The lower bodies of three men wearing speedos at the beach.

“Thirst traps” are selfies with a seductive agenda; they’re provocative photos a person posts of themselves on social media, particularly Instagram, to incite desire in their followers.

As experts in the art of lust, gay men have embraced this sexy phenomenon as a social aesthetic and lifestyle. It doesn’t even have to capture your face. But for newbies to the game, we’re breaking down how to take a thirst trap worthy of quenching even the gayest thirst.

What Makes a Good Thirst Trap?

Muscular Black man with his white shirt unbuttoned and looking to the side.

In a nutshell, achieving a great thirst trap requires choosing an angle but not being afraid to play around with it. Move a little in between shots, get uncomfortably comfortable, dare we say, look away from the camera and see what interests you.

Urban Dictionary defines it as any statement or picture done to create attention or “thirst.” However, forget about your intentions and risk the unflattering shots to achieve the unexpected ones. That’s how you get je ne sais quoi in photography, people!  

Here are other tips to remember when trying to ooze sex appeal. 

A shirtless man taking a selfie in bed.
  • Show restraint with visuals: Thirst traps do something gay men rarely do on a first date: leave mystery to the imagination. Ass is fine if you’re facing away; shirtless is often preferred. But leave some room for the imagination to keep your audience curious and wanting more.
  • Get good lighting: If you’re committed, the expert-approved best time for outdoor photography is 1-2 hours after sunrise or 1-2 hours before sunset. If you’re inside, consider using a ring light. Take advantage of shadows to highlight assets and create intrigue.
  • Angles make or break you: Experiment with where your camera is in relation to your poses, and don’t assume you have one particular good side until you try them all.  
  • Get a pump in: A few push-ups or pull-ups before a photo shoot never hurts. Doing this will help get your blood pumping and maybe even add a nice natural sheen to your body.

Don’t overestimate the power of mastering all these thirst trap photography elements…

Creating a Thirst Trap

A muscular hunk posing for a thirst trap sitting on the trunk of his car.

Every gay and their best judy has an opinion on what constitutes sexy. But the truth is, attraction is subjective and varies from person to person.

Remember this is going on your Instagram, so unless you want to be archiving every other day, worry less about what others find hot and pick what excites you. Regardless, here are some considerations:

Man posing for photo on swing shirtless.
  • Attire: Think speedos, post-shower wearing a bath towel, athleisurewear, or anything shirtless.
  • Sexy over cute: It will be tempting, but don’t stick your tongue at the camera. It’s cute, but thirst traps aren’t cute – they’re alluring.
  • Drop expectations: Don’t place your self-esteem in external validation. No two thirst traps land alike; some will be more popular than others. Only Jedis can master those algorithms. 
  • Avoid awkward hands: Use them if you don’t know what to do with your hands. 
  • Own it: Don’t be insulted if people comment that it’s a thirst trap. Be nonchalant about it.
  • Get a fun video! B-roll type of content set to a trending song often gets high engagement. 
  • Mirrors are fair game: Practice makes perfect for learning how to take a selfie and thirst traps are no different.

Sharing Your Thirst Traps

Asian man resting his shoulders by the pool ledge and smirking his face to the side.
  • Be careful what you share: Haters love to report. And we’re not going to get into the fact that people of color and queer people are more likely to have their content removed by Instagram than their counterparts – even when it’s not violating a rule. 
  • Keep it real: Do your edits, but avoid morphing the photo into something it’s not. Most social media users haven’t forgotten what real humans look like. 
  • Be ironic, not a cliche: Who do you think you’re inspiring? Make your captions embrace the thirst, not be coy about it.
  • Be as gay as you like: This should come naturally. Don’t hold back.

Examples of Successful Thirst Traps

Let’s learn from the celebrity masters. Jared Leto is not the only one flooding basements this thirst trap season.

 Lil Nas X 

Mirror selfies are a staple of gay culture and will never go out of style. The bath bubbles covering his crotch are just A+! Bravo!

Tomás Matos

Listen, if you’re going to bolster yourself up on the bed like a sexual goddess, take notes from Tomato. Confidence turns people on. Don’t be shy about being shameless.

 Luke Evans

Luke Evans knows he doesn’t need to be shirtless to show off his haircut, but the front-facing shirtless aesthetic is one of the best ways to spark sexual intimacy with your followers. It’s like they’re lying in bed naked with you.

Sam Smith

Ah, the magic of making a thirst trap casual by doing something casual. Well done, Sam Smith!

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart is a businesswoman first and knows a solid thirst trap makes the best promo.

A Sexy Thirst Trap Is a State of Mind

Cute guy with ponytail perking his lips at his cat.

Let your desire and personality permeate your thirst trap by relaxing and not overthinking it. Plan your angle, use props and backdrops, and follow what feels comfortable.

Thirst traps are supposed to be fun and punchy. That means you’re supposed to be having fun with it, kittens.

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