How to Make an App Like Instagram: Tech Stack, Features, Costs

4 min readFeb 21, 2019


A photo and video-sharing app like Instagram takes social mobile networks to the next level. This success resulted in the appearance of other well-known photo-sharing apps: Swipe, Snapchat, Vine, Camera, Flickr. All of these apps utilize photo and video content but vary in their core value and functionality.

Therefore, at MLSDev we find it useful to explain what it takes to create a photo-sharing app like Instagram.

Evolution of Instagram Mobile App

Some facts about Instagram:

  • Burbn app (Instagram’s former name) app idea seeded funding worth $500K
  • Instagram collected $57.5M funds in total
  • MVP of Instagram -adhering a photo in a square with a few filters
  • UPS of Instagram -a combination of photo-sharing and editing tools
  • 95 million pictures are posted on Instagram daily
  • 1 billion users are active on Instagram monthly
  • Net worth Instagram is more than $100 billion US

These days, Instagram is a complex platform which can be viewed through the lens of photo-editing app, e-commerce portal, and messenger.

Moreover, the Instagram project never stands still. The most recent version of Instagram experienced a design update as well as some new features, namely:

  • IGTV
  • Stories
  • Shoppable posts
  • Nametags
  • New quick replies in Direct
  • Explore page

How to Create an App Like Instagram Successfully

The process of building a social photo-sharing app include such steps:

  1. Conduct market research to define your target audience and its preferences
  2. Evaluate competitive photo-sharing apps
  3. Finalize your unique and outstanding app concept
  4. Define your further strategy in terms of your goals with the project, budget, timeline, and technologies
  5. Prepare your marketing and PR strategy and start promoting the app from the early stages
  6. Build communication channels with your users to gain quick and up-to-date client feedback
  7. Select a capable development agency to design, develop, test, and launch your social photo-sharing app
  8. Keep up with the competitors and evolve the project further

Also, the most widely used and appropriate ways to monetize social apps are:

  • Sponsorship and advertisements
  • In-app purchases
  • Offering special deals to active users

Once all the project’s preparatory materials are ready, you can start building your own social media app like Instagram starting from the MVP. Keep the following in mind:

  • Intuitive user-navigation
  • Clear designs (UX/UI)
  • Eye-catching graphics and visual element (e.g logo)
  • Personalized feed
  • Well-functioning application

Besides, these things you may want to consider to succeed in creating an app similar to Instagram:

  • Come up with a new and unique photo-editing tool inside the app
  • Create the photo-sharing for a specific user group or themed app
  • Offer functionality to create themed photo albums and set the photo or post privacy to send invitations only to selected users
  • Add functionality to share photos between phones and other devices easily without signing up
  • Assist your users with some photo-editing lessons, or provide them with tips to create top-notch user profiles

Instagram Technology Stack

Technologies applied in Instagram are:

  • React Native -iOS & Android apps
  • Python (Django framework) & HTML5JavaScript -server-side
  • Computing services -Amazon S3, Amazon, EBS, Amazon EC2
  • Database -PostgreSQL

MVP Functionality of Instagram-like App

1) Authorization

  • creating a new account
  • signing in into the existing account via social networks

​​​​​​2) Editing profile

  • adding personal data
  • editing personal data
  • removing personal data

3) Post creation

  • uploading pictures taken in the app or existing images from the gallery
  • mentioning people, adding tags

4) Feed

  • subscribing
  • liking
  • commenting

5) Social features

  • sharing
  • inviting friends from Facebook

6) Image customization

Standard options like:

  • cropping
  • rotating
  • image adjustments
  • applying filters

7) Geolocation features

  • determining the geolocation of the existing image
  • determining current geolocation and adding it to the post

8) Messaging

  • text and photo messaging

9) Notifications

  • push notifications

10) Search

  • by username or full name
  • by tags
  • by post description

How Much Does It Cost to Make an App Like Instagram?

In the table below, you can see the approximate time estimate for the MVP of a photo-sharing service:

App Development Cost = (Development Time iOS + Development Time Back End) x Hourly Rate + Design (UX/UI)

Based on this data, in total, development of the MVP for a social networking app will cost anywhere from $30k to $50k.

It is worth mentioning that the development cost will depend greatly on such factors as:

  • Project priorities & constraints
  • Business goals & context
  • Budget constraints & timeline
  • Developing vendor
  • Technology preference
  • Complexity of project functionality & design

You will need to measure the performance of your app; therefore, its Key Performance Indicators such as a number of active users, user engagement and retention should be considered.

Our team has experience in creating social photo-sharing apps. Yummi app is a platform to help track and share your eating adventures. Check out the Yummi case study.

Feel free to reach out us for additional details for building your own Instagram app.

This is a brief summary of an article published on MLSDev blog. If you would like to learn more about a successful photo-sharing app development, read the full article.




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