Instagram has just added a new “Focus” mode to its Stories. The function allows users to create the bokeh effect, focusing on an individual’s face while blurring out the background for portrait shots. According to Instagram, the update is available on iPhone SE, 6S, 6S+, 7, 7+, 8, 8+ and X and select Android devices and works with both the front- and rear-facing cameras.
The addition of Stories to Instagram has allowed users to express themselves in a more candid manner, posting as much as they would like to have it disappear after 24 hours, in contrast to the carefully curated content that appears on users’ feeds and that remains there until deleted. Many of the other modes on Stories, such as Superzoom, with its sound effects, and Boomerang, with its repetitions, all seem to have been created with this same intent–providing users with fun tools with which to express their spontaneity and foster a sense of personal connection with their audience.
Increasingly, however, both brands and influencers (especially mega-influencers) appear to be using Stories in a manner no less casual and with content no less professional than what appears on their main feed. Stories have also been used with content that is of slightly longer form, allowing brands and influencers to introduce new products and services to their users in snippets of video at a time.
The introduction of Focus, a function that makes portrait photographs appear more professional, to Stories appears to be yet another nod towards Instagram as a platform for marketing. It joins features such as Highlights, which allows brands and influencers to save their Stories permanently. In this way, Stories no longer emphasizes its original ephemeral nature but serves as a photo- and video-editing tool, in addition to being a part of Instagram that is not governed by a non-chronological algorithm.
In this same update, Instagram also released an @mention sticker to join the #hashtag stickers that have already been made available. This allows users to mention each other in another stylistic format not possible before.