Discover how to create vertical video content with templates and how brands use vertical video.

Vertical Video Guide
Portrait for Dom HennequinBy Dom Hennequin  |  Updated January 19, 2023

Thanks to the rise of vertical video on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, we don’t need to tilt our phones as much as we used to. The best vertical video has a clear objective (e.g. to tell a brand story) and is produced with the platform’s rules and limitations in mind. To help steer your approach to vertical video, this guide will cover:

1. Vertical Video Content

Vertical video content creation

The adoption of the vertical video trend is linked to the popularity of the “Stories” format introduced by Snapchat, and followed by Instagram. An incredible 500 million+ accounts use Instagram Stories every day, and one third of the most viewed Instagram Stories are posted by businesses.

Other video platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, have altered their players to support vertical video content. And, in just the last year, the two platforms have each introduced their own Stories formats.

And then there’s TikTok.

The Chinese app continues to take the world by storm, dominating the eyes of young people all over the globe. The successor to Vine in many ways, it has revived the short-form video craze of less than a decade ago, but turned it vertical, and is reaping the rewards.

So what does this mean for video creators looking to stay on trend?

While, as always, you should be wary of going all-in on any new trend, vertical video seems to be becoming part of most video marketing stacks. Despite a few false starts, the fact that it’s now catching on should give you some confidence that it won’t disappear overnight. And its growing prominence is logical when you consider that it’s simply adapting to the way we know most users hold their smartphones.

2. Horizontal to Vertical Video

From horizontal to vertical video

Holding a phone vertically allows a user to interact with one hand, while still using the keyboard and being able to see part of the screen. It’s the way most people prefer to interact with webpages and message threads, scrolling through and seeing what they’ve read previously toward the top of the screen.

However, while this has been the case since the beginning of the smartphone revolution, video has taken its time adapting to the vertical format.

Why is that, you may wonder? Well, the moving image has mostly existed in a horizontal format since its birth. And creating for vertical screens requires a considerable rethink of the production process. It’s a huge adjustment to consider producing for a medium that will all of a sudden show more at the top and bottom of the screen than it will of the background and sides. It requires a different sensibility when planning your shots, and the effects trickle down into the graphic design department, wondering where to overlay logos and titles, as well as affecting the scalability of the final product.

So why is it now catching on?

While anyone who’s tried to create an Instagram Story with a group knows it can be challenging to get more than one person into a vertical shot at one time, this limitation represents a strength. Humans are vertical by nature, in that we’re obviously taller than we are short. Filming oneself will reveal that we can fill up a vertical canvas quite comfortably, making vertical videos with people as their subject—like Instagram Stories—surprisingly intimate.

Long a staple horizontal format, vlogging is now turning vertical, as a new generation sees the low-fi settings of Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok as a viable alternative to the often over-produced world of YouTube. The focus is on them and what they want you to see, with less attention on what’s going on in the background.

Being able to fill up a person’s screen the way they naturally hold it means there’s less chance of them switching into “video watching mode”, as most would when they tilt their screens. The vertical video experience feels at once more immersive and less invasive.

3. How Brands Use Vertical Video

How brands use vertical video

To Tell a Brand Story

Glossier has used the Instagram Stories format to tell the story of its growth, using its first headquarters, 123 Lafayette St in New York, as a lens through which to tell it. Glossier quickly outgrew what was originally an apartment, moved upstairs, turned the original space into a showroom open to the public on Fridays, and then outgrew that too. The space has recently been completely redone and has now reopened as Glossier’s new showroom.

In its “Heritage” Instagram Stories playlist, Tiffany & Co discusses the brand’s history and the making of one of its most iconic diamond designs. The video explains how Charles Lewis Tiffany was the first to establish the diamond ring as a symbol of love in 1886, and takes you through the making of it.

As a mission-based company—whose focus is to help build a sustainable planet—Patagonia is always looking for opportunities to tell its story and share its values. This Instagram Story uses creative animation to explore the mountain-climbing experience that originally inspired the name of the company.

To Build Excitement for an Event

Spotify has used its Instagram Stories for a couple of events recently. At Halloween, it produced “Horror Scopes with Awsten”, a horror-themed horoscopes show hosted by Awsten Knight, lead singer of Waterparks.

To build excitement around its recent Adobe MAX conference, Adobe produced a set of Instagram Stories announcing the presenters, followed by a questionnaire to test its audience’s knowledge of the subject matter.

In the lead-up to the Democratic Debates, The New York Times produced a series of Instagram Stories that followed one of its staff members as they prepared for the event. The Stories showcased questions submitted by followers for the candidates to answer. They also featured members of the public talking about the candidates, what they were expecting, and how they thought the debate went.

To Showcase New Products

Airbnb has two formats for Instagram Stories: ‘Experiences’ and ‘Adventures’. Experiences center around customers and their unique travel experiences. In this Experience video, a customer who regularly stays in Brooklyn shares what she loves about the area. Adventures are experiences run by a host that are much more ambitious in scope than just renting a room. In this Stories playlist, you follow guests as they do everything from camping in Sweden to swimming with sharks in Ecuador.

As you’d expect, Instagram does a great job creating Stories for its own platform. Instagram shares user-generated content which motivates other users to keep creating Stories, with the hope that theirs could be the next one shared by the platform.

As one of the most respected brands in the world, you’d expect Apple to have a pretty good strategy on Instagram, and it does. Each of its Instagram Stories documents the creation of something visually spectacular, and they’re all filmed on an iPhone. This Story takes you behind the scenes of shooting a highly creative timelapse on an iPhone XS. Apple shared something similar to show off the capability of the new iPhone 11 Pro camera, highlighting particular features and then showing a behind-the-scenes video of the shoot.

You’ve probably heard that Disney has launched its own streaming service, Disney+. It’s part of the company’s effort to compete with Netflix and the countless other brands that are entering the streaming market. This clever Instagram Story places a huge emphasis on the broad spectrum of films and TV shows that are available on the platform, presented in a fun, interactive way.

Allbirds is an innovative shoe brand that produces environmentally friendly shoes. Its Instagram account is all about showcasing how its shoes are produced and what they’re made of. This Instagram Story focuses on wool, one of the main materials used, and the process it undergoes to end up on the feet of the brand’s customers.

To Do a Q&A or Behind the Scenes

Starbucks recently announced that it would be removing plastic straws from its premises by 2020, in an effort to be more sustainable. It revealed this news in an Instagram Story. After receiving a lot of questions, Starbucks chose to add a second part to the Story and answer some of the most important ones. It’s such a great way to use the platform to both inform and make the brand’s followers feel heard on issues that will affect many of them in their day-to-day lives.

For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo spacecraft, Lego did a Q&A with NASA Astronaut Randy Bresnik, with the astronaut posing different questions about the spacecraft and its missions for viewers to answer. It’s interactive, informative, and engaging.

The Smithsonian museum regularly asks its Instagram audience to submit questions about a particular theme associated with an exhibit. It then uses the Instagram Stories format to answer them in fun, creative ways, often using parts of the exhibit to show the answer rather than tell it.

To Entertain

Jumping on the ASMR trend, Casper has developed a sleep channel of content that relaxes people to help them fall asleep. It features an animated moon named June, who introduces another whispering voice that talks to you about a particular subject for 20–30 minutes. As the product (mattresses) is synonymous with sleep, it’s an inspired move and a unique use of social media.

In this TikTok, a team of writers discuss what they can possibly include from a risqué final episode of The Bachelorette in what’s meant to be a family-friendly recap, before they realize they’re actually meant to be recapping the Democratic Debates.

U.S. television network NBC has also started a TikTok account called Stay Tuned. It features short, light-hearted videos talking about new trends, sharing knowledge, or quizzing its audience, all in an accessible way.

4. Vertical Video Formats

Vertical video formats

The most successful vertical content formats to date are either quite long or quite short.

TikToks and Stories are generally short videos that can be stitched together into longer playlists. Or they’re live streams, which begin and end arbitrarily. You don’t know what’s about to happen. You don’t know what the person’s going to do or say, and you can interact with them live, asking them questions or sending reactions.

Content formats in the middle of these extremes are yet to find their footing in the vertical format.

In 2018, Instagram—a few months before its founders left—introduced a new product called IGTV. It was supposed to be a vertical YouTube, but it didn’t stay vertical for long. Very quickly, people began freebooting YouTube videos on their side, making for an odd viewing experience. And a few months ago—with its founders gone—Instagram introduced support for horizontal videos to the service.

However, the assumption that YouTube-style content could one day work as well in the vertical format as horizontal is gradually finding some truth. In the last 12 months, some YouTube stars have begun using IGTV as a platform for experimentation, trying things that don’t totally fit on their YouTube channels, or are more informal and intimate.

“I feel like an IGTV video is more personal,” YouTuber Denzel Dion, who has 1.8 million followers on Instagram and 1.3 million on YouTube, tells Digiday. “On YouTube you have to set up the camera, the lights. My IGTV videos are not professional at all; it’s just like my iPhone.”

5. Vertical Video Templates

Vertical video templates

Thanks to some changes, including IGTV previews appearing in people’s regular Instagram feeds, IGTV views have been increasing significantly compared to its launch. This news, along with the Stories format being one of the brightest spots of social media advertising over the last two years, has seen more resources pop up to support vertical content creation. In fact, Instagram Stories templates have become one of the fastest-growing categories on Envato Elements and Envato Market.

Here’s a small selection of them, along with a quick look at what they offer video and social media professionals looking to create high-quality vertical videos with ease.

Vertical Video on Envato Elements

Instagram Stories by Afterdarkness75

This template pack by Afterdarkness75 is incredibly versatile, featuring templates for corporate brands, glitchy ones for fitness or sports brands, templates for music festivals, and fashion templates for clothing or makeup brands. No matter what your business is, you’ll find something purpose-built to fit your next Instagram Story in this pack.

Instagram Stories by nexus-digital-market

Instagram Stories by nexus-digital-market offers Stories templates that place significant focus on bold, eye-catching images. It fits a wide variety of promotional and content-sharing needs. And each design feels modern and bold.

Instagram Stories Pack by YETYYY

Instagram Stories Pack by YETYYY looks punchy and clean. With a focus on clarity, its modern designs, colors, and layouts get to the point of your content or promos quickly, with designs that are seriously impressive. It’s a very effective Stories set.

Social Media Video Graphics Pack by FluxVFX-templates

Looking to add video captions that fit all dimensions? The versatile Social Media Video Graphics Pack by FluxVFX-templates will have you covered. Whether you’re looking for eye-catching animated captions or functional subtitles, they’ve got a template that will fit.

Optik | Instagram Stories by therealist_network

From one of the most prolific creators on our marketplace comes Optik | Instagram Stories by therealist_network. It’s starkly modern, in the best of ways, using color sparingly, alongside clean fonts and layouts that bring your images and content to the forefront in really creative ways. It’s a fantastic choice for creating Stories that look modern and professional.

Vertical Video Tools

Mixkit a vertical video footage collection

While the Instagram Story templates we’ve mentioned so far are all designed to be edited in Adobe After Effects, there are other ways to create high-quality Instagram Stories. Placeit by Envato includes a powerful Instagram Story maker that allows you to upload your content, style it, download it, and share it, all within your web browser.

And if it’s high-quality footage fit for a vertical screen that you’re after, Mixkit’s vertical video footage collection has you covered.

The popularity of Instagram Stories, Snapchat Stories, and TikTok, along with the steady growth of IGTV, all indicate that vertical video is here to stay. While it’s not expected to replace the traditional 16:9 format, it’s certainly a sign that the video marketing stack of the future will be more diverse than it has been up until now.

Although you shouldn’t go all-in too soon, it makes sense to start experimenting across these different platforms you’re using already, to see if it’s right for your audience. And with this list of resources we’ve included, you should be able to find out without breaking your budget or breaking a sweat.

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