6 Tips for Editing Instagram Reels

Instagram Stories was introduced in 2016 with the intention of dampening Snapchat’s continued growth, and it ultimately succeeded. Instagram Reels, a feature similar to the ever-popular video-sharing app TikTok, was unveiled in 2020. While successful at launch, Instagram Reels’ popularity did not take off until a simple UI change. Instead of having the “create new post” button in the center of the mobile app, Instagram changed the layout so that the Reels feed appeared as the app’s central button. Reels are now used by nearly every sports team, celebrity, and influencer to grow their brand. Let’s take a look at six editing tips to help you get the most out of the app.

1. How to Edit

Before we get into editing tips, it’s important to understand the fundamentals of the app. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult. And, if you’re not technically savvy, we have a quick three-minute tutorial that will walk you through using the application step by step.

Make sure to watch the video first, as it covers everything from shooting to editing to using effects.

If you’re already a filmmaker or editor looking to expand your platform, I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the concepts mentioned. If you don’t have enough time to edit your reels, you can outsource a video editing service to get your job done timely. 

2. Cutting on Action for Transitions

One of the fundamentals of film editing is cutting on action to create a sense of fluid and continuous movement. A man accidentally dropping a plate in a wide shot is an example of this technique. We cut to a close-up of the plate smashing into pieces as it hits the floor. If you cut too soon and the plate continues to fall, the fluidity of movement will be off, and the moment will feel jarred. When you cut too late, the impact is lost, and the cut is visible.

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Cutting on action is also an excellent technique for creating transitions of yourself. However, it does necessitate forethought. There’s a popular Reel of a woman dancing, with the camera high above and facing the dancer. From that vantage point, we’re more interested in her shadow than in the woman herself. The scene shifts to new locations while the dancing remains consistent.

This works because the edit joins two clips in which the woman’s actions match. If her hand is halfway over her head in Shot One, you’d edit Shot Two and start it a frame ahead of where it was in Shot One.

It’s used in this reel, where a man walks along a mountainside during the day and at night.

3. Smooth Wipe

As digital cinema cameras became more common in the 2000s, we saw an increase in films shot in a single take. Examples include Birdman and 1917. A technique used by filmmakers to fool the audience into believing that a long, complex shot was captured in one take bypassing the camera in front of something, stopping recording, and then starting again from behind the object. When both the first and second shots are behind the thing, the editor will cut them together.

You can do the same thing on Instagram Reels for a smooth-looking edit. This Reel mocks the influx of new content creators creating videos like this, but it’s also exactly what you need to do to achieve the effect.

Simply take your phone and quickly pass it behind something. This could be a door, a person, or anything else that blocks the camera’s view. Start the phone from behind an object and move outward in the same direction.

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Use the trim tool in Reels to cut the excess video footage so that the first shot cuts when it is behind the object and the second shot begins exactly behind the object. Things don’t even have to be identical. The edit will be unnoticeable as long as the camera is slightly obscured.

4. Align Tool

Do you want to make a Reel with cool outfit changes or instant object transformations? This falls under the category of action editing. However, because there is no inherent action to cut to when you’re standing still, it can make the cut slightly more difficult to pull off.

If you’re filming yourself, make sure the timer is turned on so you can get yourself into position. Be warned: it’s not as simple as it sounds and will take a lot of patience. When you’ve found the perfect spot to be still, take a deep breath.

5. Cut to the Beat

This tip is unquestionably more useful if you’re creating a reel in editing software and then uploading it to Reels as a finished video (remember, a reel can only be up to thirty seconds long).

Cutting to the beat is a tried and true method for creating rhythmic visuals in music videos. While you don’t have to cut to every single beat, cutting on a beat is aesthetically pleasing when switching scenes.

Users are increasingly saying, “What do I mean when I say I live in *add location*.” The next Reel is accompanied by a remix of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love,” and when the beat starts, we’re treated to a series of images.

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6. If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Finally, if you find yourself endlessly scrolling through the Reels presented to you by Instagram’s algorithm, you’ll notice a recurring theme with both editing techniques and music used. Whether it’s a snowboarder grabbing insane air to the intro of “Astronauts In The Ocean” and landing when the beat kicks in, or a Reel of a guy filming on a hot air balloon with “Capone – Oh No” playing, and when he drops the phone, you hear “Oh no, oh no, oh no no no” with black and white close-ups of the phone falling through the sky. These tracks and editing tropes are recycled until the next trend emerges. While it will not encourage creativity, 

For example, Labrinth’s “Still Don’t Know My Name” has become one of the most popular TikTok and Instagram Reel tracks for scenic travel videos. Consider the difference between these two reels with the same content.

6 Tips for Editing Instagram Reels

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