My Instagram Boyfriend (and how we made $200 in a few seconds)

Let me tell you a little story of two beautiful days and the two lessons they taught me this month.

My boyfriend Rob and I attempted to get up to the West Coast National Park for weeks, and for one reason or another we had to keep putting it off.  Bad weather one day, low energy the next, and other plans consumed us.  August, then September, came and the daisies would die soon without us seeing them.  We knew we’d better get there ASAP or we would miss the famous Namaqualand daisies of South Africa- something I’d wanted to see for months and months.

I wanted to go and take as many pictures as possible.  I pictured myself one of those perfect Instagram girls frolicking through the flowers- hopefully getting a nice new picture to capture the memory and later, admittedly to post on Instagram.  Rob knew he’d have to (reluctantly) play photographer/Instagram Boyfriend.  He hates it- but what boyfriend doesn’t?

So off to the National Park we went!  Or so we tried.

We drove an hour and a half to the park on Sunday and quickly had to leave.  I got sick.  (stomach bug or something…but that’s not what this story is about, thank goodness.)  I literally saw the flowers for 5 minutes, said hello, goodbye and proceeded to have an awful day.  Needless to say, no photos were taken that day and no picnics were had.  Sometimes life just isn’t fair!

Obviously I was more than disappointed.  We HAD TO go back.  But when?  We had a busy week ahead and it was difficult getting there in the first place.  African Summer creeps in more every day, drying up each petal in its path…

BEAUTIFUL DAY #1 was spent at the West Coast National Park.

We decided on the following Sunday and stuck to it.  We got up early in the morning, packed a picnic and started driving with Namaqualand daisies in our minds.

The day at the park was perfection. The sun was out, I wore a flowy dress and everything around us was bright and colorful.  My boyfriend Rob played “Instagram Boyfriend” for a bit and I went around obsessively taking close ups with our GoPro.  We got a few shots on my iPhone and the GoPro, but nothing too spectacular in terms of photo quality.

The next week, I edited a few of the pics from that day  and posted a couple of them on my Instagram.

Then magic happened.

Some lady (without a large following or verified account) commented on my photo: “Would you be interested in sharing your photo with The New York Times?”

In my head as I read her comment: “Omg omg omg omg omg.  Wait, is this for real?”

And it was.

Here’s our actual convo:


Of course I said “yes I’d love to,” because it’s the New York F#%king Times!  Did you want my left arm too?  Because we can arrange that.

We switched from Instagram comments to email- and before hitting send on my email I asked Rob, “Do you think it’s greedy to ask for a posting fee or something since they are going to print my image?  I’m a blogger, not a pro photographer, right?”

“Yeah, I would say just give it to them because it’s honestly such great exposure for your blog.  Just give it to them babe.”

But I’m stubborn…and a business woman, afterall.  I couldn’t resist.  I added a line: “Do you have a budget for these photos or are you expecting me to donate them?”

I did not specify a price I had in mind, and had zero expectation of actually getting an offer.  I was honestly just grateful to be included in such a major publication.  New York Times exposure is like the holy grail for an American blogger like me.

For the next 24 hours, I obsessively checked my inbox hoping I didn’t just lose my chance by asking for money (it was just a silly Instagram shot, right?).  I definitely didn’t want to turn them off from using my images and screw myself over from an opportunity to be in THE New York Times!

But then….

BEAUTIFUL DAY #2 came the next day.

Ping!  She finally responded.

Wait… there are TWO emails from two different senders at The New York Times.  One email from her, one from her photo editor with an offer:  “Heather, will you accept $200 USD per photo used?  We may run a few.”

I dropped my phone along with my jaw to the ground.  That photo took mere seconds to capture.  I thought I may have read it wrong so I reread (twice).  I then proceeded to do a happy dance and loudly owned my (rare) “I WAS RIGHT!!!” moment with my boyfriend, Rob.  “Seeeeee it’s not ALL wasted time on social media!  I will forever be excused from social media shaming! BOOM!”

Does it really justify all the time I’ve spent on social media?  Perhaps not, but it certainly helps and has opened up a new arena (selling photographs) for me.  This also fuels my motivation to keep practicing and learning about photography, something I’ve been fascinated with my entire life.

There were two lessons/reminders here:

  1. There are countless opportunities to be discovered via social media and I’ve only began to scratch the surface.
  2. ALWAYS ask the question regarding money- whether it’s negotiating your salary or something small like this.  Only positive benefits can come from asking the question- even if the answer is no, you WILL learn something from the conversation

Ps.  $200 USD is about a million South African rand (totally kidding- it’s actually about R2,700, but you get the point).

Pss.  Suddenly Rob (my boyfriend) doesn’t mind being an Instagram Boyfriend so much.

***The article featured in The New York Times ended up featuring one photo of mine as the header image, which you can view here.

11 thoughts on “My Instagram Boyfriend (and how we made $200 in a few seconds)

  1. wow! super awesome! The pics are awesome I was going to ask if u adjusted the colour or if that’s the real colour of the flowers! And for your work to be published in the ny times! an instant confidence booster!


  2. Wow, that’s amazing! I’ve started using my Instagram to show off my photos since I just started to learn how to use it in manual mode. I think that I would have dropped my jaw as you did lol! Congratulations to you!!


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