Since the launch of Instagram Stories in 2016 and the reorganization of the feed from a chronological system to a fully algorithm based system, the game has COMPLETELY changed for getting engagement and building a following on Instagram. 

Building a following on Instagram is not only fun, but can open up a lot of doors for gaining clients, customers, jobs, friends of similar interests, or just an amazing way to share your photography with the world. There is no platform with a larger daily active user account that is fully dedicated to sharing photos and videos in a mobile environment. 

Five Reasons You Need Beautiful Stories

  1. Better Engagement, Bigger Following. The Instagram algorithm will provide a weighted value to Instagram story views, Instagram live videos and story engagement when deciding when and how to display your image posts to your followers. (learn everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm here)
  2. Combating Follower and Engagement Loss. If users stop engaging or skip your stories on a regular basis, eventually your total engagement will decline. 
  3. Higher Quality Stories win! Most stories are being generated using a phone and under A LOT of COMPRESSION, resulting in low quality video. This means that custom curated stories using your high quality cameras can SET YOU APART from the pack and increase total engagement! 
  4. Drive traffic! Users who drive incredible amounts of traffic the TAG and SWIPE UP features
  5. Creators now have the advantage potential over brands. Creator can now have more power than brands because of their ability to tell personal, emotional and empathetic stories first hand! Open up your world, life and thoughts to your following in a more personal set of interactions. As an entity, a brand will never have the same perspective and voice as an individual person, so take advantage of it! 

How to Upload Custom Instagram Stories

One little known trick in Instagram Stories is the ability to load files from the 'past 24hours' onto your reel from the Story Screen. Here's how it works:

  1. Save files to your camera roll using GNARBOX (we'll get to that below!) 
  2. The time stamp on the saved file will make it so you have 24 hours to post
  3. Go to Instagram
  4. Select the Home button (furthest left)
  5. Swipe the screen from left the right to open the stories
  6. Swipe up on the image to reveal your 'last 24 hour' camera roll
  7. Select and share! 

How to Create Custom Instagram Stories Using GNARBOX (Photo)

GNARBOX is the PERFECT tool for getting INCREDIBLE shots from your cameras and onto your story in SECONDS while you're in the moment and in the field. This product was designed to give you a lightweight editing solution for any file without bringing a laptop.  While on a shoot you often aren't lugging your laptop around with you, BUT you do want to create stories so end up using your phone to do the job. While phones ARE amazing at many things, the compression and resolution in the Instagram story environment means starting with a higher resolution image will give you a better final product - something your phone simply can't offer.

Here's how it works:

  1. Backup your files to your GNARBOX (try shooting RAW for better post production quality!)
  2. Find and favorite images that you would like to add to your story. We recommend following the timeline of your day.
  3. Select Edit
  4. Select Crop
  5. Select the preset aspect ratios
  6. Select Instagram Story Crop (9x16)
  7. Play with where you want to crop your image
  8. Select Done
  9. Color correct
  10. Save to camera roll or Gallery!
  11. Go to Instagram App > Home > Swipe from left to right > Swipe middle to up.
  12. Select your edited, finalize and share! 

Alternatively, shoot 1-3 shots in portrait mode at each location throughout the day and export directly as is to your camera roll after editing on GNARBOX. Alternatively, you can import the photos to your camera roll using GNARBOX and then edit in your favorite mobile editing application (we use Lightroom Mobile and VSCO). 

How to Create Custom Instagram Stories Using GNARBOX (Video)

For GNARBOX edited Instagram Story videos you will be limited to 15-second clip uploads, but not limited to sharing an entire curated and soundtracked edit. There are two ways to go about preparing your clips for upload while sharing:

Option #1 - Make your Highlight Reel, Export and Trim (full video with music)

  1. Create a video like you normally would! Stitch and trim clips together and be sure to add an audio track to really make a dynamic Instagram Story.
  2. Export your final product to your camera roll (recommended 720p or 1080p)
  3. CREATE INDIVIDUAL <:15 clips IN YOUR CAMERA ROLL using the trim and save function of your phone (save new clip, don't overwrite original). We recommend trimming on natural cuts you've made in your Highlight Reel edit, not in the middle of a piece of footage.
  4. Head to Instagram and post your stories in order all at once!

ALL EXPORTS MUST BE AT 30MBPS BITRATE OR LESS TO WORK! Learn how to use Bitrate Configuration here. 

Option #2 - Make 15 second Trims and Export (no music)

  1. Using the TRIM function you can create <:15 clips from original camera content and save them directly to your camera roll
  2. Head to instagram and post! 

NOTE: The cropping will be automatic in these methodologies. GNARBOX plans to release a custom video cropping feature for Instagram Stories, but currently you will need to use a program such as Adobe Premiere that has custom cropping and aspect ratios. 

GNARBOX IG Story Custom endcard

Download IG Story White Endcard
Download IG Story Black Endcard

Add at the end of any HLR to have it crop fit to your IG Stories.

ADVANCED: Curating Stories, Ads, Endcards and Graphics

In our marketing department we often use Premiere, Photoshop and After Effects to create really dynamic and engaging graphics and overlays that stand out from the pack. This is integral when you are trying to get your message to your audience. If you have any skills with these tools, consider putting them to use for your Instagram Stories! Creating a custom end card that you import to your phone using the cloud can help you stand out. 


Peter McKinnon's deep dive on Instagram Stories
Tom Odyssey's deep dive on Instagram Stories
7 key factors in the Instagram Algorithm

Will is the Co-Founder and COO of GNARBOX. Talk to him about Sony cameras, Astrophotography and Drone flight with the GNARBOX! You can see his personal work at and

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