How to make an app like Instagram and how much does it cost

When was the last time you were instagramming? Minutes? Hours? Barely anyone can say “days.” Instagram is wildly engaging, which means once you have the app on your phone, you probably stay in the flow.

Instagramming doesn’t only mean posting selfies and stories. It’s liking, commenting, messaging, checking friends’ photos as well as learning from influential people. So even if you say you’re not an active Instagram user, the chances are you open the app at least once a day. With these robust capabilities, it’s universally loved. So if we cut the act here, there are no special tricks. Instagram is just good, because it’s for everyone.

The enigma of Instagram has been thrilling app developers and business owners around the world for a long time now. And those who dream big have definitely thought about repeating the success. The good news is it’s real. To prove it, we’ve developed a comprehensive guide on how to build an app like Instagram. In fact you can jump right into 5 Instagram app development steps if that’s what you came here for.

But first, let’s dive a bit deeper into what makes Instagram a mammoth of social media.

Facts and statistics about Instagram

how to create a photo sharing app like instagram

Honestly, tracking Instagram stats is a thankless task. The numbers are impressive every time, but also change so fast that by the moment you reference stats somewhere, they are no longer valid. Still, to understand the value, you should know how, when, and who uses Instagram. Just to illustrate how big the platform is, we’ve looked into the most recent data collected by Hootsuite. Here are the key conclusions we’ve taken from the research:

  • The majority of Instagram users are under 35.
  • Younger audience stays on Instagram longer (the average is 32 minutes a day for people under 25).
  • Video content makes a huge part of Instagram. In fact, there’s 80% growth in video content every year, starting with 2013.
  • Around 1 billion people can be considered Instagram active audience – those who open the app at least once a month.

So what’s the secret? First of all, Instagram has many faces. So even if you don’t like the idea of Instagram, you’ll love at least one of its facets.

Instagram as a social network

Social networking is the initial concept of Instagram. There’s nothing new that has been introduced, except for a focus on visual content. So you knew the drill before you installed the app: Connect with people you know, share content, interact via likes and comments. That’s it.

One of the new edges that Instagram embraced along the way became influencer connections – reputation building and following unknown people who share interesting content. Therefore, there’s a huge focus on the number of connections you make in Instagram.

Instagram as a photo-editing and sharing app

It’s hard to create Instagram app without putting instrumental functionality into it. Instagram is predominantly visual and heavily based on the sharing feature. But what’s more important, the platform has a superb editing toolkit which helps you enhance content before sharing it.

Instagram as an eCommerce portal

Another beautiful side of Instagram is that you can actually drive eCommerce sales from it. According to Neil Patel, around 68% Instagram users regularly interact with brands inside the app. This makes the social network a good place for promoting as well as selling goods and services.

Instagram as a messenger

Last but not least, you can use Instagram to chat. This is a great feature in terms of both personal communications and using Instagram for business, because you have a direct channel for connecting with your acquaintances, influencers, and brands. Instagram messenger is light, easy to understand, and supports media attachments just as any chatting app. What makes it even more beautiful, you can jump into messaging right from a post you see in your feed or a story.

5 Instagram app development steps

instagram clone

If you’re wondering how to create an app like Instagram, this section is a good place to start. Done right, these five steps can bring you a competitive photo-sharing app, which will make your ROI grow steadily year after year.

Market overview

Instagram clearly stands out on the market of photo-sharing platforms. And there are good reasons for that, some of which we’ve mentioned in the previous section. While being the best, Instagram is also pretty hard to beat. So you might consider seeing the full picture – alternative features, profitable monetization strategies, how much does it cost to make an app like Instagram, etc. To do so, compare what’s there on the market and how Instagram rivals survive and make money.

Here are a few solutions to look into:

  • Flickr, a social network that has a superpower of bringing images into albums. You can batch upload any number of photos as well as export albums in one click.
  • Imgur, a free image-sharing service that roots in the concept of community posting fun staff. Memes, gifs, jokes – it can get silly, but it’s definitely something people love to engage into.
  • EyeEm, a tech company that owns a photography marketplace. This is a good platform to learn from if you want to dive into professional photography, based on a pretty simple strategy: Encourage people to contribute with their photos and sell them to brands for a fee that is partially shared with creators.

Marketing strategy

To make an app like Instagram is not enough, you should also make it drive profits. So the next vital step is deciding how to get your app in front of your target audience. This is where you can get creative experimenting with channels and messages.

In the frames of your marketing strategy, consider where it can generate the biggest buzz. For instance, most photo-sharing apps for iOS go to the App Store – a place where geeks, photographers, and basically everyone searches apps. If that’s your primary channel for driving leads, think about compatibility with Apple’s App Store at the early stages: Can you create the app that will fit into your target category? How can you beat competitors in the same category? Do you actually need to beat them? The more answers you have prepared, the better.

MVP development

With all the functions it currently has, Instagram is a costly solution. Therefore, you’re running lots of risks if you decide to throw money into development without proper validation. Putting the most critical functionality into an MVP will help you test the product and further refine it.

Here’s a short guide to making your app MVP:

  1. Plan: Prioritize features and select those that are vital – ideally, functionality that should bring the biggest chunk of revenue. Discuss the prototype with your team of developers or hire a professional outsource provider with a solid portfolio to build it for you.
  2. Predict: Based on your product value and marketing strategy, make a hypothesis about how the MVP should perform.
  3. Set metrics: Because the purpose of building an MVP is measuring performance, think about the metrics and timeline.


Validate your hypothesis by gathering feedback from users and running a set of tech tests. You can also apply a methodology that helps analyze business performance such as Business Model Canvas or any other. To put it simply, your goal here is to figure out what worked for you, why, and what should be improved.

Note that successful MVP doesn’t mean a good product/market fit. While MVP can indicate the right direction for how you should grow, it doesn’t mean you have your audience yet.

Development and deployment

The next step after validating MVP is deciding whether you refine it, leave it as it is, or change the app all together. You should be ready to spend another couple of months on drafting the final version of your Instagram app to ensure it proves valuable. Once you’re finished, get on the project with a reliable team specialized in mobile application development.

Planning deployment is another important thing to put on your agenda. Depending on the strategy, you can release all the features at once, or set up a few major releases to keep your audience hooked and excited about the updates.

Core features for mobile photo-sharing application like Instagram

The reason why Flickr exists in the era of Instagram is that it has this idea of community sharing professional photography. To stand out, you might consider developing a few features that Instagram doesn’t have or expand the functionality of the existing ones. However, before you dive into the creative part, here’s a set of must-have features for your MVP:

Like/share options

During the recent Facebook Keynote event, it was announced that Instagram might get rid of likes. The feature of hiding likes is already available in Canada. Still, likes and shares remain the key tools of social interaction across Facebook and Instagram. If you’re learning how to make a social media app like Instagram, you need this social element. Just ensure there’s a possibility to hide likes on demand.

News feed

This is the core. It’s through the news feed that you interact with people you follow by commenting, sharing, clicking on profiles, and establishing new connections. Instagram has a separate home feed with profiles you don’t follow, but they can be interesting for you. The algorithm of tailored connections is built on mutual followers and similarity of profiles.


Instagram covers text and photo messaging, but that’s a huge space for experiments. According to Digital Information World, voice searches majorly happen on mobile. So you might use this gap and add useful voice messaging feature to the toolkit.


Ecommerce is feeding Instagram, literally. While you don’t want to lose this important source of monetization, the ad feature is a must. Instagram offers different variations of ads as well as the ways of buying sponsored posts. For instance, you can put your message into collections, story ads, video ads, etc. Plus, it’s easy to buy ads via the app, a dedicated ads manager, or partners program.

Push notifications

Apart from promoting interaction between users, make the app interact with a user. Push notifications are used as extra incentives for a user to launch the app. In Instagram, default notifications are sent when someone likes or comments on your post as well as when someone tags you in a photo or story.

Search option

Enable flexible search to help your users expand their connections. In Instagram, you can search by names, hashtags, usernames, and even post description.

Photo editing

How to make an app like Instagram? Give it a rich editing toolkit. Capabilities for personalizing photos make Instagram attractive. If good-quality photography is one of the things you focus on, invest in photo-editing – from general adjustments to custom filters.

Video streaming

On social media, videos generate around 1200% more shares than texts and photos. Follow Instagram’s path of live streaming, enabling easy ways to record and share video content. You can develop different recording modes, set restrictions on the length of story videos and post videos, etc.


Adding location to photos and stories is possible through the implementation of geolocation feature. Location tags also create space for additional search functionality – for users to search by location.

how much does it cost to create an app like Instagram

Cross-platform compatibility

Let’s go right into it: There’s a gap Instagram has that you can fill – desktop compatibility. While lots of Instagram features like posting and messaging aren’t available on desktop, it’s a great opportunity to stand apart with your app.

Instagram-like app monetization strategy

Quite honestly, these are lots of features – even for an MVP. To create app like Instagram, you’ll have to make serious investments into its functionality. Therefore, we recommend planning monetization options even before you tap into development. Here’s what works perfectly for successful photo-sharing apps:

  • Ads. Platforms like Instagram and Klink make the biggest chunk of their revenue on promoted posts that users can take to stories, posts, or carousel ads.
  • In-app purchases. If you follow the Instagram example, implement in-app purchases to add the eCommerce edge to your photo-sharing app. A good example would be the the “Checkout’ feature Instagram announced a few months ago, which enables users to buy products in the app without having to navigate to the eCommerce site.
  • Partnerships and special offers. Go as far as your creativity allows. Encourage your loyal users to earn profits, build a partners program for influencers, or prepare time-limited offers.
  • Stock photos. If you deal with professional photography, turn your app into a photostock where you can earn profits from your users’ purchases.

Technology stack for building Instagram

programming language used to build Instagram

Now let’s move to a serious thing you probably have no idea about if you’ve never done coding. Choosing a programming language used to build Instagram. If we look at the tech stack behind Instagram, it’s pretty extensive:

  • React Native for sharing and iteration speed, Python and Java for the rest of functionality.
  • Amazon EC2, Route 53, S3, and EBS for computing capacities and loading.
  • Django on Python used as a web server.
  • In terms of data storage Instagram relies on PostgreSQL.

To develop a photo-sharing app for Android and iOS, you can either do cross-platform development, or make an app for Android and an iOS clone.

Make an Instagram-like app for Android

The general understanding of mobile app development will help you a lot to learn how to make a photo-sharing app for Android. Here is the tech stack recipe you might consider:

  • Programming languages: Java, Kotlin, or C/C++.
  • Android SDK.
  • Android Studio for editing and debugging.

Make an Instagram clone app for iOS

To produce a full clone of your Android app, you don’t have to start from scratch choosing from among tons of different technologies. It’s enough to know the answers to two questions: How to make a photo-sharing app like Instagram in Xcode as well as how to make an app like Instagram in Swift. Or both. If you’ve never heard about any of these, here’s a Udemy course that will guide you through the process step by step.

How much does it cost to create an app like Instagram

how much does it cost to create an app like Instagram

With robust functionality photo-sharing apps cover, it’s impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all budget. However, if you know the features you want to include, there’s a good way to calculate the cost of creating an app like Instagram.

Step-by-step estimation:

  1. Estimate time. For iOS app development you’ll spend around 300 hours on iOS and 250 hours on backend. UX and UI will eat up to 130 hours.
  2. Research mobile application development rates. Provided you need 4 developers + 1 backend developer, 1 QA, 1 PM, and 2 designers, compare salaries of these specialists across different app development companies.
  3. Make calculations. Once you know the rates, it’s simple math: With $40 hourly programmer salary, you’ll spend $220,000 on development and $3,900 on design if an average designer salary is $30 per hour.

Here’s cost estimate by functionality:

Features iOS/Android Backend
Social network authorization 20 hours 10 hours
Email authorization 52 hours 20 hours
Profile editing 35 hours 7 hours
Creating a post 48 hours 49 hours
Timeline 72 hours 35 hours
Tagging, sharing, and commenting 48 hours 12 hours
Image customization 105 hours
Geolocation 24 hours 20 hours
Messaging 62 hours 60 hours
Notifications 31 hours 26 hours
Search 32 hours 40 hours
Total 529 hours 279 hours


To sum it up, photo-sharing app development is tough. If you want to step into Instagram’s shoes, you’ll have to build a multi-functional platform which requires specialized expertise and many hours of testing and refining.

Entrust the task to a professional outsource software development provider like MWDN and worry not about the quality of your code. Check out our portfolio for the projects we’ve successfully realized as well as customer references about us.

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