The “Instagram boyfriend” (a.k.a. “Instagram husband”) is, as far as I’m concerned, a myth. When I’m looking for someone to take a good picture of me, my boyfriend—the person who lives with me and is available nearly 24/7—is a last resort. Whenever I do ask him to flick me up, we inevitably bicker about the angle and his overall impatience. When he takes one of his own volition, I look like a Bigfoot sighting. It saves us both a lot of heartache to just hand the phone to the waiter instead.
This is not an uncommon problem among my friends. Countless people are burdened with boyfriends—and, yes, also girlfriends—who never fully took to Instagram, or are at least immune to the aesthetic pressures of social media in such a way as to lead to an actual argument during an anniversary dinner. (True story.)
Thankfully, a benevolent community of partners who overcame this obstacle are paying it forward on TikTok. These folks are sharing everything from easy hacks they use to get the pictures they want from their boyfriends to specific instructions they deploy to ease communication. Photographer David Suh, who became popular on the app for his instructional photography videos during the pandemic, has a whole playlist dedicated to teaching boyfriends how to take better photos of their significant others.
Suh tells GQ that the most common complaints he hears from frustrated partners are that their boyfriends don’t even try, that they seem to only pick the worst angles, and that they give up after just one shot. This most likely isn’t because they don’t care, he says, but because they likely don’t have the tools or the language to understand what it is their partner wants.
In reality, there are just four simple rules you, as an anti-Instagram boyfriend, need to follow.
Don’t act like it’s a chore
When a photo is requested, some boyfriends react as if they’ve been asked to start singing in a public place—they get embarrassed. The first step towards taking a successful photo is to not act like it’s literally the worst thing they’ll have to do that week.
“Just because you don’t understand why this is important to them doesn’t mean you can’t try and support them,” Suh says. Instead of attempting to get it over as quickly as possible, take time to ask questions. “‘Which wall should we use?’” Suh suggests. “‘Why don’t we try both of those walls? I’ll just get a bunch of different angles for you and you can let me know which one you like.’”
Provide some variety
Taking just one photo exponentially increases the likelihood that your partner is not going to like it. There are too many variables—the lighting, the posture, whatever is happening with our hair. The more photos you take, the more likely it is that you won’t have the phone handed back to you for another round.
“For a rule of thumb, get four shots,” Suh says. “Full body, half body, shoulder up—especially if they have beautiful makeup on to show off—and a detail shot of their outfit or their purse or nails.”
This requires some movement, so get your Annie Leibovitz on and experiment. “You should be walking back and forth, side to side, to get these different shots,” Suh says. “If you’re staying in one place, you’re doing it wrong!”
Act as a stand-in
Ask your partner to take the photo of you exactly how they’d like to be photographed. This eliminates the frustration of being asked to produce something without knowing what it’s meant to look like. Use the picture of you as a reference for framing and what it is they want to show off.
“For full body, I make sure to leave one-third of the screen at the top empty for just the sky or landscape, and I fill the bottom two-thirds of the screen with my model,” Suh says. “If their feet are at the bottom of the screen, they will look long and lean while showing off the beautiful landscape wherever you are.”
Once these three steps are mastered, you can move to the next level: posing with your partner. And we don’t mean like you’re at prom or being held at gunpoint.
“Really tap into how you two cuddle and have fun,” Suh says. “Think the opposite of formal.” This could mean pulling each other into a hug, looking out to the horizon, or sharing a kiss: “but not a full smooch with duck lips,” Suh warns. “Find chairs to sit on together—there are so many possibilities!”