Earlier this week, Chrissy Teigen posted a video on Instagram of herself posing artfully on the beach while her husband captured an endless stream of photos, including multiple angles and poses.
“Thank u for always supporting my Instagram dreams,” she wrote. “This train only moves because of you(r phone) … you are the tracks that lay the foundation … creating a direct path to hope and possibilities of likes and curated content. what u do is important. I will never take u for granted, my king.”
Like Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Markle, Beyoncé, and many influencers, in order to capture the perfect ’gram-worthy shot, Teigen relies on the help of her “Instagram husband.” When you start looking, you’ll see Instagram husbands everywhere you go. Over the Christmas holiday, a friend of mine posted a photo of an exotic beach littered with beautiful women. Standing about 10 feet away from almost all of them was a man holding a camera snapping photographs. “Instagram husbands working hard out here,” he wrote.
An Instagram husband can be any gender and sexual orientation, and he doesn’t have to be your actual husband. “Instagram boyfriend, or husband, is a loose term for whoever is the invisible person behind the camera of all of your Instagram photos,” Kaitlyn Tiffany recently explained on Why’d You Push That Button?, a podcast about technology. It’s the person who will stop traffic to get the perfect shot, or stand endlessly in the rain while you pose for photos.
In 2016, the editor Meredith Haggerty enlisted an Instagram husband, really just a woman she had hired through an app, to follow her around a fashion show and snap pics. “In this progressive age, love isn’t about gender, it’s about finding that special someone who can take flattering pictures of you,” she wrote. A Taco Bell ad released last fall parodies this concept. “I am an Instagram boyfriend,” a man says while hanging off a carousel to get the perfect shot of his girlfriend. “Wing murals, candids, staged candids, I get them all.”
Though people have almost always relied on other people to take photos of themselves, Instagram and influencer culture has transformed that duty into a near-full-time job. In 2015, a fake PSA produced by Jeff Houghton solidified the term and went massively viral. With nearly 7 million views, the video profiles the men “behind every cute girl on Instagram.” They bemoan having to delete all the apps on their phone to make room for more photos and transforming into “a human selfie stick.”
In the three years since that video was shot, however, the term has evolved. The joke of the Instagram-husband video was that these men are miserable. You’re meant to sympathize with the men, who are presented as begrudging participants, and laugh or scoff at the women for forcing them to do something as “trivial” as taking endless photos. But Instagram and the digital landscape it created have shifted massively since the video was released. Those women people laughed at for taking endless photos in front of a brick wall are now influencers—people who leverage a social-media following to influence others and make money—and are worth millions. And while men used to be seen as begrudging participants, more so-called Instagram husbands are embracing the term and becoming an integral part of their partner’s business.
One man on the front lines of this movement is Jordan Ramirez. When Ramirez, a tech entrepreneur, married Dani Austin, a lifestyle influencer with a quarter of a million followers, in 2018, the influencer world was still new to him. While Austin was jetting around the world shooting photos, picking outfits, scouting locations, producing YouTube videos, and growing her audience, Ramirez had a separate and unrelated career in the tech–start-up world.
But when they got married, their lives began to blend and Ramirez started to reassess his own career goals in light of his wife’s success. Though he had snapped photos and helped her on some projects previously, it wasn’t until they got married that he embraced the role of Instagram husband.
Because of the grueling, 24/7 nature of most influencers’ job, being an Instagram husband in 2019 doesn’t just entail taking a few iPhone photos while you’re out. Ramirez, like many other spouses who work in a full-time Instagram-husband capacity, has taken on operational and business aspects of his wife’s influencer business and taught himself photo editing to help with production.
Ramirez said the decision to pivot his career into a full-time Instagram husband was not an easy one. “A lot of the husbands [of influencers] are in the same spot as I was,” he said. “You’re faced with a choice. You can have your own thing, but typically her business is thriving and you don’t want to be that distant from your wife as she’s traveling.” He also worried about devoting his life to a new and unstable industry. “I was raised in a generation like, Here’s what the atomic household looks like. You’re supposed to go out and be a banker, doctor,” he said. However, as Austin’s career has flourished, so too has Ramirez’s.
In September, Ramirez launched The Instagram Husband Podcast, which is focused on telling the stories of the men behind the camera and redefining what it means to be an Instagram husband. Despite the fact that more partners are taking on this role, Ramirez worried that no one was examining the people who play the more behind-the-scenes role in an influencer’s life.
Ramirez hopes the podcast can break down misconceptions and critique stereotypes. He admitted that when Austin first began to achieve mainstream success, he felt jealous and even inferior. He said it can be hard for some men when their wife finds fame. Just going out shopping with Austin can sometimes lead to him spending an hour taking photos of her with fans. But Ramirez said that once he learned to embrace her success and fame, rather than resent it, things shifted. “I know there’s a ton of other Insta husbands, and many also come from business backgrounds. Their wives are probably successful too, and maybe they’re feeling the things I felt,” he said. But, he added, being an Instagram husband “isn’t demeaning yourself; it’s about building something with your wife.” Ramirez said he’s purchased instagramhusband.org and plans to potentially launch a Facebook group where Instagram husbands can connect.
As more public figures open up about the critical part their Instagram husband plays in their success, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek, the role becomes more normalized. The lifestyle and travel influencer Lindsay Silberman’s husband, Matthew Stevens, even went so far as to change his Instagram handle to @InstaHusband. “I started by helping her take great pics, helping to edit them, then come up with captions, then come up with places to take the pics—helping her build what is now her business,” he said. “I’ve become completely immersed in not only the photos but also the business side of Lindsay’s work. I’ve taken on a role that encompasses not just taking pics, but reviewing contracts, reaching out to brands, going to events. We’ve become a tag team.”
Like Ramirez, Stevens said his goal is to challenge the perception of what an Instagram husband is. “People will look at a husband or boyfriend taking photos of his girlfriend like, ‘Oh, look what he has to do for his girl who isn’t even a model,’” he said. Stevens said he uses his Instagram account to play on that and parody it. “We’re changing that whole conception of the Insta husband as someone who just follows his wife around and takes pics. It’s actually someone supporting a business and his wife along the way,” he said.
Silberman said she’s shocked by how many men are getting involved in the influencer space through their wife. “So many of the women I follow who are super successful in this business have hired their husbands,” she said. “The workload gets to a point where you just can’t do it alone, and who do you trust more to be a part of your business than your husband?” Silberman said having an Instagram husband is also valuable because he knows you better than anyone else. He’s with you in the hotel room, you’re comfortable with him behind the camera, and he spends enough time with you that he knows your perfect shots and angles.
“Matt understands what I do; he understands the nuances of it. When I travel and I need to bring a lot of clothes or wake up in the morning to get the right light, he understands,” she said. A vacation doesn’t mean “laying on a beach drinking piña coladas. That’s not how you get the great photos. It is work.”
Having an Instagram husband is also a smart financial move. Influencers who don’t have a dedicated or supportive partner usually have to hire professional photographers, some of whom charge exorbitant day rates. Things get even more complicated when traveling to places where it’s not easy to find a local photographer who understands your style or needs, or who you’d want to double up with in a hotel room. Some influencers are one another’s Instagram husbands, traveling in duos and taking endless shots for one another. Others rely on a tripod or strangers. Silberman said life without her husband around would be markedly harder. “A lot of the girls who I follow are single or their husbands aren’t as involved. I give them so much credit. It is so hard. It’s hard in general, but it’s doubly as hard if you don’t have a right-hand person with you at all times,” Silberman said.
As more Instagram husbands step out from behind the camera, they’re also gaining a following of their own. Thomas Berolzheimer co-runs the business of his wife, Julia Engel; she’s a lifestyle influencer with 1.2 million followers. Berolzheimer has 64,000 Instagram followers of his own, debatably making him an influencer in his own right. Many fans are quick to follow an influencer’s Instagram husband for a behind-the-scenes peek at their life. Ted Raad, the husband of Dede Raad, a lifestyle influencer with nearly half a million followers, changed his bio to read “Professional IG husband” and often posts unfiltered shots of his wife. He also curated an Instagram Story dedicated to documenting fellow Instagram husbands in the wild.
Stevens said he has lurked on the #InstagramHusband hashtag on Instagram and connected with other men that way after interacting with their photos. “It’s almost this silent brotherhood right now,” he said. “It hasn’t become a full community yet, but it’s on the verge of breaking out … And I think it’s gonna be huge.”