the ability to read and send direct messages, it still lacks Instagram’s primary function of uploading photographs. Yes, in 2020, the primary way of publishing photographs to Instagram is still via your mobile phone. You cannot go to Instagram.com and upload a photo*.
*see 2021 update below.
Nevertheless, when there’s a will, there’s a way. Here we look at a few options on how to upload directly to Instagram from your PC, and also how to optimize getting media to your phone. Before we do so, let’s first run through some of the preliminary basics of Instagram and desktop editing, as they are both directly important for later segments.
2021 Update: Publish Directly From The Instagram Website
Well, as of late June 2021, it’s finally happened. You can now upload Instagram directly from your desktop! When searching “Instagram desktop” on Twitter, we can see that people started to tweet about the new feature from the week of the 21st. The number of tweets increased as the week progressed, so it appears to be a regional rollout that will continue to update for desktop users throughout the next few weeks. Let’s have a look at how it works.
Upon opening Instagram on your browser, you will now see a new add/post icon (circled in red.)
When you press this button, you can then select your photo from your desktop. If it’s not initially cropped, you have the option to crop the image to one of Instagram’s preferred aspect ratios.
After selecting next, you can then browse a variety filters to add to the photograph. If you tend to use the filters on the Instagram mobile app, you should be familiar with the selection.
You can also select the edit panel to refine your photo further. The edit panel doesn’t house the same number of adjustments available on mobile, but the core basics are there, and that should be enough.
Upon hitting next one final time, you can then populate the text field with your description and hashtags. Like the mobile app, you can also add a location and tag the people within the photograph. With those steps complete, it’s as easy as hitting share to send your new upload to the Instagram feed.
This has been a long-requested feature, so it’s great to see Instagram has finally added the function. I’m sure many social media managers are going to rejoice with the update. However, at the moment this feature doesn’t seem to be available for everyone. If you find that the function still hasn’t rolled out to your location, please follow the steps below to publish directly from the desktop.
Publishing to Instagram
While Instagram will accept various upload resolutions and formats, it’ll only display them at specific ratios and will require you to crop the photo on the app. As such, it’d be best to master your photos and videos to cater to those sizes. The sizes listed below are the maximum specs you can use. In order to get the most impact on your audience’s social feed, I would recommend taking advantage of every available pixel.
- 9:16 (1080×1920) – Instagram Stories & IGTV
- 16:9 (1920×1080) – IGTV (landscape video)
- 4:5 (1080×1350) – Instagram Feed/Gallery Posts
- 1:1 (1080×1080) – Instagram Feed/Gallery Posts
- Videos on feed can be 3-60 seconds long.
- Videos on Stories can be 3-15 seconds long.
- Lastly, videos on IGTV can be 15 seconds to 10 minutes in length.
With regards to Instagram stories, although they only display as 15-second videos, you can upload 60-second video clips. They will automatically separate into four video posts.
Why Edit on the Computer?
Numerous mobile applications that can perform the same tasks that a desktop can, such as Adobe Rush with video editing, or VSCO, and Lightroom mobile for photo editing. So, you have to ask: Why even go through the process of working from the computer?
It comes down to efficacy, precision, and technique. While mobile applications are functional, they are more about accessibility and ease of use over professional instrumentation. As such, I’d recommend keeping to your desktop application when professionally editing photos or videos that will represent your brand. Likewise, due to the difference in screen resolution across mobile devices, it’s not always guaranteed that the image you’re reviewing on your device will reflect in the same manner to someone using a larger or smaller handset. Whereas when editing on the computer, you can provisionally set the standard for how the image or video will populate across all devices.
Additionally, desktop software offers iterative design and versioning. So, you can open up your saved file and create multiple versions from a single template. Mobile apps are typically destructive. That means once you save the effects on that image, you can’t go back and fine tweak without starting from scratch.
From PC to Phone
Before we investigate uploading directly from desktop to Instagram, we should venture into looking at optimizing your desktop to the mobile workflow.
While it’s easy enough to save a picture and email it to yourself and then download onto your device, or connect your phone to your PC and transfer the images, there are far too many steps in the way of making this a proficient system. Therefore, I recommend looking to adopt a system that has an automatic file sharing folder. Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, and Google Drive are several applications that spring to mind.
What do I mean by an automatic file sharing folder? Well, with these platforms, installing the software also creates a sync sharing folder on your desktop. Whenever you add an item to that folder, the contents will sync across all devices and locations where this folder is active. With the accompanying app installed on your phone, your image or video will transfer within seconds without having to touch the mobile device.
While the different platforms may have slightly different steps, for the most part, it would be as easy as following the same steps using Google Drive.
- Sign up to a Google account if you don’t already have one.
- Go to your Google Drive and download the desktop application.
- Activate the sync folder in a destination of your choice.
- Download the mobile app and sign in to your account.
- After completing your edit, save your Instagram file directly into the sync folder.
- Open the folder on your phone and save it to your photos folder.
- Open Instagram and upload.
The only negative to this, and this detriment runs across all storage apps, is that you need to save the Instagram photo or video from your sync folder on your phone, to your photos folder. However, this still triumphs as the most straightforward method in sending files to your phone for direct Instagram upload.
With that covered, let’s look at a few methods you can upload directly from your PC.
While this method initially seems tedious and clunky, a few quick clicks within your browser can cut out the need to use your mobile phone. Unfortunately, this is a Google Chrome specific task, and you’ll need to download it if you’re not a chrome user.
Steps to Follow
With Instagram.com open, go to chrome settings (click the ellipses), then click More tools, and then Developer’s tools.
A developer window will then open. This window allows developers to debug their websites without the need to own or use the devices the sites will be displayed on.
Tap the mobile button and select a mobile interface. For the sake of simplicity, use the latest iPhone model.
While the interface somewhat mirrors a mobile display, it doesn’t display the correct operational features. Therefore, you’ll need to refresh the page.
The mobile UI will now correctly appear on the web page, allowing you to upload directly from your desktop to publish gallery and Story posts.
In theory, you could now close the developer tools interface so the screen becomes more spacious. However, as you’re still operating on a simulated mobile interface, the functionality becomes stretched and challenging to manage. So, I recommend leaving the tools open for the time being.
A standard feed post works in the same manner as on mobile. You can reposition the image or video, resize, and apply a filter. However, as of the time of writing this article, you cannot utilize the fine-tune editing, such as increasing the saturation and decreasing shadows.
Using the developer tools, you can also post Stories. However, they aren’t as operational as they are on mobile devices. While you can still apply stickers and text, you can’t adjust the text’s font, nor can you apply the interactive functions, such as GIFs and polls you find within the sticker panel on mobile devices. Yet perhaps the most frustrating aspect is that you’re unable to resize or rotate the Story post. That’s why, using the guide a few paragraphs above, it is paramount to make sure you have the correct dimensions.
Although Chrome’s developer’s tools allow you to post on-site, it’s quite a cumbersome process. So, let’s look at a few third-party applications that will enable you to post directly to Instagram from a desktop.
Facebook Creator Studio
Perhaps we can’t call the Facebook Creator Studio a third-party application given that Facebook outright purchased Instagram in 2012, but still, it requires us to be off-site.
Facebook has been making significant strides in becoming a more welcoming host to creator-owned content. And, in 2019, they introduced Facebook Creator Studio. A dashboard somewhat akin to YouTube’s creator studio, it allows Facebook creators to monitor their video content.
Additionally, the studio also has a built-in Instagram integration tool. This tool allows you to monitor linked Instagram accounts in the same manner, and even post Instagram Posts and IGTV videos from the comfort of your desktop, all without spilling code all over your screen.
It does require your Instagram account to be a business account, which is a seemingly free transition. However, it will slightly alter how your Instagram processes (it becomes more analytical in appearance).
- Open Facebook Creator Studio and click the Instagram logo at the top to switch to the Instagram dashboard.
- Following the suggested pop-up action, connect your Instagram to the dashboard (this also needs to be connected to a Facebook page).
- Select and create a new post, drop your media into the content box, and describe/tags into the text field.
- As you have linked your account to a Facebook page, you can also select the option to have the post publish to the page.
- Click Publish.
Additionally, you can also publish IGTV posts from the Creator Studio.
Hootsuite is a social media management platform used by countless social media managers. I’m sure if you were to click on a dozen tweets within your Twitter feed and see how they were published, you’d find at least a handful of tweets that have “Hootsuite Inc.” attached underneath, which means it was published via that platform.
While the platform has several paid subscription tiers, they also have a free tier that allows you to host three social media accounts (but some features are locked behind a paywall). However, you can still post from desktop to Instagram with a free account.
- Having created your account, follow the launch tutorial in importing three social media channels to your dashboard.
- When all accounts are linked, you can then create a post by selecting the Post button at the top.
- A pop-up window will appear. Choose your Instagram account under Post.
- Insert the image or video into the media section and add your caption and hashtags in the Text section.
- When everything is good to post, click the Post Now button at the bottom.
You can also Schedule for later to post at a later date, but the amount of posts you can schedule is limited on the free plan.
Through both third-party applications, and even the others available such as Later or HopperHQ, the one constant is that neither posts directly to Instagram Stories. While Hootsuite has an option to do so, it just sends the media to your phone via a mobile push notification. You then need to upload the media to Instagram Stories through the Instagram app. This is because of an Instagram API limitation (third-party apps are unable to publish directly to Instagram Stories).
While it’s possible to post from a desktop directly to Instagram, unfortunately, it’s not as accessible as posting a Tweet or Facebook post directly from the website itself. However, as more social media platforms enter the playground, existing platforms need to adapt and introduce new features to keep existing members, so we may see direct desktop publishing in the near future.
Cover image by Bogdan Sonjachnyj.
Unlock more social media marketing secrets with these articles and freebies:
Create an engaging Instagram post
in 7 easy steps.