A few years ago at a wedding, two of my friends enlisted their respective boyfriends to take a photo of us, and between the two of them they could not manage to take a decent one. The lighting was off, the angle was wrong and every shot was somehow blurry and out of focus. It ultimately took hours of collective editing to get a single photo that was even remotely Instagrammable.
Unfortunately, these men aren’t alone. No offense, but if you’re a man with a wife or girlfriend, chances are you suck at taking pictures of her. Sub-par photo-taking skills are one of the most common complaints I hear from women about their male partners, and a quick poll of my admittedly meager Instagram following was met with a resounding response from women (and one man) eager to vent about their male partners’ inept Instagram photography.
To be clear, all of these complaints were lighthearted, and most seemed to see the humor in their partners’ complete lack of understanding of angles and lighting. Not unlike the appeal of a man with no social media, there’s something endearing and potentially even charming about a man who has better things to do with his life than master the art of taking flawless photos for Instagram. Still, it can occasionally be rather inconvenient for those of us who do crave validation from people on the internet.
Fortunately, there is hope for those of you who may struggle in this area. To help you reach your full potential, we’ve tapped official Instagram husband Matt Stevens, the man behind influencer Lindsay Silberman’s flawless photos, for some tips. I’m not saying your average man needs to aspire to bonafide Instagram husband status, but learning a few easy tricks to get the woman in your life the social media-worthy shots she’s looking for can definitely help you level up as a partner.
“If you think your wife loves you now, wait until you deliver a few stunning pics for Instagram; you’ll be a king among men,” says Stevens. Below, the pro weighs in some of the most common mistakes men make when taking photos of a partner for Instagram, offering tips and fixes to help you level up your game and “become the husband she always dreamed you would be and more.”
For reasons I still don’t fully understand, women tend to get a lot of shade for wanting to post nice photos of ourselves — or even just our lives in general — on Instagram. Much of this shame tends to come, wait for it, from men. Women who want to snap a photo of their food on a date to post on their story or who ask their partner to take a photo of them holding their cocktail are often shamed — sometimes by their own partners — for being vain, demanding or, of course, basic.
Pro-tip? Don’t be that guy. Again, women are already dealing with a lot of internalized shame for existing in general, much less wanting to document it. Making her feel worse about herself — even if you’re “just teasing” — for something as simple as wanting to post a picture of herself on the internet isn’t a good look. It takes less than a minute of your life to simply take a picture of your girlfriend, and doing it without grumbling or making fun of her is an extremely easy way to make her happy that takes very little effort and costs you nothing.
As one of my friends put it when I asked if her boyfriend was good at taking photos of her: “That would require him to even try.” Literally just being a guy who is willing to take a photo of the woman in your life without being a dick about it already puts you at an advantage. Bonus points if you do it without being asked. Next time you’re out, or the lighting is nice or she’s wearing a new outfit, just offer to take a photo of her. You’ll look like an incredible partner without putting in any effort at all, and she’ll get the photo she wants without having to feel like a basic.
Framing and positioning matter
While simply being willing to take a photo of the woman in your life will certainly elevate you above much of the competition (the bar is excruciatingly low!) it is somewhat important that those photos actually come out good.
Of the women I reached out to, the most common complaints about their partners’ photo-taking skills had to do with angles and positioning. As one of my friends put it, “Literally just no understanding of angles. Couldn’t even center things.”
“I don’t know if it’s a hesitation or confusion of what I want to be in the picture — more me, less background, less me, more background, etc.,” offered another.
“Lighting is terrible and half my body is cut off,” complained my sole male respondent. “Like, he can’t even get me framed.”
According to Stevens, these are pretty standard mistakes. The Instagram husband says the two most common mistakes men make when taking photos are “leaving too much space at the top or bottom of the photo,” and “standing too close when taking the photo.”
“Make sure he or she is centered in the frame and always take a couple steps back,” says Stevens. “Remember, he or she can crop the photo, but you can’t add space after the fact.”
Being level is also key. “Make sure that you keep the horizon straight in the background,” says Stevens. “Avoid holding the phone or camera at tilted angles.”
Take more than one photo (but not too many)
Even if you’re drop-dead gorgeous, it’s rare to get a perfect photo in one shot. In my experience, this is something women tend to understand. Ask a female friend to take a photo of you and she will get to work, dropping it low, raising her arms and moving around to make sure she captures an assortment of shots from different angles and positions. Most men, on the other hand, take a single snap and call it a day.
To be fair, the wording is usually a little unclear, but when we ask you to take “a picture” of us, we’re expecting to end up with at least a few different shots to choose from.
Still, there is such a thing as taking too many photos. Yet another friend of mine complained that her boyfriend “takes a million because that’s what he thinks he’s supposed to do.” Ending up with too many pics, especially ones that are more or less identical, can be overwhelming and unproductive. The key is to take enough different pictures — say five to 10 — at different angles and in different poses to provide a variety of options, without overloading her with a ton of near-identical images to sort through.
The idea is to get a good photo of the woman in your life, and there are so many little things that can make or break a shot. Stevens recommends keeping an eye on your subject’s hair: “Make sure it’s not flying all over the place and no extensions are showing.”
The right angle is also important. “Make sure she looks tall and long,” says Stevens. “Crouching down when taking the photo will help with this.” Still, the perfect angle can vary from person to person and location to location, so make sure you take a few at different angles and recommend different poses if something isn’t quite working.
And when it comes to lighting, Stevens recommends “saving yourself a ton of time” by photographing at sunset: “You’ll have the best lighting, her skin will look amazing, and she’ll get the most likes on the photo.”
Last but not least: trust yourself. You, a man, have presumably been looking at photos of hot women for your entire life. You know more than you think you do about what looks good and what doesn’t. From behind the camera, you can catch things that the woman in front of it can’t: weird facial expressions, off lighting, an unflattering pose. So help her out! Obviously you don’t want to tell her that her arm looks fat, but suggesting a different pose or trying out a different angle can make a world of difference. And trust me, she’ll thank you.