Instagram crops out independent collage apps with free Layout app

Move over Pic Stitch: Instagram is releasing its own photo collage app.

Instagram released a photo collage app named Layout.

For the past several years of Instagram’s booming popularity, users have turned to third-party apps to create Post-it size photo squares into collages, usually in exchange for hashtag advertising. (#PicStitch and #PhotoGrid are two popular photo collage apps and hashtags.)

Now it's time for #Layout.

On Friday, Instagram rolled out Layout, a standalone photo-editing app that lets users create mini-collages then share on any social-media app. This is the second time Instagram has bent to pressure from third-party accessory apps, and is another bid to keep its massive user base within the Instagram ecosystem, and not one of the million other photo-sharing apps that pop up regularly.

“From imagining mirrored landscapes to sharing multiple moments from an entire adventure, we’ve seen these kinds of visual storytelling happening on Instagram and we’re inspired by it,” Instagram says in a Tumblr blog post announcing the new feature. “With Layout, it’s easier than ever to unlock your creativity — and we can’t wait to see what you’ll make next.”

Here’s how it works.

When you open Layout, Instagram will show you 10 different layouts to choose from based on up to nine photos you select from your camera roll or gallery. There's also an option called “Faces” that will filter only photos with people (selfie collage anyone?). From there, you can customize your layout through drag-and-drop photo arrangement, pinching to zoom in on one part of a photo, and pulling photo edges to change the size of a picture. There is also a flip and rotation tool to create mirror-image effects.

Instagram is also adding a Photo Booth feature that lets you take four quick pictures and create your collage from those snapshots.

This move comes after the popularity of apps such as Photo Grid, Pic Stitch, and InstaFrame, which offer countless ways to customize photos and create photo collages. Already, 20 percent of Instagram’s 300 million users use a third-party photo collage app, according to Re/Code. Though Layout is also technically a separate app, the hope is that it becomes a tool that Insta-devotees will consider just an extension of the main app. Instagram had the same idea when it released Hyperlapse last summer, a standalone super-speed time-lapse app.

Instagram previously updated its features last summer when it debuted a host of new filters and advanced photo-editing tools in response to photographer-frequented apps such as VSCO and Camera+.

"Layout from Instagram" is available for free download on iOS, with an Android app to debut in coming months.

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