Over the past half-decade or so, Facebook has continued and even accelerated its already impressive by adding new users and features to its flagship social network and also by scooping up and purchasing assorted social networks and tools that, while perhaps not competing directly with Facebook in terms of features, certainly threatened Facebook’s domination of the social market. Facebook’s biggest acquisitions—Instagram, WhatsApp, and OculusVR—all had something to do with social functionality (with even VR being turned into a social tool over time), but it was Instagram’s purchase that truly shook up the market. Facebook has mostly allowed the photo-sharing service to grow and function on its own since its purchase of the app in 2012. In 2016, Instagram introduced “Stories,” a nearly direct copy of Snapchat’s functionality of the same name. Stories are a series of photos that expire after 24 hours of being made public, and the addition of the feature to Instagram—along with nearly every other Facebook platform, including WhatsApp, Messenger, and Facebook proper—brought along a healthy dose of skepticism from the tech community.
But should it? While the feature competes directly with Snapchat—arguably both Instagram and Facebook’s biggest threat right now—it also makes perfect sense as a feature inside of Instagram, a service that’s always been about sharing photos in a social setting. At the same time, Snapchat’s app has a history of bugs and problems, with both the iOS and Android apps notable for slowdowns and battery drain. Instagram’s app is well-built and fully developed on both platforms (and even has an app on Windows 10 Mobile), providing users with the stability that Snapchat so famously lacks. When put in context, taking a great feature from Snapchat and placing it within Instagram’s own application is a brilliant, if tacky, business move.
Instagram’s Stories feature isn’t perfect, but it is good in its own right, and it’s worth your time if you’re a regular poster, especially if your Instagram audience is larger than your Snapchat audience. Unfortunately, Instagram isn’t great at teaching new users how to use the app, or old users how to use new features. For example, Instagram Stories supports zooming in and out of both photos and videos, but the app isn’t entirely clear on how this functionality works. Never fear—we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at how to zoom in and out of Stories inside Instagram.
Zooming In and Out While Making a Story
The first big update last year to Instagram Stories was support for zooming in while creating a story, and to no one’s surprise, it functions quite similarly to Snapchat’s own zoom feature. With that said, new users to either platform might be confused how zooming works, especially since the traditional pinch to zoom methodology would be difficult while holding down your finger on the record button inside Instagram. Luckily, there’s a far easier method to zooming in while video recording—here’s how to do it:
- Within the Instagram app, head to the home display. Along the top of your screen, you’ll see a section called “Stories,” along with any current stories from users you follow within Instagram. On the left side of this display, you’ll find an icon with your own Instagram picture that reads “You,” along with a small plus icon. Tap it to open the Stories interface, which is different from the traditional Instagram camera.
- Here, you’ll find a camera interface that appears similar to what we’ve seen from Snapchat, but with a few small changes and modifications. Along the bottom of the app, you’ll see (from left to right) a gallery shortcut, flash toggle, the shutter icon, an icon to switch back and forth between cameras, and an AR filters icon. Below this, you’ll find some settings for the camera itself, including rewind, boomerang, normal, and “hands-free,” as well as a live feature. At the top, you’ll find your settings and back icons.
- To zoom in for a photo story, simply use the traditional pinch to zoom method most camera apps support. You can zoom in and out at will before grabbing your shot, and you can even zoom in before starting a video recording to start from that frame.
- To zoom in while video recording, it’s a bit different. Start recording by pressing and holding the shutter button on the camera interface down. Your video recording will start after a moment of holding the shutter, and the small circle around the shutter button will begin to fill in. With the finger or thumb holding the shutter button down, slide your finger vertically up the display at whatever speed you want. Your shot will zoom in as you move your finger.
- You can zoom in or out at any speed, just by increasing or decreasing how fast you move your finger. The higher your finger is on your display, the more zoomed in you’ll be on your shot—though remember that digital zoom lowers the resolution of your video and may make it shakier and unstable in your hand. Make sure not to let your finger off the shutter button, or your recording will automatically end.
Once you’ve captured your photo or recording, you can take your finger off the shutter button. This will end your recording and begin to replay your story in a loop. You can edit or view your story, and once you’re satisfied, post it onto your account, where it will be public to your followers for 24 hours before disappearing.
A Note on Zooming In on Others’ Stories
Instagram added zooming into traditional photos and videos last year, with support for anything that appears in your feed. Unfortunately, support for zooming into photos within Instagram Stories—at least on our test device running Android—seems to have not quite expanded yet. Attempting to pinch to zoom into a photo either won’t do anything or will accidentally cause your phone to skip ahead to the next story in order. Considering how long—six years!—for Instagram to bring pinch to zoom to its traditional feed of photos, it’s not too surprising this feature hasn’t made the move to Stories, though once it does we’ll update this post with instructions.
Stories is undoubtedly a copy of Snapchat’s own feature, with everything from the functionality to the appearance of the viewfinder to recording and zooming in on videos near-identical to Snap Inc.’s own product. That’s not such a bad thing though—competition is good for the social network market, and with Instagram and Snapchat both competing on features and ideas, as well as app stability and picture quality, we should be able to get better applications from both companies over time. That’s a win for everyone, no matter which app you use.
Snapchat’s zoom feature was brilliant, so it’s not surprising that Instagram used a similar methodology. There’s something immensely satisfying about scrolling and zooming into your videos with one finger, and it’s incredibly easy to use and remember. We hope that Instagram will add the ability to zoom on others’ stories in future updates, but for now, we’re just happy with the tool we have.