Valentine's Day is upon us, which means that you'll be doing one of two things today: Either you'll be sneering about how you don't participate in commercially-motivated bullshit holidays, or else you'll be frantically scrambling for the perfect gift idea for the babe(s) in your life.
If you're a member of the latter camp and you also happen to have a penis, it may have occurred to you that nailing the perfect Valentine's Day dick pic could be a good way to make a strong impression this year. Unfortunately, the bulk of people with penises happen to be men, and men are notoriously bad at styling their own dick pics. That's where I come in: As the Internet's most beloved dick pic critic and creator and curator of (the very NSFW) Critique My Dick Pic, I am well-placed to help you to maximize the romantic appeal of your dick pic this Valentine's Day.
A good dick pic takes some extra thought and crafting. No matter what day of the year it is, there are some fundamental tips that are guaranteed to improve the quality of your penis pictures. For a start, your dick pic will look better if you have chosen a setting that has minimal clutter and background junk, so clear out your dirty laundry and empty bottles of shower gel before you start shooting. Your picture shouldn't just be narrowly focused on your dick, either, so make sure you include some non-dick body parts—especially your lovely hands, the presence of which consistently elevate a dick pic's appeal.
Choose an angle other than a close-up bird's eye view shot of your dick (the dreaded "log shot"), and put some thought into the lighting, pose and tone of your picture. Evidence of insecurity about the size of your penis will drag the quality of your picture down, so leave out those cans of energy drink or disposable lighters included as a scale for size.
The size of your dick is more or less evident to anyone with eyes and the length and girth of you dick is much less important than how well you present it—short dick men can take high quality dick pics just as well-endowed dudes can take lazy, forgettable shots. It won't hurt to peruse some of the best and worst submissions on Critique My Dick Pic to see what sets apart an excellent shot: You shouldn't copy the pictures wholesale, but they'll give you a good feel for what works and what flops.
But this isn't just any old dick pic day, it's Valentine's Day! It's the international day of love, and you want to take a dick pic that symbolizes your free-flowing adoration and undying affection for your recipient! Tread carefully, here, Sender, because the line between romantic and cringeworthy is a fine one.
You can incorporate some of the traditional symbols of Valentine's Day (such as flowers and hearts) without being cloying and corny, but you will need to veer very much on the side of subtlety here. Steer away from flashing pink Blingee hearts covering every bit of white space in your picture and towards the subtle inclusion of a single flower, say, or the most restrained, un-cliched use of rose petals that you can manage. Personalizing your dick pic will be key: If your partner has a soft spot for gerberas, include a gerbera! If your forearms are your recipient's favorite part of you, make sure they feature heavily in your shot.
This isn't just a family-friendly picture of your forearms, though: It's a picture of your dick, and that strongly infers sexual activity. So make your dick pic sexy! Tailoring your dick pic to the individual desires of your recipient will make all the difference, so consider your sexual history together and isolate the sexiest moments and biggest turn-ons. For example, if BDSM makes your partner weak at the knees, you should craft your dick pic around that theme, either explicitly (with props or rope, say) or more implicitly through your pose and facial expression. Did you have mind-blowing sex in the bath once? Then lather up and jump back in the tub for a soaking wet dick pic. Your receiver's soft spot is what you're aiming for here. Timidity and hesitation have a way of making themselves obvious in pictures, so don't be afraid to fully express yourself and grip your dick like you mean it. Ideally you'll be genuinely turned on while you're shooting so that you're honestly conveying raw sexual energy.
A crucial component of the dick pic exchange is ensuring that your intended recipient definitely wants to see your dick pic, and if you haven't yet shared nudes with your significant other, Valentine's Day might be a tacky time to cross that particular bridge. Definitely don't bombard near strangers with unsolicited dick pics, either: There's no point wasting your time on special lighting and post production effects if you don't have a willing recipient for your dick pic, so before you so much as unzip your pants, make sure that you've established enthusiastic consent on both sides.
Finally, Sender, even if you manage to nail the perfect romantic nude, please don't make a dick pic the only thing you gift your partner this Valentine's Day. While I'm sure that your dick is very nice, it's not so special that a mere photo of it counts as an actual present. Ideally you should still exchange hard currency for a gift or outing, especially if your partner will be doing the same for you.
Think of your dick pic as the icing on the cake rather than the main event this Valentine's Day: The final touch after you gift a carefully curated playlist of relationship-significant songs or overpriced selection of novelty macaroons. Play your cards right and impart your dick pic at the perfect moment, and so long as you've put in the right amount of work you should be bathing in the adoration of your lover for days.
Madeleine Holden is a writer and dick pic critic currently based in London. She's on Twitter at @moscaddie.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.