How to make a simple & robust Instagram clone – A quick image transformation guide

When I talk to the customers that are relying heavily on Filestack to build, manage and grow their apps (along with their business), the overwhelming use case is allowing Filestack to handle their image assets upon upload and delivery. This post shows how easy it is to manage your photos by showing you how to construct URLs that perform some image transformation processes and then how to build a app that applies filters to any uploaded photo.

I would imagine that if you polled 100 developers about the most difficult aspect of building beautiful looking apps, most (if not all) would respond with the unruly task of managing an increasing number of photos and other image assets, especially if they rely on user-submitted or user-generated content. Lucky for you at the heart of the Filestack platform is a powerful transformation engine that saves you a ton of work by managing your images, videos and other files in a meaningful, programmatic way.

The basics of image transformation

Image transformation might be a new concept for some developers and product managers. Let’s spend some time learning how to experiment with them right from your browser. Once we understand the basics, we’ll put it into action by building a simple Instagram-like app that applies multiple filters to an uploaded photo.

Our docs offer in-depth descriptions for all of the transformations Filestack makes available to you. For images, these range from basic things like cropping and rotating images via our Crop UI when users upload photos to far more advanced tools like facial detection and adding watermarks to your photos.

If your app handles or processes video content, we offer a list of video transformations that can be applied programmatically as well.

As simple as typing a URL

Really to dig into the full potential of our how transformation engine can optimize your app’s photographic workflows you need to see them in action. Fortunately, one of the new features of our file management platform is the ability to work with any file that is publicly accessible on the Internet using it’s URL. This means if you can type a URL into your browser, you have full access to Filestack’s transformation engine!

Filestack needs three pieces of information in order to transform images:

  1. Your API Key
  2. Conversion tasks and parameters
  3. The URL of the file

Filestack allows these values to be conveniently packaged into a single URL, making it extremely simple to test transformations in your browser (something we’ll do in moment) or to transform original images in a non-destructive way as they’re believing delivered to your end user.

Let’s deconstruct the following example URL:

All transformations are performed by passing the three required pieces of information to this sub-domain:

First is your application’s API key: AhTgLagciQByzXpFGRI0Az
We’re using a demo API key in this example. You would include your API key for your app.

resize=width:750 tells Filestack to resize the width of the image to 750 pixels.

And finally, we have the CloudFront URL of the original image,, which if click you can see the original size of the image has a width of 1280 pixels and a height of 847 pixels. Compare this to the 496 x 750 of the transformed image.

You can experiment with all of Filestack’s image transformations right from your browser following this URL design!

See it in action!!


Want to see image transformation’s in action? Click on the link above to see a simple Instagram-like app that applies several of Filestack’s image filters to an uploaded photo and delivers them at a consistent size. This demo was built in less than an hour by using Filestack’s Image Filters and filepicker.pick method to dynamically create the URLs like the one above.

FAQs about making an Instagram clone app

How do you make an Instagram clone app?

Let’s face it: Making an app that’s exactly like Instagram is difficult. However, you can approximate the experience with proper planning and study. To learn how to build an Instagram clone app, here’s what you need:

  1. Have an excellent way of uploading files – You have to ensure that your users can conveniently, easily, and safely upload their images. This includes having many image transformation features, such as cropping, rotating, filters, effects, and so on. You also need to deal with handling large or multiple images and make sure that every upload is fast. To do this, you can use a CDN, compression, or other image optimization methods. Lastly, you should protect both your app and your users from attacks, compromised files, or explicit uploaded content. Accomplishing all these will improve the quality of your Instagram clone app by a lot.
  2. A user-friendly way of browsing images – You need to make browsing images or the newsfeed easy for your users. You shouldn’t load plenty of high-res images or videos at once, and you should set some limits. Furthermore, users should have a consistent experience no matter their device or screen size. Instagram is one of the best image sharing social media apps because it makes media browsing a breeze.

Filestack can help you with both of these concerns. It already comes with security, delivery, user-friendliness, and reliability. It also has every feature your users need to upload images their way. Filestack even leverages AI to help with virus detection, explicit content detection, and a lot more.

How much does it cost to make an app like Instagram?

In simpler words? A lot. You have to factor in the tech stack needed, a server (or a collection of global servers) to host the app, the number of hours needed to complete development, and maintenance. The more complicated an app becomes, the higher the development costs. This article approximates the development cost of building a simple Instagram clone app. It states that the costs, for the developers’ salary alone, could reach $236,000+, depending on where you live. So, yes, there’s no simple answer to this. But you can approximate your costs by taking the aforementioned factors into consideration.

What are some image transformations that Filestack offers?

To develop the best Instagram clone app, you’ll need some powerful image editing features. Luckily, Filestack has all of them, including:

  • Resizing
  • Cropping and smart cropping (crop exactly in the shape that you want)
  • Rotating
  • Flips
  • Watermarks
  • Compression
  • Conversion to progressive JPEG
  • Quality enhancements
  • Image borders and effects
  • Image filters
  • Facial detection
  • And more

For example, check out this photo filters and editing guide.


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