Lately people have asked me “How do I take good selfies?” Well, a year ago that was something I was wondering too. After countless failed selfies and months of photographic experimentation, I have discovered how to take selfies that suck less.
I often feel down about my appearance, with me being a trans woman I’m sure that’s not a surprising fact. But I’ve found taking a nice selfie helps brush away those negative feelings. Overall, selfies are a fun activity in self-love and a way to appreciate your own appearance, even if you don’t feel like you should (you totally should).
Originally, I was terrible at taking selfies, I outright sucked. I had no idea what I was doing and the results were predictably bad. But after a year of snapping myself, I’ve learnt how to take much better photos.
Before we begin, I must state that these are all self-taught techniques. I have no degree in selfieology, I learnt these tricks out in the wild, so some things you may disagree with. But sticking to these rules has helped me take much, much better photos of myself. I hope they help you too!
Understand There’s More To Selfies…
The first rule of selfie club is to learn that there’s more to taking selfies than point-and-shoot. Also, anybody can take a great selfie, regardless. Do you think I look as good in real life as I do in my photos? Of course not! Most days I look like I crawled out of a swamp, it’s my selfie experience that allows me to create photos I’m happy to share. To take a good selfie you need to put a little thought and preparation into it, luckily it doesn’t require much of either, but what you do put in will go a long way.
The location of your selfie is very important. Background clutter will give your photo a distracting punctum (that’s right, we’re dropping Roland Barthes philosophy up in here). Unless it’s the point of the selfie, like a travel photo or a special occasion, try not to busy the backdrop with something or someone that’s going to draw the eye more than you are. You’re the star, not that weird poster behind you or that guy eating ice cream.
Arguably even more important than location, is lighting. Clear, well-lit photos are much more pleasing to the eye than dark unclear shots. Chances are that the darker your location, the poorer the quality of the photo will be. Natural light is almost always a better bet than artificial light too. You’ll look better out in the sun than you will in your bedroom.
If you lack confidence, then it can be tempting to choose low-light situations for your selfies, this is not advised. A grainy picture is a boring picture. Instead of using lighting to hide, you should use…
What angle you pick will drastically alter the selfie. I look like a different person altogether if I’m looking straight into the camera. If there’s something you’re self-conscious about, and you don’t have the confidence to flaunt it, then angles can help you gently hide it. There are a couple of parts of my face which I don’t like, so I downplay those markers in the angles I choose to take photos in. As a bonus tip: You will very likely prefer one side of your face to the other, so take a few photos to figure out which side you like best. If you’re in doubt, then tilt to the right, as statistically you probably prefer your left.
Another good tip regarding angles, is that you’ll look better from above than below, trust me. Lots of people take low angle selfies when they’re starting out as they’re easier to take discreetly, but nobody wants to know how cats see you. Instead, confidently look directly at your phone from an even level or raised angle. The final picture will be much more flattering than it would be from a low view.
Smile vs. Pout
I won’t get into the debate of what the best facial expression is for a selfie, because I don’t believe there’s an ultimate answer. However, the safest choice is simply a closed mouth smile (open mouthed if you’ve got spectacular teeth). Naturally we’re wired to like the look of smiles, they’re disarming and tell the world that all is well with us, if you’re unsure what expression to pull for your photo, just smile.
Anyone who’s seen America’s Next Top Model will have heard Tyra Banks talk about the importance of the smize. Do not underestimate it. To smize is to smile with your eyes, without a smize you can look tense, panicked or bored.
Your eyes will give everything away, good or bad, they’re an open door to your thoughts. Eyes can accidentally turn that playful photo of you and your partner into a tense hostage situation. Remember to relax, remember that you’re having fun, let your eyes say “I’m incredible” and stop them from revealing “my arm hurts”.
Find the Chosen One
I have never uploaded a selfie from the first take, ever. Unless you’re an expert or blindingly beautiful, then nobody gets it in one. There will be a better photo hiding beyond the first, don’t be afraid to take a few at once. Whenever I decide to take a selfie, I snap anywhere between 5 to 25 photos. Once I’ve captured a handful, I then narrow down the shots to my favourite few. From those survivors I choose the chosen one, the single selfie that has survived and will go out into the world.
If you don’t like any of your photos, don’t worry! Find a new location and start over.
Filters are wonderful. They can set a certain mood, smooth out blemishes, hide imperfections and blur out backgrounds. Don’t feel guilty about using filters. Virtually every photoshoot you’ve ever seen has been edited or touched up, why should your photos be immune from any outside changes?
It is important though to find the right filter for you. There is no one-size-fits-all filter, your face, clothing and where you took the photo, will impact which filter will look best. Instagram comes with a number of filters, but I personally find B612’s filters better, which is why I also use it to take my selfies too. If you choose to use B612 too, remember that you can control the intensity of the filter, some look much better toned down to half strength.
Share the Love
Once you’ve gone through all of these steps then feel free to share your selfie with the world! Don’t be shy, if you like how you look, then I assure you others will too.
And that’s it for my tips on taking better selfies. Did I miss anything? If so then shoot me a message!