Choosing a Video Format: Landscape vs Square vs Portrait

How to decide what format works best

Creating videos in Landscape, Square and Portrait mode can get confusing with so many popular platforms and devices used today. Which format works best for you and your audience? Read on to learn where each format to consider.

landscape, portrait, square photos

Image Credits: Tubular Insights

Let’s look at the facts

The vast majority of Facebook’s 1.74 billion users operate Facebook from their mobile device. 56.5% of these users are mobile-only users.

Square videos are 78% more popular than landscape videos in mobile newsfeeds. Square videos also edge out landscape videos by 54% in view-through rates for the first 10 seconds of video. Square video produced 30-35% higher video views and 80-100% increase in engagement.

Vertical video ads are watched in its entirety 9 times more than landscape videos ads on Snapchat.

56.3% of top performing Facebook videos are either square or vertical, while only 39.9% were landscape, according to a study of 25,000 top performing Facebook videos.

It costs advertisers 33% less to get someone to engage with square video on Instagram.

Cost Per 10s Mobile Views on Instagram. Image Courtesy: Buffer

When should you make a landscape video?

This has been the typical, traditional format of videos for decades. How and where are people going to see your video? Landscape mode videos are best suited for desktop and TV users. Keep in mind that while YouTube’s mobile app will support other formats, the primary YouTube player is landscape. Any other format will be displayed with black bars on either side on YouTube.

Square video on YouTube shows black ‘bars’

When should you create a square video?

Square videos have so far performed better than landscape videos when it comes to video views, engagement rate (likes, comments, shares), and completion rate on all social media platforms.

  • Facebook — Square videos publish with no black borders
  • Instagram — Square videos publish with no black borders
  • Twitter — Square videos publish with no black borders
  • Reddit — Square videos publish with no black borders

Instagram is the origin of the popularity of square videos. Up until 2015, all content on Instagram was confined to a square format, including video. Square formatted videos are a good choice for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

On these platforms, square videos fill the screen more and will be more engaging for viewers on both desktop and mobile devices.

When should you use portrait (vertical) videos?

  • Facebook — Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • Instagram — Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • Snapchat — Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • Twitter — Vertical videos publish with no black borders
  • YouTube — The mobile app hides black borders a when device is held vertically and video is viewed in full screen

The above is as of February 2017.

80% of social media use now occurs on mobile devices — 61% on smartphones alone.

Portrait videos are best suited to video ads on Instagram and Snapchat.

Snapchat’s 100+ million active users are a testament to the fact that users prefer to consume content without rotating their phones.

Image Courtesy of Erik Olsen/The New York Times


The UX of your content should be seamless. Users may bypass any content that isn’t optimized to the platform and device they are using. Unfortunately, if your video is in landscape format, it is unlikely that users will make the effort to rotate their device and expand to full screen.

You could be missing out on valuable engagement by not maintaining the viewers’ full attention.

Brands that have embraced the vertical video format are already seeing amazing results. Jason Stein, the CEO of Laundry Service, has seen success with LG vertical video ads. He is receiving three times more efficient CPM rates than standard square videos on Facebook.

What does Facebook say?

Facebook recommends the following ways to take advantage of vertical video.

Direct your audience’s eyes: When watching landscape videos, the viewer is often directed to look left to right. However, in a vertical format, there is no clear horizon as it shifts depending on framing. This creates an opportunity to direct people’s eyes by panning up and down and utilizing the height of the vertical space.

Split your screen: Dividing up the vertical space can create more opportunities for you to tell your story in newly arranged ways. You can split your screen in half or create a grid to show different angles or multiple products or stories at the same time. Differentiating the size of each screen section can also help indicate dominance or importance, guiding your viewer to the most important part of your video.

What now?

Now Creative Group is hosting workshops in Toronto on using vertical video, with the launch if IGTV. We are also here to help produce content of any orientation.


Content and sources adapted from this article by Pulkit Jain, used with permission.

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