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How to Scrape Instagram Posts for Free: The Complete 2024 Guide

Want to unlock Instagram‘s treasure trove of visual data? You‘ve come to the right place!

Scraping Instagram opens up new possibilities for research and analysis. But where do you start? And how do you get Instagram data at scale without getting blocked or banned?

Don‘t worry! In this complete 4500+ word guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to extract Instagram posts for free.

By the end, you‘ll know:

  • The legalities around scraping public Instagram data
  • A foolproof step-by-step process for 3 different scraping methods
  • How to collect posts from hashtags, locations, profiles
  • Tips to deal with captchas and access limits
  • Unique ways to use scraped Instagram data
  • Best practices for ethical and responsible scraping

Let‘s dive in and unlock Instagram‘s data goldmine!

The first question that comes up is: is web scraping Instagram actually allowed? Can you legally collect Instagram posts at scale?

The short answer is: yes, scraping public Instagram data is 100% legal.

Here‘s a more detailed look at the rules and regulations around scraping Instagram:

Instagram‘s Terms of Use Permit Web Scraping

Firstly, Instagram‘s Terms of Use do not prohibit the scraping of public data from the platform.

As long as you only access public profiles and posts that are visible to anyone online, collecting this data through scraping does not violate Instagram‘s ToS.

Of course, attempting to scrape private accounts or locked down information is not allowed. But Instagram‘s terms do not restrict scraping public data that anyone can view.

U.S. Laws Allow Scraping of Publicly Accessible Data

Moreover, web scraping public data from any site is perfectly legal according to U.S. laws and regulations.

The data protection laws that exist in the European Union are not applicable in the U.S. As per the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, it is permissible to access and collect any internet data that is publicly visible to all viewers.

Legal precedents in the U.S. have upheld the legality of web scraping as long as it does not breach terms of service or involve bypassing security measures like captchas or IP blocks.

So you can rest assured that scraping data from a public Instagram profile does not infringe any federal or state laws in the U.S.

Scraping Responsibly Within Instagram‘s Access Limits

However, Instagram does implement some access limits on scrapers and bots. They track things like:

  • Number of requests – This is the frequency of requests sent by a scraper to Instagram in a window of time. If it‘s too high, they may block your access temporarily.

  • Number of items scraped – Scraping a few hundred or thousand posts is fine, but extracting millions can get detected.

To avoid blocks and stay in their good graces, it‘s wise to:

  • Implement proper throttling and pauses when sending requests. Don‘t overload their servers.
  • Scrape different hashtags/locations each run instead of hitting the same ones repeatedly.
  • Use proxies to make requests from different IPs.

This helps ensure your scraper stays under Instagram‘s rate limits radar. Exercise some restraint to keep your access.

Only Use Data You Have Rights To

Lastly, while you can legally collect public Instagram posts, how you use and share that data is also important legally:

  • Don‘t directly redistribute posts or imagery without permission as it may violate copyrights. Analyzing them is fine.
  • Don‘t collect private user info like emails that may violate privacy laws.
  • Only use the data for legitimate purposes and don‘t compromise user security.

Scraping Instagram itself is not illegal, but be responsible with how you handle the extracted data.

So in summary – yes, feel free to scrape Instagram‘s public content! Just be mindful of their access limits and use the data legally.

Now let‘s look at the tools and methods for extracting posts.

3 Methods for Scraping Instagram Posts

There are several options for scraping data from Instagram profiles, hashtags and locations. Here are the top 3 methods:

1. Using Apify‘s Instagram Post Scraper

Apify offers a robust Instagram scraper optimized for extracting posts. Let‘s look at how to use it:

The advantages of Apify are:

  • Purpose-built for Instagram – It‘s specifically designed to extract Instagram data, so works faster and more reliably than DIY scraping.

  • Easy to use – No coding required. You can point and click to set up the scraper in minutes.

  • Handles Instagram blocks – Built-in proxies and retries let it bypass blocks and CAPTCHAs.

  • Free plan available – You can scrape up to 750 posts/day on the free Apify plan.

Here is the step-by-step process to scrape with Apify:

  1. Sign up – Go to Apify Instagram Post Scraper and click "Try for Free". Register for a free Apify account.

  2. Add targets – Enter the Instagram usernames, hashtags or locations you want to scrape. You can add multiple items.

  3. Set post limit – Configure the max number of posts to scrape per target.

  4. Start scraping – Click the "Run" button. The scraper will start extracting data.

  5. Export data – Once finished, export the results to a CSV or JSON file.

And that‘s all it takes! In a few minutes you can have thousands of Instagram posts scraped to your desktop, ready for analysis.

Apify is a fast and hassle-free way to get started with Instagram data extraction.

2. Build a Scraper in Python with Selenium

For software developers, building a custom Instagram scraper in Python is a great option. Here are the key steps:

  • Import libraries – Import Selenium, BeautifulSoup, Pandas, Requests, etc.

  • Launch browser – Use Selenium + WebDriver to launch a browser like Chrome.

  • Log in – Automate logging into an Instagram account with Selenium.

  • Navigate feed – Scroll through feeds and click into posts.

  • Parse page – Use Beautiful Soup to extract post details like image, captions, comments.

  • Store data – Save scraped data into Pandas dataframe or CSV file.

  • Add delays – Pause between actions to mimic human behavior.

The advantages of Python scraping are:

  • Full customizability – You can build the exact scraper you need and tweak it.

  • Advanced functionality – Leverage libraries like Selenium, Scrapy, etc. for robust scraping.

  • Scalability – Scale up the scraper through tools like Scrapy or by containerizing it.

The downside is it requires decent Python coding skills. But for developers, Python gives extreme flexibility to build custom scrapers.

3. Use a Point-and-Click Web Scraping Tool

For non-developers, an easier way to scrape Instagram is to use a visual web scraping tool like:

These tools allow you to visually configure a scraper, without coding. Here is the process:

  1. Connect to site – Enter Instagram URL to connect the tool.

  2. Visually build – Point and click on elements to extract, e.g. username, captions.

  3. Run scraper – The scraper extracts data based on your visual configuration.

  4. Export data – Scraped posts are exported into a CSV/Excel file.

The benefits are:

  • No coding required – Anyone can scrape Instagram through the visual interface.

  • Fast setup – Building the scraper takes minutes by pointing and clicking.

  • Instagram specific – Some tools offer Instagram specific templates.

The limitations are less flexibility compared to coding a custom scraper in Python. But for non-developers, these tools provide an easy way to scrape Instagram without programming knowledge.

Scraping Hashtags and Locations on Instagram

In addition to user profiles, you can scrape public posts from:

  • Hashtags – Enter the hashtag without the # symbol, e.g. "cats of Instagram".

  • Locations – Use the location ID found in the URL, e.g. 214424loginfo.txt.

This lets you collect posts around particular topics and places for targeted Instagram scraping.

Comparing Instagram Scraping Tools

Now that we‘ve covered the top 3 methods, let‘s compare them:

Method Pros Cons Best For
Apify Optimized for Instagram, easy to use, handles blocks Usage limits on free plan Beginners who want something purpose-built for Instagram
Python & Selenium Fully customizable, advanced functionality, scalable Requires coding skills Developers or expert scrapers who need customization
Point & Click Tools No coding required, quick setup Less flexibility than Python Non-developers who want a simple scraping solution

So in summary:

  • Apify – The easiest plug-and-play Instagram scraper for beginners.

  • Python – For advanced custom scrapers with programming skills.

  • Point & click tools – Allow non-developers to scrape Instagram through a visual interface.

The best approach depends on your technical skills and scraping needs!

Scraping Instagram Data at Scale Without Getting Blocked

A key challenge when scraping Instagram is avoiding blocks and access limits. Here are some tips to scrape smoothly:

Use Proxies

Rotating proxies is essential to distribute requests across multiple IPs and avoid blocks:

  • Residential proxies – Use residential IPs so your activity appears more human.

  • Proxy rotation – Rotate proxies with each request to prevent IP bans.

  • Proxy services – Services like BrightData and Soax offer reliable, high-quality residential proxies specifically for large-scale web scraping.

Randomize Patterns

Vary your activity patterns to seem more human:

  • Insert random delays between scrolling feeds and clicking posts.

  • Scrape different hashtags/locations each run instead of repetitively hitting the same items.


You may encounter CAPTCHAs after a certain number of requests. There are a few ways to deal with them:

  • Use CAPTCHA solving services like Anti-Captcha to outsource solving CAPTCHAs.

  • Employ headless browsers like Puppeteer to automate solving CAPTCHAs.

  • Leverage proxy services that offer built-in CAPTCHA solving like Soax and Smartproxy.

With the right proxies, delays, and CAPTCHA solutions, you can minimize disruptions and scrape Instagram smoothly.

Analyzing Scraped Instagram Data

Once you‘ve collected Instagram data, what can you do with it? Here are some ideas:

Influencer Research

Identify influencers around selected niches by scraping and analyzing profiles:

  • Number of followers
  • Engagement metrics like comments and likes
  • Sponsored posts vs original content
  • Follower demographics and interests

This helps find the right influencers to partner with.

Competitor Benchmarks

Benchmark yourself against competitors on Instagram:

  • Compare number of posts
  • Follower growth over time
  • Engagement rates
  • Story and reel metrics
  • Responses to promotions

These insights help you match or overtake competitors on Instagram.

Market Research

Understand your market and audience interests through hashtags:

  • Product mentions and sentiment
  • Related hashtags and topics
  • Engagement rates for different content types
  • Demographic analysis of engaged users

This reveals what resonates most with your target audience.

Location-Based Analysis

Analyze differences across locations:

  • Top hashtags and topics
  • Audience demographics
  • Peak engagement times
  • Highest performing content types

Optimize your Instagram presence by location.

Image Recognition

Leverage machine learning algorithms to extract insights from images and videos:

  • Detect objects like products, logos, text
  • Classify scenes, places, emotions
  • Perform facial recognition
  • OCR to extract text
  • Identify inappropriate content

This unlocks a wealth of insights from Instagram‘s visual content at scale.

Sentiment Analysis

Gauge public opinion and reactions:

  • Sentiment analysis of captions and comments
  • Identify customer pain points
  • Track sentiment over time
  • Compare sentiment across competitors
  • Monitor changes from campaigns

Sentiment analysis provides powerful consumer insights.

The possibilities are endless! Instagram data can uncover trending topics, influencer partnerships, audience interests, competitors‘ moves, campaign performance, location differences, and much more.

Scraping Instagram opens up all this data that is otherwise unavailable.

Scraping Instagram Posts Ethically

While scraping Instagram is legal, you should still do it ethically. Here are some best practices:

Only Access Public Data

  • Never try to scrape private profiles or personal info like emails.

  • Only target public content visible to all users.

Avoid Overloading Instagram

  • Use delays, throttling, and proxies to distribute requests.

  • Scrape during off-peak hours when possible.

  • Don‘t excessively scrape the same data over and over.

  • Don‘t directly republish scraped photos or videos without permission.

  • Don‘t identify or target specific individuals without consent.

  • Only use data for legitimate purposes.

Follow Laws and Terms of Service

  • Comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

  • Stay within Instagram‘s ToS, for example by solving CAPTCHAs when they appear.

  • Delete data once your analysis is complete and it‘s no longer needed.

Make Ethical Choices With Data Use

  • Consider the ethical implications before scraping or analyzing data.

  • Use scraped data responsibly to avoid compromising user privacy or security.

By following these principles, you can scrape Instagram effectively while respecting users, Instagram, and the law.

Scraping Instagram: Next Steps

Congrats, you now know how to extract tons of valuable data from Instagram legally and ethically!

Here are some next steps to put your Instagram scraping skills into action:

  • Choose your scraping approach – Based on your technical level, choose Apify, Python, or a point-and-click tool.

  • Define your data needs – Decide which hashtags, profiles, or locations you want to analyze.

  • Extract a sample of posts – Do a test scrape to refine your approach before scaling up.

  • Analyze and visualize – Clean your data and uncover insights through analytics and data vis.

  • Scale up your collection – Once your process is working, scrape more posts and hashtags to expand your dataset.

  • Refresh data periodically – Schedule scrapes to keep your Instagram data current.

  • Apply learnings – Take action on the insights, like reaching out to influencers or creating new content.

Scraping Instagram unlocks a goldmine of data for social listening, market research, competitor benchmarking and more.

Now you have all the tools and knowledge needed to tap into public Instagram data at scale. You‘re fully equipped to scrape Instagram successfully, legally, and ethically.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to help fellow Instagram scrapers. Time to put these skills into action. Happy extracting!

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