Skip to content

6 Creative Ideas for Using Instagram’s Carousel Feature

DBS Interactive
Instagrams are like Polaroids! Here's some brands doing it right.

It’s been around a month since Instagram allowed every user to post multiple photos in a single Instagram post. These image “carousels” (so named because you rotate through them left and right with the swipe of a finger) were previously reserved for advertisers. In the past, Instagram has given users more choices in posts by adding in video, non-square images, and boomerang posts. The image carousel is yet another feature Instagram has added to add more variety to their posts.

We’ve seen some brands do great work with carousels in the past, but now that the feature has been released wide, all sorts of businesses are experimenting with the format in different ways. We’ve compiled some of the most creative ideas from small businesses to big brands.

Idea 1: Split Up a Long Photo into Pieces

Who’s Doing It: Subway

We love what Subway did with this multi-photo post on Instagram. They turned a long, horizontal photo of a sub into a post that advertises their $5 footlong daily sub deal.

Why it works: The connected horizontal photos push users to continue scrolling through the post and see the different daily deals Subway offers. Additionally, this post is product-first, putting Subway’s product front and center. Splitting up one long photo into an image carousel could work for many brands.

Idea 2: Group Together Themed Images

Who’s Doing It: LetterFolk

Letterfolk makes handcrafted letter boards for decorating your home with inspirational quotes. Already a great instagram feed, they stepped it up when image carousels rolled out. They posted a series of photos featuring letter boards with inspirational quotes for International Women’s Day.

Why it works: Letterfolk’s post was timely, taking advantage of a much-discussed topic that day. They integrated the buzz in a unique way that kept their product first. Plus, even though it was a sundry collection of images, the images all maintained a consistent style–bright lights, pastel colors, and carefully placed scenery.

Idea 3: Tell a Story Through Pictures

Who’s Doing It: Sunergos Coffee

Sunergos Coffee  is one of our favorite local coffee roasters and brewers in Louisville. They used Instagram’s multi-photo feature to give a behind the scenes look at one of their coffee roasters working in their roasting factory. The image carousel features images of the same employee going through a multi-step process of roasting.

Boom! Roasted (opens in new window)

A post shared by Sunergos Coffee (@sunergos_coffee) on

Why it works: We love the idea of using Instagram carousels to tell a story. By featuring a chronological progression of images, Sunergos both reinforces their message of small-batch, high-quality product while creatively educating their followers on the coffee roasting process.

Idea 4: Capture a Moment in Stop-Motion

Who’s Doing It: National Geographic

National Geographic knows how to tell a story through images. Their Instagram constantly features gorgeous photography from their wide network of photographers across the globe. They took advantage of the Instagram carousel to capture a short moment in time in the life of a crab fisherman.

Photo by Corey Arnold @arni_coraldo The weather picked up dramatically during our final day fishing Opilio crab aboard the f/v Arctic Lady in the Bering Sea. As our four tanks filled, freezing spray coated the bow and iced up the crab pots stacked on the deck. This is the most dangerous time part of crabbing — a heavy boat sits low in the water and rolls harder from side to side, inviting “green water” over the rail. Here, crewman Aaron Sunia attempts to get the buoy line in the hauling block which raises the pot from the sea floor. During this storm, six crab fishermen aboard the fv Destination were lost as the boat disappeared nearby without warning. A sad and tragic ending to the season, my heart goes out to the family and friends of the crew. ———————————— My solo photo exhibition “Aleutian Dreams” — new photographs from the Aleutian Islands opens on April 1st in Santa Monica, CA @richardhellergallery and April 6 in Portland, OR @hartmanfineart More on my personal insta @arni_coraldo #commercialfishing #crabbing #beringsea #fishing #ocean #dangerous #aleutiandreams #crab #photooftheday #alaska #arcticlady #alaskacrab #fish-work (opens in new window)

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

Why We Love It: This post is a great example of nontraditional storytelling.  The three images take place over less than five seconds of time, but the format they chose makes for a far more compelling a story than a looped boomerang post or gif. It’s an extremely engaging post, and racked up more than 150,000 likes.

Idea 5: Share an Event Without Cluttering Your Followers’ Feeds

Who’s Doing It: Harvard University

Any large university is constantly hosting events for students, parents, and alumni. Often, universities have too much content to share, resulting in either cluttered messaging or overactivity on social media. Harvard used Instagram’s multi-photo feature to post a selection of images from a single event: Housing Day.


Why We Love It: By sharing multiple photos from the same event, Harvard is able to capture the same effect as an album on Facebook. It gives a more thorough look at the content or event they are promoting without posting multiple repetitive images throughout the day.


Idea 6: Be Snarky in a New Way

Who’s Doing It: Casper

Casper sells luxury mattresses direct to your door. Over the years, the company has developed a unique brand voice on social media. This post is no different, featuring a continuous scroll of “ZZZs” alongside a clever caption.

You know what time it is. (opens in new window)

A post shared by Casper (@casper) on

Why We Love It: This post captures Casper’s snarky voice in a new way. Although there’s plenty of social media best practices, there are no rules that limit what you can and can’t do on different platforms. We love that Casper was willing to take a risk with a non-traditional post that built upon their brand equity.

Over to You

No matter how you use Instagram’s new carousel feature, be sure it follows best practices for Instagram marketing and your own social media plan. Keep in mind the following tips whenever you’re posting to Instagram:

  1. The visuals are most important. Captions are important, and hashtags are great ways to build an audience. But Instagram is a visual platform. Use high-quality, brand consistent images.
  2. Post consistently. You’ll build an audience only if you’re present in their feeds. Figure out the best time of day to post (a lot of softwares will help with this!), and follow a regular schedule.
  3. Stay on brand. Don’t follow trends for the sake of following trends. If a post (carousel or not) doesn’t advance your company’s mission and business goals, you shouldn’t post it.