A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Reels

How to get the most out of Instagram Reels

So you’ve seen Reels take over Instagram and you’re wondering what they’re all about and how you can get started. The once photo-centric social media platform chased the viral allure of short-form video and seemingly overnight, the infamous Instagram algorithm that dictates who sees what, prioritised Reels. The subsequent demand on brands, businesses and creators – to shift from creating stunning photos to shooting, editing, exporting and uploading eye-catching videos – left everyone Reeling. Maybe that’s how they came up with the name.

Why are Instagram Reels so important for your brand or business?

First harnessed by Vine and then more recently and perhaps more virally Tik Tok, short-form videos have taken over Instagram and Facebook. Despite soaring to popularity, Reels are still quite new and Instagram still seems to be prioritising them in their algorithm. In particular, they prioritise new, creative Reels that use their editing tools and filters rather than reposting watermarked Tik Tok videos. For this reason, if you want your brand and content to get in front of more people, it’s time to get started making Reels. So, what is a Reel and how do you make one?

So, what is a Reel?

Instagram Reels don’t need to be scary or intimidating, they’re just a short video – Instagram’s version of Tik Tok. You can record a video using Instagram, import a video you’ve recorded on your phone or use a clip you shot with a digital camera. While some Reels may look like they’re just thrown together like it’s the easiest thing in the world, most are very carefully curated, shot and edited.

What should your Reel be about?

There are countless trends, viral challenges, remixes and audio clips you can use in your Reels to stake your claim on those billions of eyes glued to Instagram. The best way to discover what’s trending is on the Explore feed for Reels. You can also simply create your own video about whatever you want, the main rule is there are no rules. From a branding perspective, it’s best to keep your Reels aligned with your brand and other content.

How do you make Reels?

In its simplest form, an Instagram Reel can be a video up to 60 seconds long. You can record your video on whatever you’d like – mobile phone, digital camera, action camera – so long as you export the video as an MP4 and a vertical 9:16 aspect ratio is best for viewing on mobile phones. You can also create and edit Instagram Reels in Canva’s video editor.

Creating Reels in Canva video editor

Canva’s video editor makes it easy to create Instagram Reels. Here’s how to customize a Reel template to make you very own Reel using photos from your Instagram feed.

  1. In the Canva editor, search for ‘Reels’ and click on ‘Instagram Reels’. This sets up the correct dimensions for your video.
  2. Start inspired and click ‘Templates’ to find Reel templates you can customize to make your own. Let’s use a template to explore Canva’s video editor features, we’ll use this one to create a ‘favourite photos from last year’ Reel. This is a great way to showcase some of your best photos and create your first Reel in the process.
  3. Start by changing the text to ‘The Best from 2021’ and ‘Let’s go’, or whatever you’d like to title your Reel.
  4. Next, we’ll add in images. Start with 10 images but you can add more if you want. Remember the upper limit is 60 seconds.
  5. Down the bottom, click the plus sign next to the first page, this creates a second page. You can then drop and drag your first photo here. Repeat this process to add all your photos. Next we’ll add audio.
  6. Click ‘Elements’ search ‘audio’ then click ‘audio’ up the top just below the search bar. You can browse by ‘mood’ until you find something that resonates with your brand.
  7. Drag and drop the audio and you’ll see it appear below your pages down the bottom. Double click to change the audio’s start point and duration.
  8. If you want to synchronize your Reel to the audio, click on the pages with photos down the bottom, and hover your mouse over the right side of the page, click and drag to adjust the length of that page. With a little experimenting, you’ll be line up the photos appearing with the beat of the audio.
  9. Once you’ve finished and you’re ready to export your Reel, in the top right click ‘Download’ and then the purple ‘Download’ button again. This exports your video in the correct format, aspect ratio and resolution for you to upload into Instagram.

Once you’ve uploaded your video into Instagram, there are a range of special effects you can add to your video.

The Top 5 Reel Recording Tricks

1. Adding captions to your video

Adding captions to your video is more than just a great way to improve the accessibility of your content. If someone is watching your Reel and they can’t have the volume up, having captions could be the difference between them skipping past it immediately, or engaging with it. Here’s how to add captions to your video in Instagram.

  1. Whether you record your video in Instagram or import one you created in Canva or other editing software, tap through to the editing screen in Instagram
  2. In the top right corner, tap ‘Aa’ to add text to your video. You can adjust colour, font, design and alignment. Once ready, tap ‘Done’.
  3. You can see your text on your video and down the bottom on the left. Tap and slide the video panel to adjust the duration and when your text appears in your video.

2. Creating multi-scene Reels

Creating multi-scene Reels is super handy for how-to, step-by-step or simply editing together multiple scenes into one video. You can import all the different scenes, record them live in Instagram or combine imported and new videos. Here’s how to edit together multiple scenes in Instagram.

  1. Let’s start by recording a new video in the Reels editor. You can choose a filter or special effect. Then we’ll add a pre-recorded video by tapping the icon in the bottom left and choosing a video from your gallery. Tap ‘Add’ top right to add it to your Reel.
  2. You can repeat this process to add other scenes to your recording until you reach the 1-minute limit.
  3. When you’re done, tap ‘Preview’ and if you want to edit the scenes, tap ‘Edit clips’ in the bottom left. To rearrange scenes, tap and drag to reorder.
  4. When you’re done editing, tap ‘Done’, then ‘Next’ to add captions and other details before you share it with the world.

3. Using the align tool

This one’s pretty cool. The align tool lets you magically add or remove someone or something from a video between scenes so it seems to disappear. How? You record the first part of the video then stop. Remove whatever you want to disappear and then you can use the align tool to get yourself back into the perfect position so the second part of your video seamlessly continues on from the first part with the object you removed magically gone.

  1. Record a video and stop when you’re ready to make magic.
  2. The ‘Align’ icon appears as the bottom icon on the left o your screen (it’s two overlapping squares). Tap it and a transparent image of the final frame of your first video appears.
  3. Once you add or remove whatever you want to appear or disappear, align yourself with the transparency and tap record.
  4. You may need to trim the end and start of the clips to flow more seamlessly, but this editing tool makes it much easier. Another tip to make this much easier is to use a tripod or at least place your phone on something solid so it doesn’t move.
  5. When you’re done editing, tap ‘Done’, then ‘Next’ to add captions and other details before you share it with the world.

4. Using Remix to tap into trends

A trend that continuously resurfaces is combining your own video with someone else’s, usually a viral video. This creates some fun creative possibilities like duets, remixes, and reaction videos. You can do this multiple times to create a harmony of voices, or a cacophony of voices or noises – possibilities abound. Here’s how to remix in Instagram.

  1. In the Reels explore feed, find a video you want to remix.
  2. Find the three dots in the bottom right corner, tap and then tap ‘Remix This Reel’. You’ll be taken into the Reels editor.
  3. You’ll see the Reel you picked on the left and your new recording on the right. You can add effects and a song, or keep the original audio.
  4. If you’re creating an audio duet, you can balance the levels of your new recording with the original audio in the preview screen. Tap the music note at the top of the screen and adjust as you need.
  5. When you’re done editing, tap ‘Done’, then ‘Next’ to add captions and other details before you share it with the world.

5. Using the green screen

Another really cool effect here, the green screen lets you get super creative with the background of your Reel.

  1. There are three ways to get to the green screen once you’re already in the Reels editor:
  2. Swipe up to get to your camera roll and in the top left, you’ll see ‘Green Screen’.
  3. Or, swipe to the left so the green circle with the silhouette and check background is selected. Your background with go green-blue.
  4. Or tap the three sparkles above the record button, then the ‘magnifying glass’ then search ‘green screen’.
  5. Once you’ve selected green screen, choose your background photo or video. You can zoom or expand the background to make yourself bigger or smaller against the backdrop.
  6. Then just record your Reel as usual and when you’re done editing, tap ‘Done’, then ‘Next’ to add captions and other details before you share it with the world.

Start experimenting with Reels

So there you have it – some tips, ideas, tools and templates to help you get started with Instagram Reels. If you need a reminder here’s a video on how to use Canva to create videos, timeline basics, how to use audio in videos, how to edit videos in Canva, and how to animate your design. Why not experiment with some different Reels and explore what trending videos might be relevant to you and your brand. Once you’ve found some that spark some ideas, you can check for more ideas and inspiration by searching Canva’s Instagram Reel templates.


Related articles

See all

Bring your ideas to life in minutes.

Express yourself with the world's easiest design program.