Instagram Stories tips and tricks: The ultimate guide

(Pocket-lint) – If you don’t get Instagram Stories, or you want to master them, you’ve come to the right place. It’s been several years since Instagram launched its Stories feature, with several tools and options added over time to help you get creative with your storytelling.

To help you become a master of Instagram Stories though – or learn the basics if you’re new to the feature – we’ve assembled the top tips and tricks we’ve found. Here’s everything you need to know to become a Instagram Stories expert.

What are Instagram Stories?

Snapchat was the first social media app to introduce a “Stories” feature, but now practically every social network offers them, including Facebook and Instagram. Stories essentially allow you to upload videos and pictures and then broadcast them to people who follow you in the form of a reel that lasts for 24 hours. After that time, they disappear. There is no limit to how many you share, and there are tonnes of way to spice them up.

To watch someone’s story on Instagram, just click on the red circle around any profile photo of someone you follow at the top of the home screen. To leave stories, just swipe down. For more information about Instagram Stories, see our explainer guide here.

If you want tips and tricks, keep reading.

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How to share an Instagram Story

To share a photo or video to your story, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the “+” icon in the top left corner and select Story in the bottom right of your screen, or just swipe left to right from anywhere.
  2. Tap capture button to take a photo, or tap and hold to record a video.
  3. Alternatively, choose a photo from your phone’s library or gallery by tapping on the gallery in the bottom left corner.
  4. Tap the letters, squiggly line or stickers icon to draw or add text or a sticker.
  5. To remove text or a sticker, drag and drop it on the trash/bin icon.
  6. When you’re ready to share, tap Your Story in the bottom left or tap on Send to.

Note: You can also save your story to your camera. Once you take a photo or video, click on the arrow pointing down at the top of the screen to save. You can also view your story and click on save at anytime to save “video” (to just save the video) or “save story” (to save the whole story).

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Instagram Stories tips and tricks

Here are some great tips and tricks to help you master Instagram Stories. There are also some basic tips here to help beginners get to grips with them.

How to add a Instagram Stories Highlight

You can choose stories to save on your profile that can be viewed longer than 24 hours. This is handy if you have a promotion or just something special you want people to be able to see. To share a “highlight” make sure you have the Instagram Stories Archive feature turned on.

To do this: Open Instagram > Tap on the three lines in the top right > Privacy > Story > Toggle on ‘Save Story to archive’.

After that’s turned on, go back to your profile and below your bio, click the “+ New” to add a new Highlight. You can choose from archived and live stories to add to your highlighted stories. After that, they’ll be featured on your profile.

How to mention someone in your Instagram Story

When sharing a photo or video to your story, you can mention someone. Once you take a photo or video, tap the letters icon, then type “@” followed immediately by the person’s username you want to mention, and select the person’s profile from the circular icons that appear below. There is an option to toggle off the ability for the people you mention to add your story to their story, but you have to toggle it off before you select the person’s profile.

When you mention someone in your story, their username will appear in your story with an underline. Anyone who can see your story can tap it to go to their profile.

People you mention will get a push notification telling them that you’ve mentioned them in your story. They’ll also get a DM from you that includes a preview of your story and gives them an option to quickly add it to their own story, if you haven’t toggled off the sharing ability. You can mention up to 10 people in each photo.

How to share Instagram posts to stories

You can share an Instagram post to your story by clicking the arrow/share button below the post you want to add, and then tapping on the ‘Add Post to Your Story’ option.

Keep in mind that when you share someone’s post to your story, anyone who views it can see who originally posted it and can view the original account. If you’re tagged in someone else’s story, you’ll get a DM with the same option to repost that story for the next 24 hours.

How to add a mention to your own Instgram Story

When someone mentions you in their Instagram story, you’ll have the option to repost it, adding the photo or video to your own story, as we mentioned previously when talking about how to mention someone in your own story.

You’ll get a notification via DM that you were mentioned with a link to “Add This to Your Story”. Simply tap on the link and the story will be shown in a preview where it can be customised. When added, followers will see the original poster’s username, and they can tap it to see their profile.

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How to capture multiple photos at once and add to your Instagram Story

It’s possible to capture several photos at once and add them to your Instagram Story in one hit. 

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Select the Multi-Capture icon in the bar on the left of your screen (circle with dashes around it) > Take your photos > Press Next at the bottom of the screen > Tap on each photo to add stickers, text or GIFS etc > Tap Next when you’ve finished editing > Tap Share.

How to add a Boomerang your Instagram Story

You can either add a Boomerang (looping short video) you’ve already created to your Instagram Story by selecting it from your gallery. Or you can create a Boomerang directly from the Instagram app.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the Boomerang icon in the bar on the left of your screen (figure of 8 sideways) > Press and hold the capture button at the bottom of your screen to take your Boomerang > Add stickers or text using the icons at the top when you’re finished > Tap “Send to” in the bottom right to send it to your Story.

How to add multiple images to your Instagram Story

If you want to add a couple of different images to your Instagram Story but only have one post, you can use the Layout tool. 

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the Layout icon in the bar on the left of your screen > Select Change Grid to change the layout to best suit your photos (six options) > Select the part of the grid you want to add your first photo to > Tap the “+” in the bottom left corner where your gallery is > Select  the photo you want to add > Repeat for each part of the grid, selecting the part of the grid first and then adding the photo.

When you’re done, tap the tick in the middle. You can then make your edits (stickers, text etc) and then select “Send to” to send to your Story.

How to get a level photo to add to your Instagram Story

There’s a Level tool in the Instagram Stories toolbar that will help you capture straight photos by placing a grid and level on the preview screen to help you line up your subject before you take the photo. 

Swipe right ot open Instagram Stories > Tap on the Level icon in the bar on the left of your screen (circle with horizontal line) > Line your subject up > Tap on the capture button > Share to your Story.

How to use Superzoom effect

The Superzoom tool will zoom in and out on a subject and there are a range of effects you can apply within it, like Hearts, Fire, Bummer, TV Programme, Dramatic, etc. It’s worth giving them all a go to see what best suits the result you’re trying to achieve.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the arrow in the bar on the left of your screen > Tap the Superzoom icon (solid circle with two circles surrounding it) > Select the effect you want above the capture button > Press and hold the capture button or press once depending on the effect you want > Add any text or stickers using the icons at the top of your preview screen > Share to your Story when you’re done.

How to use the Photobooth effect

The Photobooth tool allows you to create a Photobooth-style reel by capturing four images in succession. There’s a countdown timer of three seconds for the first capture, after which you get a second to move your phone in between each subsequent photo.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the arrow in the bar on the left of your screen > Tap on the Photobooth icon (cards with a ‘+’ sign on top one) > Tap the capture icon at the bottom > Start your Photobooth > Edit your Photobooth with stickers and text if you want to > Share to your Story.

How to add a poll to your Instagram Story

You can add a poll to your Instagram story. The poll template allows you to ask the question and alter the answers to whatever you want, or you can tap on the dice at the top of the Poll Template screen to get some pre-built inspiration that you can also then adapt.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the ‘Aa’ icon on the left of your screen > Slide left to right on the circular icons at the bottom of your screen until you get to the pie blue/green pie icon > Tap on the ‘Ask a question’ and poll boxes individually to edit > Tap ‘Done’ in the top right when editing > Tap ‘Send to’ in the bottom right to share to your story.

You can also tap on the dice at the top to see different Poll examples with emoji’s as answers, like ‘Should I start a blog’ with the answer boxes as a thumbs up or thumbs down. As with the question screen, tap on each section individually to change to what you want and tap ‘Done’ in the top right and ‘Send to’ in the bottom right when you’re finished.

As people select either option, the poll will update its percentage and you can then share the results at the end.

How to add a memory to your Instagram Story

Like Facebook, Instagram has an archive of memories, which you can access easily and post onto your Instagram Story. 

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the ‘Aa’ icon on the left of your screen > Slide left to right on the circular icons at the bottom of your screen until you get to the clock with the arrow icon. You can then tap on the memory that appears to flick through, or tap on “See All” at the top of the screen.

If you want to change the background colour, tap on the coloured circle in the bottom right of your screen until you find a background you like.

When you have decided on the memory you want to post – and the background – tap on the clock with the arrow icon underneath again. This will then take you to the preview screen where you can either add some stickers or mention someone, or press ‘Send to’ at the bottom to post it.

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How to add a countdown timer on Instagram Stories

Instagram has a countdown timer option with days, hours and minutes, that you can add and customise to your Story. It will offer preset options – like “The Weekend” but you can change this to whatever you’re counting down to. 

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the ‘Aa’ icon on the left of your screen > Slide left to right on the circular icons at the bottom of your screen until you get to the egg timer. You can tap on the dice at the top to see the different preset options and then tap anywhere on the timer to edit it. You’ll need to select an End Date and the rest is automatic.

When you’re done, tap on the egg timer icon at the bottom of your display and then tap on “Send to” in the bottom right.

How to ask your followers a question on Instagram Stories

Instagram offers a number of other tools to get input from the people watching your story. You can get them to ask you a question, start a poll (as mentioned above), suggest accounts to follow or a quote of the day, or play guessing games like what you’re watching or what you’re listening to, among others.

Start by swiping right to open Instagram Stories and tapping on the ‘Aa’ icon on the left of your screen. You can then scroll through the circular icons.

The icon one with the person in the speech bubble allows you to mention someone with preset Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary or Thanks.

To play guessing games, a quick draw challenge or suggest accounts to follow or a quote of the day, you want the icon with the four different-sized orange squares. Tapping on the ‘See All’ at the top of your screen will give you the different presets.

To get followers to ask you a question, tap on the circular icon with the purple/blue squares and the question mark inside. There’s also a multiple choice question preset which is the circular icon with the orange options with a tick or cross inside.

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Create a solid background or tap to reveal

To create a solid coloured background on your photo or video or create what is sometimes called a tap to reveal: Select the image you want to reveal > Press the squiggle line in the top right for the pencil icon > Choose your colour either from the options at the bottom or by tapping on the colour selector tool and selecting a colour from the image > Press and hold on your image or video with your finger for a few seconds until the colour covers your image.

You can also use the eraser at the top of your screen to remove part of the solid background and reveal some of your original image.

Create an opaque background

Want a see-through coloured background? Press the squiggle line in the top right for the pencil tools > Select the marker tool in the middle of the five options at the top of your display > Select the colour background you want at the bottom of your display or select a colour using the colour picket > Press and hold on your image or video with your finger for a few seconds. This will create create an opaque screen so you can still see the content you’re sharing.

Creat a tap to tidy Story

Stacey Solomon’s Tap to Tidy Instagram Stories are great – and easy to create, but you have to actually tidy the room. Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t do that for you.

Take a picture of the messy room > Tidy it > Take another picture of the room from the same angle once it is tidy > Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Add the first picture from your gallery in the bottom left corner > Tap the sticker icon at the top of your screen > Search of Tap to Tidy > Select the Tap to Tidy sticker you like > Upload that story > Add the second tidy picture and upload that story too.

Use the full colour chart

To select any colour in the colour chart: Click on the squiggle line icon at the top of your display > Press and hold on any colour at the bottom of your screen to access the color chart. That’s it! You can choose any color you want. Don’t forget you can also change the size of the brush on the left side.

Select colours from images

You can also use colours from your images, as we briefly mentioned in the tips above. To select a colour from an image: Click the squiggly line at the top of your screen > Select the colour picker tool in the far left of the colour options at the bottom of your screen > Tap anywhere on the image you want to select the colour from. That’s it, done.

Change font size

You can change the font size of your text in two ways: First, type, then on the left, you’ll see the slider to increase or decrease the font. Alternatively, once you’re done typing, grab what you typed and use two fingers to expand it. You can do this with stickers, too.

Layer your captions

First, add a caption to your content and decorate per usual. Then, tap the “Save” arrow in the corner of the screen and tap the “Your Story” icon to add it to your story. Next, select the photo you saved from your camera roll to add to your story. Add – or layer – a second caption over the first, and repeat until you’ve reached your desired effect. You’re essentially saving your photos and re-uploading them to layer your captions.

Ditch the square captions

If you’re sick of the square-corner backgrounds on your captions, try using the pencil tool to draw a different shape, whether they be circles, ovals, hearts, and and then place a caption over your new shape. Make sure to select the caption without any background (just text).

Use different fonts and sizes together

With this, you have to add each letter or word as an individual caption and position them. Write the first word or letter, then choose the colour, and drag it into position. Add another caption in a different colour, resize it, and drag that where you’d like it. Repeat forever. Don’t forget that you can also change the font itself! Gone are the days of having just one font choice. There are nine to choose from, including neon, typewriter, modern, and strong.

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See other sticker options

Once you select a sticker (square icon with smiley face at the top of your screen) to add to your Instagram Story, you can tap it to see the other options. So, for instance example, a coffee cup can turn into a cup of tea or the handle of the cup might spin the other way.

Pin your stickers

Yes, you can also “pin” your stickers. If you want the stickers to be featured in parts of a video, then press and hold to pin them wherever you want. For instance, you can pin an arrow sticker near someone to point them out throughout the entire clip.

Turn your face into a custom sticker

Tap the stickers icon at the top of the screen. Next, tap the camera icon on the side of the second row that pops up from the bottom. Your face will appear at the center of the screen. If you tap your face, a white circular border will appear around the sticker. Tap again to get a white sqaure border and again to go borderless. Make a face and press the white circle beneath your face to take the photo. Then, size and position the sticker.

Add a GIF

GIFs are a fun way to add some fun to any story. You can either create a story with just a GIF, or you can add a GIF to an image or video.

To create a story with just a GIF: Swipe right from anywhere on Instagram and tap on the “Aa” icon on the left > Swipe right to left on the circular icons at the bottom of your screen until you get to GIF > Search for the perfect GIF.

To add a GIF to an image or video: Swipe right from anywhere on Instagram > Add the image or video > Tap on the sticker icon at the top if your display (square with smiley face) > Use the search bar at the top and select a GIF from the various options that will appear, or find the specific GIF by tapping the GIF icon in the second section and search for your perfect GIF.

Change the weekday’s sticker colour

You know that sticker that tells the day of the week? Well, did you know that if you tap that sticker while editing, it will change colour? Yep. It’s true! To find the “day of the week” sticker, tap the sticker icon and select it from the tray. Then, tap it again to change the colour.

Add music to your story

Add music to your story by playing it on your phone while you record a video. Alternatively, you can tap to add a sticker while viewing a photo or video on your story. Search for “Music” in the search bar and tap on the “Music” sticker at the top. You will immediately see a long list of popular music, though you can also search and sort by moods and genres.

Use a third-party apps for more effects

You can also use apps like Videoshop or VideoLap too add music to your story. In fact, there are several apps that can up your Instagram game by letting you add moving text, capture live video, record your screen, and more. It’s worth browsing around your app store.

Embed Spotify links in Instagram stories

You can also share Spotify links that will allow followers to click straight through — it’s simple.

Go hands-free

Tired of holding the capture button down while you tell your story? On the left of your Instagram Story screen, there’s a bar of icons. If you tap on the arrow to expand the bar, you’ll see the Hands-free icon at the bottom. Tap that to go hands-free. You’re welcome.

Default to front camera

If you use the front camera more than the rear for creating Instagram Stories, you can default to it in settings so it opens on the front camera. 

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap the settings cog in the top left corner > Toggle on default to front camera > Done.

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Switch your camera toolbar to the right

The camera toolbar within Instgram Stories appears on the left by default, but you can change it to the right. 

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the settings cog in the top left corner > Choose left side or right side under ‘Camera tools’.

You can also tap the double arrow at the top of your screen when the toolbar is expanded to switch between left and right.

Instagram Stories privacy tips and tricks

These are some extra tips and tricks related to privacy, such as hiding your story from certain followers or creating a close friends list.

How to only share your Instagram Story with close friends

You can set up a close friends list on Instagram, which will then become an option when you share your Story. It’s good for times when you might want to post something but don’t want all your followers to see.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap the settings cog in the top left corner > Tap on Close Friends > Get Started > Add the friends you want to add by tapping “Add” next to their name > Select Create List. 

To share your Story with just close friends, create your Instagram Story, then tap on ‘Send to’ in the bottom right corner and tap on Close Friends.

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How to block someone from your Instagram Stories

It’s possible to hide or block certain contacts from seeing you Instagram Stories. They won’t get notified that you’ve blocked them, but they might figure it out. Hiding them will stop them seeing all photos and videos you post to your Story.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the settings cog in the top left corner > Search for the person or persons you want to block > Tap on their name to select them (the tick will turn blue when selected) > Tap ‘Done’ in the top right corner.

How to tell if someone has blocked you from their Instagram Stories

You can only tell if someone has blocked you from their Instagram Stories if you have seen they have Highlight stories on their profile prior to them blocking you. When you block someone from your Instagram Stories, the Story Highlights section gets removed too so if you know they have Story Highlights and you can no longer see them, you better find out what you did.

Choose who can reply and react to your Instagram Story

You can choose to turn all replies and reactions to your Instagram Story off, as well as only allow replies and reactions from your followers or only the followers that you follow back.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the settings cog in the top left corner > Choose ‘Your followers’, ‘Followers who follow you back’ or ‘Off’ under the Allow replies and reactions section.

How to automatically share your Instagram Story to your Facebook Story

You can set it up so your Instagram Story will always share to your Facebook Story, unless you choose otherwise.

Swipe right to open Instagram Stories > Tap on the settings cog in the top left corner > Toggle on ‘Share your story to Facebook’. 

Want to know more?

See our other Instagram tips guide:

Writing by Britta O’Boyle and Maggie Tillman.





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