It happened one day a few years ago, during an afternoon at King Richard’s Faire in Carver.
Bethany Everett-Ratcliffe was walking with her then-boyfriend, Andrew Ratcliffe, when — unprompted — he grabbed her smartphone and began snapping photos of her, earnestly employing the photo techniques she’d been attempting to teach him for months.
And that was the moment she knew. Really knew.
She’d found her Instagram Husband.
“It was just like, ‘Wow,’ ” she says. “You really do care.”
About her, yes, but just as importantly, about producing great photos for her carefully curated social media feed.
That quality — along with an eye for composition and a willingness to go to almost any length for the right shot — turns out to be very much in demand these days, and as such, the title “Instagram Husband” has taken on outsized meaning.
Once a self-disparaging title used by husbands or boyfriends who begrudgingly submitted to the job of human selfie stick for their significant others, the term has evolved into an honorific signifying a very special relationship — willingly adopted by anyone from wives who photograph their husbands, friends who show particular devotion, or professionals who are paid for the work.
Part visionary, part cheerleader, part sounding board, Instagram Husbands are thought of as vital in a world where the quest to produce quality content seems to demand ever more striking photos.
“For me, it’s someone that I know and trust, someone who knows my angles and is also a fellow creative,” explains Jackelyn Dacanay, 28, of Boston, an avid Instagrammer who also works as a digital marketing consultant. “You need that good synergy.”
The objectives of Instagram users can vary greatly. Influencers, who can make lucrative money with sponsorship deals, have much different goals than, say, occasional posters looking to update friends on a recent vacation. But the importance of the Instagram Husband remains constant across the spectrum.
Not a job for the weak of heart, it can require unbridled support, the occasional inspirational speech, and the patience for hourslong excursions dedicated to coming away with the perfect photo — sometimes with multiple outfit changes.
“We’ll joke all the time — ‘I want that commitment, I want the angles, I want you on the floor, I want an aerial shot,’” says Nicole La Hoz, a 28-year-old business manager in Boston, who counts two close friends as her Instagram Husbands.
The quest for grand portraits is not a new concept, of course; medieval nobles commissioned the best artists to depict their power and wealth.
But while it was once limited to the rich and famous, says Pamela Rutledge, director of the California-based Media Psychology Research Center, the availability of state-of-the-art cameras built into nearly every smartphone has given everyone access.
Take a stroll through the city’s more scenic neighborhoods on a weekend afternoon, and it’s impossible to miss the impromptu photo shoots taking place.
So strong has the desire for an Instagram-caliber photo become that Roma Experience, an overseas travel company, recently began offering an “Insta-Boyfriend” package that includes a personal photographer who will — at a cost of $665 — chauffeur you around Rome for three hours while snapping professional portraits of you in the city’s most scenic locales.
“If you look at overall pictures from three years ago — what was deemed an acceptable quality of picture that you could put online — that standard has gone up dramatically,” says Sam Belt, a 29-year-old from Cambridge who on a recent weekend afternoon was taking a photo of his girlfriend, Aja Frost, in front of a bike shop near Central Square.
Instagram Husband entered the mainstream lexicon around 2015, when a comic video titled “Instagram Husband” — produced by a Missouri-based television program called “The Mystery Hour” — went viral. The video depicted a number of men bemoaning their wives’ all-consuming need to photograph every aspect of daily life.
“We used to eat our food,” laments one husband in the video. “Now we just take pictures of it.”
And indeed, when Jeff Houghton, the man who created the video, was first enlisted to take photos of his now-wife, he did so begrudgingly, with little concern for quality.
These days, however, he finds himself scanning his environs for promising photo locales and directing his wife to places he thinks will make for strong shots.
“I’ll get compliments on them sometimes, too,” Houghton adds, proudly. “I’ve gotten better.”
Which is not to say that every Insta-relationship is perfect.
There are stories of mid-shoot fighting. Some would-be Instagram Husbands are hopelessly incapable of taking a workable photo. And even for the most dedicated, there are limits.
“It’s harder during football season,” says Everett-Ratcliffe, who in addition to Instagram works in social media and employment branding for a telecom company. “Because he does have his boundaries.”
As for Everett-Ratcliffe, she wound up marrying the Instagram Husband she realized she had found that day at King Richard’s Faire, 31-year-old Andrew Ratcliffe of Quincy — at least in part because of his willingness to support her passion.
Despite little experience behind a camera, he has continued to hone his craft and has come to take pride in his work — so much so that, when he recently heard about a photography course being held in the Seaport, he signed up, hoping to expand his skill set.
“I’d rather get it right,” he says.
As for his subject, she’s smitten.
“I’ll have photographers be like, ‘I want to work with you,’ ” she says. “But he’s more convenient, and he knows my angles, and what I want.”
“He’s really progressed.”