How to Start an Instagram Live Video

Instagram
Photo © Carl Court / Getty Images
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Access Your Stories Camera Tab

Instagram Live
Screenshots of Instagram for iOS

Instagram Stories changed the way people used Instagram in August of 2016. By the end of 2016, Stories was expanded to include a live video streaming feature that users could take advantage of for connecting with their followers in real time.

Where to Look to Start Your Live Video

You may have noticed that there's no obvious option that sticks out on the Instagram app to start your own live stream. This is because it's hidden in the camera tab of the stories feature.

To start a live video stream, you have to use Instagram as if you were going to post a story. Tap your own bubble in the far left of your stories feed or swipe right anywhere within the app to pull up the stories camera tab.

Be default, the camera tab is on the Normal setting, which you can see at the bottom of the screen beneath the capture button. To switch to a live video stream, swipe right to set it to Live.

How to Tell When Other Users Are Broadcasting Live Videos

You can tell someone is using Instagram Live by looking at the little bubbles in your stories feed on Instagram, which sometimes have a pink "Live" badge displayed directly beneath them. You can tap their bubble to start watching them instantly.

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Set Up Your Video and Configure Your Settings

Instagram Live
Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

Once you've found how to activate Instagram Live from the camera tab in the stories feature, you should see a screen that gives you some setup options for your live video. Don't worry—you're not live just yet!

Front-to-back camera switch: Tap the icon with the two arrows to switch to the camera that you want to use.

Tell your followers what your video is about: Tap this to type in a short description, which may be included in a notification sent to your followers when you go live.

Story settings: Tap the gear icon in the top left corner configure your story settings, which will also apply to your live video. You can hide your stories/live video from certain people and choose who you want to be able to reply to your stories/live video via direct message.

When you're ready to go live, tap the Start Live Video button. This will trigger the live broadcast of your video and you'll show up in your followers' stories feeds with a little "Live" badge beneath your bubble.

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Engage With Your Viewers

Instagram Live
Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

When you start an Instagram live video, your followers may receive notifications to encourage them to tune in. Once your followers start to tune in, you'll notice a few things appear on the screen.

Viewer count: This appears in the top right corner of the screen next to the eye icon, which represents the number of people who are currently watching you.

Comments: Viewers can publish live comments on your video using the comment field, which appears at the bottom of the screen. 

Likes: A heart button appears in the bottom right corner of the screen, which viewers can tap to express their approval of your live video. You'll see a heart animation play out in real time as viewers like it.

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Pin a Comment or Turn Off Comments

Instagram Live
Screenshots of Instagram for iOS

Besides talking to your viewers directly through the video, you can actually leave a comment on your own video and then pin it to the screen so that it stays there for all viewers to see as more tune in. This is a useful feature if your live video is centered on a certain topic or question.

To pin a comment, simply type your comment into the comment field, post it, and then tap your published comment. A menu will pop up from the bottom of the screen with a Pin Comment option that you can tap to pin the comment.

Alternatively, you can turn comments off so nobody has the ability to comment. To do this, just tap the three dots in the bottom right corner of the screen and tap the Turn Off Commenting option.

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End Your Video When You're Done

Instagram Live
Screenshot of Instagram for iOS

You can broadcast your live video for up to an hour. The amount of data used while broadcasting a live video will vary depending on how long you decide to keep your video going and how strong your signal is, but to save on data, your best bet is to make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi before you even start your live video.

When you're ready to say goodbye to your viewers, tap End in the top right corner of the screen to stop your live video. Unlike other live streaming video apps (like Periscope, for example), you won't get any replays of your video because Instagram currently does not save live videos anywhere.

Once you've ended your video, you'll simply be given a total viewer count to let you know how many people tuned in over the course of your live video. Remember that if your profile is set to public, anyone could tune in to your live video—not just your followers—since your live video may show up in the suggested live videos to watch on the Explore tab.